Wendi – My VM Story –


Wendi is a an AmeriCorps member serving at the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, serving in their Truancy Prevention Program. “Three things that come to mind when I think of Truancy Prevention Program is caring for children that need help in succeeding, active listening and sharing ideas to provide solutions, and being supportive to kids that need a voice.”

 Wendi joined AmeriCorps specifically to serve with Volunteer Maryland because she was looking for a position that was purposeful and doing good for the community.Growing up, my mother was the one who has made the most impact on my life because she stressed education, to never give up or settle for less, and that life will take you many places if you have the courage to walk in faith.” As a 12 year old I would have loved any reward that was art related – a book, art supplies or a kit, and perhaps tickets or trip to a museum.” That may be why Wendi has experience in working at historical museums in her professional career!

“In my spare time I love to read, mostly historical based material and mysteries.  I also continue with my artworks in painting, drawing, jewelry making, and mix media formats.” This year Wendi hopes to learn more sign language. “I would love to visit Japan and Southeast Asia!”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office, you may visit https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/sao/index.html

Are you an organization that serves the community with the use of volunteers? Discover how you can leverage your volunteer program by partnering with Volunteer Maryland and have an AmeriCorps member serve as Volunteer Coordinator with you! volunteer.maryland.gov/ServiceSites


Devyn Pulls the Weeds at Anne Arundel Forestry Board

Devyn: “I have always had a passion for the outdoors and love for learning. I grew up exploring the Maryland’s rich natural resources from the mountains to the shores of the Chesapeake. I am an avid fan of hiking, flora and fauna identification, fishing, kayaking, exploring wetlands and cultivating plants. Through high school I got involved in a trade program at Center of Applied Technologies North where I studied environmental science. I love the program and followed it through to senior year where they place me in an internship with Arlington Echo. There I got involved more actively with environmental management and volunteering. The experiences I had so far along with my passion for the nature lead me to study environmental science at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry.”

“I was lacking a clear direction after college but knew that I wanted to continue helping others and learned that AmeriCorps was a great way to do this.”

“As I expended my knowledge at college, I became more involved in volunteering with nature centers and park. I had always enjoyed giving back and sharing any knowledge that I could with those around me. These opportunities were my first chance to actively apply what I was learning, while also helping other understand and connect with the natural world. I was lacking a clear direction after college but knew that I wanted to continue helping others and learned that AmeriCorps was a great way to do this. I had connected with Volunteer Maryland through the AmeriCorps website and was excited to learn that they were partnering with several sites focusing on environmental stewardship. I knew that this would be a great opportunity for me to build knowledge about volunteer management and the non-for-profit world. This would also be a great chance to network with key players in environmental field. I recognized that I will be getting a lot out of this process and hope to give more back to strengthening environmental stewardship along with the local community. In the future I hope to look back on my time spent with Volunteer Maryland and see it as a pivotal moment in my personal and professional development. That this position helps me to continue my life long goal of improved understanding and respect for the natural world and its processes.”

Devyn Croghan
Anne Arundel Forestry Board Volunteer Coordinator

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities at Anne Arundel County Forestry Board: Anne Arundel Weed Resistance by visiting  www.anne-arundel-weed-resistance.org Also, if you’re a non-profit organization, government agency or school that is interested in having a Volunteer Maryland AmeriCorps member serve at your organization please visit volunteer.maryland.gov/ServiceSites or email outreach manager, Nathan Cabrera at Nathan.cabrera@maryland.gov 

Coast to Coast Sarah Comes Back to Maryland!

Sarah has worked coast to coast, from Assateague State Park in Maryland to Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in California and now Maryland is proud to have her back serving as an AmeriCorps member in the capacity of Volunteer Coordinator at Arlington Echo – Anne Arundel County Public Schools Office of Environmental Literacy and Outdoor Education . “I entered the environmental field at age 15 and haven’t strayed since, with special focus on wildlife and education. I recently got the chance to combine my love of research and outreach by interpreting bat research to the public while it was happening. Bats are a HUGE love of mine so I was stoked to convey that to others with the bats up-close.”

“during this time that I realized the huge impact volunteerism can have, on both…”

During my time at the University of Maryland, I became involved with the student chapter of The Wildlife Society (TWS) and held the role of Vice President my junior year and President my senior year. I created partnerships with local environmental organizations to make an impact in our community, while giving our members new skills and networking opportunities. It was during this time that I realized the huge impact volunteerism can have, on both the environment and the people. During this service year, I hope to foster stewardship by combining the efforts of community members and organizations towards a common goal: supporting our environment and empowering our youth.

