I just co-ran a medium-sized national service Orientation today. Objectively, I think it went well. It did what it needed to do and ended, all in one pleasant day.
Our goals were to convey a whole lot of information, get some paperwork done, set the tone for the year, and foster community. And we definitely accomplished those things. Subjectively, however, I’m not totally satisfied with it. I just think we could have done them all more effectively with more time, and that an orientation to this kind of job should be more than a day long.
I feel like national service isn’t just a job; it’s a really special, intentional way to spend a year. It frustrates me to not give people more time to ask questions, engage in meaningful dialog with each other, and get to know the program in a more leisurely way. My ideal Orientation would not be just an introduction to their year; it would be the beginning of it.
The NY Times published an interesting article about a push to encourage graduates of top colleges and universities to work in service positions (including National Service such as AmeriCorps and Teach for America) instead of investment banks.
Some points that gave me hope and food for thought:
The highest-ranked colleges and professors are at least paying lip service to the idea that the purpose of their fancy education is not necessarily to create more investment bankers or consultants.
Some colleges are putting money and scholarships behind this lip service, some even paying student loans for grads who go into service.
It’s easy for Jr.s and Sr.s to apply for lucrative positions – the systems are in place. Let’s put them in place for service positions as well.
Obama supports National Service(!) and people have noticed (!!)
At a recent presentation by Jason Lum, he expressly encouraged the service-oriented audience to pursue scholarships to further their education so that they could afford to continue to serve their communities. Nobody had ever specifically pointed that out that challenge of a public service position: it’s nearly impossible to pay for the credentials that are required.
This article gives me hope because it talks about barriers to service being addressed right now – awareness, prestige, access, and debt. Fantastic news! How can we keep up the momentum?