Michelle Nunn Remembers the AmeriCorps Alums From Her Service Tour
This summer, Points of Light CEO Michelle Nunn traveled cross country for five weeks in a van (Doesn’t that sound a lot like NCCC?) with her family on a service tour visiting with volunteer leaders and civic innovators. Many of those change leaders she met happened to be AmeriCorps Alums and members who were helping to drive civic change in their communities.
Though initially unplanned, many of the meetings Michelle had scheduled with individuals were due to them doing cool and innovative ventures in their cities. It wasn’t until after meeting with these individuals, like Britney McClain at PUSH in Buffalo, NY or Jenny Craft at The Scott Foundation in Sheridan, WY, that she later found out that they were Alums.
Many of those who she met shared that AmeriCorps was the catalyst in their lives that inspired them to continue to serve and lead as the new generation of nonprofit leaders. It connects with AmeriCorps Alums’ mantra that your term is just the beginning of living out your Lifetime of Service.
We interviewed Michelle Nunn to learn more about her service tour and the amazing Alums she met along the way.
- Describe one notable encounter with an AmeriCorps Alum.
There were many Alums who I met during my travels that stand out in my mind. It seemed like every dynamic and entrepreneurial venture started their journey as AmeriCorps members. They were all community change agents who fell in love with the communities they served in and helped to find solutions to help their cities. An Alum I remember well is Susan Winans from Milwaukee, WI.
Susan serves as the volunteer coordinator at the Urban Ecology Center, a three branch environmental community center created by volunteers. She came to Milwaukee to serve as an AmeriCorps member and stayed to work with this fantastic organization doing great work in Riverside Park.
- Is there a specific venture or project that either an Alum or current service member is currently taking on that stands out in your mind?
An Alum’s venture that stands out in my mind is Dani Swope, a former Teach for America math teacher and mother of four, and The Children’s Book Bank in Portland, Oregon that she founded. Dani wanted the books her children had outgrown to go directly to families and children who needed them. One day, she packed up her books, took them to local Head Start programs and quickly earned the title of “book lady.”
Dani credits HandsOn volunteers for over half of the total volunteer hours at The Children’s Book Bank. The volunteers help in the donation, sorting, and distribution of over 96,000 books to children in Multnomah County. Dani’s impulse to share her love of books and her own children’s beloved library with other kids ignited a civic movement of caring families and volunteers.
She is one of many AmeriCorps Alums who continues to inspire innovation in their life after AmeriCorps.
- How did your trip affirm your beliefs held in AmeriCorps alumni?
Meeting the Alums during the service tour helped to solidify my belief in AmeriCorps Alums as the pipeline for future leaders. The AmeriCorps experience helps to prepare and cultivate civic entrepreneurs and activists, shaping the future of our civic life, business, and government. The AmeriCorps experience is and can serve as a leadership corps with members understanding how to take on the challenges of our community and nation.
- How can Alums nationwide continue to be engaged with HandsOn Network affiliates?
Both AmeriCorps Alums and HandsOn Network have amazing connections to change agents as I saw in Buffalo with The Service Collaborative of Western New York. I’d hope that Alums will look to using Affiliates as a base to work with their chapters and that Affiliates will seek out Alums to be leaders in the organizations, whether it be as board members, project leaders, or as staff members.
- Many Alums have begun to take on “voluntouring” as part of their life after AmeriCorps. What’s one piece of advice you’d offer from your own voluntouring experience?
I learned a lot embarking on my five week service tour; it is great way to know a place that you’re visiting & the local people who are living and working in the community. As you travel, be open to the new experiences you’ll encounter in the places you visit. For Alums planning their own trip, think of AmeriCorps Alums as a network to call on during your travels. You can find a project to serve with, individuals to meet and/or stay with, and much more.
It’s all about taking that first step in making the journey and it doesn’t all have to be planned from the start as serendipity will carry you a long way.
- One word to describe the Alums you met on your service trip.
I’ll use two - passionate and committed. Like Alex Selig, a recent AmeriCorps Alum from Sheridan, WY who was looking to connect his service experience and still make a career for himself, I would hope for Alums to use the alumni network to connect with those who’ve already made a career.
Read all of Michelle Nunn’s Service Tour blog posts here.