The Power of AmeriCorps Service

By Ryan Verstraete, VISTA Leader

Ryan Verstraete, VISTA Leader

AmeriCorps doesn’t have the name recognition of the armed forces or Peace Corps, but the empowerment given to communities across the country through AmeriCorps service is honorable. The humility that comes from serving to improve your community’s long-term health leaves AmeriCorps alumni with a unique sense of pride in the impact they have on their world.

For my own service terms I have traveled the country, served in dozens of communities and have been exposed to the challenges facing both our land and people. Being sponsored through service by the federal government, my service has directly made me a more engaged citizen and community member, and for that I am grateful to be serving my third term with CEDAM’s AmeriCorps as the VISTA Leader. My previous terms were in the pacific and southwestern United States, so the ability to share my love of service with my home state is an honor.

The incredible experiences and skills earned in service are the rewards for persevering through the unique challenges and adjustments that are confronted. Members learn firsthand the attitude and perspective that serving toward a larger purpose requires. Identifying the big-picture goals and adapting them to the present situation are among the important skills that members recommend to incorporate, especially when it comes to the living stipend. Budgeting skills are honed in service and many improve their grocery shopping and meal preparing practice to cut back on dining out.

Members know that even when not performing their service duties they still represent their organizations when they’re out in the community. This has been an opportunity for growing connections in the ever-expanding network of service work, and one member has shared that they’ve been approached by strangers who recognize the logo and build a connection around the service family. I’ve had conversations with people waiting in line at the Secretary of State because of my AmeriCorps logo, and they were on the same team as someone that was on my team two years ago.

It’s incredible how strong the AmeriCorps family is. While everybody’s experiences are different, we all understand what it is like to adapt around an AmeriCorps service term. With over a million members, the family grows each year as new members commit to a term of improving the communities that they love.