Service has changed my life. That sounds like hyperbole, but it really has. Ten years ago, I dropped out of college a couple of classes short of graduation. I was dealing with depression and a severe lack of purpose and self-worth. I knew I wanted to make a difference, but at the time I didn’t feel like I had anything to give or anywhere to direct that need. After several years of trying to figure myself out, I took a leap into a job that gave me the opportunity to work with expectant and new mothers, to help them find products for their family but also to provide support and help them access resources when they were struggling. I finally felt like myself again.
When that company closed, I was so scared I wouldn’t find that connection, that passion for helping, again. And then I remembered AmeriCorps. At 35, I again took a leap into something amazing: I became an AmeriCorps VISTA member and went back to college at the same time! The year I’ve served has been amazing, challenging, rewarding, and life changing. I have helped feed people in need, provide access to resources that didn’t exist before, worked to prevent waste by diverting useful items to underserved communities, and found out just how much I have to offer. Knowing what I’m capable of and that others recognize what I have to give has reignited the flame for me.
I’m about to start my second year of service with AmeriCorps VISTA and I couldn’t be happier or more excited. I will graduate in the spring, having so far maintained a 4.0 while serving full time. I am beginning the process of graduate school applications and planning for a future full of helping people. The Education Award will go a long way to making this possible. I only wish that service had found me sooner. I wish every young person, especially those that are struggling or unsure, had the gift of a year of making a difference. It would change the world.