Could the Americorps Be the Answer to Escaping College Loans?

Today’s post is from guest blogger Maria Rainier.

This is the story of how one of my best friends found a way to make college more affordable by enrolling in the Americorps. I’m taking this opportunity to say I have no affiliation with the Americorps whatsoever; I’m solely sharing his story to demonstrate how volunteering can be the gateway to earning a higher education. To learn how you can pursue your diploma with help from the Americorps or another nationally recognized volunteering organization such as the PeaceCorps, continue reading below.

As early as 6-years-old, Matthew Daniels knew that earning a college education was something that he needed to pursue. He never worried about finances that much—that is until he got older and began to realize that his single working mother barely made enough to make ends meet. Scholarships and grants would be the route he knew he was going to have to take—loans were not an option. As a freshman in high school, Matthew made sure he enrolled in advanced classes and all of the extracurricular activities he could so that he would impress not only college admission officers, but scholarship and grant awarders too. In 2004, Matthew won a full academic scholarship to the University of Texas in Austin.

Two weeks before graduation, Matthew began to question what he was going to do with the rest of his life. Sure, he would earn a bachelor’s degree in finance, but he just wasn’t sure if that was his true passion. He needed some time to “think” perhaps even travel before he went off into the real world. Because Matthew was always a philanthropist, he decided that until he really knew what he wanted to do career-wise, he’d volunteer his time and labor to the Americorps.

Because Matthew minored in Spanish and spoke the language fluently, and because he wanted to help families in need of financial assistance (something he could easily relate to), he was immediately accepted into the Americorps VISTA program, a domestic version of the PeaceCorps. For two years, Matthew traveled the U.S. restoring and building homes, helped the homeless get back on their feet, and mentored impoverished children.

While his daily tasks were rewarding emotionally, the job didn’t pay much. In fact, he barely had enough money to live on—Matthew and his team members would pool their stipends together just to be able to afford groceries. It was by no means a “glitzy job.”  But in the end, Matthew was given an education credit valued at $5,500. His experience as a volunteer made him see that he was destined for a career greater than finance and so he decided to put his education credit towards earning a master’ degree in public policy just a few short years later. He wanted to be able to influence policy making so that he didn’t have to see as many people suffering in poverty as he did during his two years with the program.

The education credit may not be enough to help you pay for your entire education, but at a time where students are facing the highest loan debt in history, anything will help.  For more information how you or your child can benefit from volunteering, make sure to check out Americorps.gov.

Maria Rainier makes her living as a freelance blogger. An avid follower of the latest trends in technology and education, Maria believes that online degrees and online universities are the future of higher learning. Please share your comments with her.

Innovative and Exciting Alternatives to Traditional Volunteering

This is a guest post from Nadia Jones.

A recent article in The New York Times chronicles an exciting trend in youth volunteering: young people are finding out ways to give back to their community in a meaningful way. The article explains how young people in Manhattan have re-thought how they want to volunteer their time with older generations. Instead of going the traditional route of visiting the elderly simply to keep them company, the youths at Baruch College Campus High School decided to impart knowledge of the web that comes naturally to the younger generation but still eludes older people. These students are empowering older generations with knowledge to make them highly capable web users, and that’s no small feat.

The initiative reflects the changing dynamics in volunteerism. New generations of volunteers want to be more useful to their community, and they’re looking in all avenues for ways to give back. While the data from the federal government suggests that the majority of volunteer work is being done through religious organizations, it also points to a growing trend in alternative volunteering efforts done through educational and civic services. The Baruch College Campus High School in Manhattan is just one of countless new initiatives.

What other volunteerism is going on around the country?

Perhaps one of the biggest driving forces in youth volunteerism this year is the impending 2012 general election. Whether they’re backing President Obama or the eventual Republican nominee, the race has galvanized youths to volunteer their time to support causes they believe in. Thousands of youths volunteer either through community organization, canvassing, or networking within their community to build a case for their candidate. Other youths are perusing careers with charitable organizations immediately after they graduate college. Organizations like the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and Teach for America are among the top choices for many recent college grads because they boast the best resources with which to connect members with people in need.

There are also countless volunteer and charity efforts that go unnoticed throughout the country, eclipsed by the high profile pursuits listed above.  For instance, students at the University of Arizona are training service animals so that they may work as helpful companions to the blind. In San Antonio, Texas, people are volunteering their time to help high school students apply for financial aid for potential college enrollment. Encouraging aid and volunteer efforts are happening across the country, you just have to look closely to find them.

