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How to prepare for a successful AmeriCorps service year

College Possible Coach Sits At A Table, Looking Directly At The Camera, Smiling, As They Listen To A Seminar At An AmeriCorps Coach Retreat.

If you’ve been chosen as a College Possible AmeriCorps coach, congratulations! You’ve been selected to serve at College Possible because we believe you exude the AmeriCorps spirit and the core values that guide our work: student success, inclusive culture, teamwork, impact, and growth and innovation. 

You’re joining a cohort of nearly 300 other College Possible coaches across the United States who are committed to educational equity. In addition, you now belong to a network of over one million AmeriCorps members who have served or are currently serving at other nonprofit organizations. Wondering how to prepare for your service year? We’re bringing you tips from AmeriCorps alumni on how to make the most of your time at College Possible! 

Figure out your ideal housing situation 

One of the most beneficial ways to prepare for service is to find housing near your service site and schools. Many AmeriCorps members opt to live with family or friends during their service year. However, if you’re looking for housing, College Possible AmeriCorps alumni and recruiters have put together resources to find affordable neighborhoods in your service city. 

If you’re looking for a roommate, why not start with your fellow AmeriCorps members? Many service sites offer a meet-and-greet meeting before Welcome Weeks. Here, you’ll have the opportunity to get to know your future coach cohort, and maybe even find a potential roommate match! Don’t hesitate to ask your assigned AmeriCorps recruiter if they know of any other coaches looking for roommates – chances are, you’re not alone.

Adrienne, an AmeriCorps alumna from Omaha, shares her advice for incoming coaches. “Get to know your fellow corps members and lean on them when you need it. No matter if you’re from the area you’re serving in or not, these can be life-long friendships.” She continues, “A big part of why I returned for a second year is because of my coworkers. They were like family in a city where I originally knew no one.”

If you’re serving as a Catalyze college coach, your campus site may offer free campus housing. Your recruiter will be able to tell you if your campus site offers additional benefits that may help you save money during your service year. 

Build a budget from your AmeriCorps service living stipend 

Step one to finding housing for your service year is setting a budget based on your AmeriCorps living stipend. The stipend compensation is just one part of the benefits package you’ll receive as an AmeriCorps service member. 

In addition to a biweekly or bimonthly stipend – depending on your service location – you’ll also receive free health, vision, and dental insurance. Additionally, at the end of your service term, you’ll receive a Segal Education Award to help pay for student loan debt. Keep in mind, eligible federal student loans are in forbearance during your service term, meaning loan payments are paused. The best part is that you can also apply to have interest forgiven during your loan forbearance period! 

“I worked at the University of Nebraska as a tech-connected College Possible coach and got 15 credit hours for my education,” says Carrie, an AmeriCorps alum. “Between that and my education award, I got my master’s degree with zero debt.” 

Besides the above benefits and compensation, many service sites offer additional benefits to help make your service year more affordable! As mentioned above, some Catalyze campuses offer benefits like free on-campus housing, free monthly meal plan allowance, gym memberships, and more. The eight flagship sites (Chicago, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Omaha, Oregon, Philadelphia, Texas, and Washington) may also offer unique location benefits. Some sites provide free bus passes, relocation assistance, and more.

Get yourself organized for College Possible Welcome Weeks  

Once you have housing and a budget settled, you’ll want to mentally prepare for the start of your volunteer service with College Possible AmeriCorps. Your first three weeks of the service year will be devoted to our onboarding program called Welcome Weeks. During this training period, you’ll be equipped with necessary coaching skills without the pressure of interacting with students right off the bat.

During Welcome Weeks, we’ll introduce you to the College Possible organization, culture, and your local site-based team, as well as the national team leaders. You’ll attend in-depth sessions on AmeriCorps benefits, College Possible’s mission and values, and the current education landscape. In addition, you’ll be trained on Salesforce basics, student data privacy, and coaching as a skill set. 

You’ll want to create a quiet, comfortable space, free of distractions, where you can soak up all the essential information Welcome Weeks has to offer. Spend some time strategizing how you’d like to organize your notes, as you’ll review them often throughout your service term.

Above all else, prepare yourself for a year of fun and transformative impact! Many College Possible coach alumni tell us they’ve made lifelong friends within their coach cohort. Some land their next job at their service site or school, and others solidify plans to earn an advanced degree! 

Your service year is an exciting opportunity to build skills that you’ll carry throughout your career, while strengthening communities through education. We’re excited to meet you and look forward to seeing the impact you’ll make alongside your fellow service members.

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