Traditionally, the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, given to AmeriCorps members following the completion of a term of service (in good-standing), is used to either help pay off debt accrued from undergraduate studies or help pay for graduate studies.
In my training days as an AmeriCorps NCCC member, I remember sitting in on a session discussing the uses of the Education Award. This included information on how to access one’s Education Award through the online portal, how to pay off student loans electronically using the Education Award, when the Education Award will be made available and more. Towards the end of the presentation the NCCC staff member mentioned the prospect of volunteering abroad on the Education Award’s dollar. At that point in the session my ears perked up. If I was falling asleep or staring off into space, I wasn’t anymore. This idea of serving in another county, specifically a developing country, really appealed to me!
What the staff member said was brief and what was essentially said was that volunteering abroad using the Education Award is a possibility but it is somewhat of a long road to approval. My curiosity began to set in and since then I have been researching ways to make this happen.
As some of you may remember, earlier in the year I was looking into volunteering abroad in Ghana through a program at Jacksonville University. I called and talked with representatives from the program and thought that I had figured everything out and would be all set to go in August 2010. A couple months went by but I was ready to finalize details for my trip. It turned out that I was given false information and that I would no longer be able to volunteer in Ghana. Well, I could certainly go but I would need to fund my trip and I knew I wouldn’t have an extra $3,000 floating around somewhere.
The frustration which resulted from this miscommunication led me to one of my current projects- designing a webinar on the alternate uses of the Education Award. I wanted this webinar to be a “how to guide” to using your Education Award in non-traditional ways. The development of this webinar has been a somewhat tedious process as this is my first experience with making a webinar, and obtaining specific details on eligibility for different programs has proven to be a challenge.
In my webinar I also provide information on other options for using your Education Award aside from volunteering abroad. I hope to have this resource ready by mid-June, so stay tuned!