Feb 212005
 
Authors: Erin Tracy

Three scholarships are available through AmeriCorps depending on the amount of time a student can spend with the program.

* 300 hours of service commitment awards a student a $1,000 scholarship;

* 450 hours of service commitment awards a $1,250 scholarship

* 900 hours of service commitment awards a $2,363 scholarship

The 300 and 450-hour commitment must be finished in one year, but the 900-hour commitment can be finished in two years if needed.

"Knowledge to Go Places" is not just CSU's motto; it is a reality for many students participating in CSU's AmeriCorps program.

Often referred to as the "domestic Peace Corps," AmeriCorps provides thousands of Americans with education awards for time spent improving the country.

The AmeriCorps program, now in its second year at CSU, awards students scholarship money for their time spent mentoring, tutoring, doing community service, participating in service learning activities and unpaid internships.

It is a way to serve the country without a gun, said Carla Turner, assistant director of service learning and AmeriCorps in the Office of Student Leadership and Civic Engagement.

"(It is for the people who are) going into a career that is not going to pay a huge finance dividends, but will contribute greatly to the community," she said.

The scholarship money can only be used for education-related expenses such as tuition, books and paying off student loans.

CSU's AmeriCorps program has allotted 236 scholarships for the 2004-2005 school year and has filled about 135 of those. Turner said about three times more scholarships were given last year and she hopes that CSU will hopefully have more scholarships to give every year.

"We requested more scholarships, because the departments that participate in this program are finding they can use them (the volunteers)," Turner said. "We are asking 300 scholarships for the next fiscal year."

The College of Business, Division of Student Affairs, College of Liberal Arts and College of Applied Human Sciences pay the fee to Colorado Campus Compact, which builds campus and community partnership with service learning and civic engagement in 35 colleges and universities in the intermountain west, so CSU can offer AmeriCorps scholarships to students.

Turner said the SLCE office is hoping the College of Natural Resources, College of Engineering and College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences will be involved by the 2005-2006 school year.

Students can apply through their college or through the Division of Student Affairs if their college is not involved in the AmeriCorps program yet. Each internship largely depends on the student's academic program they are going through at CSU, Turner said.

She sees a lot of volunteers working as student teachers, working shifts at a food bank and volunteering for RamRide as a way to fulfill hours.

Rachel Rambo, a senior psychology student and assistant coordinator for AmeriCorps UCAN (Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico) service education award program, had a scholarship in CSU's AmeriCorps before she got her job as an assistant coordinator. Part of her hours for AmeriCorps was used as site leader for an alternative spring break at a Native American reservation in Pine Ridge, S.D., last year.

She said being involved in CSU's alternative Spring Break and being involved in the AmeriCorps program has helped her grow both personally and professionally.

"It has really changed my life through the service," Rambo said. "By getting involved in AmeriCorps, it has opened my eyes to the big picture."

Rambo and nine other CSU students slept in a teepee, did not take showers and worked around the reservation for seven days during Spring Break.

"We spent a lot of the time in the evening reflecting," Rambo said. "Once you do something like this, it becomes a part of you."

Participating in an alternative Spring Break or having an AmeriCorps scholarship are ways to go to school and volunteer at the same time.

However, for Danielle Cohen, freshman political science major, going to school and volunteering was too much. She wanted to totally devote herself to a cause and not have the distractions of everyday life.

Cohen got involved in a sector of the AmeriCorps, National Civilian Community Corps, which is specifically for people ages 18 to 24. Cohen will be stationed in Maryland for her NCCC program for about 11 months, then will be moved around the United States to where her group is needed the most.

Her first project will be six weeks in Maine where her group will help small towns develop programs to get people involved in their communities and combat teen drug problems and rising suicide rates.

Although she does not know what her other projects will be after she is finished in Maine, Cohen said she knows her work will be structured around environmental cleanup, public safety, unmet human needs, education or natural disaster relief and it will be extremely mentally and physically draining.

"Sometimes you don't realize that everything you do makes a difference, but it does," Cohen said. "You may do something because it makes you feel good, but it could make a huge difference in someone's life."

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