Montclair State University’s yearlong Environment, Education, and Community Outreach (EECO) AmeriCorps national service program can be an ideal bridge for college graduates poised to enter a competitive job market.
That’s how Kate Torsiello landed her dream job. A 2010 Montclair State graduate, Torsiello had searched for a job as a newspaper reporter for months before she was accepted into the AmeriCorps program. Thanks to college job experience, she was placed in the Montclair YMCA’s after-school enrichment program for children from kindergarten through the sixth grade.
After completing her year of AmeriCorps service, the Y hired her as its program director for School Age Child Care. Today, she supervises a staff of 25-30 at six elementary schools in Bloomfield, New Jersey, that have Y after-school programs. “I love it. I don’t see myself anywhere else in the near future,” says the 25-year-old Iselin, New Jersey, resident. Torsiello is one of four EECO AmeriCorps members from the University’s first group of AmeriCorps participants to find a job as a result of the program.
Now in its fourth year at the University, the federally funded program is kicking off its recruitment drive for the 2013-2014 program. Twenty recruits will be accepted this year for the program, which starts in September. Nationally, AmeriCorps offers 75,000 opportunities for adults of all ages and backgrounds to serve with local and national non-profit groups each year.
Montclair State’s EECO AmeriCorps program targets recent college graduates wishing to serve in public schools, non-profit organizations, community- and faith-based organizations, and other civic organizations that have been hard hit by the economic downturn.
“The EECO AmeriCorps program promotes personal and professional development,” explains Bryan Murdock, the University’s director of Service-Learning and Community Engagement and coordinator of its EECO AmeriCorps Program.
“In a tight job market, it gives graduates—especially those in the fields of teaching, and family and social services—an opportunity to gain an additional year of highly valuable and relevant career building experience,” he adds.
EECO AmeriCorps participants work 40 hours a week and receive a stipend of $12,100 as well as a $5,500 educational award to pay off student loans or fund further education. Student loan payments are deferred for one-year, with the Corporation for National and Community Service paying the interest for the year of service. Program participants also receive priority consideration for any federal government jobs they apply to within one year of completing their national service.
The 2013-2014 recruits will assist teachers in literacy programs in the Orange public schools; teach middle school students about environmental conservation at Montclair State’s New Jersey School of Conservation in Branchville; and serve at Montclair State, in the office of Service-Learning and Community Engagement, as well as in the Volunteer Resource Center in the Center for Student Involvement.
Applicants may apply for specific jobs through the AmeriCorps website at my.AmeriCorps.gov, which lists all open positions in the country. Applicants with leadership skills who are committed to service are the ones most likely to be chosen, according to Murdock.
Of the 150-200 applicants to the EECO program at Montclair State last year, 25 percent were graduates of the University, who receive priority during the selection process. “One of our goals is to serve Montclair State alumni,” says Krystal Woolston, assistant director of Service-Learning and Community Engagement.
“I think it’s a wonderful program,” comments Lisa Aulisi, senior program director at the YMCA in Montclair, who hired Torsiello. “Kate had exactly the skills we were looking for. We clicked right away and it was a great fit.”
Aulisi is so pleased with the program that another AmeriCorps member is currently serving at the Y. She also hopes to take on a new member for the 2013-14 program year.
Having landed a great job and the salary to go with it, Torsiello looks forward to the day when she is no longer living at home. “I’m looking for a house to buy,” she says proudly.