Hello everyone! My name is June Urdy and I am a first-year AmeriCorps VISTA serving the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan (GSSEM). As I approach the end of my service year, I am reflecting on what I have accomplished and what I have learned. The assigned activities felt overwhelming at the beginning and the few ideas I came up with to complete them seemed very insufficient. I worked with a site supervisor that was, and is, very patient and supportive, but turning ideas into action was a constant challenge for me. The very first project planned for my service year was a college readiness event for 6th-8th grade Girl Scouts and their families. I was unable to get enough girls to sign up to hold the event and it did not occur during this service year. Everyone I talked to prior to the event told me they thought it was a great project that would benefit the girls attending, but no one seemed interested in actually going to the event. Now what?
Encouraged to create service opportunities based on my interests/talents, I created an event for girls to learn sewing. The girls learned basic sewing by making pillowcases; one pillowcase they could keep and one pillowcase was donated to Whaley Children’s Center and/or the local homeless shelter. This event was held twice and all available slots were full for both days. The sewing instructor now has a relationship with GSSEM and will continue the sewing event after my service term is completed.
I attended multiple networking meetings, which helped me bring in a group of women as presenters for an “Everyday Heroes” event. The event included female paramedics, female law enforcement officers, and a female firefighter along with a fire truck, police car, and ambulance. The girls attending, along with their families, were able learn about the various occupations from females working in their chosen fields; the event was interactive and self-directed. The girls attending had the opportunity to make dog chew toys for Global Youth Service day; the dog toys were donated to the Genesee County Humane Society. The presenters are now connected with GSSEM and offered to be presenters at any future event.
As a member of the Flint National Service Accelerator, directed by the United Way of Genesee & Shiawassee County, I had the opportunity to serve the community directly by packaging food on the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and by completing blight elimination art projects during the Russ Mawby Signature Service Day.
I attending numerous webinars and trainings, including the +Acumen Human-Centered Design course. Using the format learned in the course, I worked on a team project with a talented group of MNA AmeriCorps VISTAs from various cities in Michigan. We compiled an informational resource packet for educators and high school counselors of the many post-secondary education options in professions that do not require a four year college degree.
Even if every goal was not met, I learned event planning skills, time management skills, how to document my work, and team building skills, along with perseverance. I plan to take grant-writing classes and hope to improve my leadership skills. To continue the work I have started, I am serving a second year as an AmeriCorps VISTA serving the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. The college readiness event has been re-scheduled for October 2019 and there are multiple partnership, community engagement, and college readiness projects for Girl Scouts in the planning stage. I appreciate this opportunity to serve. The learning and the work continues.
My Name is Rita Hockemeyer and I serve as a VISTA member for Carson City-Crystal School District in the Pathways to Employment Program. As I contemplate what I need to share with you one thing keeps coming to mind: What we do is important! It is not because we are VISTA members. It is because we are committed to change. Change is necessary for growth, and growth is necessary to prepare for the future. Does this mean that we are the ones who have to make that change? Not necessarily. We are the ones that can inspire others to make those changes. Whether we work with adults, teens or children, it is up to us to come alongside others and help them to see the vision put before them.
In Carson City I often find myself alongside people of all ages. I think of my involvement at the Montcalm County 4-H Fair at the end of June. Hundreds of people of all ages spent a week sharing, presenting, learning and having fun. Was it exhausting? Oh yes, but I witnessed older 4-H members helping younger 4-H members. I saw parents coaching their teens and cheering for them as they placed in competitions. I saw 4-H clubs working together at the concession stands and helping set up for the auctions. I saw the community supporting our young people as they sold their baked goods, their still exhibits, and their livestock during those auctions. One 4-H member pledged to help her friend with cancer as she auctioned her pig off. Tears flowed as Meijer’s donated that animal back, only to be auctioned off again to help the woman who suffered from that deadly disease. That young person raised over $13,000 that day. What she did made a huge difference for someone else. She had a vision and she strove to reach it with the help of an entire community.
As a VISTA member I was only a small part of that week, but because I partnered with our county 4-H program I was able to help make that event a reality along with hundreds of other volunteers. Hundreds of 4-H members in our county will use these experiences to learn, lead, and share with others as they grow into adults. They will be part of the change that will help our communities continue to grow and pass on knowledge to future generations.
