When I first told my family and friends that I wanted to do an AmeriCorps year of service most of them either did not know what AmeriCorps was or were concerned I’d be giving up too much to “work a full time job that hardly pays anything”.
My explanation to them was always quite simple: Because it’ll be worth it.
I originally applied for an AmeriCorps NCCC position, was accepted and unfortunately had to turn down the opportunity as I had personal conflicts that would interfere with the start date. Little did I know that would not be the end of my experience with AmeriCorps. A few months later, I applied for a part time position with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass/MetroWest (BBBS of CMMW). During my interview with the agency staff members, they had a proposition for me: perform an AmeriCorps year of service as a Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring in conjunction with my part-time, 10 hour/week position with the agency. The AmeriCorps opportunity seemed to fall in my lap once again and I wasn’t going to turn it down this time.
And I’m glad I didn’t.
Over the course of the year I have gained more than I could have imagined, but I will highlight the three most important things this opportunity has given me: a sense of confidence, an appreciation for teamwork, and an understanding of the importance of mentoring.
“You’re going to take on a recruitment role? But you hate talking to new people!”
Again, when I first introduced the position to my family and friends, they had their doubts. This time for a different reason. This particular position involved recruiting, marketing, and running programs. Anyone who knew me before I took on this role knew that I could be very reserved and generally reticent depending upon the situation. I took the position anyway, to challenge myself. It was a risk, but I overcame the apprehension of “talking to new people”. It took time but it started to become easy. I still have a lot of growing to do, but I have seen a major difference in myself over the past year. I have learned that without confidence, I’m limiting myself.
I would still be lacking the confidence I needed to be successful in this role if it weren’t for my supportive coworkers here at BBBS of CMMW or for the amazing people that make up the Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassadors of Mentoring. At the very first Corps meeting I attended we completed a work personality test. We were categorized as a North, South, East or West. After taking the test, I was clearly a South; a team player, non-confrontational, sensitive, helpful. I took the test back to my host site at BBBS of CMMW and had my coworkers complete it as well. It was no wonder we all worked so well together. To my North was Katherine, an assertive, confident and natural leader to keep me on track and push me to do my best. I had Stephanie to my West, who is a creative, innovative, free-spirit to help me not worry about the little things and provide us all with a consistent positive attitude. And to my East I had Dawne, a natural planner, and focused, quality centered woman to provide me with support along the way and a focus on what’s important. Together we completed the compass. Through this, I have come to appreciate and now put high value on working with a team.
The final, and quite possibly, most significant thing I will take from this experience is an understanding of the importance of mentoring. Growing up I wouldn’t have said that I had a mentor but now that I have seen firsthand how a mentoring relationship works and the impact it can have on both the mentor and the mentee, I realize I was mistaken. Between my sisters, parents, family members and teachers, I had (and still have) more than I can count. I’m fortunate to have so many positive, caring and supportive relationships in my life. Through this experience I have learned that, all too often, children do not have the same fortune I did growing up. Some kids don’t have someone to tell them they did great on that test or that everything will be ok when hardship surfaces. It is because of programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters and the countless other mentoring organizations across the United States that kids are given the opportunity to have a piece of the fortune I had as a child.
As my experience as a Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring comes to a close, I have a bittersweet feeling swirling in my stomach. I am feeling proud and accomplished for completing a year of service and dedicating my time to an organization that does amazing work. I am feeling enlightened after serving with such a diverse, unique and talented Corps of people I can now call friends. I am feeling grateful for the opportunity I have been given to learn, grow and truly experience what it’s like to work in the nonprofit field. And I am feeling saddened by the idea that this experience is ending.
Thank you to the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Mass / MetroWest staff, the Mass Mentoring Partnership staff, the Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassadors of Mentoring, and especially my family and friends for the tremendous support along the way.
It was worth it.