Filed under: Inspiring Young People | Tags: Americorps, college, college loans, education, finances, goals, Poverty, travel abroad, Volunteering
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.
Filed under: Inspirational Thoughts | Tags: children, India, Inspiring Stories, service, Volunteering
This is a post from UniversalGiving team member Janet Oh, about an experience on her recent trip to India.
“Ear clean? Rickshaw? Guesthouse? Boat ride?” After travelling in India for a week, I needed a break from being a tourist. The constant offers for services and subsequent haggling was exhausting. I soon developed a habit of avoiding eye contact, looking down, and just shaking my head “no.” In trying to develop some street smarts, I had also lost my sense of humor.
On a flight from Udaipur to Varanasi I met another traveler, Tanya, from Switzerland. Tanya caught my attention immediately. She was smiling, laughing, and just generally having a great time. She was the traveler I wanted to be. My husband and I struck up a conversation with her and sure enough she loved everything about India. “It’s so beautiful!” she said again and again. She had been traveling in India for seven weeks. What was her secret?
Tanya said the highlight of her trip was volunteering for a week in an orphanage. She and a friend taught math classes and tutored kids. She was clearly moved by the experience. Unknowingly, she had planted a seed.
48 hours later I emailed Rashmi, the Director of the one orphanage I knew in India. My husband and I ended up there two days later. For the first time on our trip, we were out of a tourist area. Even our rickshaw driver wasn’t familiar with the neighborhood and had to stop for directions multiple times. It was on that village road that I started to feel more like myself – happy, carefree, curious, and open.
When we finally found Sri Ram Ashram, it felt like we had entered an idyllic paradise. The orphanage was on 17 acres with its own wheat fields, dairy cows, and vegetable garden. Immediately, the girls took my hand and the boys gave Graham a tour. It was as if they were expecting us. “Push me on the swing, didi!” “Watch me hang from this tree!”
For three more days that’s basically what I did. I got to know the kids, pushed the little ones on the swing, and learned the Indian version of hopscotch. To say I was volunteering would definitely be a stretch since the kids had really taken me under their wings, welcoming me with total warmth, showering me with attention, and teaching me the ropes. Not only did they seem happy and well-loved, but they were kind, generous, and playful. They all asked me the same question, “How long are you staying and when are you coming back?”
Just as it was for Tanya, my visit to the orphanage was a highlight of my three week journey in India. While there are many selfless reasons to volunteer abroad, there are also selfish ones. My time at the orphanage was definitely the most authentic of all my interactions in India – a time when I could take a break from being a tourist, laugh, be open, and connect with others.