Participating in a national service program – for volunteers with and without disabilities – is an effective avenue for personal and professional development. Service participants actively contribute to the strengthening of their communities while at the same time gaining valuable skills, exploring career paths, and developing networks that can lead to meaningful employment.
AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs can benefit greatly by helping service participants develop skills for employment. Every member brings a unique perspective to the service experience, and service members with disabilities add diversity and fresh perspectives to projects. By looking beyond individual tasks and considering what each participant’s strengths, interests, and goals bring to a service project, site supervisors are better able to expand the capacity of participants while addressing the needs of the communities they serve.
The Corporation for National and Community Service strategic plan calls for the creation of meaningful member experiences that contribute to optimal professional, educational and civic-growth opportunities.
Volunteers who participate in service and member-development activities grew in the following three areas, all of which contribute to post-service outcomes:
- Building Character (e.g., self-confidence, empowerment, and interpersonal skills)
- Building Career (e.g., development of work skills, development of soft skills such as following instructions, working as part of a team)
- Building Community (e.g., personal and professional networks, awareness of community needs and diversity of society)
Program managers can help participants make the most of the service experience by incorporating member-development activities during the stages of a service term:
- Post-Service Transition
Volunteering in a national service program can expand an individual’s life options, including improving his or her employment outcomes. Completing a structured service term allows people to develop their interpersonal and vocational skills while giving back to their communities.