Every year is a great year to be an AmeriCorps member. However in 2014 we all get to celebrate a special occassion together as a nation. This year marks the 20th anniversary of ongoing service through AmeriCorps. Through AmeriCorps, thousands of individuals per year are able to provide service to help better communities across the United States. It is a staggering thought to try and imagine how many lives have been affected by the efforts of AmeriCorps members after 20 years of “getting things done”. I still can’t believe that the seven New Hampshire State Parks interpretive rangers led field trips for 1,011 students in the month of May alone. Now that we have been in our separate state parks for several months, I cannot wait to find out how many park visitors we have interacted with.
When you look at our uniforms, you see a lot of logos and patches that has been said to make us look comparable to race car drivers. These show how many organizations believe in the work that we do and want to see it continue. Most times we identify ourselves as members of the Student Conservation Association but just as importantly we are all AmeriCorps members. The strong partnership between AmeriCorps and the SCA has been one that has lasted for the past 20 years and has made an astonishing impact that is felt when you wear your AmeriCorps/SCA gear. I remember the first day I went into Beech Street Elementary (Manchester, NH) to begin our 10 weeks of environmental education programming. So many of the students’ faces lit up when they saw our uniforms because of the past experiences they have had with Corps members. I also saw the evidence and attendance of the City Year members who also were at the elementary school. City Year is a fellow AmeriCorps program that interacts with school-age children and serve as positive role models in the classroom that the students look up to. When the children get excited and recognize the organization you serve, it is obvious that previous AmeriCorps members have left behind a legacy that deserves to be upheld.
While reflecting on my term of service I reached out to my fellow interpretive rangers and asked them for their thoughts regarding service and what we do as AmeriCorps members:
Sam Judson (Greenfield/Monadnock State Park):
“I have a more clear understanding of where I want to go in the future. My problem-solving skills and other soft skills such as conflict resolution have greatly improved. In addition we have received some invaluable training to help us in the future.”
Lauren Bos (Pawtuckaway State Park):
“This year of service has given me the opportunity to flourish and work on my own as an environmental educator, which is perfect as I intend on continuing my work in this field post-AmeriCorps. I have met so many driven young people who share my love for our planet Earth. AmeriCorps has brought us together and I’m excited to see how my friends influence their future communities!”
Luis Nandlall (White Lake/Monadnock State Park):
“The reason I choose to serve is because of the dedication of all its members. I felt at home, excited with my decision in helping the environment and making a difference in people’s lives. I have learned new ways to work with children by observing and practicing methods used by team members. Completing this term will help my future endeavors by using the experience and knowledge. Hopefully it will push forward my personal goal to work with the environment and people.”
What kind of people are AmeriCorps members? Although we hail from all corners of the United States, we have been able to find something within ourselves that connects us all. We want to be part of the change that makes the world a better place. We believe that positive outcomes can originate from our actions. Although our impact may not always be immediately visible, it exists all the same. Through the diverse array of AmeriCorps programs there are many opportunities for any willing citizen to provide service for various lengths of time. Whether you serve for a day or a year, your impact is needed, appreciated, and remembered. It’s not always easy. When you become an AmeriCorps member you are held to a high standard based on a proud legacy. Sometimes you run into challenges and have to think on your feet. You have to be flexible and accept the times when things don’t work out. But the great thing about AmeriCorps is that your fellow members are always there to support and help you grow. It’s in the spirit of getting things done. One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through my experience is to cherish every single victory, no matter how small, because I appreciate the hard work and passion that goes into what my fellow members and I do.
I have learned so much about myself and what I am capable of during these 8 months of service in addition to the 3 months I did last summer. The people I have met and the families I have worked with have impacted me in a way that I will forever be grateful for, not to mention the amazing places I have been able to travel to! The skills I have gained both intentionally and inadvertently will be what I carry with me in this field of work that I hope to make my career out of.
Providing service is extremely meaningful work. When you do it to the best of your ability, you get as much out of it as the hundreds of people you interact with. While some members will have the opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps at one the events across the nation on September 12th, many will still continue working towards strengthening our communities and our country. While it is important to take some time to reflect and appreciate the history of AmeriCorps, it is just as important to proudly continue the tradition of service. Two decades of getting things done for America is something to be extremely proud of as a member, alumni, or supporter. It should go without saying that I am looking forward to what the AmeriCorps/SCA Partnership can accomplish in the next 20 years.