October! I can’t believe it’s actually October. Pre-Service Training is over, the Volunteer Maryland Coordinators are all settling in at their organizations, and one Megan Stransky helped me figure out how to start blogging as myself instead of “volunteermaryland.” These are all good things to launch us into a new month.
One of my favorite parts of my work is getting to connect with our members, both Volunteer Maryland Coordinators and VISTAs. Towards the end of Pre-Service Training, we invited some VM alumni to join us to share their experiences as VMCs and make some recommendations. It’s always fun to see them and it’s particularly interesting to hear reflections on the VMC experience. This year, we had alumni from Class 17 (2004 – 2005) through Class 21 (2008 – 2009). Two of them are employed by their former VMC organizations and continue to work with volunteer programs they helped develop. The others went on to careers in social work, political campaigns, and information technology. Across the board, they are doing exciting and fulfilling work.
Reflections on their year with VM were important and powerful – and made me so glad they joined us during training. I tried to capture some of their advice (though, honestly, I couldn’t get it all). Here’s some of what they said to the new class of VMCs.
- Use your resources – all of them!
- Get to know your volunteers. Listen more and talk less.
- Set boundaries. Don’t be afraid to say “no.”
- Do service with other VMCs.
- Take advantage of the skills, experiences, and organizations of the other VMCs.
- Ask questions.
- Learn your organization.
- Don’t expect what you expect.
- A year is fast. Remember that during the tough times.
Of course, hindsight is always 20/20, right? Still, I think it’s helpful to know that there’s a great year ahead – a year of service, of learning, of changing expectations. It’s not going to be easy, but it’s going to be worth it. As an AmeriCorps Alum, I know this, and I’m always reenergized when I see how many alums appreciate the experience they had in their service year.
So you can understand how I glowed when one VM alum simply stated “My AmeriCorps year was one of the best experiences of my life.”