For some of our students, there’s a clear path straight from graduation to a particular career. But for many others, the first year or two out of college is a time for continued exploration — and for community service. Three years ago we featured an interview with Amy Arends ’10, who served in a restorative justice program affiliated with AmeriCorps, which “engages more than 75,000 Americans in intensive service each year at nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country.” Today Jacob Manning ’15 tells us about his work with another AmeriCorps program: College Possible.
At about this time last year, I heard about the University of Minnesota’s Government and Nonprofit career fair through Bethel’s Career Development and Calling office. I went to the fair to get some ideas for job opportunities in the nonprofit world. I saw College Possible on the list of organizations, talked to the recruiters at the fair, and decided I would apply! At that point, I was still learning a lot about the organization, but after the interview, I knew that this was where I wanted to go.
What’s your role at College Possible?
Right now I serve as a Tech-Connected College Coach at College Possible Minnesota. I work with a team of 22 other College Coaches serving just over 3,300 students across the state. This year I am coaching 140 students, most of whom attend the University of Minnesota. I communicate with students through in-person meetings, phone calls, Facebook messages, and texts to strategize together on all of the different elements of the college process, which are summarized here.
Do you see any connections between your work and your undergraduate studies as a History major? Do you draw on that preparation at all?
Absolutely! In fact, seeing those connections was what drew me into this work in the first place! Two years ago, I took Modern Europe and began thinking more about the ideas of imaginative understanding and historical empathy. To me, this resonates with the heart of our core values at College Possible, particularly the goal to “Moccasin the lives of Others.” When I sit down with a student, my first priority is to listen. Almost everything we do as coaches builds on that foundation of focused listening and empathetic response to the stories we hear from each student. Being the best coach that I can be means that I have to really work at imagining myself in another’s shoes.
Oh, and I should add, historical context is the foundation for everything we do. Part of our mandatory training this year even included a guest speaker from the Minnesota Historical Society who sketched an overview of the last several hundred years of Minnesota’s history. Quite a daunting task to cram all of that into a two-hour seminar, but that context shows the historical roots of the present income disparities, racial issues and educational inequities in our state. Each team member also received a three-page resource list from our director to encourage further reading.
What are some of the benefits of your work with College Possible?
I love being at College Possible because I get to work with some of the most motivated and most inspiring students I have ever met. It is a privilege to know each student!
Training has also been excellent. I really can’t complain that programs like Salesforce and Excel are my new best friends; CRM software and data management tools are becoming indispensable for organizations of all shapes and sizes.
AmeriCorps members do not receive a salary during my term of service, but the benefits package includes a monthly living stipend, sizeable education award to pay for college loans or future schooling, and a great health insurance plan.
If any of our current students are interested in a position with College Possible, or perhaps other AmeriCorps organizations, what should they do?
Start by learning more at collegepossible.org! I would also be glad to connect with anyone who is considering a year of service! There are so many opportunities to give back through a year with any one the Americorps programs. To learn more about Americorps and different positions, check out http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps.