Marlie Reed traveled the Pacific United States for 10 months, and in return, she received an education award for nearly $6,000.
The IPFW alumna was a part of a program called AmeriCorps, where she volunteered to aid communities and organizations in Alaska, California and Oregon while she secretly struggled with what direction to take in life.
“I was unsure of what I should do next,” Reed said, as she combed her fingers through her hair. “I had a friend who did the program and told me he gained a new perspective on himself, so I wanted to try it.”
According to the American Gap Association, interest in gap years has increased substantially. High school and college graduates are electing to take a gap year by traveling nationally or internationally. Graduates are also volunteering or working at home before enrolling into an institution or beginning their career.
Amanda Grace, a student from North Webster majoring in office administration at International Business College, said she decided to work before continuing her education to save money and figure out what she should major in.
Through her experience, Grace said, she learned how to be more responsible, and never lost her work ethic because she finally felt like she wanted to go to school, not that she was supposed to.
Deidre Hoffman, another IBC student majoring in office administration from Norwell, said she was unsure of her plan after high school. She joined the U.S. Army, and while serving, she gained skills similar to Grace’s, such as time-management, maturity, and life-experience.
According to the AGA website, Grace and Hoffman are among the students who have shown that taking a break between high school and college renews interest and increases motivation. Another AGA study shows 90 percent of students are enrolled in a four-year institution within one year of time off from academia.
The AGA also surveyed students and found they can gain useful, job-related skills from their personal experiences during their time off.
“Employers are looking for students who have communication skills, interpersonal skills, and leadership skills,” said Ashley Calderon, IPFWs director of career services.
According to the AGA, the University of Colorado Denver, and the AmeriCorps website each of these options — volunteering, enlisting in the military, traveling, and working — will teach students some of the skills to prepare them for their future careers.
Students could highlight their skills on their résumés and during their job interviews, Calderon said. She also believes getting involved with these organizations are exceptional ways to network.
“It made me more self-aware and more appreciative of what I have and the family I have, even the material things,” Reed said about her AmeriCorps experience. “I am just alive and well, doing something different made me more adventurous.”
AmeriCorps NCCC Program:
- Available for 18- to 24-year-olds
- Must complete 10 months of service to be awarded education award
- Government pays for housing, food and stipend.
- Volunteers can choose from five different regions in the U.S. and can apply for their fall or winter cycle.