An InnerView Reflection: How a Kentucky Campus Compact VISTA Shares Her Service Story!
Today’s guest blog comes to us from Lauren Gabbard, an AmeriCorps VISTA currently serving with Kentucky Campus Compact. Lauren graduated from Northern Kentucky University in 2015 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Economics. Lauren’s dedication to community service, justice, and diversity motivated her to serve with AmeriCorps, where she is currently working on projects to encourage student civic engagement as Kentucky Campus Compact’s Student Initiatives Coordinator.
With my year of service coming to an end soon, I’m feeling very reflective. When I started serving with Kentucky Campus Compact (KyCC) last fall, I was a recent graduate struggling to find my place in the world. I knew service to my community was important, but I couldn’t see how I could face the enormous effects of poverty, inequality, and injustice and actually make a difference.
I began my year of service with the hope that encouraging students to get involved in their communities would be a good start. Well, it’s been more than that!
This year has given me the amazing opportunity to work on projects that affirm my values and passion for strong, engaged communities. I believe in building healthy, supportive communities where people connect around issues they care about. When citizens connect to use their voices and work together, we can empower each other to impact poverty. With KyCC, I’ve been able to work on projects that encourage students to take on active roles in their communities.
As the Student Initiatives and InnerView Coordinator, I’ve worked with students to build civic engagement, share their stories of service, and work to support their communities. I’ve been able to find my place as a leader, use my passions, develop new skills, meet new people, and travel around Kentucky. AmeriCorps has given me such an amazing year, I’ve already re-enrolled to serve again! Let me walk you through some of the highlights of my year to share what’s made this experience so great.
I’ve been using a digital platform called InnerView to share my story, keep track of my service activities, and connect with others around the issues I’m passionate about. Everything I’ve accomplished during my year of service is captured on my InnerView page. Check it out and send me a connection request!
One of the best things about working with KyCC is that we serve the entire state of Kentucky. We are a member organization of colleges and universities across the state, and I’ve been able to use our network to connect with students, faculty, and staff all over Kentucky. By connecting with students and visiting their campuses to spread the word about KyCC’s programs, I’ve been to places like Lindsey Wilson College, Transylvania University, Centre College, Kentucky State University, Northern Kentucky University, and more! I’ve made partnerships with organizations such as the Bonner Scholars and Alphi Phi Omega to increase student involvement, and was even invited to speak at Lindsey Wilson College’s Bonner Orientation this August.
I’ve also coordinated with another AmeriCorps program, the Kentucky College Coaches, where I presented a training about the ways high school students can use InnerView to highlight their service and connect with opportunities. I was invited to visit Edmonson County High School, where I motivated students to work toward accomplishing the UN Global Goals by serving their local communities. Connecting with students all over Kentucky has been a rewarding and validating experience, and I’m excited to see a commitment to service echoed across my home state.
One of my biggest projects with KyCC has been to create a Student Advisory Board. I took advantage of the Volunteer Management VISTA Blend course where I learned about creating volunteer roles, recruitment, screening, matching, orientation, and training. The course was a huge help; it gave me the skills I needed to recruit and manage our Student Advisory Board. I was even able to recruit 12 students to serve with us! I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish this year as I work with these talented and dedicated students.
Serving with KyCC has also opened up opportunities to participate in large-scale events, such as the Shaping our Appalachian Region (SOAR) Innovation Summit, where I was able to talk with innovators across Appalachia working to strengthen the region and make Kentucky a more prosperous state.
I also traveled to Detroit to attend the Points of Light Conference on Volunteering and Service, where I encouraged attendees to dedicate 75 hours of service in honor of Muhammad Ali’s 75th birthday. I had the opportunity to network and speak with amazing people from all over the world, including Lonnie Ali, wife of the late Muhammad Ali, and CNCS CEO, Wendy Spencer. This summer I traveled to Charleston to attend the Civic Life Institute, led by the West Virginia Center for Civic Life. The two-day Institute prepared me to encourage community conversations and connect citizens to build the civic infrastructure of Kentucky’s communities. These opportunities have opened up so many doors, strengthened KyCC’s network, and contributed to my personal growth in ways that I’ll always be thankful for.
During this year of service, I’ve learned so much about myself, my community, my state, and the meaning of service. I begun as a person unsure of my place in the world, but I have emerged as a hard-working, confident, and passionate person.
I see myself as a leader, a connector, and an activist; and I know now that I have the conviction and support I need to succeed. AmeriCorps has given me this conviction and support, as well as the tools, skills, and professional development to set me on a path of growth.
I feel sound in my commitment to strong communities and my dedication to local and global service, and I’m excited to live life and see where it takes me!
Thank you for joining me on this reflection. Don’t forget to send me a connection request on InnerView!