According to Mahatma Gandhi, “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in others.” Although he spoke these words decades ago, it still holds true today. To encourage service to others, the organization AmeriCorps created a scholarship fund to acknowledge and encourage students to pursue lives of service. The Service Engagement Award specifically focuses on volunteerism, leadership, and the impact the two can have on a community.
Stephanie Moran, director of the Community Partnership Center, oversees Anderson University's branch of the AmeriCorps program and selects the students accepted into the program. In order to qualify for the program, one must have organizational skills or leadership history. “The students who apply for the program are top-notch students. They come to this school to combine ministry and service,” said Moran. “Last year I had an exceptional group of students, and this year I’m equally pleased.”
AmeriCorps was established in 1993 to bring all the community service branches together under one large organization. Shortly after the act was established, the legislature sought to create a monetary fund encouraging volunteerism. AmeriCorps service grants give much-needed attention to critical issues in education, community development, and the environment. In 1994, AmeriCorps appointed and sent out their first group of students.
The scholarship is given to students who commit to performing up to 300 hours of service during the academic year. The $1,132 award can be put toward student loans or qualified higher education expenses.
Junior political science major Ben Herrick and senior psychology major Meredith Tarplee are among the several AU students who are returning to the program for their second term. Together, Herrick and Tarplee have sought out a new outlet for service within the program. They have noticed a growing need for positive education in prisons throughout the nation. This year, they are working to install a tutoring program focused on educating incarcerated juveniles. Herrick’s passion for the program grew from his past. Having been personally affected by the prison system, Herrick understands the need for education in juvenile prisons. In 2010, Herrick co-founded a prison ministry in which he could utilize his gifts, his passion, and his testimony to reach out to inmates.
Herrick believes education in prisons will allow inmates to understand the opportunities and alternatives that lie beyond the cell bars. “Aiding those affected by prison is a strong passion of mine, as I believe my purpose in life is to help those in need,” said Herrick. “As someone who has been greatly affected by the prison system, I understand the gravity of many inmates and their relatives' circumstances and trials. Giving someone hope that they can succeed is one of the greatest gifts I can give.”
The prison outreach program is a branch of community service conceived by AU students. The other branches of the program were established by the AmeriCorps organization after seeing the general needs of communities. The organization acknowledges the nation’s needs in areas of public safety, environment, education, and community development.
Junior music business major Heather Gruber joined the program this year and is working with the community development and human services branch of AmeriCorps. “I hope to use my gifts to serve my community in a way that glorifies God. I hope to serve him with gladness and grow closer to him through this opportunity,” said Gruber. “[Moran] encourages us to choose a community service outlet that allows us to utilize our individual gifts and abilities.”
AmeriCorps has made an impact for nearly 17 years, and to the credit of the Indiana Campus Compact Association, it continues to make a difference to this day. The ICCA is vital to the AmeriCorps program, through funding and leadership courses.
The ICCA consists of 40 different colleges and universities throughout Indiana. “The program at AU attracts a large percentage of the student body. Young adults that want to live a life of faith and service are drawn to AU,” said Moran. “Many of the students who attend AU chose the school based on its focus on missions and service.”
— Kristen Schaap is a senior from Chicago, Ill., majoring in communication arts. Schaap is an associate with Fifth Street Communications™, writing on behalf of the Anderson University Office of University Communications.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson University continues to be recognized as one of America's top colleges by U.S. News and World Report, The Princeton Review, and Forbes. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing, and theology.