Two years ago today I sat in the office of the Carlisle branch of John's Hopkins Center For Talented Youth and faced a life altering decision. I had just graduated from Dickinson College and was wrapping up my summer job and I was trying to decide what I was going to do with the next year of my life.
Earlier that week I had received a call from Arizona Serve, where the Tucson branch of Americorps VISTA was located. They offered me a position working as a Community School Coordinator implementing the Tucson Community Schools Initiative at Flowing Wells High School. I would be working to bring resources and opportunities from the community into my high school for students to access in order to help ensure graduation and post graduate success, which would in turn help our students and community to end the cycle of poverty.
I thought the decision would be hard, considering I would have to move across the country to a city that I knew no one in doing a job that paid very little and demanded every members all. But I found as I sat there and thought about it that it was actually a pretty easy choice. I wanted to be working with students, aiding a social justice initiative, and focusing on sustainable efforts that work to empower the community- so I said yes and jumped right in.
When I found myself sitting on a rock in the desert a year later, on my last day before leaving Arizona, I thought about the year I had had with Americorps. I thought of the programs I had created and the students I had connected with; I thought of all of the other members I had had the opportunity to work with and all the hours we had worked hand-in-hand together to create the Community Schools Initiative from the ground up, handing it off as it began its second year; I thought about the seniors I had gotten to watch graduate, with smiles on their faces and plans for the future in place.
It was a long journey, learning a new school system and starting an initiative citywide and at my school. The lessons I learned and skills I gained working with both school staff and Americorps members have been instrumental to all the work I've done since as a teacher and volunteer.
Today I face the same decision as that of two years ago: whether or not to join Americorps VISTA, this time returning to service knowing everything I know now. And once again the decision was easy. I loved the work I did through AmeriCorps previously and the support that I found from both Arizona Serve and national members.
I didn't even need the 24 hours, when they asked if I would serve I said yes confidently. Americorps definitely isn't a picnic and there are many challenges you face in your year of service, but the rewards of creating and implementing initiatives as well as helping your community to grow are exponential.
I am so excited to start working as an Americorps Vista member serving at Merit Health Leadership Academy through the Maryland Out of School Time network giving back to my hometown of Baltimore. I will once again have the chance to create an initiative from it's start and to coordinate with community school coordinator's as I help Merit to create middle school programming and resources for their ongoing effort to promote post academic success in STEM career paths. I I look forward to what I know will be another rewarding and challenging year of service.
By Jessica Libowitz