Another project I was involved in this past few months was the Relay for Life Event. Students at Carson City Schools became leaders that day. The Planning Committee had been meeting for months prior. High School Students volunteered to be part of that committee. They encouraged the student body to become involved by creating teams that would raise money for Cancer Research. Students set up tents on the football field to sell drinks, baked goods, and run games. Others visited the community bringing back hundreds of dollars in donations from the streets of Carson City. Families gathered in memory of loved ones who had long since passed. Survivors were honored by the high school band as they walked to track around the field. I would like to give special recognition to the Carson City Elementary students who collected over 1000 cans of food. The cans were to hold down the luminary bags during the final walk the evening. Many of those bags were decorated in memory of loved ones. The candles glowed softly as the crowd walked silently around the track for the final time. Those cans, gathered by those children, held the candles that burnt in memory of so many who had lost their lives to that dreaded disease. Those cans ended up at the local food bank to serve hundreds of needy people in our community. Every volunteer made a difference that night. We raised close to $15,000. Did I as a VISTA make it happen? No, my part in that was minimal compared to the entirety of the event. But we were all there to make a change and that change caused growth. Our community took part in the larger vision to help find a cure for cancer. My days of VISTA service are only a small part of the larger picture. Working with others to make a change and help our young people to grow into the adults that are needed to lead this country. So again I say, don’t think what we do as VISTA’s is not important. It is important. Collectively we impact the entire country with our service. Our service causes change, that change causes growth. Growth that impacts all around us.
Hi y’all, my name is Samantha Rudelich and I am in my second year of AmeriCorps service, currently at Downtown Boxing Gym. I previously served at The Brenda Scott Academy as a City Year Detroit AmeriCorps member and through that experience I found Downtown Boxing Gym. The gym is an after-school program located on Detroit’s east side that serves 3rd-12th graders from the metro Detroit area. We mentor them through academics, boxing, STEAM, social-emotional learning, and a host of other enrichment activities. My main focus is to build out the college and career readiness and literacy portions of the program.
I had the incredible opportunity to join 90 other professionals in the education field for an institute at Harvard University from June 23rd-26th. The program, “Post-Secondary Success: In Schools, Communities, and Families” brought together educators in a variety of sectors, pre-k through 12, higher education, and education-based organizations. The sessions covered general data trends in higher education over the last 25 years, a developmental perspective to encourage continuing education, and how to support low-income minority students in their educational paths. The important word we defined was “college” as any degree, certification, program, etc. that continues education after high school.
The institute only last four days, but the impact is immeasurable. We spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on our own educational experiences and the mentors that encouraged us to push through to complete our education journey. I felt inspired and energized by returning to a college campus and classroom. I walked a mile every morning to the campus and spent my nights in the local café reviewing notes, takeaways, and reviewing the next days readings. It was through this process that I realized how early my belief that I could go to college began, and how many people reinforced that idea along the way. Overall, my educational experience continues to be a deeply fulfilling one. I reflected on how I wanted the curriculum at the gym to enable our students to navigate the post-secondary world feeling empowered and aware of the “hidden curriculum” within higher education institutions. These unwritten rules, such as the importance of office hours, networking with professors, and being a strong self-advocate, often leave low-income students in the dark given the current public schools’ structure. Understanding the business of college can be the difference between successfully completing their degrees and dropping out.
This experience broadens the perspective I contribute in our daily conversations on effectively supporting our students in their future success. I am thrilled by the ability to bring developmental and motivational theory to the table when discussing our programming. I feel fueled for these last months of service by the data I saw and the amazing professionals I connected with. I thank Michigan Nonprofit Association, Downtown Boxing Gym, and my previous Segal Education Award for funding this unique education experience.
Hello Everyone! Happy Summer! My name is Marisa Tear and I serve in Alcona Community Schools. Being a VISTA is an incredibly rewarding experience. My service at Alcona Community schools has given me a chance to grow as a person and to connect with so many people, students, and organizations. I have also grown professionally from this tremendous VISTA experience. I am exceptionally proud to be serving with some amazing women, VISTA Meridith Murley, MCAN Advisor Shelby Handrich, and Anissa Emery, our former Site Supervisor. In addition, the support of Dan O'Connor, Alcona Community Schools Superintendent, and Edwin Barber, High and Middle School Principal, has made this VISTA service experience rewarding and worthwhile.
