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AmeriCorps Declares ISU A School of National Service

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Each year, AmeriCorps partners with more than 2,000 organizations committed to helping communities nationwide.

The Stevenson Center has earned Illinois State University a new honor. ISU is now a School of National Service.

Schools of National Service provide incentives and awards that encourage AmeriCorps alumni to attend their institution.

"It's a concrete, nationwide recognition that proves the Stevenson Center and ISU are fulfilling the university's value of civic engagement," said Beverly Beyer, senior associate director. “AmeriCorps members give of themselves. They go out and they serve and they help communities all across our country. And because they have made this sacrifice, when they come to the Stevenson Center, they receive a great financial package as part of our graduate program.”

AmeriCorps is a federal agency that brings people together to tackle the country’s most pressing challenges, through national service and volunteering.

The center now welcomes former AmeriCorps members to its Applied Community and Economic Development Fellows Program. This program is interdisciplinary and includes a graduate assistantship, a paid internship, and a full tuition waiver.

The center offers two Fellows programs to those who've had at least a year through AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, or an equivalent experience.

“So the students all come together and they have one year on campus pursuing a master's in economics, anthropology, political science, sociology, kinesiology and recreation. They do an interdisciplinary sequence in Applied Community and Economic Development where they're learning skills and tools to help them be effective,” said Beyer. “Then the whole second year of the program is actually out 11 months doing this work full time out in the community.”

The center recruits AmeriCorps alumni into the program. 

“They go on to serve around the United States and have amazing careers as leaders and with government agencies, with nonprofit organizations and some of them get their Ph.Ds and stay in academia,” said Beyer. “They do all sorts of really amazing things.”

These Stevenson Center AmeriCorps members have completed the equivalent of 55 full-time service years.

“We placed these talented graduate students with communities, organizations, actually both here at Illinois and other states, too. So, they're not only earning a master's degree, but they're also helping communities and organizations to build on their capacity to have a higher standard living, a better quality of life,” said Beyer. 

The Stevenson Center has received education awards directly from AmeriCorps totaling more than $300,000.

“Those education awards, it didn't cost ISU anything. They went straight from AmeriCorps directly to the students so that they could repay existing student loans or for future educational expenses,” said Beyer.

AmeriCorps has more than one1 million alumni. The Stevenson Center has accumulated 230 alumni in the past 26 years. 

Beyer said the center is planning activities for Peace Corps week in March. 

“Both Fellows programs could be also a wonderful way to launch a career with nonprofits and with government work and other sectors going forward. In terms of activities, we are helping recruit for the Peace Corps,” said Beyer.

“For our AmeriCorps members, we partner with others to recognize national days of service like MLK day, which just happened. AmeriCorps week will be coming up, and so there are things happening both virtually and safely in person to try to keep these opportunities visible to students at ISU.”

Beyer said AmeriCorps at ISU is always trying to raise the visibility of these programs. 

“A lot of undergrads may not be familiar. They may hear of them and not understand that these are great ways to give back,” said Beyer. 

For those interested, the Stevenson Center is now accepting applications for fall 2021.

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