In honor of AmeriCorps Week, we are joining the national celebration to recognize those who choose to serve. In its almost 25 year history, AmeriCorps has engaged over 1 million United States citizens to build our homes, teach our youth, strengthen our businesses, protect the environment, and serve as mentors. To demonstrate the real life impact of national service, we asked some of our staff to reflect on their experiences with AmeriCorps.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Service is hard. It’s demanding and perpetually tiring, challenging and often daunting. But it’s worth it.
The people you meet, the experiences you share, the work you do carries through the hard times and makes those moments of success or realization shine with a joy lasting long after the year is done.
For some, like Adrienne Popeney (Manager, Affiliate Network) and Sam Hawes (Digital Communications Associate), these success stories are rooted in the creation of systems that continue to thrive. While still in college and serving with ACCORD for Youth, Adrienne Popeney, convinced the administration of the school where she was based to create an afterschool program for fourth and fifth grade students to benefit from additional learning time. She even managed to secure the grants to make it a reality and self-sufficient for years to come.
Sam served as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Room to Grow, a non-profit dedicated to enriching the lives of babies born into poverty throughout their critical first three years of development. As part of his service, he contributed to the creation of a family-volunteer project to engage the community’s support in new ways – a project that continues to support children born into poverty and their families.
For Jennifer Bourgoin (Program Manager) and Brendan Anderson (Marketing and Communications VISTA), it’s the story of students. Jen served two years with Generations Incorporated, a Boston-based non-profit working to improve the literacy of youth by matching them with adults for tutoring and mentoring. Like any mentoring relationship, it began as a challenge. “Gabe* was a first-grader who was far more interested in playing games than reading with me,” she fondly recalls. “Every Tuesday and Thursday, I would search for Gabe throughout the Boys & Girls Club until I’d see his feet sticking out from under a table.”
Brendan served with City Year Boston where he partnered with the teacher of a third-grade classroom to provide targeted support in attendance, behavior, and coursework in Math and English. “There were many students who inspired and challenged me in different ways,” says Brendan, “but I always think back to Kenny* discovering Charlotte’s Web. He was upset, so we took a walk around the school to let him calm down. While we walked, I told him the beginning of the story we were reading in class and, by the time we got back, he was ready to listen. Ever after, whenever it was time to read Charlotte’s Web, he was the first one ready.”
Jen also saw a change in Gabe’s perspective over the year. “Gabe and I eventually developed a bond based on a light-hearted sense of humor and shared love of the Patriots. He took our conversations down unfamiliar routes that wound through fashion (his area of expertise, not mine), basketball, and sneaker brands. I was amazed how invested I was watching him mature as his literacy also improved.”
A year is a relatively short time, little more than a moment in the grand scheme of things, but the changes worked in that time continue radiating long after. In fact, some of the moments remembered most clearly by Delia Hagan (Program Manager), who served for a summer with Hands On Gulf Coast coordinating volunteers to rebuild after Katrina, are the fun activities she organized for volunteers to enjoy after hard days of building. From talent shows to bonfires on the beach, the moments of joy she inspired in her service members glowed as a reminder that her work made a difference.
In the end, all service years are like bonfires on the beach: glowing moments of warmth and comfort whose light is carried forward by those gathered near. You never know whom you might inspire with such a fire or how far its light may reach.
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*All student names have been changed to protect privacy.
Follow our blog throughout the week for more stories of service.