Inhale Deeply, Exhale Slowly

Rarely have I taken the time to reflect on how my life has changed since I joined AmeriCorps in 2010.  I can rattle off a list of ways my AmeriCorps experience has prepared me for a career in law, which I will highlight next week; however, recognizing how AmeriCorps has effected me  on a personal level is not a regular occurrence.  Now that I am taking the time to inhale experiences and exhale memories, one memory stands out as one I cherish.  On December 4, 2010 I was asked to volunteer for the Delaware HIV/AIDS Youth Forum in Wilimington.  Like the rest of the world, I had heard of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, but had not been active in spreading awareness.  That all changed that day.

Delaware AmeriCorps member, left, and IWhile working the registration table and directing people to the auditorium, I spotted an AmeriCorps logo on a sweatshirt from across the room.  Without thinking, I made a “B” line for that sweatshirt and introduced myself as a fellow AmeriCorps member.  We made small talk and I learned that she was serving in Delaware.  She explained why she was attending the event and how  important it is for people who have not been diagnosed with HIV or AIDS to also be vocal.  That got me thinking because I knew for a fact that I was not being vocal at all, not even a whisper.

Aside from meeting another member, the best part of my day was meeting Paige Rawl.  She is a high school student in Indiana, who has been certified as the youngest HIV/AIDS educator through the American Red Cross. Before she joined the other guest speakers on stage, I had the opportunity to speak with her backstage and hear her story.  To learn more about her background and what she shared with the audience, take a look at her web site here.  Paige was an absolute delight to speak with!  She made me realize the stigmas I unintentionally attached to people living with HIV/AIDS, and then shattered those same stigmas.  She brings compassion and efficiency to her work, a true millennial.  I am honored to have met her.

Paige Rawl, leftSince meeting Paige, I have made it a goal to be less ignorant and actively volunteer to raise more awareness and prevention for HIV/AIDS!  You can imagine my excitement when Volunteer Maryland spent a day serving at Moveable Feast in Baltimore during our Pre-Service Training for this year’s VM24 class.  Every time I volunteer, I want to become even more involved!  It is amazing how two people can have such an impact on one person.  AmeriCorps has a way of building relationships, and I wonder, had I not been with AmeriCorps, would I have met another member at the Delaware Youth Forum or Paige…probably not.

In case you are unfamiliar with the upcoming events in the AmeriCorps world, tomorrow kicks off this year’s National AmeriCorps Week.  Be on the look out for members and alumni, I’m sure they will be wearing some sort of AmeriCorps gear to celebrate!

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