Hello everyone! As you all know, I am one of the two VISTA Leaders for MNA’s Pathways to Employment VISTA program. This is my third year of service with AmeriCorps, having previously served two terms with AmeriCorps Cape Cod, an environmental program out in Eastern Massachusetts. Frankly, I couldn’t be happier to trade in my chainsaw and waders for the emails and meetings that this position requires. AmeriCorps has been a transformational experience for me, and I hope that my enthusiasm for National Service and its goals can help motivate you when the doldrums of office life get you down.
I started my first year of AmeriCorps dreading leadership and public speaking, having been a strong introvert most of my life. Living in a house with 12 other corps members will quickly disabuse you of any notions of “introversion” or “privacy” you may have and I was forced to leave my shell. Looking back, I think that is what I really needed at that point in my life. I had decided to join AmeriCorps after feeling incredibly lost upon graduating college with a degree in a field I didn’t want to go into and it really brought me out of that slump. So why did I decide to go from rescuing dolphins to sitting behind a desk? I realized that I might have a knack for it and that working within CNCS might be a viable career path for me, and one I would find fulfilling. This is a great opportunity for me to learn more about the kind of work that AmeriCorps program directors do and if it may be something I want to pursue one day. But it has definitely been a transition and I am still learning something new and valuable every day of service. In the first two months of my service here at MNA, I have already received more emails than I got in my previous two years of AmeriCorps (several hundred more, in fact!), and I have had to readjust to wearing “office” clothes instead of my AmeriCorps t-shirt or polo. I have also had to learn to be a VISTA member and VISTA Leader simultaneously, which has been a lot of new information to process. Luckily, I have excellent support here at MNA from both Maggie and Zekiye, who are always up to answer my myriad random questions. I honestly don’t know what I would be doing without them! That’s one lesson you can learn from me: never be scared to ask questions, because most people would rather you do something right the first time instead of screwing it up and being forced to fix it. Another lesson you can take from me is that you can learn to be (more) organized. I thought of myself as a fairly organized person before coming in to this position, but the sheer number of things I have to keep in mind has been a little daunting. So, use the tools at your disposal to keep organized. I now have a OneNote document where I keep track of what I’ve been doing, there is a Trello board for Zekiye and I to keep track of website updates, and I have just starting using Todoist to track tasks.
(Indirect) indirect service, as I’ve been calling it, can be difficult since I’m used to being the one in the schools teaching students, not supporting the supporters of education programs, but it has been rewarding in a different, and more fulfilling way. It has also given me a new perspective on my home state and valuable insight into the problems Michigan faces but also those on the ground fighting to change it. The best part of my service so far has been learning more about what our members are doing, because it is such awesome and important work. Site visits have definitely been the highlight. It gives me a chance to see the space in which our VISTAs serve and learn in-person more about what they are doing. So, everyone, please continue the wonderful things you are doing out there to continue the war against poverty that President Lyndon B Johnson started all the way back in 1964.
It’s very cheesy, but I absolutely love the AmeriCorps pledge and so I’ll end with it as a reminder of why we are all here serving: I will get things done for America - to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier. I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities. Faced with apathy, I will take action. Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground. Faced with adversity, I will persevere. I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond. I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.