Many Columbia High School seniors are heading for four-year college programs immediately after graduation, but there are other notable and productive ways that graduating students will be spending their post-CHS days.
For example, after graduating in June, Sage Savoia-Di Gregorio is headed for a gap year of community service with AmeriCorpsNCCC: a federal program for 18-24-year-olds started by President Bill Clinton. AmeriCorps is similar to the Peace Corps but with service projects taking place within the U.S. Its projects are similar to FDR-era WPA programs.
Sage’s older sister Grace completed the program two years ago as a gap year after CHS. Her mother Deb Di Gregorio said the experience was “life changing.”Sage was inspired by her sister to join the program. She will leave for training about a month after graduation. “I can’t recommend it enough for kids who want to be engaged and make a difference — and may want a break from academics to figure out what’s next for them.”
- There are five AmeriCorps NCCC campuses across the country (you are sent where you are sent — the Corps chooses where). Grace served out of Denver and worked in states all across the southwest. Sage will serve out of Vicksburg, Mississippi and will serve all the states in the deep south from Louisiana east to Florida and north to Tennessee.
- In the first three weeks, corps members live on campus and are trained in using tools, CPR, safe driving and Corps rules etc.
- Then over the course of the 10 months, teams of 10-12 young people are shipped out with a team leader in vans across their region to rebuild parks and trails, build Habitat housing, work in under-performing schools, serve in soup kitchens, clean up after floods/hurricanes and on all sorts of other community service projects (the fire teams work on fire prevention like controlled burns etc).
- Corps members wear uniforms, must exercise regularly as a team, and complete additional volunteer work beyond their 40-hour work week. They receive a small stipend for personal needs and must figure out how to feed themselves on $4.25 a day per person. (Di Gregorio said this was a great experience for Grace, who “at 18 was charged with budgeting, buying food and scheduling teammates to cook.)
- After successful completion they receive a scholarship grant of about $5,700.
- Ten-month programs start in the Summer, Fall and Winter — graduates wondering what to do next can apply now for Fall and Winter.
Among their projects, Grace’s team worked with the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, spending several months refurbishing trails to encourage outdoor healthy activities as well increase tourism. “Grace’s team was the first to work for the tribe,” reported her mom. “They found it so successful that the tribe applied for additional AmeriCorps NCCC teams who have put in over 26,000 hours of service.” Read more about the project here.
“The most rewarding moment of my AmeriCorps year came when I was working at Step Up at a charter school in Mesa, Arizona,” said Grace. ” I was working with a young student with a learning disability for about a week. He did not understand a math problem and I watched as he grasped the problem and he got it! It was then I decided to become a teacher.”
“I want a break from academics, I want to be a part of the greater good, and have some adventure too!” said Sage.
For more information on the AmeriCorpsNCCC program, visit: https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-nccc