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Abstract

Recent college graduates in the United States are increasingly pursuing a year of service in programs such as Teach for America, AmeriCorps, and Volunteers Exploring Vocation. A cohort of 689 volunteers participating in 18 Volunteers Exploring Vocation programs across the nation was surveyed both at the beginning and end of their year of service. Principal component analysis was used to analyze the two surveys. Repeated measures captured volunteers’ motivations for entering the programs and opportunities important to them upon exiting programs. Upon entering, program participants were motivated by opportunities for discovery about themselves in relation to community and for exploring spirituality and careers, but were not anticipating friendships and social life as central to their volunteer year. Important to volunteers at the end of the year were opportunities to express compassion, to gain skills while working for social justice, and to explore careers in the context of friendships and social life. Consideration of these findings may increase the number of emerging young adult professionals who find meaning and purpose in their careers as agents for social justice on behalf of communities in need.

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