WKU grads find work in Americorps

Anna Anderson

Although Stephen Wilson wanted to take a break from school before entering a graduate program, he said he didn’t want to waste that time.

After graduating from WKU with a degree in anthropology in May of 2011, 23-year-old Wilson knew he didn’t want to just work a temporary job — he wanted something with more responsibility.

“I thought I might be able to get some work done that I appreciate,” Wilson said.

As he was looking for job opportunities at the end of his senior year, Wilson said he began looking into Americorps, an organization that hires 18-to-24-year-olds to do service work in the United States.

He got the job and moved to Seattle in the summer to begin work at the King County Housing Authority with a group of other Americorps employees.

Four days out of the week, Wilson works with children from the housing authority in an after-school tutoring program. On Fridays, he and his 13 other team members do other kinds of community service.

“I’ve definitely found community there,” Wilson said.

Although his term of service is over in mid-July, Wilson said he’s applying to stay in Seattle another year to work for Americorps. Eventually, he plans to attend a graduate school to earn a master’s degree in archaeology.

While Louisville native Wilson said he was eager to get out of Kentucky when he was signing up for Americorps, 25-year-old Maggie Belwood said she was looking for something a little closer to home.

“I chose to go into Americorps because, well, I didn’t really want a big-girl job just yet,” said Belwood, a December 2010 graduate from WKU who is currently working with the organization in Louisville.

She started working with REACH Americorps in September 2011, a team that is trying to lessen the high school drop out rate by working with elementary and middle-school-aged children.

After studying sociology during her time at WKU, she wanted to work in disaster relief situations. Belwood said her time with Americorps gave her the opportunity to try it out.

When the tornadoes struck Henryville, Ind., earlier this spring, Belwood and her colleagues at Americorps were there to help.

This experience, among others, made Belwood sure of her career path. She intends for the education grants she will gain from her time at Americorps to finance graduate studies in emergency response.

Right now, Belwood is applying for a leadership position in Sacramento, Calif., where she will work in disaster relief and trail maintenance.

“I hope I get into that because that’s what I really want to do,” she said.

Both Belwood and Wilson said Americorps is helping them to learn valuable skills that they hope help them in their future endeavors.

For Belwood, she said she’s learning patience. Wilson said he’s learning responsibility.

“I think I will be better prepared for whatever comes next,” he said.