Written by Stevie Chilcote, VISTA Leader
“I feel that these life changes that I am making would not be possible without AmeriCorps offering me this incredible opportunity.”
AmeriCorps has always been bigger than one person. Since John F. Kennedy proposed a national service corps in 1963, over one million members have chosen to serve. Each member is unique and has a story to tell, but together our impact can be even greater. After serving with the Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency during the foreclosure crisis, Apollo Schuch summed up his service: “I am so grateful to be able to be a part of such an amazing program that not only helps those living in the community around me but also in the organizations that assist those individuals.” Apollo’s service is powerful, but even more so when added to the other 30,000+ hours the Foreclosure Corps served providing over 4,500 people with assistance.
Serving through AmeriCorps can also bring the opportunity to bring a new twist to a community’s history. Tori Dillinger, who has a passion for historical preservation, put a whole new spin on it for Milan Main Street by spotlighting the haunted buildings in her community, which was, as she put it, “a really fun experience” that she was not expecting to get to do.
Finding Your Way
Sometimes your service can even push you to investigate a career you never considered. Mandy Barlow was the mother of two teenage boys when she taught financial literacy at a juvenile detention center for young women. She had no idea how to plan for the life they imagined for themselves. During her service, she started looking into ways to continue her own education so that she could help more youth make productive contributions in her community. “I feel that these life changes that I am making would not be possible without AmeriCorps offering me this incredible opportunity.”
Those who serve have the opportunity to grow and learn during their AmeriCorps experience in unexpected ways, but it creates a supportive network nationwide. Sarah McMahon ended up meeting a woman who served as a VISTA in one of the first programs in the 1960s, while explaining to a board of directors about her AmeriCorps service with the Lakeshore Resource Network. For her, it proved that we are “part of something bigger than [ourselves]” and “bigger than our organizations as well.” Sarah’s supervisor said that she has “allowed our organizational capacity to rapidly expand to allow us to take ideas into action.”
“[AmeriCorps members] get things done for non-profits, communities and families that may never have been accomplished without someone willing to serve, and we love doing it!”
More Than a Year of Service
An AmeriCorps member in training once asked me, “Why so many years of service?” As I looked back over two years of Peace Corps, two years of AmeriCorps State and the year of AmeriCorps VISTA in front of me, the first thing that came to mind wasn’t the gardens built, the energy conservation lessons or conference presentations. It was all the amazing people I have met over the years. The dedicated individuals who put their idealism to work in a way that makes a visible difference in their communities and touches the lives of millions. They get things done for non-profits, communities and families that may never have been accomplished without someone willing to serve, and we love doing it!
These members and the million others who came before have inspired me through four years of service and continues to push me every day to be the change and to better my community. AmeriCorps serves where there is need and fights poverty on every front. They teach environmental conservation, respond to disasters, support veterans, write grants, manage volunteers, preserve history, make history and create a future for communities nationwide. Why be average, when you can be AmeriCorps? Learn more about AmeriCorps and the VISTA program here.