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Jim's Story


While a student at Vanderbilt University, I participated in volunteer activities such as Alternative Spring Break. These service-learning experiences sparked my desire to do something for the greater good. After graduating in 1993, instead of pursuing a career anthropology or computer science, which I studied, I decided to get involved in volunteerism and service. However, beyond the Peace Corps, I did not know what opportunities were available, so I took a temporary job while looking for something meaningful. In the summer of 1994, a friend told me about a new national service program called AmeriCorps that was soon starting in Nashville. It did not take much convincing for me to decide that AmeriCorps was the service I had been waiting for. I joined the first class of AmeriCorps and dedicated a year to serving low-income senior citizens in the TenneSenior Service Corps. I traveled throughout thirteen counties in Middle Tennessee holding health fairs at senior citizen centers. Through health screenings, we routinely found seniors with dangerously high blood pressure, blood glucose, or cholesterol. Many of these senior citizens had not seen a doctor in years, so we were catching previously undetected, potentially life-threatening problems. We also provided minor in-home service projects for low-income senior citizens in the region. It warmed my heart at how grateful the seniors were for these projects. They were mostly small things – repairing rotted floorboards on a porch or painting a house for the first time in years – but these were things that would have gone undone if not for our AmeriCorps program. My AmeriCorps service was so rewarding that I did not mind the financial hardships caused by the small living allowance we received at the time. It was so rewarding that it led me to dedicate my career to national service. I went on to co-direct the TenneSenior Service Corps, and later I joined the staff at Volunteer Tennessee, the state service commission that oversees AmeriCorps programs in the state. Service truly changed the direction of my life.