What is AmeriCorps?
This is the first question I remember asking myself going into my senior year. My senior year wasn’t the typical year most students would get. No pep rallies, no sports, no seeing my friends at lunch every day, but there was AmeriCorps.
Although I had little knowledge on what exactly AmeriCorps was, it was no stranger to me. Luckily, my sister was a former peer coach and fresh out the program. I remember seeing her in the iconic grey AmeriCorps shirt and wondering what that meant. Being a typical teenage sister, I didn’t bother asking. That was until I got asked if I was interested in being a peer coach. As most would, I said yes and then asked my sister what exactly I got myself into. Of course, her experience was much different than mine. Her year consisted of face to face meetings, events, etc. “Volunteering and helping others” is what she described it as. She isn’t wrong, this is what we do as peer coaches, but, AmeriCorps is more than that.
AmeriCorps takes peer coaching to a new level. Not only did I help others but also helped myself in the process. The workshops that AmeriCorps held were eye opening. They provided information about mental health, education, etc. Information that I would have never thought to expose myself to. Without AmeriCorps I would not have had access to such informal workshops. I learned about my peers and what I could do to help around my community. I have thoroughly enjoyed attending these workshops, events, and volunteering. Ideally, I would have wished that I could have served when there was not an ongoing pandemic, but my service was no less than great throughout my senior year. Elaine, Chelsea, and my supervisor Mr. Macias, made my AmeriCorps experience wonderful. They maintained an interactive persona through a screen, which can be very hard.
Dealing with me isn’t very easy, but they dealt with my questions and kept me motivated. What meant the most to me was that they were not just concerned on whether we were helping others, and getting our hours done, but they were concerned about me as a person. They understood that it is human nature to get tired and offered reassurance throughout my year. It was a great feeling to know that I could always send a message to any of these three amazing advisors and mentors when things were getting difficult for me. Driven to help, my fellow coaches and I held meetings with students, and offered emotional and physical support. We tutored students in math, English, science, spanish, etc. My favorite event was the FAFSA night we held at Desert View. The environment we created for students was welcoming and it showed me that students are often afraid to ask for help. But by offering our services for families, we were all able to help our high school community in providing financial aid information and helping them prepare for college.
I am a first-generation college student. Thankfully, I have two older sisters who have helped guide me on my high school to college transition. Even more, I had AmeriCorps. There are some things that I was not aware of until AmeriCorps. There were many reassuring lessons that AmeriCorps taught me about the transition to college, one of them being it is okay to be uncomfortable. While learning about the college transition, there was one big lesson I took out of it. We must be comfortable with being uncomfortable. Undeniably this transition is a big one. AmeriCorps made me feel like I was not alone. Indeed I was not, I had fellow peer coaches going through the same experiences, fears, but we allowed ourselves to navigate our own college transition through helpful training, such as Chelsea’s resume workshop. I for one, thought my resume was alright walking into the Zoom meeting. But then I saw Chelsea’s, and boy was I happy that I attended the workshop. She showed me that things I thought of as ordinary, are in fact tools to make us stand out. For example, being able to speak Spanish fluently. Undoubtedly, without AmeriCorps I would not have known the importance of applying early to schools and scholarships. I had dreamt of going out of state for school, so I did not pay much attention to in state schools. That was when my supervisor, Macias, urged me to apply to these three schools. I thought to myself, “These schools don’t matter”. I attended in-state virtual visits and got the attention of the University of Arizona. I applied to every and any scholarship AmeriCorps brought to my lap. Thankfully, I am now a current Dorrance scholar. Although I did not get every scholarship, I am grateful that Macias brought the Dorrance Scholarship to my attention, but I am not overwhelmed with amazing opportunities living on the U of A campus. Now that my experience with AmeriCorps is coming to an end, a much awaited end I should say, I reflect back onto my incoming senior self. I could not imagine myself without AmeriCorps and thankfully I do not have to. AmeriCorps is something I will always be proud to have been a part of, and will probably be on my resume for the rest of my life. Not only did I meet amazing leaders, I was presented leadership, education, organizational, and community learning opportunities. This program made a leader out of a girl who didn’t know she was one.