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AmeriCorps alum Orsolya Ficsor continues service through the Stevenson Center

Ryan and Orsolya in AmeriCorps shirts

AmeriCorps Members Ryan Arnold and Orsolya Ficsor at AmeriCorps Opening Day in Springfield on October 10.

As an Applied Community and Economic Development (ACED) Fellow, Orsolya Ficsor came to Illinois State University for her master’s in anthropology after serving with City Year in Dallas 2017–2018. City Year is an AmeriCorps program that actively bridges the gaps in high-need schools by developing students’ academic and social-emotional skills and helping improve schools’ culture and climate. After a year of intensive coursework, Ficsor has begun her 11 months of professional practice. Wonderfully, she is serving as an AmeriCorps member again through the Stevenson Center.

“Being a Fellow is more than just being a student. The [ACED Fellows Program] gives people the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a real-life setting. Although it is an intense program, the way it teaches you to step out of your comfort zone is a valuable experience in any career field you end up pursuing.”

Ficsor is applying the knowledge she gained from City Year and the classroom to her professional practice at the East Central Illinois Agency on Aging (ECIAAA). The organization supports other nonprofits in the region as they design and implement programs to assist aging populations. As a full-time AmeriCorps member, she appreciates learning about the services ECIAAA provides and advancing the mission to help people age with dignity. One of her projects relates to social isolation among older adults, and she will also help the agency in designated community focal points. Ficsor says that her experience with ECIAAA has already given her great insight into how nonprofits operate.

“Being a Fellow is more than just being a student,” she said. “The (ACED Fellows Program) gives people the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a real-life setting. Although it is an intense program, the way it teaches you to step out of your comfort zone is a valuable experience in any career field you end up pursuing.”

Orsolya Ficsor.

“My time in the ACED program so far has exposed me to all of the moving parts that go into community development,” Fiscor continued. “I am unsure about my career trajectory at this time, but the knowledge I have gained from the program will be useful in any career field I end up in, especially in nonprofit. Interestingly, I had an epiphany that I have a passion for interior design, and this program has helped me brainstorm ways in which I could combine my passion for artistic creativity with nonprofit and community development.”

In addition to serving as an AmeriCorps member with the ECIAAA, Ficsor is writing a thesis related to her City Year experiences. Fellows benefit from this combination of field experience and rigorous academic training. Although Ficsor may not have a set career goal, Stevenson Center Fellows do well in the job market. Recent surveys of alumni have found 79 percent were employed within six months of graduation, and 95 percent were either employed (90 percent) or engaged in further training (five percent) two years out from graduation. An ACED Fellows alum in kinesiology and recreation, John Thornburg ’17, secured a position as a Grants Management Program Analyst at the ECIAAA, where Ficsor is currently serving. ACED Fellows alum in sociology Derek Ruszkowski ’19 is the agency’s new long-term care ombudsman.

Limited financial resources can make pursuing a graduate degree seem out of reach. Thankfully, for students interested in applied community and economic development, Illinois State University’s Stevenson Center offers an alternative: Students with the equivalent of at least one year of full-time experience (1,700 hours) in community development or social services are eligible for a generous financial package. Service with AmeriCorps programs like City Year and Teach for America count towards this requirement.

In addition to Ficsor, the Stevenson Center currently has four AmeriCorps members:

  • Ryan Arnold with the Berwyn Development Corporation
  • Blair Canedy with the university’s Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning
  • Billy Perkins with the McLean County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council
  • Casey Peterson with the McLean County Regional Planning Commission

AmeriCorps Members attended Opening Day in Springfield on Thursday, October 10, where they helped staff an exhibit booth and a panel to help current AmeriCorps members plan their next steps after service. Like the Stevenson Center, AmeriCorps is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

Shaylin Quaid is the Stevenson Center’s public relations intern.