Giving Back: How I survived (and thrived!) my AmeriCorps Year
When I decided to join AmeriCorps almost a year ago, I knew that my life would change—a lot! While I was excited about the opportunity to serve at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mass. Bay, I was also really nervous.
I worried about being able to pay my bills while earning only the program’s small stipend. I also wondered if it would benefit me professionally and if it would be worth it to volunteer for an entire year.
As my year comes to a close and I begin to reflect on my experience, I can confidently say that serving as an AmeriCorps member has been one of the most positive experiences of my life.
For anyone contemplating joining AmeriCorps, or just curious about what life is like as an AmeriCorps member, here are 3 ways I not only survived, but thrived during my year of service:
Before I joined AmeriCorps, I was fortunate enough to have earned market-rate salaries and comprehensive benefits at several other professional positions in higher education. While I wasn’t getting rich, I was generally confident about my ability to pay my living expenses and still have some money left over at the end of the month for entertainment. When I joined AmeriCorps and planned my budget based on the program’s modest living allowance, I realized that financially, AmeriCorps would be a challenge…but not impossible.
I decided to prioritize the biggest non-negotiables—rent/utilities and transportation—and eliminate spending on almost anything else. Certain things that I previously spent money on and could live without went first. I cancelled my Netflix membership and became a regular at my local library. Instead of eating out with friends or paying for movie tickets, I would invite them over for homemade pizza or go for a hike. While cutting back is never fun, the intangible benefits I gained from AmeriCorps in have made the short-term sacrifices well worth it.
Though I entered AmeriCorps with a graduate degree and over five years of professional experience, my time at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Mass. Bay has taken my career to new heights. I’ve had the opportunity to see the inner workings of one of America’s top nonprofits, network with other Boston-area nonprofits, and learn valuable new professional skills, such as event-planning and grant-writing. The best part, though, (and fitting for our agency’s mission) is that I found a mentor in my direct supervisor.
My family and friends say that they’ve seen me grow and change throughout the past year, and I have to agree. Community service is something that I have always identified as one of my core values, but AmeriCorps gives me the opportunity to live it every day for one year. And my hope is that I will take what I have learned and apply it to my future career, relationships, and life…and continue to thrive!