When asked how does this fit into your long-term goals Sarah says, “I hope to take my volunteer coordination experience from a collegiate to professional setting so that my impact on this planet and its people will continue to grow, gaining management skills along the way. After this year, I hope to pursue urban sustainability, with a focus on wildlife habitat, through research and outreach. A large part of that plan is empowering those around me to make a difference and encouraging community involvement/understanding.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Arlington Echo – Anne Arundel County Public Schools Office of Environmental Literacy and Outdoor Education you can visit arlingtonecho.org

If you know of an organization interested in partnering with Volunteer Maryland to become a ‘host’ site (Service Site) please visit volunteer.maryland.gov/ServiceSites or email Nathan Cabrera – Outreach Manager – Nathan.cabrera@maryland.gov

Melissa is on Board with the Arc of Southern Maryland

Our next VM 31 Story brings us to Melissa who is serving at The Arc of Southern Maryland, a private 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, affiliated with The Arc of the United States, the world’s largest grass roots organization of, and for, people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD).

“I believe in equality for all ,no matter their life circumstances.”

When asked what are some things that are good to know about her, here’s what Melissa had to say. “I am very interested in the ethical treatment of all people and excited about diversity. I believe in equality for all ,no matter their life circumstances, and believe that most people just need a chance to tell their stories. I am most proud of my kids, through my guidance and the life experiences afforded to them, they are the most empathetic people I have the pleasure of knowing. I hold a MPH from National University, and I am looking forward to changing the world with it! I am happy to start with Volunteer Maryland, in the southern MD region where I currently live with my husband and 3 daughters.”

Thinking about motivation, what made you apply for this program and accept this challenge? “I chose to serve with VM because I am passionate about equality and the inclusion of people with all levels of ability. I am especially excited about bringing the community together and helping to make lasting connections. I am honored to serve the people that Arc Southern MD serves, and excited to see what kind of impact I can make for each person! Beyond that, I was inspired to apply by my kids. Once I finish this term, I will be able to really impress upon them the value of service through my own experiences.”

My main goal is to finish!

“My main goal is to finish! I do not like leaving things unfinished, and I would love to be able to help create a program that will be manageable and sustainable for The Arc Southern MD so they can continue to meet their goals and serve the community. I was not looking to gain any skills, but am happy that I will have the opportunity to learn how to be an effective volunteer manager and expand both personally and professionally. This service year and beyond will help me meet the goal I have of constant growth and personal (and professional) development.”

You can learn more about volunteer opportunities at The ARC of Southern Maryland by visiting their website at https://arcsomd.org/ or visit their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/TheArcSomd/

If you know of a non-profit organization who would like to learn how they can leverage their volunteer program to help build capacity and increase sustainability consider becoming a Service Site; hosting an AmeriCorps member that could make that possible – visit volunteer.maryland.gov/ServiceSites


Ethan Goes SAFE

Ethan Thompson is an AmeriCorps member who is in his second year of service, coming to us from another Maryland program. He is currently spending his Service Year at the Safe Alternative Foundation for Education. SAFE believes that all students should have access to a quality education and the resources and opportunities that will assist them in achieving their goals. They provide afterschool, weekend, and summer learning educational opportunities through vocational programs that provide real world application as well as exposing students to the world outside of their community.

Ethan describes himself as indiscriminately compassionate. “I have persevered through great odds and I am motivated by helping others.” Ethan says he is most proud of his ability to maintain an open mind throughout the ever-changing environment around him.

Why are you doing a term of service?
“I’m doing a term of service because making an impact through my work is important to me. I want to get more involved in the community, and committing to a term of service is the best way for me to get real world experience and further my capabilities in that regard. This is my second consecutive year serving, and what I have learned in the past year has motivated me to keep going.”

What are your goals this Service Year?

“My long term goal is to combine my love for music with my love for my community. As far as specifics, I am not sure how I am going to implement this goal, but serving in AmeriCorps is helping me to gain a better understanding as to how I can accomplish this goal most efficiently. Specifically I am looking to gain and improve my skills in systems development, systems management, program development, and program management. These skills will help me to get closer to my long term goal.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at SAFE please visit http://www.safealternative.org/.

