December 22, 2016
The hidden benefits of AmeriCorps service
Across the country, over 350 AmeriCorps members have dedicated a year of service to making a difference with Reading Partners. Although we all come from different backgrounds, when we put on our gear and rock the ‘A’, there is a common bond that unites us.
It is no secret that joining AmeriCorps comes with its share of sacrifices. After all, members sign up for a year of service, pledging to get things done to strengthen communities while living on a modest stipend. Yet, since 1994 over 800,000 people have served in programs across the country. So why are people so pumped about AmeriCorps?
I like to think about it like this: AmeriCorps is the perfect answer for…well, everybody. For people who are just kicking off their careers and are in the endless cycle of “you need a job to get experience, you need experience to get a job…” For people who may have already gotten their foot in the door are looking for something fulfilling and awesome to expand their horizons. Even for people like me, who start their AmeriCorps journeys with more questions than answers about who they are and what they want to do for the rest of their lives: AmeriCorps offers a path and meaningful experience for anybody willing to serve.
AmeriCorps works because it:
- Provides challenging and enriching career experiences
- Encourages professional development
- Establishes a healthy network of professionals and mentors
- Fosters a culture of diversity, inclusion, and civic engagement that continues for years to come
Challenging and enriching career experiences
Service with AmeriCorps isn’t easy. Many of us are tasked with stepping into our first grown-up job and may start off feeling insecure about what kind of impact we really can make. Through our initial and ongoing trainings and close guidance by our program managers, AmeriCorps members are able to gain confidence and skill development that will prepare them to enter the workforce after their service.
Throughout a member’s service term, opportunities for development in areas of individualized interest are cultivated. This may include having the chance to do some public speaking, event planning, or organizing. Many AmeriCorps programs offer themed webinars and trainings that give members a chance to learn more about nonprofit work. Through serving with Reading Partners, members are challenged with tasks that help us learn what it is like to work in school settings with community partners and students, as well as how to recruit volunteers and manage databases. This experience will be useful for all of us no matter what our next steps are after our year of service is complete.
One of the greatest benefits of service is networking and making new connections! For a lot of people, networking can be a daunting task. AmeriCorps members make new connections and friends across the country—no matter where we go after our service term ends, we will always be united through our experience of service.
The AmeriCorps alumni community is strong; from résumé help to references, members know that there are people and resources available to help them reach their goals. For example, in Reading Partners Charlotte, current AmeriCorps members have established a tight-knit bond that has been such a wonderful source of support, encouragement, and building new relationships. We are able to lean on each other for everything from asking questions, to receiving encouraging words, to life-after-AmeriCorps brainstorming!
A culture of diversity, inclusion, and civic engagement
My favorite thing about AmeriCorps service is that it brings diverse people together from so many different walks of life. This is an invaluable benefit that helps us not only grow as professionals, but also as people. We learn about folks who have different experiences from us as we work and laugh together. We find friendship and mentorship in places we may not have even thought to look, and I believe this changes how we view folks outside of AmeriCorps as well.
Many of us are inspired to volunteer outside of our service at Reading Partners or are encouraged to pursue a second or third year of service. At some point, it begins to feel less like work, and more like a natural way of life to give back and care about all people. This is especially true for the Reading Partners Charlotte AmeriCorps team. An all-female team, we come from all over and offer our own perspectives. We have been able to collaborate, compromise, and learn so much from one another. Many Reading Partners Charlotte AmeriCorps members volunteer with other organizations in their free time as well.
The beautiful thing about service is that those who choose to donate their time to service stand to make a huge difference. I have been honored to serve alongside some of the most talented and generous individuals I’ve known, and I continue to see this passion come alive everyday I serve with Reading Partners Charlotte.
Reading Partners does more than just get kids pumped about reading—it helps students see themselves in a new light. Through inspiring others, we become inspired. Reading Partners AmeriCorps members stand to learn as much as they teach.
Reading Partners provides children across the country with the opportunity to hone a vital and necessary skill that is a fundamental tool for learning: the ability to read. The program also provides continuous encouragement for students. Serving with Reading Partners reminds us that at different points we all needed a little extra help here or there, that when we’ve been discouraged, someone has cared enough to work with us with patience and good cheer. Reading Partners allows each of us to give back in the same manner as someone else may have given to each of us in the past. As an AmeriCorps member and member of the Reading Partners team, I strive to bring hope and inspiration to the young students who need it the most.