My Journey from an AmeriCorps Volunteer to a Professional Public Servant
Today’s guest blog comes to us from AmeriCorps alum Andrea Price who served from 1999-2000 with W. C. Whaley Elementary School in rural Monticello, AR. She holds a B.S. in Exercise and Sports Science from Texas Tech University and a Master’s degree in Sports Science from The United States Sports Academy. She graduated in 2013 from the University of Arkansas-Clinton School of Public Service with a Master of Public Service degree and an award as a top student. Since then, she has founded The Giving Net, an organization that focuses on philanthropy and civic engagement. She also works as the Statewide Philanthropy Outreach Director for the Arkansas Community Foundation.
While I was a college student, I served as an AmeriCorps Volunteer at a rural elementary school where I helped kindergartners with their reading skills. The students I worked with didn’t know their ABCs or letter sounds when I began my year with them. I worked directly with a reading specialist who gave me tools and resources to assist the students with learning letters, letter sounds, and even how to spell and write their names. At the end of my service year, the students were able to read and write, and I am forever grateful that I was able to witness their literacy transformations.
I loved service so much that I began looking for ways to turn it into a full-time career! During my Master’s in Sports Science program, I founded a health and fitness company that catered to citizens in rural communities where access to health and fitness services is limited. The company provided fitness curriculum for summer programs for youth in rural Arkansas and provided exercise classes to people in fellowship halls in churches. I was able to both serve my fellow citizens and do what I love. Pre- and post-exercise intervention tests were conducted for all participants, and all showed health and fitness improvements as a result of the programs. I led this company for four years.
I enjoyed what I was doing, but I realized the need for more civic engagement and philanthropy services in rural communities. That meant I needed more tools in my service toolbox, so I applied to and was accepted into the University of Arkansas-Clinton School of Public Service.
The experience at the Clinton School undoubtedly gave me the opportunity to combine my passion for service with practical experiences. During my time there, I analyzed backpack feeding programs for youth for the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, worked with young entrepreneurs in Belize to build their business skills, provided insight on corporate philanthropy to the Arkansas Community Foundation, learned invaluable lessons from my peers and professors and continued to build my service network.
During my last semester at the Clinton School, I co-founded The Giving Net, an organization dedicated to civic engagement, public service and philanthropy. Since its founding in 2013, The Giving Net has hosted innovative community conversations, facilitated unique, interactive political forums in rural communities, led arts and social change activities for youth in impoverished communities, blogged about civic engagement, public service and philanthropy, and hosted a podcast where guests from around the world shared their personal stories of service and inspired others to serve.
None of this would have been possible without AmeriCorps and that first fitness class in a rural Arkansas fellowship hall. I am forever grateful for my service experiences and my educational training, and I am glad to call myself a Professional Public Servant.
For me, AmeriCorps was a major part in a life I’ve dedicated to service. If you are an AmeriCorps member or alum looking to build a career out of your service year, I encourage you to become a well-rounded public service professional and continue to add tools to your service toolbox. Build relationships when you can, learn as much as you can, and serve where you can!