Recently, United We Serve published a blog post entitled “Was AmeriCorps Worth It?”, by Rachel Ogorek. Rachel shares her AmeriCorps experience as her service comes to a close. As I read Rachel’s reflections, I started thinking about my own AmeriCorps VISTA service–asking that question of myself.
I particularly identified with this line:
I know the skills I developed through AmeriCorps will help me be a better employee and a lifelong community member. My work challenged me to invest in a new community, allowed me to develop new relationships, and encouraged me to find innovative ways to tackle community problems.
Serving the Homeless as a VISTA
Looking back on my own service experience, I can say it was worth it. I served as a VISTA with Cornerstone Assistance Network, a non-profit that meets the needs of people struggling with poverty in Tarrant County. Before my service, I had little direct knowledge of homelessness as a social problem, and relied on my perceptions.
The truth is, the reasons for homelessness are varied. I learned during my service year that everyone has a story, even the homeless man you pass on the street. We are all one or two wrong moves, or an economic downtown, away from needing help.
In my role as a VISTA, I had the opportunity to interview current and former clients, who shared their stories of struggle and triumph. In every case, I found a sense of gratitude, despite adversity.
I established a social media presence for the agency and was a key member of the website development team. Looking back, I take pride in my external relations role, helping Cornerstone tell its story online.
I’m proud that these contributions continue to live on after my service.
Why AmeriCorps Matters
I make a point to tell my story of service because AmeriCorps is in danger of losing Congressional funding.
It has been my experience that national service is not only a fulfilling way to serve, but also an answer to our nation’s youth underemployment gap. AmeriCorps is a perfect partnership between young adults who serve, the federal government and non-profits around the country.
Last year alone, 80,000 Americans served with AmeriCorps, a Corporation for National and Community Service program.
It needs to be fully funded. Visit OneMillionNewJobs.org to learn more.