This year has been a whirlwind of activity and a wellspring for growth for me and for my service site. Most of my service projects were completed at Grand Rapids Montessori in all the grade levels – elementary, middle, and high school. My biggest accomplishment is tracing the growth of my relationship with this school. The various service projects that I completed were on a large scale, often including more than one classroom or over several weeks. I believe this strategy has had a great impact on this school. The most difficult challenge this year has been gaining an understanding of what my role truly is. As an additional aid to the community I struggled with being a burden rather than an asset. But throughout the year I asserted myself in different ways and have learned how to approach others as a resource. I joined AmeriCorps because I wanted to connect my community to each other and to opportunities. One shining example of my impact happened at my host site on Earth Day when a parent came up to me and told me a story: “So earlier, I asked a 6th grade student who that girl over by the rain cloud is, do you want to know what she said?” she asked. “Well, sure,” I said with a smile. “She said to me, ‘Oh, that’s Miss Megan, she brings us opportunities.’” This was one of those small moments that mean everything.
I am excited to announce that I will be continuing my service in my existing role as Service Learning Coordinator! Now that I know what service learning is and how to accomplish a successful project, I plan on focusing my efforts on capacity and partnership building. As one person, it is impossible for me to work with all 35 of the Grand Rapids Public Schools. So I would like to focus my efforts on identifying the community needs of the nonprofits in the area and work with them to create “service learning packages” that we can connect teachers to. In these packages, I will identify what the organizations daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly needs are and in what capacity can K-12 students fill this need. Jordyn Appel, the last Grand Rapids VISTA created a service learning website for the West Michigan area, which I plan to revisit and deepen its informational impact. To accomplish this, I plan on tapping into the resources and connections of the United Way – my new office space! Perhaps we could even combine our efforts and offer these packages through their resources as well. To get these service learning packages into the school, professional development sessions will need to be held at all the schools. Now whether this will happen this year or the following year, I would like to determine alongside Nellie, the LEAGUE program director, through strategic planning.
Filling out all of these exit surveys has offered me time to provide written reflection of my experiences this year and I am very thankful for my AmeriCorps journey. I am proud to be serving alongside all the MNA VISTAs and programs. I hope to see many of you at the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service and maybe see some of you in my panel presentation entitled “How to Make a Service Year Buzzworthy: The AmeriCorps Collaborative”. In these times of service, I consistently reflect on a quote I heard during my Pre-Service Orientation as it is encouraging and meaningful: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has”.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!