A volunteering app?

Yes, there is now an app for volunteering.  The simply titled app Reward Volunteers is available for anyone interested in logging and keeping track of their volunteer time. The app is designed for volunteers to keep tabs on their time with various organizations, so that both the volunteer and the organization can know how many hours have been devoted to civic engagements. Participants who log enough volunteer hours may also qualify for a reward for themselves or their volunteer program. It’s a great innovation for volunteerism in the age of apps, and one that reflects a promising trend of active involvement among younger generations.


This is a guest post by Nadia Jones who blogs at online college about education, college, student, teacher, money saving, movie related topics. You can reach her at nadia.jones5 @ gmail.com.

“The Power of Giving”

by Charles McWilliams

“In order to get something, you first need to give” –Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad

Many successful businessmen and entrepreneurs practice this basic property of reciprocity. Those who we consider ‘rich’ are often capable of giving much more than those we may consider ‘poor’ and I’m not referring to monetary assets by any means. Those who are ‘rich’ are capable of giving value to others, and this is precisely why they tend to receive so much. Yet, one more important principle works imperatively with the basic properties of reciprocation, especially when applied to human interaction: one must give to give, instead of giving to receive.

When Robert Kiyosaki feels needy or short of something he gives what he wants first so that it will come back in buckets. This is true of money, a smile, love and friendship.

Robert Kiyosaki is an American investor, businessman, self-help author and motivational speaker. Kiyosaki is best known for his Rich Dad, Poor Dad series of motivational books and other material published under the Rich Dad brand.

Bridging the World Together

By Andrea Xu, Marketing Intern and Executive Assistant to the CEO

During my senior year in high school, I experienced my first identity crisis. Since I was 10 years old, I had been set on becoming a pediatric oncologist, outlining my future and mapping it out perfectly. It was when I was applying to colleges that I realized that medicine was not for me, initiating Operation Freak-Out.

While I was fortunate enough to figure out where my true passions lied upon my first year in college, I know that some are not so lucky, bouncing around from major to major for a good number of years before realizing what they want to do. Moreover, we have all heard those stories of individuals completing medical or law school and working for a couple of years, only to return to school after realizing that their current occupation did not bring that sense of personal satisfaction many experience with their careers.

Abigail Falik in The Christian Science Monitor

Luckily, Abigail Falik is helping students find their passions while emphasizing the importance of having a worldly view by founding her nonprofit, Global Citizen Year (GCY). Through this nonprofit organization, Falik hopes to give young people an experience that will mold them to become leaders with an ethic of service. High school graduates spend a year before entering college to work in a developing country, building not only leadership skills but also becoming fluent in the local language. Falik was inspired to create this institution through her adventures in her youth, traveling with her family to developing countries, and taking a year off in the middle of college to work on projects such as helping street kids in Brazil. GCY won first place in the Pitch for Change Competition sponsored by Harvard Business School in 2008, and Falik was awarded with a social entrepreneurship fellowship in 2009.

Falik and her organization truly serve as an inspiration for everyone to give back and to immerse oneself into a completely new culture. It encourages people to go beyond the “conventional approach,” and to help bridge the world together through philanthropy and tolerance.

Learn more about Falik and GCY in The Christian Science Monitor, just one inspiring individual among many in its “People Making a Difference” series.

Inspired to give back? Visit UniversalGiving’s website and make your own difference by preventing political violence in New Guinea or volunteering in a South African orphanage.

Let’s Make College Education a Chance for All

By Andrea Xu

With the California education system experiencing another devastating blow to its budget, it is becoming increasingly crucial to find methods to maintain the state’s education standards. Higher education is seeing a shift from traditional state-funded colleges and universities towards for-profit and online colleges, like those found on websites offering accredited college degrees online and in technical colleges like ITT Tech. As a student attending the University of California, Berkeley, I understand the value of receiving a proper education, and have been personally affected by the budget cuts.

SMASH is a great organization that promotes academic values and achievement, providing a three-year, five-week summer math and science enrichment program for high-achieving, low-income students of color. SMASH scholars also receive year-round academic support such as SAT preparation and college counseling, gearing these students on the road to college. The best part? SMASH is free of charge. SMASH scholars are able to attend either UC Berkeley (Go Bears!) or Stanford University, living in the dormitories, attending classes, and getting a glimpse into the full college experience.

