Serving a Gap Year With Reading Corps Before Medical School


By Allie Nalewanski

Reading Corps K-3 tutor, Tucker Elementary School, Alexandria, VA

As a Reading Corps tutor, I am often posed the question, “So do you want to be a teacher?” While that may seem like the obvious career path after serving in this program, the truth is that I am one of many tutors who do not plan to become teachers. Currently, I am applying to medical school for entry in August 2015 with a career goal of being a pediatrician. So how did I end up with Metro DC Reading Corps?

I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in April 2014 having already decided to commit my next year to the Metro DC Reading Corps. I have known for a few years that I wanted to take a gap year to do service within the U.S. I have traveled abroad twice on service trips that were awesome, but not a valid option while applying to medical school.  I knew I wanted to work with children and support an effort I feel passionate about. When I began to explore possibilities, I searched through AmeriCorps programs for one-year options, which is how I discovered the Reading Corps.

As I read about this research-driven effort to close the literacy gap, I felt my eyes widen and my jaw drop as I realized that Reading Corps was perfect for me. My science-dominant brain and psychology undergraduate background make me critical of the effectiveness of programs by nature. There were other programs I thought I was well-suited for and would enjoy, but I wasn’t sure what kind of impact I would have or how I would support myself while volunteering.

With Reading Corps, the data speaks for itself. This program yields results with proven interventions to help children reach their goals. Plus, added benefits of being an AmeriCorps member include the living stipend and educational award.  The twice-monthly living stipend is enough to support the oh-SO-costly process of applying to medical school and the educational award will go towards paying school loans when I complete my 10 months of service.

I was thrilled to find that the Metro DC Reading Corps had recently come to fruition since the D.C. area has been my stomping ground for nearly a decade. I’m truly enjoying my time at Tucker Elementary and what has already proved to be a rewarding experience. I get to do all the things I wanted to do during my gap year: I’m serving my country, working with children who need and appreciate my help, making money to support the application process, living in a city I love, and still have the month of July to collect myself before beginning medical school next August. For any future applicants or fellow gap-year-takers out there, I highly recommend serving with Reading Corps in any of the cities that offer it.