This year has gone by faster than I thought. I want to take this time to share what I have experienced in the last six months.
I have developed and maintained partnerships with these amazing organizations: Inspiration Alcona, Farm to Fork (where I am a board member and bookkeeper), Regional Prosperity Initiative, TRIO (Alpena Community College), Michigan Works Northeast (MiCareer Quest Northeast), Community Foundation Northeast Michigan, Alcona County Agency Council, and Alpena High School (CTE Program). Working with these organizations has been a great experience for me and they are very committed and supportive of their community.
These past few months I have had a chance to be part of some amazing and heartfelt events. Inspiration Alcona sponsored a program called Grandart during the months of February through May and I had the opportunity to volunteer and be part of this heartfelt event with the students of the elementary school and their grandparents. I helped Inspiration Alcona organized guitar and ukulele lessons for middle and elementary schools. These creative and talented students showed how much appreciation they have for art and music.
March events included Maple Syrup Celebration Day, sponsored by the Alcona FFA chapter's Sugar Shack. Farm to Fork volunteered at and attended this celebration. The FFA students cooked and served a pancake breakfast, held syrup making demonstrations, sold FFA's maple syrup to support students, and gave interviews to local radio and TV stations. Over 500 people throughout the county came to support Maple Syrup Celebration Day.
The tour to Alpena High School’s CTE program with the Junior Class in April was so informative and educational. These students showed enthusiasm and interest in the program. Meridith and I were excited for these students to have the opportunity to be enrolled in such a great program.
May was a busy month here at Alcona Community Schools. Senior Awards Night awarded the graduating seniors with over $145,000 in scholarships provided by the Community Foundation Northeast Michigan and local sponsors. This evening was quite enjoyable, and I want to give credit to the school system that these students understood, respected, and appreciated the nature of the event. What an incredible night! Other senior events included the Decision Day Cook Out, Clap Out, and the Senior Assembly and Breakfast. The seniors were very appreciative and emotional during these events. Graduation Day was filled with every emotion possible. Meridith and I could not be any more proud of this senior class.
Eight juniors toured Central Michigan University with us. The tour explained how college is affordable and available as well as campus living. MiCareer Quest, sponsored by MI Works Northeast in Onaway, engaged our 7th and 8th grade students, letting them explore different career and skilled trades opportunities in the workforce. The hands-on experience showed these students what the workforce is all about. The students can't wait to go again next year. Thank you to VISTA Murley, Shelby Handrich, and the support of the Alcona High School staff for making these events successful.
June is quiet. No students in the hallway and classrooms but I have a full agenda. I will be looking into Children’s Savings Accounts, Work-Based Learning, Promise Scholarships, and policies for the Community Kitchen.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Michigan Nonprofit Association (Maggie Harris, Dylan Davids, and Zekiye Salman) for the opportunity to serve as a VISTA in Alcona Community Schools, and all the other VISTAs that I have had the opportunity to serve with. I am so grateful. The VISTA experience has been an amazing ride!
Hello! My name is Melissa Gonzalez and I am currently serving with Urban Neighborhood Initiatives (UNI) in Southwest Detroit. At this point, I have about two months left of my service year. One thing that I can say about this year is that it has definitely been a year of growth for me. I have loved my experience here at UNI and I will definitely miss serving here, but like they say all good things must come to end. As cliché as that may sound, it is true. My work here has given me so many learning opportunities that I couldn’t have received anywhere else.
You might be wondering what have I have been up to since my last blog several months ago. Well, it has been quite busy here at UNI as we have been gearing up for summer, one of our busiest times of the year. I have been helping to prepare for our summer youth employment program. Every summer we are allotted 225 youth employment slots given to us by Connect Detroit. We hire youth within our community to work with us in our programs or through one of our many partners within the community. The summer youth employment program is a chance for youth to gain work experience as well an opportunity for them to gain exposure to different career opportunities and post-secondary options. We do this through our professional networking event, where we invite different professionals from a wide range of fields to do a speed networking event with our youth. Youth receive college exposure through our college field trips and our scavenger hunt.
I have also been helping with our 9th grade counts program that will be implementing for the first time this summer. I have been in charge of recruiting mentors for the program who will help the program coordinators facilitate workshops and activities throughout the summer. The 9th grade counts program is a chance for middle school students to get college and career exposure.