Most of these underprivileged youth do not have many role models, access to honors and AP classes, or even the necessary resources to help further their interest in pursuing a higher education; many therefore are unprepared to persist and to graduate, even if they wish to attend college. SMASH is a part of the Level Playing Field Institute, which includes programs such as The Initiative for Diversity in Education and Leadership (IDEAL) to help prevent this discouragement and essentially, to help level the playing field.

Help promote higher education and get involved!  Not only can you donate to help keep this program cost-free, but you can also be more involved by serving as a SMASH instructor! Whether you are a genius in math or simply love to help, this is a great opportunity to exercise your passions and strengths to help a student better his or her future. And there is no greater personal satisfaction than knowing you made a difference.

UniversalGiving’s™ interview with Charyit!

By Jeremy Kenton, Marilyn Lin, and Ranjani Shanker

Recently, Ranjani Shanker of UniversalGiving™ was privileged to interview co-founders of Charyit, Jeremy Kenton and Marilyn Lin. Charyit is an early-stage, pre-seed company with the intention of allowing consumers to interact with corporations through recent content aggregated from media sites across the web.

Q: Story of Charyit – How and who made it happen?

LIN:  The idea started when corporations began to focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR) and place more emphasis on the importance of social media to their brands.  We asked ourselves, “How likely are we to support a company’s brand in the future based on their recent actions?”  And, “If a large population of consumers are also aware of these actions, would the masses be able to influence the plans of or affect a corporation’s “triple bottom line” (people, planet and profit)?”

KENTON: We recognized the significant momentum building around CSR, with companies and consumers using social media to discuss their initiatives. People within our networks post articles about how companies are interacting with society, both positively and negatively. Because posting an article on Facebook lacks permanence, we created Charyit to change that.

LIN:  We want to provide a linkage between the public’s comments on corporate actions back to those corporations.  Charyit aggregates stories on the economic, environmental and social fronts.  Leveraging social media and crowd-sourcing, we offer the public the ability to interact with the news content and influence a company’s future actions.

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Little Feet takes Big Kick for Change

By Karis Ingram

I wasn’t always the most athletic kid growing up, but I did love to play. I remember not being able to wait for break in school, so that I could play handball, kickball or double dutch. Once the recess bell rang, I would race my friends to the playground to get first dibs on a ball. I lived for playing and having fun – it was my life. Playing sports and games helped me improve my health habits, and helped me develop socially, physically, and mentally. I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like if I had to sit in a classroom all day long without being able to play.

Unfortunately, we live in a world where some kids don’t have this outlet. Many kids around the world do not have access to clean, safe playgrounds or the equipment necessary to play the games that I so looked forward to as a child. Because of this, too many children are not getting the proper exercise and play necessary for child development.

Fortunately, there are ordinary people, like you and me, who seek to change this. Like Trevor Slavick, founder of Little Feet Foundation, is working to create opportunities for kids around the world to have access to soccer balls and healthy play programs. Using the One for One business model, Little Feet Sports matches your purchase of a soccer ball by sending an additional ball to a child in need. For example, if I buy a soccer to try to become the next Mia Hamm (highly unlikely!), Little Feet will send a ball to an underprivileged child in need around the world.

Talk about giving back! This is such an amazing idea, why didn’t I think of it first?

In its first few years, Little Feet Foundation has already donated soccer balls to over 20 countries. They’ve also recently branched out from an online store and have added the sale of Little Feet soccer balls at the national chain store, Sports Chalet. You can now pick up a life changing soccer ball at a California Sport Chalet near you!

Aside from their work providing soccer balls, and developing sustainable soccer programs, Little Feet is also seeking to help local economies worldwide. With the discovery that coffee farmers are only paid less than a penny from a $2 cup of coffee, Little Feet created a unique and sustainable way to help the kids and local farmers. If you want to help Little Feet reach their goal of building 8 soccer fields and soccer programs by 2014, you can do so by purchasing Little Feet Coffee. Buying Little Feet coffee will help local farmers receive better prices for their hard work, while also funding soccer programs and fields!

By purchasing a Little Feet Soccer Ball or Little Feet Coffee, you can do your part too and help kids in need race their friends to their local soccer field in hopes of becoming the next David Beckham. Check out Little Feet’s website and buy a ball for a friend, one for yourself, or your whole family!