The following is a guest post from Patrice Beverly, Volunteer Maryland’s Outreach Manager and VM Alum.
September 15, 2010 was a big one for me. Nope, it wasn’t a big birthday ending in a zero. I didn’t have a health episode, and I didn’t win the lottery. My daughter, Grace became an AmeriCorps member. Grace, a recent college graduate, was finding that teaching positions were few and far between, and the idea of working at the local steak house chain was not what she saw herself doing. So she looked at AmeriCorps as a way to gain skills, and to be in a position that could make a difference. With a true educator’s mindset, Grace serves as the Volunteer Maryland Coordinator with Digital Harbor High School engaging volunteers in tutoring and mentoring programs, and bringing in more parent volunteers.
Grace had heard a good bit about AmeriCorps; I mean how could she avoid it? Her mom is an AmeriCorps alum and staff member of Volunteer Maryland. She heard stories of AmeriCorps members and met them when they came to dinner at our house. She proudly wore an AmeriCorps hoodie to her high school. There is an AmeriCorps sticker on the family van that carried all of her belongings to and from college for four years. And a few summers Grace helped me with database entry at my office. Service and making a difference were not just words in our home, but what got her mom up in the morning.
I will be honest with you; I never really thought Grace would become an AmeriCorps member. I can remember talking with her about NCCC, and the team living, and the amazing projects they work on, and how much she could learn by serving others in new communities. Grace eventually said, “You know mom, I am not much of an outdoor girl.” I still smile when I think of that moment. It is one of those moments as a parent that you realize that your child is growing up, and ready to make their own decisions. So when this idea of AmeriCorps came up last summer, my conversation with Grace focused more on the realities of AmeriCorps service. AmeriCorps is hard.
Beyond the really – and I mean really – basic living stipend, AmeriCorps members are placed in tough situations. Helping people who are in desperate need; taking on tough environmental challenges; giving a voice to the often forgotten in our society, the gritty side of our country that we often pass by quickly in our cars, or avoid eye contact when passing. I wanted her to know that this would challenge her in more ways then she could imagine, and she would lose hope many times, and feel often that there was little to no change despite her efforts. I can remember during these conversations feeling afraid that I was crushing her little optimist heart. But it was important for her to know that AmeriCorps service is not something to enter into without some good thought.
As promised, Grace is finding AmeriCorps hard, but meeting those challenges head on. She has great support from the school she works with, and continues to find ways to bring in volunteers, and get parents more involved. I am so proud of her. I have many friends who would love nothing more than for their kids to go to their alma mater. I have come to realize that service is my alma mater. I love that Grace is an AmeriCorps member. She came to this decision on her own, but as a parent of a child doing AmeriCorps there is nothing better. We talk of instilling morals in our children, well this personifies. Giving time and effort to a cause that really has no personal gain for yourself beyond the hope that you can help.
I have three great kids, and I am sure my sons Jack and Parker are wondering if AmeriCorps is in their future. Boy, wouldn’t I love to do two follow up blogs about their service, but that is for them to decide. But I know without question that service will be a part of their lives as well. We may not have a fight song, or a cute or imposing mascot, but make no mistake; there is a service nation out there, and I am honored to join my daughter in it. Love you, Grace.