My Commitment to Service…
My first memories of engaging in community service were when I was five years old. My grandmother let me help her cook meals and then we would drive around her neighborhood in Tampa, Florida to hand out the meals to people experiencing homelessness and we always made time to chat with them and learn their stories. My grandmother had a heart of gold, and I grew up believing that a life in service to others was the most rewarding path to take.
I spent majority of my free time in grade school volunteering at service projects, sporting events, and fundraisers. The volunteering opportunities ranged from food banks and hospitals to 5K’s and music festivals. No matter the project, with every passing one, I felt more and more connected to my community. I was able to serve others, meet new people, and more importantly give back to the communities in which I belonged.
The large amount of service hours I completed in high school qualified me for a scholarship that paid for 100% of my tuition fees, which allowed for me to go to college. Before my first day of classes, I participated in a service project called Urban Plunge, alongside hundreds of other University of South Florida (USF) freshman and transfer students. Little did I know that day, my entire college experience would be transformed by that day of service. The Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement (CLCE) at USF not only hosted large events like Urban Plunge, they hosted weekly volunteering opportunities and also a Leadership Development minor. Food access projects were my biggest passion, I grew up seeing family and friends struggle with hunger and made a commitment to combat hunger in communities. I began volunteering twice a week at Feeding America-Tampa Bay, and soon after became the student site leader for that service site. My love and passion for serving others led me to rushing Alpha Phi Omega, the largest fraternity in the world (co-ed), which is founded on the three pillars of leadership, friendship, and service. The co-ed service fraternity connected me to people whose hearts burned for the same causes mine did, and we supported each other’s efforts to transform the campus, community, and nation. I spent just as much time volunteering in college and I did in my classes. I was a Political Science major, and spent many hours volunteering on campaigns, but I knew that it wasn’t something I wanted to continue after graduation. I knew my purpose was to serve others and do my best to strengthen the communities in which I was a resident. I also loved serving alongside my peers in the community. Getting to see my friends realize how positive of an impact they had in the community was a great experience.
After graduating from USF, I struggled with my next steps, because as much as I wanted to spend all of my time volunteering, free labor didn’t pay the student loan bills. I wanted to travel and serve others, and luckily I had heard about AmeriCorps while I was a student at USF. The AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program is what brought me here to the OCE. Similar to the Peace Corps, I spend time serving at an organization to create programs that alleviate poverty in the communities and I develop sustainable partnerships in the community. Upon completing my interview with Molly Ayers (Director of the OCE), I knew that this position was the perfect fit for me. I packed up my life and moved 3,000 miles across the country to a city and state that I had never visited before, all for the hope of keeping the dream of being in service to others alive. I’m in the middle of my second year as an AmeriCorps VISTA, as the OCE’s Eagle Volunteers Program Coordinator. For the past year and a half, I’ve had the great opportunity to see the Eagle Volunteers program grow and serve the community, while managing a team of student leaders and meeting with community partners. Eastern Washington University’s response to community needs has been positively overwhelming. The students, staff, and faculty have all been very involved in service. Being an AmeriCorps VISTA has allowed me to continue doing what I love, while also gaining skills to better serve the community and to ensure the social change is both positive and sustainable. I encourage all students to think about post-graduate service, especially AmeriCorps. I know that in September, once my time as an AmeriCorps comes to an end that my commitment to the community will not fade. It’s important for students to know their commitment to serving the community doesn’t end on graduation day; the world needs more people with hearts that burn for positive social change.