After exploring several career options, Abby Reilly plans to attend graduate school toward work in higher education for student services.
But first, she is going to work in that field for the next year at USC Aiken – serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer.
“My role is going to be the development of an infrastructure for community service,” said the May graduate from the University of South Carolina. “I’m going to delegate and inspire students to take part in service-type programs.”
According to its website, AmeriCorps was founded in 1994. Over the past 20 years, more than 800,000 “member” volunteers have participated in a wide range of service efforts throughout the nation.
VISTA actually dates back to 1965 as Volunteers in Service to America. Again, the website described VISTA as that time “as a national service program to fight poverty in America.” President John F. Kennedy created the concept, which led to Head Start and other initiatives. The program merged with AmeriCorps when that organization was created.
USCA is now one of 17 South Carolina college campuses participating in the AmeriCorps program. The university selected its own service-oriented project.
Reilly is working specifically for USCA for the next 12 months. However, she will collaborate with service agencies throughout the community.
“We wanted to increase the number of students in community service,” Dr. Deb Kladivko, vice chancellor for student life and services, said. “Abby will help us expand those opportunities.”
“The ambitious project will not be just where you go,” Reilly said. “We’ll have a volunteer training program with partnerships so that students can get experiences with other agencies.”
A native of the small town of Mattapoisett, Massachusetts, Reilly moved to Mt. Pleasant as a teenager, graduating from Wando High School. She originally enrolled at USC with plans to major in experimental psychology and counselor education. Reilly then considered marine science and photography.
Then she found how much she enjoyed being a resident mentor on campus. Reilly found value in the counseling aspect and student interaction.
“I was also heavily involved in promoting community service,” she said. “We went to New Orleans and did service programs in South Carolina during spring breaks. In the summer of 2013, I went to Kenya on my own to serve at orphanages.”
Reilly will participate in a transition process with USCA administrators over the next year, which will require final approval from AmeriCorps officials. When she leaves USCA a year from now, a structure will be in place that students can organize much on their own.
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.