These last few months will definitely be a busy ones for myself and UNI. As my service year comes to end, I am working on my legacy binder to hand over to the person that will take my responsibilities. Hopefully, they will have an idea of what I have been doing and how to do the activities that I have been working on this year. I have not only had a great learning experience, but I have also enjoyed working with my coworkers. I have grown so much throughout the year and I have to thank this year of service for allowing me to grow both professionally and mentally.
My name is Javier Jimenez, and I am serving with Communities in Schools in Lansing. Like most of our VISTA cohort, I have two months left in my VISTA term, but for the most part I feel like my position is already done. I have been serving in a high school with kids and community partners every day since last September and as of June 7th, school is out. My day-to-day work is about to change.
I sit here now in an empty school writing this. No kids anywhere. No one wandering the halls, no one coming in asking if they can eat their lunch in my room, no kids needing help with clothes or food, no more asking how my day is and kids telling me what has been going on with them.
Over the course of the school year I got to meet and work with some wonderful kids who come from rough backgrounds. They all were all so different from each other but they shared one thing in common. They were misunderstood kids who people often thought the worst of.
I come from a one stop light small town. I’ll admit I had my own biased views of these kids when I started. But the more I talked to these kids the more I understood them. Serving with teenagers can be tough. But, that is because by this time in their lives they have built up these walls and don’t want to let anyone in, especially if they have the tough backgrounds that the kids we were work with have. But after working with and talking to them, you can get past their often tough or unresponsive exteriors. And then you realize that they are kids who just need the right tools, and then they can succeed and thrive in any environment.
I have loved getting to work on projects like STEM Explores with my site supervisor. We were able to take a handful of students to different businesses to show them the kind of jobs that await them after they graduate. We went to Menlo Innovations in Ann Arbor, a tech company where the students liked that people worked in teams and were free to bring their newborns with them. The kids liked getting to know about the interesting ways work is done there. We also went to Farmers Bureau Insurance, Michigan Works, and Michigan State University, just to name a few.
Working with an amazing partner we have at Lansing Community College, it has been great to see my school's small clothing closet turn into a wide arrange of materials, so much in fact we needed a storage room! We had a group of grandparents from 242 Okemos Church do a Sam’s Club run and donate over $800 worth of food and snacks. It’s been great to learn that so many people care enough to reach out.
One of the great joys this year has been getting to work on the Imagination Library. The Imagination Library is a program where any kid under the age of five can get a free book mailed to them once a month at no cost to the child’s parents. I have gotten to go out and partner with different organizations to help spread the word of the program. Organizations like the Capital Area District Library, WIC, Sparrow Hospital, and Child & Family Charities. It’s great to know that now almost 500 kids here in Lansing are getting these books and spending time with their parents learning how to read.
This summer I’m going to be working more on the Imagination Library and helping them expand. My host organization will also be expanding into over 40 schools in the fall! From Detroit to Benton Harbor, Communities in Schools of Michigan is growing. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be doing but I’m excited and can’t wait.
Being a VISTA is more than just the service experience and education award or cash stipend. It’s a chance to grow as a person. I have connected with so many people and now see myself as much more than just the stock boy at a local store I was before I started serving as a VISTA. I feel so much pride in the fact that I have made a difference.
I have enjoyed my year as a VISTA so much. I am planning on serving for another year, but this time in Los Angles. The positions I have my eye on also deal with working with kids. I can’t wait for another great year of helping some amazing kids. Kids are the future and the sooner we prepare the next generation to stand up and take control, the sooner we will have a bright future all of us can enjoy.
Hello All! My name is Assiatou and I am a first-year Pathways to Employment AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Alternatives for Girls in Detroit, MI. At this point, we have about two and a half months left of service. This year, has gone by faster than I thought it would. I want to take this time to reflect on some things I have learned this year.
In February, we relaunched our mentor program after doing some foundational work. It was incredibly exciting to finally see the vision become a reality. Beginning programming also meant that I would be onsite for most programming. As programming ramped up, I realized I was burning out quickly. I did not have a clear understanding of how to balance work and rest. I had to figure out how to appropriately schedule programming and my service schedule to accommodate the rest I needed to function well. As a volunteer in a nonprofit, it can be easy to pour into others and never step back and understand the ramifications of pouring and never refilling. This year has been an exercise in figuring out how to take care of others while still taking care of myself.
