Why Fit in, When You Could Stand Out? Meet AmeriCorps Alums’ New Team Member!
Today’s guest blog is by Vanecia Thompson, AmeriCorps Alums’ new Development Coordinator (full bio below).
Growing up, my problem was feeling like I didn’t fit in. Some of that may come from being a middle child, and some might come from being born in Jamaica and moving to the United States. If there’s one thing I have learned as I’ve grown, it’s that Dr. Seuss has a prescription for any problem you may have.
“Why Fit In when You were Born to Stand Out?”
I’ve never fit into one category or clique. I loved drawing, playing sports, reading books, and tinkering with any new gadgets my parents brought home. I also loved creating new things and even had a brief stint as an entrepreneur selling lemonade and oatmeal crème pies outside of my house. No one could tell me I couldn’t like sports AND school or reading AND math. So, why do most of us keep thinking we have to be just one thing or fit into one group?
“Sometimes the Questions are Complicated and the Answers are Simple.”
While there wasn’t only one thing I liked to do, the chance to serve sparked something different in me. In the summer before ninth grade, I learned the meaning of philanthropy while attending Usher’s Camp New Look—and I’ve been hooked since. Throughout high school and college I went from participating in service projects to planning and leading the same projects.
“If you never did, you should. These things are fun and fun is good!” For me – that thing was service
“Oh the Places You will Go!”
As an AmeriCorps alum, I’m sure you can think back to the exact moment or sequence of events that led to service being your thing. Not just something you did once in a blue moon, but something you were willing to dedicate 10 months or 10 years of your life to doing.
I volunteered with Alternative Spring Break, Hands On Atlanta Summer Youth Fellows, National Youth Sports Program, Brooklyn Cemetery restoration and beautification, Trees Atlanta and various other local and faith-based initiatives. Each service opportunity built on the last and ultimately led to a commitment to the social sector and getting things done for America.
After learning about Teach For America (TFA) during my junior year at The University of Georgia, I knew teaching was my next step in the sequence of randomly, awesomely things I liked to do. It made perfect sense. Much to the chagrin of my parents, TFA was the only thing I applied for after undergrad. They didn’t see the connection between (paying for) a college degree and then choosing to serve as a teacher – but it made perfect sense to me.
“I Like Nonsense. It Wakes Up Brain Cells.”
Teaching in a high-needs elementary school in Jacksonville, FL, was no walk in the park, but I loved it. It allowed me to combine my varied interests while working for a cause I genuinely cared about. Outside of the day-to-day of teaching, I enjoyed the ability to make a long-term impact on my students. I had the chance to collaborate, lead, and innovate both in and out of the classroom.
Two things I am most proud of during my commitment are co-starting the first student art club at my school and planning a three-hour bus trip for 5th graders to the Florida Governor’s Mansion, the Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, and Florida State University.
“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
During and after my time in TFA, I continued to do the randomly, awesome things I like to do. I wouldn’t be the same person without them. This includes learning about electrical grid technology while interning with General Electric, serving as the editor of a branding book, interviewing entertainers, athletes and entrepreneurs as a freelance writer, interning for a startup marketing agency and traveling to a new state as often as possible. Although random to others, they made sense to me.
As the Development Coordinator with AmeriCorps Alums, I am excited to strengthen our relationship with employer and university partners as well as build new relationships. AmeriCorps Alums have experiences and stories that may seem random at first, but are great assets to any company, school or organization. Through our experiences in service, we have learned countless transferrable skills that are crucial in making our communities safer, smarter and healthier.
If you have any ideas or want to connect, please email me at email@example.com.
“And will You Succeed? Yes! You will Indeed! (98 and ¾ Percent Guaranteed).”
Vanecia Thompson Full Bio: Vanecia is a creative communicator with a passion for service, youth and non-profits. She graduated from The University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a New Media Certificate. After UGA, Vanecia served in AmeriCorps with Teach For America from 2013-2015 in Jacksonville, FL, as an elementary math and science teacher. Prior to joining the Alums team, she was a freelance writer and program coordinator for Usher’s New Look, a youth based non-profit. Vanecia enjoys art, photography, basketball and college football and brings a philosophy to “make something work, then make it work better” to everything she does.