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AmeriCorps volunteers keep rural Nebraska strong
Skylar Leatherman
Antelope Staff
Photo by Skylar Leatherman
AmeriCorps member Jessa Hoyt helps children in an After School program. AmeriCorps gets members involved in the community by volunteering.
Photo by Skylar Leatherman
Grant Anderson

AmeriCorps students at UNK are serving their country by serving locally and giving time and energy to volunteer around the community.

The rewards are clear said Grant Anderson, a full-time AmeriCorps volunteer. According to Anderson, a year of service can help you make connections with the community. “You get to work long enough to see the impact of what you’re doing.”

Working with AmeriCorps can also strengthen your resume, help develop better leadership skills and help build new relationships.

“In the public schools, the kids actually recognize volunteers,” Anderson said. “People in schools get jobs or excellent reference letters. It’s great for connections and networking. It helps the general community’s need.”

AmeriCorps helps communities across the nation to address critical needs in education, the environment, public safety, homeland security and other areas. The program was first founded in Kearney in 2004 with the Service-Learning Corps of South Central Nebraska. The formal name is Rural Corps of South-Central Nebraska. The current program began as a campus and community partnership in 2008 when Geraldine Stirtz founded the AmeriCorps program at UNK. Stirtz, the Rural Corps program manager and supervisor, works with the program and its members closely.

Stirtz decided to start the program when she noticed a need in the community. “Rural Nebraska is hurting. We see many small communities losing citizens who chose to leave for college and not return as the jobs are not there,” Stirtz said.

“I felt we could support a program here in central Nebraska that would get people more engaged as citizens to support their communities and take pride in them. I feel the AmeriCorps program can help get things turned around as we engage individuals in serving others and not focusing entirely on themselves. AmeriCorps is about serving and giving of oneself in service for others less fortunate than our own self.”

AmeriCorps creates a connection between the community and campus.

“The program works with service-learning corporations and creates outposts for volunteering in the community. Our biggest goal is to connect the campus to the community by getting students to volunteer,” Anderson said.

“We want to let other college students know about the opportunities to volunteer,” he said. “We want to help students make a better connection with the community.”

The program is partnered with Kearney organizations and schools. Each member has a position and volunteers at the organization for designated amount of hours during the grant cycle. The current grant cycle is Sept. 1 through Aug. 31, 2011. Members also receive a living allowance stipend during service and an education award after each grant cycle. The education award can be applied to future education, or to repay student loans.

Anderson and Stirtz agree that being in AmeriCorps benefits individuals and the community.

“When people volunteer, you don’t always get to see how you’re impacting peoples lives,” Anderson said. “The program provides long-term support. A lot of places I talk to say they get a high turnover rate and don’t have stable volunteer support. Through AmeriCorps they get someone who is there more often.”

Anyone 18 and older can join AmeriCorps. “The program is for people who want to serve their country or have benefited from the community and want to give back. We want to connect with the community long-term,” Anderson said.

If you need more information on AmeriCorps, you can contact Grant Anderson at andersongs@unk.edu or Geraldine Stirtz at stirtzg@unk.edu. You can see available positions at www.ruralcorps.org and apply for the program at www.americorps.gov.



Rural Corps Focus Areas:
1. Assisting disadvantaged youth
2. Organizing for disaster preparedness
3. Caring for environmental issues
4. Engaging senior citizens
5. Strengthening rural Nebraska Communities

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