Photo by Ka Vang '16.

Photo by Ka Vang ’16.

As we’re nearing graduation, if you’re graduating like me, you’re probably wondering: well, what am I doing next? That’s a good question, and I know I can’t answer that for you, but I can tell you what I’ll be doing next in order to improve the community (and world) of Winona, Minnesota!

During the next academic year, I’ll be working with Minnesota Reading Corps, which is a non-profit organization that aims to help all Minnesota children become proficient readers by the end of third grade. I’ll be doing this in Winona itself to help the Winona elementary children become better, passionate readers! In addition, I’ll be volunteering in the Winona community as much as possible!

If this is something you might be interested in, but you’re not comfortable with reading and you’re better at math, there’s also the Minnesota Math Corps, too!

There are plenty of other organizations that are good candidates for “gap years.” People often get involved with Peace Corps to go overseas and help people in need. The Peace Corps is aimed to help the people of interested countries meet their need for trained men and women, to help promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the people served, and to help promote a better understanding of other countries and people.

If you don’t want to travel overseas and want to stay in the United States, consider AmeriCorps!

Why consider organizations like this? Well, they usually offer some kind of loan forgiveness and typically put your student loans on hold while you’re serving the community you’re in! All the organizations mentioned above do offer loan forgiveness and freeze at the end of your service. Not only that, you get to serve in areas of need on both a local and global level, and improve living conditions for everyone you come across. Besides, if you’re unsure of where you want to work in the future, or if you’re considering grad school, taking a year off to serve is a good way to do extra research on your next step! Giving back is one of the many ways that we can best serve our communities. You don’t need to have money to volunteer and serve!

Photo provided by PopSugar's post "61 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Graduation Cap."

Photo provided by PopSugar’s post “61 Creative Ways to Decorate Your Graduation Cap.”

Wherever you go, Warriors, think about how you can serve the communities that you’ll be in for either a few months or even years! You will make an impact in every area you’ll be in, so make sure it’s a positive one!

John Otis

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