As I sit here and listen to this classic by the Jackson 5, I can’t help but think about how the words represent an almost exact reflection of my service year. No, I am not a love-sick adolescent boy pining after a girl’s love; however I am an AmeriCorps member (and soon to be alum for a second time) whose life was profoundly affected by the two service years spent with Volunteer Maryland.
At the end of the service year, many members are relieved to be done. They may go on to become big-wig bank executives, business owners, or millionaires even! The point is that they think they are saying good bye to a period of their life and entering another, when in fact, their service and time spent as AmeriCorps members will always be a part of their lives. I will forever be grateful for the experiences over these past two years. I know that the decisions that I make in the future will forever be impacted by my service with AmeriCorps through Volunteer Maryland.
This year, I’ve had the opportunity to interact with several different AmeriCorps Alums from different programs throughout the area. In every conversation, there was a common thread to be observed: their service in AmeriCorps impacted their decision to do the things they loved. From gaining the confidence and financial opportunity to travel abroad, to starting a nonprofit, to running one of the most recognized nonprofit organizations in Baltimore City. All of these individuals attribute their willingness to continue serving to their initial service with AmeriCorps. When asked, what advice they would give to current members, many of them said to take advantage of any and every opportunity. Many said to appreciate the accomplishments as well as the challenges and to be confident in your ability to handle both. Others said to be confident in your ability to lead and manage people.
While the year is occurring, it’s hard to see the growth and development that one experiences. The focus is always on the here and now, not on the future and planning for it. After completing the service year, one is left with a set of skills that set them apart from others. What many don’t realize is that they are also left with a set of competencies that value service and that these values will forever have an impact on the decisions they make in the future. Whether they plan on doing another year of service with another AmeriCorps program or they plan to volunteer regularly at a local school; it’s important to know that one of these values will have informed their decision is their service experience.
As this year draws to a close, I am looking forward to seeing where my service will take me. Although I am saying goodbye to Volunteer Maryland, I’m not saying goodbye to service. It will always be a part of my life. So instead of saying goodbye to the service year, I say “see you later” because I never will really say goodbye; just like the song says.