Pardee Rand Graduate School
The RAND Corp.
Since the establishment of AmeriCorps in 1993, more than 500,000 people have served in its national service programs, which play a role in meeting educational, public safety, health and environmental needs throughout the country. Two goals of AmeriCorps programs include providing direct services to communities and producing positive effects on participants through civic engagement, volunteerism and life skills.
This dissertation focuses on looking at the second goal of the organization and discusses, through interviews with alumni, suggestions for program design and future research methods. The analyses push for AmeriCorps to create programs that will have positive and long-term impacts on participants. The study found that a healthy program would include support from dependable mentors, strong relationships, concentrated training and opportunities for leadership roles, as well as influential projects.
AmeriCorps programs based on team work and diverse group members were found to have positive impacts. Also, depending on the type of service and individual, the study discovered that program participation could alter the life-course of young adults. For example, a participant who took a year off between college graduation and going to graduate school realized she wanted to take a totally different path than what she had imagined before serving in the program. The study concludes that while participating in an AmeriCorps program has many beneficial effects, the experience is different for everyone.
Future research suggestions include, but are not limited to, looking into sub-group analyses by socioeconomic status, level of education, age and motivation to participate; updating interview questions; and studying heterogeneity in outcomes in relation to participants’ previous volunteer experiences and motivations to volunteer.
Free, 150 pages. http://www.rand.org/pubs/rgs_dissertations/2009/RAND_RGSD249.pdf.