March 8-16 is AmeriCorps Week, a time to thank members for their service and highlight the great work they do nationwide. As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, CEDAM is running a “Where are they now?” blog post series, featuring four AmeriCorps alumni who served with the Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps during the 2012 program year.
Amanda Elliott is one of our many CEDAM’s AmeriCorps members who was hired on at their host site after finishing their AmeriCorps term. In fact, she became the next AmeriCorps host site supervisor! AmeriCorps has remained a thread in her professional life, and she now is the AmeriCorps director for YouthWork, which just won the 2020 Corps Network project of the year award! Amanda knew she wanted to help people in 2012 and continues to do so today. Read more about her story, in her own words, below.
How did AmeriCorps impact the trajectory of your life and your career?
Little did I know when I replied to that tiny “help wanted” posting in the local paper, AmeriCorps would become my life and my career. I started fresh out of college as an AmeriCorps member with the Michigan Foreclosure Prevention Corps (go Rachel!). After my service, the organization hired me and I became a site supervisor. I stayed in this position almost two years before switching things up a bit to do some development work at another organization, Child & Family Services, where I’ve been since. In late 2017, the CFS board agreed to start a new, incredible AmeriCorps program, YouthWork, which I helped secure the funding to start as part of the development team. After writing many grants and learning more about the vision, mission, and potential of the program, I decided to make the switch and am now working as the program’s AmeriCorps Director. It’s been an amazing, if sometimes challenging, experience starting a program from scratch but my experience has helped me immensely and I know that our members and our community spaces benefit a great deal from our service.
Are you still living in Michigan or has life taken you further afield? What is your current job title and place of employment?
Still in Michigan. YouthWork AmeriCorps Director and Development Specialist at Child & Family Services.
What skills did you gain from your time serving as an AmeriCorps member and how are they benefitting you today?
While serving with AmeriCorps, I learned about the deep needs of our local community members and the value of providing service to help people succeed and thrive. Since starting college (and probably even before then), I’ve known that I wanted to help people and was always drawn to the nonprofit world. When people would ask me “what do you want to be when you grow up?” I would always say, “I just want to help people and not hate my job.” I can honestly say I have lived that dream every day since beginning my service with AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps provided me the opportunity to “get my foot in the door” and get real, hands-on experience in the nonprofit world, affirming my choice to stay in the field. It gave me an opportunity to explore my interests and abilities without committing to a “real” job, with the added benefits of an education award that I used to pay down my student loans (which I paid off last summer – yay!). While my parents often joke they wish I would’ve become a lawyer instead of sticking with the nonprofit world, I feel good about walking into work each day and that’s half the battle.
What advice would you give to a potential AmeriCorps member?
Do it, soak it all in, learn a ton, and give it your all. I remember the first few months of my service I honestly had no idea what I was doing or what I had just signed up for. After about 2-3 months and I’m working with clients, literally saving people from losing their homes, that I realized, “oh, this is what I’m doing”. It will come to you and it will seem like there’s too much to learn and take on to make an impact in a year but, trust me, you will see your impact and it will move you.
CEDAM is celebrating ten years of AmeriCorps with the 2019-20 cohort! We’re marking the occasion with a blog series and alumni events, spending some time reflecting on the past, and looking into the future.