Like many who attend college, Elizabeth Aldenderfer, of Williamsport, found herself feeling a little lost after graduation.
"I had just graduated in spring, and I was looking for what kind of job I wanted. I was trying to find a job in the non-profit sector," Aldenderfer said.
She found a new direction after joining AmeriCorps' National Civilian Community Corps, a community service organization for those 18 to 24 years old.
Elizabeth Aldenderfer pauses for a photo with one of the children she met while volunteering with AmeriCorps.
The program requires a 10-month commitment to live, work and travel with a team of eight to 12 other philanthropists. Teams work on service projects across the nation. Members help communities in a wide variety of ways, from assisting service organizations to helping in disaster relief efforts.
"I liked the idea of working with others who really wanted to give back to their communities, who had the same kind of life experience as me and who had a similar set of values" she said.
Teams complete four to five projects during their enlistment.
Since she has joined, Aldenderfer has built trails and done fire mitigation in Colorado, tutored at an elementary school in Arkansas, worked on invasive species removal, trail building and controlled burns in Missouri.
She now is in Williamsville, Mo., helping to run a summer camp focused on teaching teenagers leadership skills.
She explained that her AmeriCorps experiences have helped to bring the direction of her life into greater focus.
"My projects, such as working at the summer camp and at the elementary school, have
helped me to realize that working with children is my passion," Aldenderfer said.
She said her time serving has been emotionally and mentally draining at times but also has been extremely rewarding. Full-time corps members like her complete a minimum of 1,700 hours of service during their enlistment period. Members live, work, eat and relax with the same team members throughout their enlistment.
It took some time to adjust to the confined society, Aldenderfer said.
"I have definitely learned that I need to take time for myself in order to work better within a team," she explained.
"One of the biggest things I've learned is that service affects not only the people who are being helped but also the people doing the service," Aldenderfer said.
"From us, to the people we're helping, to the entire community - helping others has a bigger impact than I ever could have imagined before I joined," she added.