As a program director with the University Career Center & The President’s Promise at the University of Maryland, this time of year is spent meeting with many students wondering and, let’s be honest, a bit anxious about what they should do after they graduate. Although I work with students of all majors, I am our Center’s liaison to the College of Arts & Humanities. Appointment after appointment, I hear some similar lines: “I’m just not totally sure what I want to do yet. I think graduate school may be in the cards in 1-2 years but, in the meantime, I want to get some work experience and I’d really like to help society in some way. I participated in ___ (fill in the name here of one of hundreds of great campus clubs and service organizations we have at UMD) and it made me realize how much I want a career that helps others in some way.” So, let me tell you why, when I hear these types of sentiments, I make sure the student is familiar with City Year.
From my observations of City Year, corps members get to make an incredible impact in just 10 months. I have no doubt they are challenged every day by their work in classrooms here in DC and around the country, but the program seems to support them well, providing the leadership skills they need to succeed. Many of the college students I work with these days are looking for a short-term opportunity (often 1 year) that will allow them to “get their feet wet” before committing to graduate school or a particular career path and the structure of City Year seems to fit well with these goals. The students I work with also appreciate the opportunity to request certain City Year sites around the country. I believe in the past year UMD students have been corps members not only here in DC, but also in New York, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and even Seattle. For some students, they choose their site because it is closer to their hometown; others see this as a great chance to try out a new city. For those seniors interested in graduate school in the future, I make sure they are aware of City Year’s “Give a Year” tuition reduction arrangement with many graduate programs. What a great way to give back, build your credentials for graduate school applications and possibly earn a substantial reduction in future graduate school tuition.
Regardless of the path students find themselves on after City Year, I believe a a City Year Corps Year provides invaluable leadership skills, great insight into one’s own skills, values and interests and, most importantly, the chance to prove that even one person can make a difference here in DC or around the country.
Author, Kate Anne Juhl, is a program director at the University of Maryland.