Haley – My VM Story

Haley is a recent graduate from the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and is serving at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services for the 2018-19 Service Year. “I’ve been living in Maryland since 2014, and loved Baltimore so much that when I graduated college I decided to stay. One of my favorite things about Baltimore is all of the passionate people who are working to make positive changes in their communities. Working with some of these organizations in school, and seeing all the great work they do in Baltimore was inspiring, and opened my eyes to the possibility of using art as a tool to build community.”

Why serve in AmeriCorps with Volunteer Maryland? 

“I chose to do a term of service with AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland, because I want to be doing something that makes a positive impact on the world. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the problems that I see around me everyday, but AmeriCorps and Volunteer Maryland offered the support and training to tackle those problems head on. I’m excited to use my skills to get other people motivated to serve their communities and make a positive impact.”

What are some of your goals and what are you hoping to gain in experience serving as part of the VM31 Service Year?

“I’m hoping that my time at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services as an AmeriCorps member with Volunteer Maryland will allow me to develop skills in nonprofit management that will be useful going forward. In the future, I would love to be able to work with and develop programs that use the arts to assist underserved communities. My time at LARS is helping me to better understand the needs of those communities and individuals that are in need of assistance, and my training with VM and AmeriCorps will give me the confidence and skills to pursue a career in nonprofit work going forward.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services you may visit…
Facebook: Laurel Advocacy and Referral Services, Inc.
Instagram: @laureladvocacy

Sandra – Bureau of Aging + Disabilities – My VM Story

Sandra is a long time volunteer of the programs at Carroll County’s Bureau of Aging and Disabilities and has the opportunity to use her experience as Volunteer Coordinator to implement strategies and initiate projects to grow their volunteer program.

Sandra is an avid ‘maker.’ “I paint, make jewelry, greeting cards, alter books; however, I’m passionate about the 3-R’s (recycle, reuse, and re-purpose).” Sandra states she is most proud of her family. “As I’ve aged, I’ve discovered how helpful and understanding I have become in the process of thriving in life and getting along with others.”

“I was motivated to accept the challenge of joining Volunteer Maryland because of the extensive and interactive training and support that the program offers. This is just a great opportunity to build on the existing experience and knowledge that I already have. The term of service  is giving me an opportunity to make a significant difference in my community because of their ongoing support to which add value to my success.” 

Sandra has always volunteered. “I’ve been a volunteer since my early teens. I’ve found that giving to others helps my physical and mental health. It gives you the opportunity to be apart of something bigger than myself and use my civic responsibility for the greater good.”

“My goals are to improve the skills I already have, learn new ones, and expand my network. I’m a highly self-motivated and independent person, who like to run with a project goal. My long-term goal is provide the most impact in the Nutrition/Congregate Meal Program and Front Desk Programs, in the five Senior and Community Center in Carroll County. ”

We are excited to see Sandra’s journey unfold as she grows this Service Year and makes an impact in Carroll County. To learn more about volunteer opportunities at Carroll County Bureau of Aging and Disabilities please visit www.ccgovernment.carr.org/ccg/aging/  

Allie – Sows into Seeds – My VM Story

Our next VM31 Story takes us to Allie! “I just recently graduated with a B.A. in Liberal Arts from St. John’s College in Annapolis, MD. The program at my college was challenging and demanded a lot of me as a student and I am proud of myself for completing it. One of the greatest things I learned during my time there is perseverance. There were a lot of rivers I had to cross, but I never lost my forward motion even when things seemed impossible. This is due to having a great support system made up of friends, family, and different mentors I met within those four years.”

…”the purpose of the program is that once everything is in disorder you will find pieces of your own”…

“Another thing that I learned there is to not accept without first questioning. My college adopted the “Great Books” program in 1937. Throughout the four years all students read works from what is referred to as the “Western canon.” This includes Western literature, European music, and philosophy. Through reading, I was exposed to a lot of different ideas, a lot of them opposing. This puts students in a place where they are not sure what to think. A lot of what they believed to be true has been broken down through this process of reading and questioning. But, the purpose of the program is that once everything is in disorder you will find pieces of your own firm view and a new order will begin to develop. These are our beliefs, the things that sit at the core of each individual. This reformation is a process that I believe takes a lifetime to complete.”

In Allie’s spare time she loves to read, ride her bike, and bake. “I especially like to make new and challenging recipes so that I will grow as a baker. When I am out and about I like to attend different community events, visit museums, and spend time with friends or family. Something different I recently started is Muay Thai! I have never practiced martial arts, so I am excited to see what I will learn in my classes!”

