Grow through a year of service

Anthony Miller, Staff writer

There are fewer than 100 days left before seniors graduate from Mercyhurst University. One of the paths forward for seniors is a year of service, but what is the year of service and what does it entail?

The year of service is a postgraduate service opportunity in which graduates dedicate a year or two years to working for various organizations. Some organizations involved are AmeriCorps, Peace Corps and the Lutheran Volunteer Corps.

Bethany Brun, coordinator of Service Learning, discussed the benefits of taking a gap year to do a year of service after graduation.

“Each of these programs gives you the opportunity to do a year or two years of service,” said Brun. “It’s a great opportunity for seniors especially, because you get to develop yourself as a professional.”

There are two kinds of service available to graduates. One of them is working behind the scenes and doing things such as securing funding and building partnerships, while the other is working on the ground with clientele.

Danielle Pacansky, ’16, AmeriCorps VISTA Youth Mentoring Coordinator, is completing her second year with AmeriCorps.

Throughout Pacansky’s time of service, she has worked on coordinating two youth mentoring programs, working alongside professors and other professionals in the field.

“Doing a year of service is an amazing opportunity to grow and work on your professional skills,” said Pacansky. “No matter what major you graduate with, you have a great yearlong opportunity to work before whatever you wish to pursue.”

There are a number of location options available for completing a year of service. If students want to explore a particular state or region, such as Dallas, they would be able to go there for a year. Traveling overseas is also an option.

A year of service is a good way to test out new locations and experiences before committing to moving there long term.

While graduates usually are not paid in paychecks, they do receive stipends.

“Most of them generally provide a monthly stipend to help with living expenses,” Brun said.

Other benefits are also available depending on what organization the student works through. For example, AmeriCorps pays a $5,800 education award every 12 months, which can be used to help pay off student loans or pay for graduate school.

Most student loans are also deferred while working for AmeriCorps.

“For the AmeriCorps VISTA year of service, at the end of the year you get to choose from a stipend or education award,” said Pacansky. “You can use the education award on either school loans or toward graduate school.”

According to Brun, a year of service provides a great opportunity to find out what kind of work environment one might enjoy.

“Do you enjoy working in teams? Do you like an office environment? Do you want to work in a cubicle? You find these things out during your year,” Brun said.

Other members of the Mercyhurst community have spoken positively about their time in year of service programs. One such individual is Colin Hurley, director of Community Engagement.

“I did two years of post-grad service from 2007 to 2009 as (an AmeriCorps) VISTA member, and I can personally say it was a very formative time for me as a young professional,” said Hurley. “Those 24 months gave me a better sense of direction and a sense of launch into my career field in higher education.”

Mercyhurst is hosting a service fair on Feb. 21. It will be in the Student Union from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and there will be a free dinner afterwards where students can talk to service representatives, including Mercyhurst alumni.

Organizations at the dinner will include AmeriCorps, the Peace Corps, Mercy Volunteer Corps and the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.

“I highly recommend considering a year of service after graduation. Feel free to stop in the Service Learning office or attend the post-grad fair to learn more,” Pacansky said.