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.
AmeriCorps gave Madeline (Maddie) Jaks the opportunity to put her education in community development to test and work hands-on in the field. During her AmeriCorps term at Lighthouse of Oakland County, Maddie got out in the community and built relationships. After her service term, she was hired at Community Housing Network (CHN) in Troy. Today, she manages CHN’s housing counseling programs and supervises an AmeriCorps member through CEDAM’s program. In fact, she was named Michigan’s AmeriCorps supervisor of the month in December 2016.
How did AmeriCorps impact the trajectory of your life and your career?
AmeriCorps membership gave me a wonderful chance to serve in the community and economic development field, specifically in the area of housing stability. My graduate studies opened my eyes to the affordable housing crisis in Michigan (and nationally). AmeriCorps service gave me the opportunity to really dig my heels in and help my community. As a member with the Michigan foreclosure prevention corps, we were quite literally the boots on the ground in assisting struggling homeowners to keep their homes. It was such a rewarding experience and I learned so much from the individuals and families we helped.
What is your current job title and place of employment?
I have the pleasure to serve as the Housing Counseling Program Manager with community housing Network, Inc in Troy, MI
What skills did you gain from your time serving as an AmeriCorps member and how are they benefitting you today?
I think perseverance and commitment, though perhaps not traditionally viewed as “skills”, have helped me most in my career. Working in a nonprofit is often slow moving. It may be months or even a couple of years before you get a plan or initiative off the ground, but sticking to your guns and being a champion for a cause is so important.
What advice would you give to a potential AmeriCorps member?
Network, network, network! This is a great time to get out into your community and tell others about the amazing work you’re doing. Attend community meetings, events, exchange contact information — and follow up! I was really against “business card culture” for a long time because I didn’t believe it went anywhere, but a short email or text can make a huge impression. If you can collaborate on a program or project, even better!
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.