John Thornburg is an Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellow pursuing a master’s degree in kinesiology and recreation. The Stevenson Center for Community and Economic Development recently expanded its master’s degree options to include kinesiology and recreation and anthropology. In his second year of the program, John is completing an 11-month internship as an AmeriCorps Member with the East Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging (ECIAAA).
After completing four challenging years to earn a bachelor’s degree, most people are immediately on the job hunt. Some choose to continue in higher education and pursue a master’s degree, while others find an alternative answer to the dreaded question: “What are your plans after graduation?”
Thornburg took the alternative approach and served in two AmeriCorps positions after graduating from Ohio State University with a parks and recreation management degree.
With service locations in Texas, Missouri, New York, Louisiana, and Montana, AmeriCorps enhanced Thornburg’s ability to adapt to changing work environments.
AmeriCorps is one of three programs of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). The central mission of CNCS, with more than 5 million Americans serving, is to “improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering.”
Thornburg served as a mentor to at-risk elementary students with Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas and as a member of the St. Louis Emergency Response Team. After his two AmeriCorps terms, Thornburg discovered the Stevenson Center’s ACED Fellows program through an AmeriCorps Alums newsletter.
“I really wanted to continue working in a capacity where I was serving those in need,” Thornburg said. “The ACED Fellows program just offered so many great benefits: a cross-disciplinary classroom experience with an emphasis on community development, a cohort of like-minded students, a practical hands-on 11-month internship with an organization dedicated to community development, and an assistantship built into the program to relieve the financial stress that is often involved with school.”
The Stevenson Center trains students for a lifetime of public service and global understanding. The Center serves communities and organizations around the world, but most importantly, it provides students with the tools they need for successful careers in community and economic development and related fields of study.
Thornburg was placed with ECIAAA, an agency dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for older Americans and their families in the 16 counties of East Central Illinois. He works on various projects and programs including Diabetes Self-Management and Matter of Balance, assisting with program coordination and grant compliance.
“I think it is very important for everyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, income, or any other demographic, to have access to quality recreation and public health resources,” Thornburg said.
“The cohort of students that I am a part of are all very intelligent, very capable, and very caring individuals with extremely diverse and interesting backgrounds,” Thornburg added. “It is both encouraging and inspiring to constantly be surrounded by such high quality people.”
In addition to welcoming graduate students who have already served with AmeriCorps, the Stevenson Center has a partnership that allows some students to serve as AmeriCorps Members during their year on campus and/or their internship placement. These AmeriCorps Members have received education awards totaling over $196,000.
Kaitlin Pavsner is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.