Pros and Cons of AmeriCorps: My Experience So Far

acvistapng

Last June (2012), I received my M.A. in Arts and Cultural Management. I had a job lined up for the summer (2 jobs actually, but only one was in the realm of what I wanted to do). In August, I began a job search for a marketing or communications position in a nonprofit. I had plenty of interviews, a few close calls, but ultimately took a position as an AmeriCorps member at the Saint Paul Public Schools Foundation. Surprisingly, it wasn’t a difficult decision at the time. I knew what  I was getting in to in regards to pay and everything. This position was at a nonprofit doing something I believe in, and I would gain a ton of experience out of just one year of work. I got to be the entire Communications Department. So far, this has been challenging and satisfying. I have accomplished more than I ever thought and I still have 5 months left of service. I get to run with my own ideas and not just “plug and chug” information that is passed down to me.

AmeriCorps is great for a few reasons, just as there are a few reasons it could be better. But I’ll start with the positive. First, you get some awesome incentives. You get a guaranteed year of work and, after you complete that year, you received an education award of $5,550 to go towards student loans (taxes are taken out but it is still $5,000 towards loans that you didn’t have before). You also can get your loans deferred for your year of service. Meaning no payments. And certain loans qualify for AmeriCorps to pay the interest on them. Second, my AmeriCorps position has provided me with many opportunities for professional development that may not have been possible at other organizations. AmeriCorps positions expect that this may be one of your first full-time gigs, and offers you more than enough learning opportunities. I have also met a ton of people I would never have interacted with otherwise. I have sat down and talked with several district school board members, a city council member, several individuals who are doing wonderful things to support the community, and many other individuals from awesome organizations.

“Mediocre” aspects. You can receive health insurance, which works well for simple visits to Target Clinic and is great for prescriptions  but anything serious or that requires hospital stays requires that you call them to discuss it. But it is something!

A few “drawbacks” of AmeriCorps include the pay, which in MN is about $983 per month BEFORE taxes. Unless you have a roommate, are living at home, or have an amazingly cheap apartment, you cannot do it alone very easily. This is why it is called a “year of service.” One good thing is that you qualify for food stamps (SNAP in MN), which guarantees that you will be able to eat. Another potential drawback is if you cannot find employment after your service, you do not qualify for unemployment through the state. Because it was considered a year of service, it is like you were volunteering and not actually working.

I will say that my experience in my position is probably far different from others. I have heard of people quitting because the organization they were at was taking advantage of them and making them work 50+ hours. It is all about where you end up.

Overall, I think AmeriCorps is great for experience and great for those who can afford to do it. Once my year is completed, I will have so much to put on my resume because I have literally done a bit of everything.

I am nervous about beginning my job search this fall (even end of summer). I don’t want to be jobless again. However, I do know that having this position on my resume is fantastic and the skills and knowledge that I have acquired is more than I expected. And  I have 5 months to really polish those skills I may not be so confident about. Plus, the staff at the Foundation is all about supporting their members and helping them find jobs, so I will have more people to go to during this transition. And, if I don’t find a job right away, I have already decided that I will start selling my art. I have so much to look forward to in the next 5 months and I know I will be sad to see this position end.

The Violence Against Women Act

I might be biased and I have might have an agenda because I am a woman. But if things were flipped, I still would see no reason to vote against it. Violence is violence. And yes, violence is more prevalent against women. And the violence against women is caused predominantly by males, specifically males they know.

I have never been a victim of violence and I have never had family members or friends been victims either. But it doesn’t mean that I don’t see it, read about it, or hear about it. I understand it. I understand what it could do to a person. I understand that some men are violent because it makes them feel masculine, strong, and in control. I understand that some women find it hard to leave because they have no access to the money, are threatened, and feel no sense of purpose anymore. The year is 2013 and no longer are men always the breadwinners or head of the household. No longer are women expected to stay at home to take care of the 7 kids they are expected to have. Many women have Master’s degrees and great jobs and are no longer willing to settle for just any man.

