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How We Serve

Compass AmeriCorps members are adults of all ages and backgrounds who have a passion for volunteer service and education. Members believe in education’s power in helping individuals and communities to overcome social ills. Members trust in their own ability to serve and in the magic of one person making a difference.

Members are expected to make a full commitment to their year of service. This commitment includes serving wholeheartedly, keeping clients and students as the top priority throughout the year, and completing a minimum number of service hours. Full-time members complete at least 1700 hours within the 11-month program year. AmeriCorps service is not without its sacrifices: financial sacrifice adds stress for some members, and the experience can be a very intense year of growth. Overall, a year served in Compass AmeriCorps is a truly amazing experience that yields many lasting benefits!

Before the year of service begins, a member is placed at a service site of his/her choice. Members spend at least 35 hours per week (at least 80% of hours) at their service site by providing case management and social services support to their clients, teaching and tutoring students, managing community volunteers, and/or serving at outreach events for their service sites.

AmeriCorps members also serve as a group or local corps. Members are encouraged to form a solid support group within the corps. This support provides encouragement within fellow members and has resulted in lasting friendships. Members collaborate on designing community service projects and serving on AmeriCorps committees. Members also participate in semi-monthly trainings and member development events. This time spent away from the service site consists of roughly 20% of service hours.

Member responsibilities may include, but are not limited to:

  • Citizenship instruction 
  • Translation/interpretation services
  • Helping service recipients to:
    ♦ connect to mental health, substance abuse, sexual abuse, or domestic violences service
    ♦ access transportation or navigate the public transportation system
    ♦ find affordable housing, housing programs
    ♦ set up living arrangement (furniture, utilities, etc.) find and retain employment
    ♦ navigate education system (to be involved with children and/or for themselves)
  • Teaching/tutoring ESL
  • Coordinating physical health services
  • Providing health literacy instruction/services
  • Recruiting volunteers for service sites and projects
  • Community outreach
Our Students and Clients

Our ESL students are adult immigrants and refugees, and internationals. AmeriCorps members teach to a very wide range of educational levels. Some ESL students qualify as illiterate in their own languages; others were highly educated professionals in their native countries. Most AmeriCorps members who teach ESL are not fluent in foreign languages, and they find that they are comfortable teaching English.

Family literacy programs are a unique initiative within adult literacy. Parents (usually mothers) bring their pre-school aged children with them to the program. While parents are learning English, their children are in a room close by with an early childhood educator. Parents and children have scheduled time to learn together during Parent and Child Together (PACT) time. AmeriCorps members who serve in family literacy programs tutor parents or work with young children and help in planning events that celebrate families.

Refugees come to Pittsburgh from all over the world.  Compass AmeriCorps members have the opportunity to connect with clients from countries such as  Bhutan, Bosnia, Burundi, Ethiopia, Haiti, Iraq, Nepal, Rwanda, Sierra-Leone, Somalia, Sudan, and Turkey.  Compass AmeriCorps members help connect immigrants and refugees to available social services, provide employment and health care attainment services, work with immigrants and refugees to help reduce barriers to service acquisition, and serve as a connecting force for agencies that provide these services.

Volunteer Mobilization

All Compass AmeriCorps members are required to recruit community volunteers to serve at members' service sites or service projects.  Some service sites require their AmeriCorps members not only to recruit volunteers, but to manage and support them as well.

Service Projects

Planning and attending service projects is a central part of an AmeriCorps member’s service year. All members are required to design one community service project during their year of service. This experience can be very enjoyable and fun, and it presents an opportunity to network within the Pittsburgh community on a large scale.

Members may organize a project from scratch, one that’s never been done before. However, most members collaborate with a nonprofit of their choice and support a service project that is already in the works. In addition to organizing one service project, members are required to participate in eight (8) other member-organized projects throughout the year. This ensures a great collaborative effort for members to get things done together.


Members are provided with a week of orientation at the beginning of the service year. After orientation, members disperse to their service sites where they begin site orientation. Most members take two to three weeks to ease into their service site.  Members also attend Friday AmeriCorps trainings, which will take place 2-3Fridays per month. Friday trainings provide time for members to spend time together and share their experiences. Training topics include cultural competency, case management, teaching tips and classroom activities, social service panels, service reflection, discussions on social issues, and CPR certification, among others. Orientation and Friday training attendance is mandatory for all members.

Once the service year gets going, many members want to take on a larger role within the corps. This usually results in participating on a member-formed and member-led AmeriCorps committee. Past committees have produced corps newsletters, member-planned trainings, large-scale service projects, and more.


Financial benefits for full time members:

Living Allowance of $12,530 for 11 months of service. The living allowance is directly deposited semi-monthly into the member's checking account.  The living allowance is an important item to consider when thinking of joining AmeriCorps. Serving full-time and receiving little to live on makes AmeriCorps a financial sacrifice for many. The ideal AmeriCorps member is one who is willing to live simply and receives personal rewards from service.

Education Award of $5,775, issued at completion of at least 1700 hours and 11 months of service, used to pay for current school expenses or federal loans or can be saved for up to seven years for future education expenses. The education award is taxed as income in the year it is used.

Loan Forbearance is an option for many of those serving with Compass AmeriCorps.  Members are eligible to request forbearance from qualifying loan holders.  At the completion of at least 1700 hours and 11 months of service, the program will repay the interest that has accrued on these qualifying loans.

Health Care provided. 

Child Care expenses are reimbursed to a provider of the member’s choice. Eligibility for this benefit is determined based on the member’s household income.

Transportation: Many service sites will reimburse members for site-to-site travel.  Unfortunately, we do not issue bus passes. Since members are responsible for transporting themselves back and forth to their service site, we encourage members to live relatively close to where they serve.

Thinking of moving to Pittsburgh to join AmeriCorps? Out-of-state members have been some of the best members in the past years. Unfortunately, no relocation funds are available, but the program manager will welcome you to Pittsburgh, assist you in finding an apartment, recommend roommates, etc.

Intangible benefits for all members:

  • Members who serve with passion, creativity, and an open mind receive many intangible benefits.
  • Members have freedom.
  • Members are expected to be creative, insightful and to think of new ways of teaching and serving that will benefit both their service site and AmeriCorps.
  • Members can experience a high level of responsibility with little to no prior experience in case management or teaching.
  • Some members’ level of service could be compared to the level of work expected from a person with high credentials. Instead, service sites welcome members with little experience but who are full of passion for their service.
  • AmeriCorps service results in a great résumé at the end of the service year for most members.
  • Members grow both personally and professionally. AmeriCorps is a very supportive and friendly environment. Members are expected to make mistakes and learn lifelong lessons from them.
  • Most members can look back on their year of service and point to specific personal improvements they made through the year.