Of the nearly 580,000 applicants to the national service organization AmeriCorps, only 80,000 hopefuls will be accepted and go on to serve the nation. For those who are unsuccessful, students can find other alternatives through the AskNot Program. The College of William and Mary is the host of the program’s inaugural chapter.
AskNot is an infant organization dedicated to creating opportunities for students looking to give back to their community and country. Brianna Buch ’15, founder and co-president of AskNot, said the organization fills a previously vacant but necessary role in the area of national service.
“There are a lot of students who want to serve, but there are not necessarily positions where they are applying,” Buch said. “So we are highlighting opportunities that aren’t necessarily those main ones students would know, as well as working with the campus and the community to create more of those positions.”
Given that service groups like Teach for America have acceptance rates that rival those of the Ivy League, Buch said AskNot’s main goal is to remove obstacles for students hoping to serve, while also providing them with alternative opportunities.
“Something that we are working toward for the future is clearing up that pathway of how to get involved,” Buch said. “A lot of students have that desire, but not as many know how to make it happen, so the purpose of this organization is to show [service] opportunities and highlight them.”
AskNot is hosting a series of discussions advocating student involvement in national service. According to co-president Yohance Whitaker ’16, the purpose of these lectures is to give students a new perspective on service.
“One of the things we are about is connecting with people who may not traditionally consider doing a service year, so we are looking for people who are very focused on their career, and showing that there is another option,” Whitaker said. “We are trying to show them that national service isn’t them taking time off from pursuing their dreams — it’s something that will enhance them.”
The discussions will begin at 5 p.m. every Wednesday leading up to Thanksgiving break. Speakers at these events range from recruiters from prominent service organizations like the Peace Corps, to alumni Skyping in from current service locations to share their experiences.
The organization’s plans for the future involve reaching beyond the College’s borders to encourage students across the country to become dedicated to giving back. Daniel Reichwein ‘15, a consultant from the Office of Community Engagement, said he would like to see AskNot attend several citizenship conferences in the coming months.
“There is a service entrepreneurship conference coming up that we would like to be involved in, and there is also another conference run by the OCE called the Active Citizens [Conference] and we would like to play a big role in that as well,” Reichwein said.
According to Whitaker, AskNot will represent the student voice in the national service landscape.
“[We] advocate for youth in the national conversation about national service, because it is a large discussion and it wouldn’t be right if there were no student voices in the discussion,” Whitaker said. “It wouldn’t be as genuine or as authentic without young people involved.”
Buch said she hopes that as AskNot grows, it will open minds to the possibility of national service as a fulfilling experience.
“On the whole I just believe a lot in this, especially for people who start off coming to college and saying, ‘I just want to make a pile of money and go to investment banking,’” Buch said. “My dream would be that those people would take a second thought before going down that route, because I really do think that it changes your whole life.”