When the Road You Need Isn’t Found on a Map…
Today’s guest blog comes from Mandy Zoelzer who served with AmeriCorps VISTA in 2014 at the Mission: St. Louis and is now on staff as their Communications Coordinator. Mandy is also the Chapter Leader of the AmeriCorps Alums St. Louis Chapter. Alums can connect with the chapter on Facebook or by emailing Mandy.
Lost on the road, there’s an app for that. About to graduate from school with no clue where to head next? That app’s still in development.
I had just come back to the states after living in Australia for a year and had one wish – grow up and have a boring career job. I loved school, but I was graduating soon without a clue where to head next. My brother suggested AmeriCorps, a program I’d never heard of.
Late one night, I scoured the AmeriCorps position listings and applied for two. Both contacted me, and soon I was signing a contract for a Communications Coordinator position. I’d be planning events, fundraising and managing donor relations. Things I had never imagined doing.
But I did all of them and had a great experience! I got to know the nonprofit world, plan some stellar events, make lots of new contacts and meet some life-long friends. By August, I was offered a staff position as a Communications Coordinator with four VISTAs to work with over the next year.
I was hesitant at first to accept. I had planned on being a VISTA again. I loved it — I loved the community, the support, the job, the opportunity. And although a staff position is a step up, I wanted to stay connected with the VISTA roots I had begun to grow. Our Umbrella’s VISTA Services Manager suggested a great way to stay connected — the St. Louis AmeriCorps Alums chapter. I hadn’t even known the chapter existed, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it when I heard about it, and the only position left was Chapter Leader. So, Chapter Leader it was!
Similar to my start in AmeriCorps, I had no idea what I was getting into. I soon learned that our chapter is emerging as a supportive community and professional network for AmeriCorps alumni in St. Louis. I’m proud to share that this year the chapter held an Open House at Webster University, which matches the Education Award, hosted a Service Alliance-wide happy hour, and participated in a city-wide Martin Luther King Jr. Day event working alongside members from 15 of our current VISTA agencies.
Our work has been both rewarding and challenging. We’re building a community from the ground-up united by the belief that AmeriCorps is one of our most meaningful life experiences. To keep building on that experience, we need to find other alums, connect with them, and support them.
So if you are in the St. Louis area, we would love to have you join our chapter! Contact me for more information about our chapter or board positions. And if you’re not in St. Louis, explore the over 80 locations where AmeriCorps Alums has chapters.
Stay connected after service. Share your experience, your time, and your advice. I can’t wait to see what the chapter network can do together!