While we relaunched the program in February, the program is still a work in progress. As a VISTA, it is incredibly kind to leave a helpful Legacy Binder. We are constantly tweaking details of the program in order to better serve all of our participants. I believe all of these improvements are important but it does present an issue when I want to write comprehensive transition documents. I am trying to figure out how to leave really detailed information while allowing for the changes that will be happening in the program. For now, I have settled on doing a very good job of describing the purpose and mission of the program components while leaving room for fluidity in the program delivery.
A huge area of growth and learning for me this year has been in appropriately informing people of the work I am doing. Alternatives For Girls has a staff of about 50, so many of the staff members who are affected by my work might not be aware unless I communicate with them. There have been two staff members that this has come up with. At the beginning of my service, I was setting up a lot of online systems like MailChimp and Calendly. I needed to inform our IT Administrator so he could ensure that they were safe platforms. I have also needed to be in regular contact with our Volunteer Services Manager. At the end of the day, all volunteers are her responsibility even though I am the mentor coordinator for my program. In keeping her informed of my work, I have been able to learn more about best practices when it comes to volunteer management. I have learned so much in just my eight months of service but this is a short snippet of the things that stick out in my mind. I am looking forward to the final few months of my service!
Hi, my name is Rini Parekh and I’m an MNA VISTA who serves with Corporation for a Skilled Workforce (CSW). CSW conducts occupational research and consulting with the goal of helping people find gainful employment and earn family-sustaining wages.
Currently, my major focus at CSW is a research project aimed at understanding local food systems in Michigan. As part of this project, I have developed a stakeholder database, and I am currently interviewing stakeholders from different organizations such as MSU’s Center for Regional Food Systems. This effort is part of a larger project to take inventory of key people and organizations in Michigan’s food industry. Data from this work will be used to promote the purchase and consumption of Michigan-grown foods. This project will have a twofold impact: first, it will connect communities to local food sources, and second, it will support local food growers and distributors, thereby increasing their income and viability.
My work at CSW has also helped illuminate the ways that organizations can help prepare job seekers for meaningful work. For example, I am currently helping a coworker develop competency profiles for different occupations (e.g., CNA, medical assistant). This research will help CSW develop an app that employers will use to assess what competencies to look for in potential applicants, and that job seekers will use to determine if they have the right credentials for a job. Similarly, I have also researched the different occupational training models offered by Goodwill in different states. My work will be used to evaluate the pros and cons of different approaches and make recommendations for future job trainings.
Finally, I am working on a project to streamline CSW’s client relations. I am collecting contacts from all CSW staff members and then integrating them into a customer relationship management tool called Salesforce. By moving contacts to Salesforce, CSW will gain a better understanding of its external stakeholders and be able to communicate with them more effectively.
Serving at Corporation for a Skilled Workforce has been an eye-opening experience for me, and I feel like I have gained a valuable new perspective into how organizations can help reduce barriers to employment. I hope to further my research skills by learning how to utilize labor market information, and I also hope to gain deeper knowledge about the field of workforce development.
Hello! My name is Jennifer Musser, and I’m currently serving my first year as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Washtenaw Literacy in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Washtenaw Literacy aims to provide free literacy support to community adults who wish to improve their basic skills, educational prospects, and workforce readiness. For that purpose, we partner with Washtenaw Community College, the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti District Libraries, the county jail, and a host of other agencies and sites in order to reach adults wherever they are across Washtenaw County.
Even in their homes.
Of all the Washtenaw Literacy programs I have had the chance to serve in, by far the most eye-opening and rewarding has been LIFT — Learning is a Family Thing. This initiative, which only just started in September 2018, is a personal tutoring program for low-income, low-literate parents of pre-kindergarten children. It is based on the premise that improving the literacy of parents is the best way to improve the literacy of their children, and to break the cycle of low educational attainment and poverty.