When we asked Allie why she is doing a term of service with Volunteer Maryland and AmeriCorps, here’s what she had to say: “I grew up and went to college in Maryland. I have spent a lot of time in this state, but during all that time I have not become the community member I would like to be. At my college I took a lot of initiative to get into a leadership role, especially my junior and senior year. I ended up working with Student Services as well as serving as a board member of a committee called “The Committee on Student Life.” I think I realized that if I was unhappy with something in my little community, such as the campus culture, instead of sitting around and wishing things were different I could seek out the opportunities to do something and be a part of the change I would like to see.”

“During my senior year, when I was getting ready to leave the community I had been a part of for the past four years, I wanted to apply that same logic to the greater Annapolis community through volunteer work. I asked a campus counselor to suggest some organizations I could volunteer with. One of the organizations she recommended was Seeds 4 Success. Since I wanted to volunteer consistently each week, I went ahead and applied to Seeds 4 Success. After some emailing back and forth I met with their Volunteer Manager and soon after started my volunteer term as an Academic Success Coach (tutor) on November 1, 2017.”

“It made the work feel worth-while!”

“I went into the work with some preconceived notions of how tutoring works and quickly found out that that is not what my time with my tutee will look like. The Academic Success Coach is there to create a relationship grounded in trust, to be a positive role model, to teach self-advocacy, to teach organization, to help discover passions, and to give agency to the student. It is much more than homework help or tutoring in any one subject. We were there to help our tutee address academic barriers, but we were also there to be a guide (in matters both academic and non-academic). Academic Coaching begins with asking the question “what would you like to do today?” instead of telling them what we think they should work on. These subtle differences between traditional “tutoring” and “Academic Coaching” made the volunteer role to me quite compelling. It made the work feel worth-while!”

“It was exactly what I was looking for.”

“The time I spent working with my tutee was fun and other days it was challenging. Those challenging days only made me want work harder, to find other strategies to help my tutee become engaged in the program. The fun days were rewards for the work we both were putting in. In April of 2018, when the program year was coming to an end, I was approached by their Volunteer Manager who asked me if I was interested in coming on board with them as their Volunteer Coordinator. She told me I would work part time over the summer and then in the fall I would transition to full time through an AmeriCorps program called “Volunteer Maryland.” Before I even knew what exactly Volunteer Maryland was I agreed to move forward with the opportunity. It was exactly what I was looking for. I was already thinking of doing an AmeriCorps service term after I had graduated. (I applied to the another program in November 2017 and was offered a position but ended up turning it down as I felt it was too early in my senior year to commit to.)”

“After my initial “yes,” the Volunteer Manager sent me a lot of resources in an email in so that I could read about VM and understand what they are about. Nothing I read came as a surprise to me, nor did anything make me want to change my initial answer. I believed in the mission of Seeds 4 Success and was ecstatic that I was now getting the chance to work with an organization that I felt so strongly about. I have always felt that in my work I would like to make a difference, even if it is not changing the entire world. Working within my local community to help address a need is exactly the work I wanted to do upon graduation.”

“I think that by juggling everything that will come my way this year I will leave with a greater sense of my own capability, which can only lead to being more confident in myself.”

Thinking about her goals Allie says, “I am young and have a lot of learning and growing left to do. I know that Volunteer Maryland will help me with both of those things. I will grow both professionally and personally, as well as learn a lot about what it takes to be an effective Volunteer Coordinator. I am hoping that I will leave my service year with the knowledge of how to be the best resource and provide the best support I can for my volunteer core, as well as a thorough understanding of all the moving parts necessary to run both volunteer programs and the overall organization. I would also like to build my confidence, both as a professional and an individual. I think that by juggling everything that will come my way this year I will leave with a greater sense of my own capability, which can only lead to being more confident in myself.”

“Lastly, I am most excited to see where this service year will take me. A lot can change in one year and I know that the person I am today will not be the same person I am on July 23 of 2019. I hope to be better, stronger, and more knowledgeable. How could I not be? I am being provided with a great opportunity to spread myself out and take in as much information and experience as I can. For now, I am ready to learn, to grow, to serve my community, and to see to what paths this service year will lead me.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities as Seeds 4 Success you can reach out to Allie at http://www.s4sannapolis.org or find Seeds 4 Success on various social media: Facebook  Twitter   LinkedIn

Get to Know Cassie – My VM Story

Cassie’s our first Volunteer Coordinator to be featured in our #VM31 Service Year introductions!  Cassie Motok, is currently the Volunteer Coordinator for Caring Matters, formerly known as Hospice Caring. “This is the first time I am actively serving a nonprofit organization and am excited to start this new journey!”

