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AmeriCorps Alum Credits Teamwork and Need for Urgency in Journey to Be Fearless

November 19, 2012

This post originally appeared on the Case Foundation blog as part of our AmeriCorps Alums Be Fearless Series on November 14, 2012.

Despite my fear of heights, I found myself hanging off of the alpine tower challenge course out in the Berkshires as part of the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship’s fall retreat. My muscles were taut from scaling the climbing wall and slowly working my way up a cargo net and giant’s ladder duo. I reached one last grip and breathed a sigh of relief as I enjoyed the view from the top. Down below, I could hear some whistles and cheers. “Keep on going! Don’t give up!”

Wait, you mean I’m not done?

“You’ve got to stand on the platform up top, and you’re almost there. You can do it!”

I looked up at the platform. How do I climb up there from here?

Instead of dwelling on this question, I focused on one thought. I didn’t come this far to give up.

I reached for another grip and proceeded to pull myself up. When I realized I didn’t have a steady step for my foot, I climbed back down and reassured myself.

I know I can do this. Bring it on.

After trying a few different approaches, I found one that worked and finally hoisted myself onto the platform. Finally, I was able to stand up.

I made it.

But I wasn’t alone, as other Fellows joined me.

We made it.

Who knew that this experience set the tone for the rest of my year of service and beyond? It was a time of learning, of growth, and of change. My horizons expanded; my boundaries, redefined. Rather than resist change, I let it push me in new directions and usher me to new heights.

When given a budget of zero to organize a celebratory event for volunteers and alums, I secured free space and complimentary appetizers, solicited $2,500 in monetary and in-kind donations within two months, and achieved a record turnout of 100 attendees. When my supervisor left for a hard-to-turn-down opportunity halfway through my service year, I assumed many of her responsibilities and carried the team forward as the organization recruited a new manager. When I was presented with a new way of measuring program effectiveness, I embraced it. Using this new method to describe the program’s impact in several award applications, I ultimately won the program and organization two honors.

But that’s only half the story, for I could not have accomplished so much without the help of my fellow Massachusetts Promise Fellows and the Fellowship staff. When I started out searching for places that would donate space and in-kind donations, I asked other Fellows for advice and leads. When we Fellows identified a common goal to increase event attendance at our respective organizations, we brainstormed ideas on how to make it happen. When I was worried about my supervisor leaving, my Senior Fellow treated me out to noodles and dumplings and empathized with me. When I just started using a new model to describe program impact, I asked a former Fellow for tips and guidance. When I completed award applications for my host site, I ran them by the Fellowship staff to add another perspective that would strengthen the applications. No matter what questions I had or what challenges I faced, there was always someone in the Fellowship who could help.

Now, whenever I encounter a setback, I would remember my journey on the alpine tower challenge. I would hear the cheers, reassure myself, remember the breathtaking view from the top, and realize that I’m not alone.

Indeed, together we can overcome anything.

Anita Yip is a proud Massachusetts Promise Fellow and AmeriCorps Alum. In 2012, she won the Eli J. Segal AmeriCorps Alums Entrepreneurship Award and became a Segal Fellow. She currently works as the assistant director of corporate and foundation relations at her alma mater Wellesley College. This is the fourth in a series of blogs we’ll feature from City Year and AmeriCorps alumni about their journeys to Be Fearless through service. Read the firstsecond, and third posts.

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