It seems so obvious when you hear it, yet very few programs address this issue by directly supporting parents in their efforts to improve their own knowledge and skills. Perhaps that’s because funding sources are more sympathetic to children than adults, and certainly it seems true that when we discuss adult education we tend to focus on employment over family literacy. Still, working with LIFT has shown me that there’s much more to this issue than either of those points. Low-income parents of young children face barriers most adult educational programming isn’t prepared to handle, the main two being childcare and transportation. Even if the program has the capacity to pay for childcare, there is no guarantee the parent has reasonable access to transportation, especially with their children in tow. Thus, Washtenaw Literacy designed LIFT to bring tutors directly into adult learners’ homes for lessons, making it convenient for families who have young children and may face transportation challenges.
For me personally, coordinating this program has meant the opportunity to build, maintain, and grow community partnerships with agencies like the Washtenaw Intermediate School District’s Early Head Start program as well as local preschools and other organizations. It has also been a great experience in the recruitment, training, and management of volunteers who — by nature of where they are serving and who they are working with — must be held to a higher standard than even the typical Washtenaw Literacy volunteer tutor. I can feel myself growing and adjusting constantly as new possibilities and needs emerge.
I am exceptionally proud to be serving with LIFT and Washtenaw Literacy. Everybody agrees that literacy and education are key factors in the employment and economic achievement of adults. However, research also shows us that the number one indicator of a child’s success in school is the literacy of their parents. If we want to get serious about meeting these issues head on, we have to include the parents.
In 2016, the Corporation for National and Community Service celebrated a special milestone: one million individuals committing to serve with AmeriCorps since 1994, which is when the program began. I still remember this event vividly, it occurred during my first year of service with an environmental AmeriCorps program in Massachusetts, AmeriCorps Cape Cod. Our cohort was crammed into a basement conference room at the county court to watch a planned ceremony where NASA hosted AmeriCorps members across the country in celebration of the milestone (afterwards we received a very informative, and very scary, presentation on tick safety). While I may not have been that lucky one-millionth member, the experience grounded me in the community of national service, a critically under-advertised option for Americans.
I have to admit, my initial decision to serve in AmeriCorps did not come out of some lofty altruistic aspiration. I had just graduated from college with a degree in a field I did not want to pursue and was looking for something- anything- I could do that aligned with my personal interests. But that initial year of service instilled in me a fierce ethic of service that will now never fade. As AmeriCorps members we are told that we do not work, we serve and that is something that has stuck with me. I do not think I will ever be happy in a career that I just see as work anymore, I need something more. This effect, I think, is one of the most important. By immersing Americans of all ages and backgrounds in community service, it teaches us to aspire to more, to want to fight the problems AmeriCorps members tackle: poverty, environmental degradation, economic inequity, disaster recovery, and so much more. I am definitely not serving for the paycheck!
As an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader serving with Michigan Nonprofit Association, I get to see first-hand all of the awesome work occurring around the state in fighting poverty. VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is a little bit older than AmeriCorps. Initially started as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty, it predates AmeriCorps by a couple of decades. All VISTA projects must have an anti-poverty focus. MNA’s program accomplishes this through the double lenses of College Access & Success and Workforce Development, placing 30 VISTAs with MNA members throughout the state doing that critical work. VISTAs also do not directly serve clients. Instead, we focus on capacity building, laying the groundwork for nonprofits and schools by constructing volunteer pipelines, writing curricula, finding funding streams, developing sustainable programs, and more. We have a VISTA in the Upper Peninsula serving with the Mackinac Economic Alliance to bring year-round employment opportunities to residents in an area where much of the work is seasonal and tourism-oriented, as well as a VISTA serving with Atlantic Impact, planning experiential learning opportunities and field trips for students in Detroit who may not otherwise have them. These are just two quick snapshots of what our VISTAs are doing for their communities, their support is critical in building programs that provide the necessary support to help people climb out of poverty into sustainable, and fulfilling, work.
My role in all this is as a peer mentor, providing our VISTAs with opportunities for professional development and support in navigating the myriad of situations that arise over the course of a year of service. It was a perfect fit for me. As someone who has had their life completely change through AmeriCorps service, I now have the chance to help others along that path of service and self-discovery. Each year over 75,000 Americans commit to AmeriCorps service, some to give back to their community, some as a gap year between high school and college, and others to gain the skills they need to make a career shift, and all are transformed through the experience. I hope that national service continues to grow as an option for everyone in this country, because it truly does has something to offer to everyone. Three years ago I was unsure in life, not confident about my path forward and unsure about where my passion lay. Today, I feel confident and prepared to continue serving my community, in whatever form and place that occurs next for me.