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With Nothing to Lose, I was “Made in AmeriCorps”

April 24, 2013
Americorps made me stronger, smarter and healthier :) #madeinamericorps #acweek #americorpsnccc - @usajadev

Americorps made me stronger, smarter and healthier 🙂 #madeinamericorps #acweek #americorpsnccc – @usajadev

Today’s guest post comes from Aja Devlin, AmeriCorps*NCCC Alum and current Service Corps Member at City Year Greater Philadelphia.

In January 2011 I was working behind the counter at a convenience store. I had given up on all of the dreams that everyone around me had dubbed ‘crazy’ and was close to accepting a life behind a counter. Right before the New Year, I had been invited to travel the country and help save the world through community service. A crazy idea, but life behind the counter had left me with nothing to lose. It’s a funny feeling when you have nothing to lose, you begin to notice how extremely free you are.

In February 2011 I took a life changing train ride to Baltimore. Within my first 15 minutes at my NCCC campus at Perry Point, MD I stood in a crowded gymnasium absolutely terrified. I didn’t know on that day that I was standing on the edge of an experience that would make me into someone I always wanted to be.

AmeriCorps made me into a wanderer. I’ve learned that ‘home’, like ‘comfort’ is a state of mind and I can find both anywhere. I learned while traveling with my team in our old 15P that the world stretches far beyond my own backyard and city boundaries. More importantly, home is where you’re needed, not necessarily where your DVD collection is.

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I never believed I had a lot. But during my term of service I was able to help those with much less. Some of these people and families had so much pride and love for what they did have; they never believed they didn’t have it all. This made me realize that I actually have a lot. AmeriCorps made me deeply appreciative of the small things: Sunrises. Sunsets. A warm bed. A roof. A true friend. A meal. A day off. AmeriCorps made me humble.

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AmeriCorps made me work harder than I ever had in my life and made me realize how good that feels. My vision of ‘impossible’ changed when I had a task before me that I thought couldn’t be done and my team and I would complete it in a matter of hours. There were days I could see the layers of dirt on my skin and every muscle I had ached. There wasn’t a single day it wasn’t worth it.

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AmeriCorps made me fall in love with my hometown all over again. I was given the opportunity to serve communities throughout the country, including the one needing me most; my own. After my AmeriCorps NCCC term I went back to Philly where I currently serve with City Year Greater Philadelphia. I serve on the Civic Engagement Team and we plan large scale service events throughout the city. Being able to bring my service experience home is something I’m grateful for.

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AmeriCorps made me believe that miracles come in the shape of people my age, at a time when I desperately needed a miracle. The friends and family I made while serving in AmeriCorps resurrected a part of me I thought had died behind the counter. They made me dust off those old dreams that were dubbed ‘crazy’, and then instilled in me a confidence and sense of comfort so that I always keep those dreams close.

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I always wanted to be strong. I always wanted to be the type of person who could stand and say, “I can handle that” about anything. But I had never really done anything to test myself or push myself beyond the things I already knew. AmeriCorps NCCC tested me everyday from the moment I walked into that gymnasium. Physically, mentally and emotionally putting me in places and situations I’d never been. After almost a year I felt invincible. 20 degree weather — I can sleep in that. 90 degree weather –I can work in that. Power tools — I can use those. Emergency– I can handle those. My voice– I know what to do with that now too. Put me in front of a crowd, I can speak. Take me to an old house that was damaged in Hurricane Irene and I’m the 1st one crawling through the dark, tiny crawl space beneath the floor.

I’m not saying after one term of AmeriCorps I’m Indiana Jones all of a sudden. However, I am more confident, wiser and better equipped to take on and serve the world, beyond being behind a counter. AmeriCorps made me resilient and unafraid to get dirty.

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My name is Aja Devlin. I am an AmeriCorps NCCC alumnus. I served out of the Atlantic Region Class XVII, Raven 4. I currently serve at City Year Greater Philadelphia and I was “Made in AmeriCorps.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2013 8:58 pm

    We are so proud to have Aja serving in City Year Greater Philadelphia. She brings us joy, talent and a “can do” attitude every day. Thank you for being you, Aja, and all you do to make our city, nation, and world better for all of us.

  2. Julie Fischer permalink
    April 30, 2013 1:16 pm

    Thank you Aja for sharing your story! I am currently a City Year NH team leader and you’ve reminded me how truly grateful I am for all the experiences and growth that Americorps has given me. Good luck with everything you do to change the world after this year is over 🙂

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