Cassie’s passion for helping others started at a young age. “I always did volunteer work growing up, whether it was volunteering at retirement homes or serving food at the local the soup kitchen. This created a drive for me to want to be in the position of helping and serving others.”

It was not until my sophomore year of college when she joined the fraternity, Zeta Tau Alpha, where her passion for serving others really took off! “Our philanthropy is Breast Cancer Awareness and is something that hits close to home. However, it was not until I actively started to fundraise for our philanthropy and attend educational events that I saw the true impact volunteer work had on others.”

“I wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in.” 

After graduating from West Virginia Wesleyan College, Cassie was not sure the direction she wanted to go in. “I was actively searching for jobs, but doing a service year was always something I thought about the most. However, it was not until a year after where I decided I needed to be in a position where I got more out of what I was doing and took a deeper look into Americorps. That is when I came across the opportunity to serve in Volunteer Maryland’s AmeriCorps program.”

“I decided I needed to be in a position where I got more out of what I was doing and took a deeper look into AmeriCorps.”

“One of my main goals this year is to gain a new perspective on how nonprofits work. I would like to have a strong understanding of how to create sustainable practices to benefit smaller organizations when they may not have as many resources or as much funding as others.”

To learn more about volunteer opportunities and the great work at Caring Matters in Montgomery County be sure to visit CaringMatters.org

Get to Know Jason – VM31 Peer Leader

Jason is serving with Volunteer Maryland’s 31st class. Here’s what he had to say about service and what he’s most looking forward to this upcoming service year!

I didn’t get heavily involved in community service until my third year of college. The year prior to that, I had just transferred to Virginia Tech and I was having a really hard time finding my place at the university. In Spring 2016, I came across a promotional flyer for a co-ed service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. I didn’t know anything about APO aside from the small handful of folks that I had heard mention the name before. Honestly, my initial thought was “Hey! I know some cool people in this and I really need friends, so let’s check it out!” I had no idea how much my life would be significantly impacted by a single organization. During my pledging semester, I remember having multiple conversations about how I wasn’t very active in my community during high school. “I have always loved helping others,” I would say, “but I was just never introduced to enough service opportunities.” As I continued on my path to becoming an official member of APO, I engaged in a wide variety of service projects. From helping third graders with their history homework to maintenance work on the Appalachian Trail to participating in one of the largest collegiate Relay for Life events, and everything in between, I was gaining a better understanding of what it takes to make a community thrive. While my initial motive for joining Alpha Phi Omega was to make more friends, my reason for staying was to make an impact in others’ lives through service. APO ignited a spark in me. Now I’m ready to take my passion for service and spread it like wildfire which leads me to where I am today…

I decided to do a year of service because I wanted the opportunity to immerse myself in
community engagement full-time. As strange it sounds, the number one thought that gets me out of bed in the morning is, “Someone needs me today.” When I started ingraining this idea into my head, I found that I had a much easier time waking up and starting my day than if I thought, “I need to do this or I need to do that for myself.” Instead, I try to channel my focus onto how I can support someone else.

My three greatest strengths have always been these: empathizing with others, making
connections, and utilizing my creative abilities to enhance the connections that I have made. As a Peer Leader, I hope to maximize my strengths to their full potential. I also hope to improve upon some weaknesses as well. I believe this role will help me build more confidence in myself and my abilities as a servant leader. I also hope that along the way I will discover more things that I am passionate about that may redirect my educational and career goals. Lastly, I would love to build lasting relationships between chapters of Alpha Phi Omega and Volunteer Maryland’s partner sites. APO opened the door that led me here and now, I would love to open a door of opportunity for others.

I am so excited for this brand new adventure at Volunteer Maryland! I can’t wait to start
motivating more people to get involved in service!

Jason wanted to leave us with this inspirational quote:

“As you grow older you will discover that you have two hands. One for helping yourself, the other for helping others.” – Audrey Hepburn

We are excited to have Jason be a part of the support team doing great things for VM31! Stay tuned to see and learn more about all of our AmeriCorps members who will be with us for the 2018-19 Service Year!