Spotlight on the AmeriCorps Segal Education Award
Voices for National Service has launched a blog series profiling how national service members and programs are at the forefront of addressing our nation’s most pressing problems. View the entire series here, and be sure to download one-page versions for use in meetings with your legislators.
With the cost of higher education rising and student debt at an all-time high financing an education can prove a complex puzzle for many students and their families. National service can act as an important piece in solving that puzzle. The Eli Segal Education Award is a post-service benefit that AmeriCorps members earn upon completion of an approved term of service. The award can be used to pay educational expenses at eligible post-secondary institutions, or to repay student loans. Since the founding of AmeriCorps in 1994, over 1 million members have earned more than $3.3 billion in education awards, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Once their term of service is complete, many AmeriCorps alumni choose to pursue careers in related fields, and the Segal Award can help defray the cost of
education. For instance, Robert Sanger served two terms as an AmeriCorps member at the Child Abuse Prevention Center California. He credits AmeriCorps for having a deep impact on his career trajectory: “As a young man who wanted to prevent child abuse and neglect, I did not have the education or connections to work in this field. Using my Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, I was able to graduate from a four-year university with a degree in Psychology debt-free.” Through his service, Robert also created a professional network with leaders in the human services field, which allowed him to continue his career in child abuse prevention. He now serves as the executive director of Folsom Cordova Community Partnership, a non-profit that serves over 5,000 families a year with a focus on child abuse prevention and supporting families toward self-sufficiency.
Jody Chinchen served with National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), where she helped rebuild a southern Louisiana community after Hurricane Katrina. For Jody, AmeriCorps awakened a passion for service and sparked a dream of working for a disaster relief organization. After her AmeriCorps service, Jody went on to help communities rebuild after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the 2011 Hurricane Irene in Vermont. She later served a second AmeriCorps term in the Emergency Response Corps. The Segal Award has helped her fund her education at Mount Holyoke College, where she is pursuing a degree that would help further her career in disaster relief
The Segal Award can also help veterans gain the education needed to transition back to a civilian career. While her husband was active duty in the military, Tamara Tiefel served as an AmeriCorps Navigator in the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society office in Virginia. There she helped connect veterans with community resources, sign up for VA benefits, put together a monthly budget, and provided additional financial assistance as needed. When her family moved to Colorado at the end of her service year, Tamara not only leveraged her AmeriCorps alumni network to find a job in veterans’ services, she also used her Segal Award to finish her education. She now serves as a Program Coordinator for Peak Military Care Network, which works to connect active duty military, veterans, and their families to local resources in the Colorado Springs area, and has created a Navigator program that has hosted an AmeriCorps VISTA. Tens of thousands of AmeriCorps members serve their country every year, helping communities address their most pressing needs. The Segal Award helps those who have served defray the cost of their education, and often, continue in careers where they can continue to serve.