Learning from a Year of Service

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Reflection is essential in a service year. As we begin to wrap up VM27, reflection activities provide our members with the opportunity to assess their expectations, what they learned, and what was gained from a year dedicated to enriching the communities of Maryland. Recently, Volunteer Maryland Coordinators Michelle Yellin, Christy Green, Sam Mestan, Melissa Goldstein, Colleen Walls, Emily Morrow and Erin Josephitis joined me at the Annapolis Maritime Museum to reflect on their experiences.

The VMCs shared how AmeriCorps has changed their lives. I asked each VMC to use one word to sum up their service. Without hesitation they had pen to paper. “Nutritious. I learned that I have the ability to be a great teacher and manager,” Michelle shared. Erin captured her service with the word green, stating that she “gained the respect of her volunteers by building relationships.” “Eventful. Learning how to manage multiple tasks is a skill I’m glad I enhanced,” Colleen stated. Christy shared her experience as “heartwarming.” “I truly value the needs of the elderly population due to my daily interactions with the clients.” “Enlightening. I’ve grown professionally while working in a diverse setting” is how Sam depicted her service experience. Melissa stated that her service was truly “meaningful. I learned new perspectives and gained confidence in my abilities to lead.” “Learning how to produce positive results and collaborate with people of all different backgrounds, ages, and economic levels was amazing,” Emily stated.

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Service is rewarding. Yet it does not come without its challenges. These roadblocks give the VMCs the push needed to problem solve and become more resilient. “Taking active steps to overcome obstacles helps you see what you’ve accomplished and where you have grown,” Christy shared.

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“Gaining trust presented a challenge, building rapport was the solution.” – Sam  “Communicating with staff seemed tricky, learning to be persistent and patient proved effective.” – Michelle  “Addressing social and economical welfare issues that I’d never faced was intimidating at first; learning to adapt propelled my experience.” -Emily  “Lack of budget pushed me to think on my feet and use my resources to acquire the things my program needed.” – Melissa

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As a result of their service, what the VMCs hoped to gain and what they learned is by far their greatest take away. “I’m taking away optimism, endurance, selflessness, leadership, determination, sacrifice, coordination, confidence, management, compassion, understanding, friendships, and stories to share.” the VMCs stated.

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Reflection is valuable and it helps you gain wisdom and insight. Without a doubt, it links our performance to our potential, using our experiences to shape how we view the world, ourselves, and the impact we make on others and the community.

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