Through a Service Year … and Beyond!
Today’s guest blog is written by City Year AmeriCorps alum Amanda Panciera. Amanda is a Franklin Project Ambassador through the Service Year Alliance, an AmeriCorps Alums Milwaukee Chapter Leader, and a member of the Serve Wisconsin InterCorps Council. This post is part of the AmeriCorps Alums-led #AmeriGrad project, a yearly initiative that celebrates graduating AmeriCorps members and all AmeriCorps grads by connecting them to the Alums network, each other, and to Alums’ career supports.
Remember the excitement when you first began serving with AmeriCorps? You’d just received your cool new AmeriCorps gear, met awesome fellow AmeriCorps members, heard about the difference you were going to make, and you were like …
Then you got to work and realized how much had to be done.
But you knew you couldn’t give up. You had the opportunity to make a difference and learn along the way, so with a motto of “Getting Things Done” guiding you, you did just that. You worked with others, found your path, and set out to meet your community’s needs.
Before you knew it you were completing your term; it seemed like you were just getting the hang of your role, and now it was nearly over! You made it to the end (say, to infinity) … but you felt like you still had work to do. So what was beyond?
After I completed my service with AmeriCorps, I knew there had to be a “beyond.” The experience I had, perspective I gained, and person I’d become couldn’t just stop because my year of service had. I realized how many more young people were following behind me, unaware of the opportunities they had to become part of something much larger than themselves, and I had a role to play in supporting them on a path to service.
I decided to serve on the local and national City Year alumni boards to help foster a strong community of service alumni who could support the Corps in their year of service. Through the planning of socials, networking events, mentoring opportunities, and advocating for the expansion of national service, I continued to grow personally and professionally AND grew my network of like-minded individuals committed to making a difference. You could do this, too, by checking out local AmeriCorps Alums chapters in your area or finding out if your AmeriCorps program has alumni initiatives for you to get involved in (or start!).
When I decided to move halfway across the country, I was selective in choosing a city I knew had a strong AmeriCorps presence. When I found myself close to home in Milwaukee, WI, one of the first groups I connected with was the AmeriCorps Alums chapter. Here, I found local connections to a cool, diverse group of people I otherwise wouldn’t have met, and it connected me back to service in my new community.
Through working with my new Milwaukee friends to re-start our AmeriCorps Alums chapter, I was connected to and eventually invited to participate in the launch of the InterCorps Council of Wisconsin (ICC). The ICC, comprised of currently serving AmeriCorps and VISTA members, Senior Corps, and alumni, has worked collaboratively to build a stronger national service community across our state. We started a quarterly newsletter to educate our network on how we are serving Wisconsin, share inspiring stories, and connect members to resources to further their impact. We started using social media to give all programs a single platform to communicate and connect. We compiled a recruitment toolkit, comprised of best practices from across the state, to support programs in their annual search for their next class of AmeriCorps members. We hosted a video contest for AmeriCorps members and teams to creatively tell us why they love their service. We created a “Life After AmeriCorps” web presentation which easily and quickly explains all there is to know about completing a year of service and connecting to the larger AmeriCorps network.
Maybe our most fun idea was the travels of ServieBadgers – Eli (after Eli Segal) and Corey. These two stuffed badgers have traveled all over Wisconsin (and across state lines!) to connect program to program and help tell stories about the impact Corps members are having on Wisconsin communities. What started as a fun little idea turned into a physical representation of service connections across the state, giving us an innovative way to tell the story of national service in Wisconsin. The badgers’ travels and photos have been regularly shared on social media throughout the year, and they’ve even had their photo taken with Wendy Spencer, the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service!
Over the past year, I’ve been so proud to go “beyond” with my fellow InterCorps Council members and know that this initiative will give many future alumni the opportunity to continue serving beyond their term.
I encourage you to do the same. Join AmeriCorps Alums, the only national organization for alumni of all AmeriCorps programs that supports and equips talent in the social sector so that all people can thrive in strong communities. Sign up at www.AmeriCorpsAlums.org! Through your connection with Alums and other national service organizations, you’ll be able to find fellow alumni in your community and learn where your help is needed. We are always needed and welcomed back into the service community. Long after service, we can continue our civic engagement and support the service of those who follow us. When we work together, it’s a beautiful thing.
Congratulations to the new AmeriCorps grads of 2016; we look forward to what comes next!