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AmeriCorps Alums Work at Points of Light!

March 14, 2012

Today’s post comes from Michael Nealis, Interactive Strategy Coordinator with Points of Light. He served as an AmeriCorps member with Volunteer Maryland from 2008-2010.

If it hadn’t been for AmeriCorps, I never would have gotten a job that seems like it was custom made for me.

Every day I come to work I play in a wonderland of data and try to find out the best way to inspire people to volunteer and honor the achievements of the volunteers around them.

Five years ago, my awesome job of awesomeness wasn’t in the realm of possibility. I was on my way to getting a PhD and researching how people perceive volunteer experiences based on whether the experience was required by their school to graduate or completely voluntary. I hadn’t done much in the way of volunteering and knew nothing about social media.

During my first year in AmeriCorps, I was working with a program that I didn’t know a lot about. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time asking my program staff a lot of questions, mostly because I wanted to look like I was competent and a little bit because I just wanted to figure things out for myself. I read a lot about how to build and manage volunteer programs, but couldn’t find a lot about specific problems I was having – like how do you trick a database into doing something it was never designed to do, or how do I work with people who feel like volunteers are threatening their jobs?

My ‘Aha moment’ came when I was having dinner with two friends.

“You should check out this Twitter thing, I think you’ll like it…”

So I checked out this Twitter thing. It didn’t really appeal to me, but I checked it out anyhow because I trusted my friend. I got hooked when I found out that I could win stuff on it. I really got hooked when I started asking people on Twitter about problems that I was having with my volunteer program and people from different programs answered in different ways.

I started to learn more about how people used different social media platforms to communicate, and in my second service year I started working with nonprofits to show them how they could use social media to expand the reach of their organization.

Michael at the LEAD Summit in 2010

My future was written for me when I went to a small summit that HandsOn Network put on in DC highlighting how nonprofits can use social media well. The keynote speaker was talking about how ‘kids these days’ aren’t engaged in their communities, and saying this to a room that was half full of the ‘kids these days.’ I started talking about the speaker being out of touch on Twitter, and shortly afterwards a woman came up to me, showed me her phone with a tweet I’d just sent, and said, “Is this you? We need to talk after this.”

I thought I was going to get chewed out for talking out about the keynote speaker. It turned out that it was the first step in getting the job I have now.

If it hadn’t been for my friends and a supportive AmeriCorps program staff, I never would have come to Points of Light. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to learn about how to use social media to mobilize volunteers and share information and I wouldn’t have met the nonprofit leaders and volunteers who are doing great things across the country.

AmeriCorps gave me an opportunity to learn something that led me to my first career. It’s why I am AmeriCorps and why I always will be. It’s proof that AmeriCorps works. I’m proof that AmeriCorps works.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Maureen permalink
    March 14, 2012 9:44 am

    Yeah, Michael! Definitely proof that AmeriCorps works – and works in many different ways. Thanks for continuing to serve!

  2. Barb Cooke permalink
    March 16, 2012 10:04 am

    Michael, you are an inspiration, thank you!

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