December 5, 2016
AmeriCorps member pursues her passion from coast to coast
Jill Smith has moved across the country, braved the infamous LA traffic, and now she’s ready to start a new chapter in her career. The LA region’s newest addition brings passion and energy to the team as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. Jill may be new to her role, but she already feels right at home. This is Jill’s third year of AmeriCorps service, and her second year serving with Reading Partners. Previously she served as a site coordinator in the Baltimore region, where she witnessed the program’s impact firsthand and fell in love with Reading Partners’ mission.
As with any major life decision, she initially felt some anxiety about the cross-country move. Though she grew up in Los Angeles, she hadn’t lived in California for years, and she was worried about adjusting to a new workplace and facing intimidating Los Angeles traffic. But after her first day in the new office, her spirits lifted and her worries were put to rest.
Smiling, Jill says, “it’s wonderful being in an organization where, from one coast to the other, the culture doesn’t change. It’s still the same culture of being student-focused, and [the Los Angeles region] lives up to all the Reading Partners values that I’ve come to love and internalize.” After a warm reception, Jill is feeling energized and ready to face any new challenge that might come her way.
There are many differences between Baltimore and Los Angeles, but Jill’s dedication to serving children in the community remains the same. From her personal experience, Jill sees an immense amount of work to be done in the fight for equitable education and social justice across the country. She understands that this work is not limited by state lines, and explains, “We face the same issues, whether you’re on the West Coast or the East Coast. So for me, my community isn’t a location, it’s about people that have a shared experience.”
For her, serving in AmeriCorps is about being part of something larger than herself and connecting to a community that exists in every city in America.
Family circumstances led Jill back to Los Angeles, and though she had not previously considered moving into a development role with AmeriCorps VISTA, she knew she wanted to remain with Reading Partners and perhaps learn a new skill. What she loves about serving with Reading Partners is the unique, multifaceted relationship the organization has between schools, community members, students, and the AmeriCorps/VISTA members. Jill not only appreciates the chance to work with students and educators in a school setting, but also values her role as a community mobilizer. In her words, “what we do is about more than student outcomes, [our work] gives people the opportunity to be the change that they want to see.” She enjoys the variation in her roles as an AmeriCorps member, and relishes the opportunity to work with many different parties for the common goal of literacy.
Transitioning from direct service to a capacity-building role as an AmeriCorps VISTA was an unexpected change, but it’s one that she welcomes. Jill hopes to one day direct a nonprofit organization, and she knows that this year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA is her opportunity to gain the skills crucial to launching a career in development. Jill’s experience in direct service gives her a special motivation in her new role as a VISTA.
Jill says, “Whenever you are working primarily behind the scenes, you have to be able to connect to what you are fighting for.” Because she has already established that connection, Jill is excited to relate a message about Reading Partners’ impact from her heart.