The Yale School of the Environment has announced a new scholarship program for incoming students who formerly worked with AmeriCorps, a federal program that fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering to address poverty, the environment, education, and other unmet human needs.
The program will award $5,000 each to the top five qualified AmeriCorps alumni in each incoming class, recognizing academic potential and leadership in environmental- and forestry-related fields. All awardees will also complete internships in underserved American communities while they complete their studies, allowing them to bring home and expand upon the skills they learned as volunteers.
“We are delighted to partner with AmeriCorps, an organization committed to tackling environmental challenges at the community level,” says YSE Dean Indy Burke. “Providing financial support for students with experience in these efforts will both further engage these young environmental leaders and bring unique and diverse perspectives that enrich our School community.”
AmeriCorps currently partners with more than 200 U.S. colleges and universities to offer tuition assistance for graduate school. Called Schools of National Service, these institutions attract AmeriCorps alumni who bring “tremendous value to the higher education or other post-secondary experience that benefit the institution, other students, and their community,” says the organization.
“Yale’s commitment to AmeriCorps alumni actively removes barriers to service,” says AmeriCorps CEO Michael D. Smith. “Environmental conservation isn’t just about tackling climate change; it’s about paving a more just and equitable future for communities across the nation. I look forward to seeing how AmeriCorps members use their service experience in educational institutions and beyond.”
The idea for this scholarship program was spearheaded by the YSE Office of Admissions and Financial Aid and Cameron McKenzie ’23 MFS, an AmeriCorps alumnus. Prior to YSE, McKenzie, who studied chemical engineering at Princeton, worked in New Jersey as a watershed ambassador through AmeriCorps, leading community-based restoration projects and conducting training on watershed stewardship for local community members.
YSE is committed to more actively recruiting and working to build upon the number of AmeriCorps alumni that enter each incoming class, and McKenzie says that this program will help make the School “more competitive” in attracting these prospective students.
“The people who go through AmeriCorps have done incredible work,” says McKenzie, “and this program will provide added incentive for them to take this path into graduate school.”
AmeriCorps has provided significant funding to support conservation, renewable energy, and community resilience projects for almost three decades. In 2021, 16,000 AmeriCorps members and volunteers improved more than 400,000 acres of parks and public lands; treated 14,500 miles of trails or rivers; weatherized or retrofitted more than 7,000 homes or public structures; protected or restored nearly 1,000 structures after natural disasters; and provided environmental stewardship education or training to more than 200,00 individuals.