Today, 22 Republican Men voted against VAWA. All women in the Senate voted for it, despite their party. This alone shows the problem with the Republican party today. They don’t seem to understand that women are in fact equal to men. They don’t seem to understand that rape is a violent and horrific crime (take the statements from various Republicans during the election as examples. Mourdock, Akin, Ryan, etc…) and that minimizing rape is like saying that it isn’t a big deal and rarely happens. But it does happen and it is a big deal.

Everyday, 3 women are murdered by their partner. What about the women who are hospitalized every day due to violence? I am sure that number is greater. The chart below (found on Planned Parenthood’s Facebook page), show just a few statistics about the prevalence of violence.

Why we Need the Violence Against Women Act

 

By voting against the act, these Republican men are sending a message to all women out there that they don’t care. I wish the reasons they voted against it were listed, because I would love to hear what they have to say (not really, but would love to see how stupid their reasons were). By voting against this, they are implying that they don’t believe domestic violence is an issue, that rape isn’t a big deal, and that it is the 1800s and it is okay (or expected) that a man take out his anger on a woman. It is backwards macho thinking like this that is irritating every woman in America today. Pair this with all the other news, such as North Dakota trying to pass a “personhood” act, New Mexico trying to punish rape victims who get abortions, and even Iowa where a woman was fired because the boss man found her attractive and was tempted to have an affair. Something needs to be done before we aren’t protected anymore.

It already is hard as hell to convict a rapist because they always try to blame the victim and rape kits are so backlogged. This act is supposed to help with the backlog. This act is a statement to women that we are protected and we can get the help we need. But with men like these trying to block every single thing that is trying to help women, I am worried. If this many men feel this way, I wonder how many others feel this way. I want to know when we, as a country, stopped progressing and stopping caring about the women in this country.

First post- On the proposed tax increase on cigarettes

I, for one, would be the first person to say that smoking is a terrible and disgusting habit. I hate being near people who smoke and I hate having to walk through it because those people refuse to move more than 5 feet away from the doors of my work. My lungs can’t handle it and I get coughing fits if I am near someone smoking. I am saying this just to explain my view on smoking. The tax increase is proposed to dissuade individuals from smoking and hopefully make people quit. The idea is great, but, I don’t believe that it will make people quit. It would make it less likely for individuals to get started (in my opinion) because of the cost but, in the end, if someone wants to smoke, they will find a way to do it. It is an addiction, just like alcohol and cocaine. While some people see smoking as disgusting and a choice (including myself, to a point), there is the fact that nicotine is addictive and quitting is hard. It started as a choice and after the first few or the first pack, it become a habit and then an addiction. An addiction is something that you cannot go without; something that you must have to make it through the day. Instead of seeing smoking as an addiction, I believe we need to start viewing it as an actual addiction and something that causes so many health problems to the smokers and people nearby. I think that a tax is just going to give the state more money, but it won’t get to the root of the problem.

And, if we go as far as to tax cigarettes, we might as well place a higher tax on things that contribute to obesity. Foods containing certain ingredients or combinations of ingredients should be taxed higher than fruits and vegetables. If we want to get ridiculous, we should raise the taxes on couches, televisions and video gaming systems. Taxing something won’t fix it. It will provide more money for the state but it won’t treat the real problem.

I read in a comment of an article on this topic, that this would take away freedom. I completely disagree. A tax on something doesn’t take away a freedom; you could still smoke if you wanted to but it will cost more money. It is still your decision, your money and your health. Taking away a freedom would mean making it illegal. And the tax isn’t going to do that.

I wish that smoking was illegal and I wish that it wasn’t a problem and a leading cause of many health issues. I wish I didn’t ever have to smell smoke. Perhaps, if they did tax cigarettes, the extra taxes collected should be used to treat those who have issues related to second-hand smoke. Doing that would at least help those who didn’t do anything wrong and have to pay for other people’s addictions. But by just giving the money back to the state, I can’t see this getting off the ground.