With my second term as an AmeriCorps Service member half over and me reflecting on what my career plan should be. I have come to the conclusion that I want to keep in the service industry and hope to work for a nonprofit. I have committed to a lifestyle, not a job.
I have spent most of my adult life living on other people’s terms… go to college, get married, get a job, and have a family. Not that these ideas are bad, they just seemed to be a little boring. I have always been rebellious, adventurous with a love for life. I want a passion-filled life, with travel, new people and getting dirty trying new things. I want something more than the 9 to 5 with benefits that colleges promise. I want more from life than punching a time clock allows. Deep inside I want to make a difference in the world.
So at the complete worst time in my adult life after surgery, heartbroken about a personal loss, and feeling unqualified to do much with a Fine Arts Degree, I started looking for work. A writer friend inspired me to stop looking for a JOB and start looking for a lifestyle. A lifestyle that reflected what I really wanted. She helped me to see that what I was looking for was career fulfillment, not career advancement. How eye-opening that moment was for me.
During our visit she shared with me her “Year of Service Story” and introduced me to AmeriCorps, the Citizen Conservation Corps of WV (more often known as the three C’s) and Peace Corps. After our conversation, I realized that my skills and passions could all make a difference right here in West Virginia, the place I love most.
I have been fortunate to serve as an AmeriCorps Member in Elkins, West Virginia for the last 18 months where I work with AFHA (Appalachian Forest Heritage Area), a regional initiative to promote heritage tourism, conservation, and education based on forest heritage. AFHA, AmeriCorps is funded in part by Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s Commission for National and Community Service and by the Corporation for National and Community Service. As a service member for AmeriCorps, I have had opportunities to meet, work with, and learn from some of the most interesting people in the state. My Site, Elkins Main Street, is deeply committed to working with local and state government officials on projects that help to bring jobs, investment, growth and prosperity to our community.
First Lady Joanne Tomblin and Elkins Main Street Director Karen Carper
At Elkins Main Street I work with community volunteers on making public art projects that preserve Appalachian culture and inspire people to take pride in their community. Working side by side with community groups like the Riverside School Association, to celebrate ethnic and social diversity, and cultural differences. Like the annual Dr. Martin Luther King Day celebration.
Also as part of my AmeriCorps duties, I am asked to take time regularly to see and experience the culture and history of the community where I serve. A person cannot begin to make significant changes to the future of a community without first understanding its past and present. We are encouraged to see a wide range of locations in our service area, from remote mountain locations to the largest cities and the oldest historic landmarks. For example, I traveled to the West Virginia Capital Complex to speak with Volunteer West Virginia about the role of the National Main Street Program.
The AFHA AmeriCorps members are a team banded together over large expanses, doing the work of preserving and protecting the local environment, the history and culture of a people and encouraging travel and education about our unique locations. AmeriCorps is a force for good in places where times are a little harder and people need a helping hand to build on their strengths. I am proud to say that I choose every day to be an AmeriCorps service member because I want something more than a job, I want a lifestyle making a difference.