I fell into AmeriCorps while looking for a job on Craigslist, and it turned out serving in AmeriCorps was the best thing to happen me professionally. I served as an AmeriCorps state member—specifically as a Highland Street Ambassador of Mentoring with the Massachusetts Mentoring Partnership. Though the mentors I met during my service year were men, the power of mentoring started for me around age 11. I adored my 5th grade teacher- Robin Harris. I saw her as smart, fun, easy-going yet structured and what was most exciting to me was that she was my first black female teacher. I could see myself in her and just by her coming to work, she inspired me. She was a community servant, beyond teaching she ran and won a seat on the Cambridge School Committee and allowed our class to ask questions about the political process. I was in awe of her and as an adult I still follow her career moves and hear about her leadership in Cambridge, MA.
I met David Shapiro and Marty A. Martinez during my AmeriCorps service year, and in different ways, both have been professional counselors throughout my career journey. Before that point, I did not have any male influencers in my professional life, so Marty was a welcomed addition to my social network because of his attention to my work and positive encouragement to stay in the world of mentoring work. My service year reinforced my commitment to working as a youth advocate and pushed me to lead in unexpected ways. At the end of my service year, I was hired fulltime as a Program Manager at the same place I served. Shortly after, the 2-person organization (the Executive Director and myself) became a one-person organization— just me. I learned to prioritize the needs of young people in the program while multitasking the demands of directly serving families, recruiting mentors, making & nurturing matches, dealing with a non-existent Board of Directors and countless other business dynamics. The reality of knowing that if I didn’t do it, it wasn’t going to get done helped me value teamwork when I had it later in my career. That experience also sharped my multitasking skills too – lol.
Lastly, my service year provided me a path to graduate school. I earned my graduate degree from the Heller School for Social Policy & Management, and I would have never known about the institution if it weren’t for their open arms to AmeriCorps members. Since my graduation, I have recommended other Ambassadors of Mentoring to visit the campus and saw another service member enroll after me. Mentoring means taking a healthy risk by devoting yourself to a cause you believe in and seeing where it will take you. For me, an accident 12 years ago brought me an amazing network of colleagues and a work experience no amount of money could buy.
See how you can become a mentor at https://www.mentoring.org/become-a-mentor/
Learn more about AmeriCorps VISTA at https://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-programs/americorps-vista