A Year of Service

How two years of national service has transformed my life.

When life gives you lemons...

I graduated college at just the beginning of the recession. Despite So my "recession proof" major (engineering studies) jobs were hard to come by. I decided to do a year of Americorps, which lead to yet another year of Americorps(Climate Corps Bay Area). There are so many reasons to complete a year of service. These are few of the reasons I wanted to complete 2 years of service.

See America

I was born and raised in the Deep South and had never been visited a state outside of the East Coast. Americorps VISTA gave me the chance to move to Oakland, California in the San Francisco Bay area. It's different from the South for sure, some days like living in another country. If it weren't for Americorps, I would have never imagined myself in California.

There are service positions all over the country. More of a traveller? NCCC members go around the country serving communities including disaster relief.

Of course you can also serve in your own community. Once I'd settled into Oakland I wanted to complete another year in this community.

Share your skills and gain new ones

When I first thought of Americorps I just thought it was about "Teach for America" and "Habitat for Humanity", I soon found out there's a "corps" for just about everything. Law students, social work, architects, and yes technology. My first year was with the Digital Arts Service Corps. Currently I'm with Climate Corps Bay Area, we focus on reducing green house gas emissions.

I've been able to share the skills I gained in college and learn some real-life applications. At OTX West (Americorps VISTA) I used my experience as a web designer and enhanced my technical writing skills. I helped set-up computer labs in schools, used my broken Kansai Japanese to assist families we served, and discovered lots of new (and free) online tools.

At GRID Alternatives, the attention to detail that is essential in engineering, has come in handy as the Volunteer and training associate. I manage about 3000 volunteers and since I train the volunteers on PV and Construction Safety basics. I studied Power Engineering in college and it's very helpful for the volunteers.

Alot of service program have a training requirement. In ClimateCorps 20% of our service hours are training hours. I've been able to take classes on Energy Effiency, Renewable Energy, Computer Aid Drafting, HVAC, all sorts of things I'm interested in.

Help others

Have you ever seen the face of teen when they get a free desktop computer? The look of a homeowner when they turn on their photovoltaic system for the first time? How intrigued a volunteer is the first time they actually wire an inverter?

I have and it is wonderful. Everyday of my national service I saw how firsthand the organizations I worked for helped people and their community. Though even if you're not a social person, there are so many different ways to serve. Several of my ClimateCorps colleagues develop Climate Action Plans and other forms of indirect service.

Make good use of the recession

Alot of us are un/underemployed and when we finally snag an interview, you sit down and they ask "What have you been doing since you...(graduated highschool/college, left the military, retired, etc.)"

*crickets chirp*

I've always said that volunteering in your field is better than flipping burgers, even though you'll make more money flipping burgers. Keeping that knowledge fresh in your mind is important.

I've been amazed the amount connections I've made and how that's already aiding in find positions to apply to when my year ends.

Are you ready to serve?

check out www.serve.org for opportunities in your community and beyond


Jasmine Shepard

Digital Arts Service Corps @ OTX West (2009-2010)

Climate Corps Bay Area @ GRID Alternatives (2011 - current)

I did this completely on my own. It's not a recruitment for any specific national or community service postion. But if you're curious about Americorps, the experience, the learning, surviving on pauper's wages, feel free to contact me

I studied Electrical Engineering Technology(B.S EET) in college and plan to take the Engineer in Training Exam in October. I'll soon have completed my second year of national service and will be looking for a full-time permanent position in the SF Bay Area or the Southeast.