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What Thousands of Hours in AmeriCorps Taught Me

May 4, 2012

Today’s guest post comes from Sarah Bradbury, a 2006-2007  AmeriCorps State Alum of Aftercare for Indiana through Mentoring (AIM). She holds an MPA from Indiana University Purdue University- Indianapolis and currently resides in Indianapolis. She works for a youth-serving nonprofit in the child welfare system as a volunteer and social media coordinator.

In her free time, she volunteers as a Big Sister, a Girls Inc program facilitator, and is the president of a young professionals outreach group connected to School on Wheels.

You can find her at

I spoke at a volunteer appreciation luncheon for one of my favorite organizations recently. We did a fun activity where we were asked to sit down once the organizers had read the number of lifetime volunteer hours we had completed for them. In a room of about fifty people, there were four of us left standing once we hit the 100 hour mark. I had no idea I had reached that number of hours. Sometime over the last six years, service has become a way of life, instead of just part of my life. I know I can credit this to the time I spent in AmeriCorps.

When I started my term in 2006, I used to count my hours all of the time. Mostly, I was in awe of what could be accomplished in 50 hours, in 100 hours, in 500 hours, and in over 1,000 hours. Fresh out of college, I didn’t have a concept of how many hours it would take until we “got something done for America.” I served as a state member with Aftercare for Indiana through Mentoring (AIM). I worked directly with incarcerated youth, helping them plan for a successful transition from prison back into the community. I also recruited, trained, and matched mentors with the youth so that they would have someone they could count on when they returned to the neighborhoods where they first got into trouble.

My pledge card really is still in my office, right next to the other things that motivate me.

AmeriCorps made me realize that we usually got the most things done when we weren’t counting. I carry that promise with me even now. (My original pledge card is on my bulletin board at work.) In your community, AmeriCorps members are making an impact every single day with their hours. After their term is over, they’re taking their skills to every state in the country, and they’re doing big things for the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

People ask me what I learned in AmeriCorps. Fundraising. Youth development and programming. Public speaking. Relationship building. Volunteer recruitment. Grant writing. Community collaboration. It will open your eyes to parts of your community and world that you didn’t know existed.

I spent a lot of time asking questions and learning about the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. I also learned that running a nonprofit organization was equal parts passion and skill. Ultimately, AmeriCorps inspired my decision to return to school and complete a masters in public affairs with a concentration in nonprofit management. I currently manage volunteers for a youth-serving nonprofit in Indianapolis. AmeriCorps taught me the best way to make an impact is to encourage and inspire as many people as possible to get involved. My professional and even personal life is spent helping others figure out what might motivate them to serve.

I don’t count my own hours anymore, but I’m proud of the contributions I make as a volunteer to organizations here in Indianapolis. I use my AmeriCorps skills every day, and whenever possible, I encourage other people to find out if national service is right for them.

What did thousands of hours of service teach you?

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