Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This quote speaks to the reason I chose to sign up for a term of service. When I was a junior at Hamilton High School I started in a program called College Possible. I wanted to go to college but didn’t really think I could do it. I was smart but not motivated. My College Possible coach saw that darkness in me and transformed it into light. She pushed me and made me believe that I could go to college. She gave me light but also showed me love. When I finally graduated college, I decided that I wanted to give back to the organization that helped me. I felt like I owed them my life. I too wanted to be that light. I want to make an impact in the lives my students.
When I first started College Possible, I had my pick of any position: working with high school students, planning events or supporting students in college. I chose to become a college coach. I chose the position because I believe a college coach is like a candle; a light that is there when you need it. I was wrong though. A college coach’s light is bigger than a candle, more like a light post. A college coach is a light that is bright and a guides students through the darkness.
What I have also come to realize is that even though I picked the position of college coach that is not all I am limited to. This is best described by one of College Possible’s guiding principles, the idea of striving to be delightful. This means we go above and beyond in the name of being delightful and working to solve problems. As a college coach I help college students, but it is also part of my job to substitute for high school coaches if someone is out sick. We are involved in recruitment of new students into the program. We lead talks to eighth graders and freshmen on the importance of college. We also help out in the community. This Martin Luther King Jr. Day all of us went out into the community and served in our community. A day of service to me is the definition of strive to be delightful. We are all taking the day out and giving back. We are in public showing how delightful we can truly be. Apart we are not as bright but together we are the bright light that drives out the darkness.
by Tia Powell
As I worked to define my values and identity during the four years of college, I realized there was one wish that kept popping up. Each day I would read the news, hear local stories, or learn about growing issues in local communities; all I could think was: I wish I could do more. I couldn’t help but think there was more I could be accomplishing within my community and on a wider scale. My senior year of college, I found AmeriCorps. This program harnesses the potential each individual has and affords them the opportunity to use these skills toward a greater good. I realized that I had the chance to connect with AmeriCorps in order to accomplish the more I was searching for. AmeriCorps works with each of its members to find what they are passionate about in order to turn that around into dedication and service for a larger group. This is why I serve; not because I thought it would be easy or fun, but because I can see the importance my job has each and every day. I work with some of the funniest, most talented students in Milwaukee and without AmeriCorps I would not have had the chance to get to know these young people. Serving with AmeriCorps has shown me how important it is to never settle. There is always work to be done; we cannot accept the world for what it is—we cannot be complacent. AmeriCorps challenges the human condition of complacency by forcing us to understand that there is a world far greater than the bubble we live in. By completing a service year, I chose not to be content. I chose to change the course, the community, and the conversation. But, most of all, I chose to work toward AmeriCorps’ goal of changing our world.
by Kate Braun
You spend so much of your time preparing for this moment. It always seems so far away, a future you’ll never quite catch. You pull the all-nighters. You figure out how to turn your passions into a major. You find your people, and maybe even make it to the gym a few times a week if you have time. And then all of the sudden that moment you’d never thought would come is staring you right in the face. You’re wearing that cap and gown and walking across that stage and can finally say you’ve earned your degree. Now what?
That was the question I couldn’t quite answer even though the future was quickly becoming right now. With a check mark next to my business degree, most would say it was time to enter the real world and utilize what I’d invested my time and money in. But something just didn’t seem right yet. I wasn’t ready. And that’s right around the time my opportunity to join College Possible and AmeriCorps came about. After doing a bit of research, I came to the realization that I wanted to take a little detour before continuing my business path.
Not a day has gone by where I am not thankful for making that decision. So why do I serve? The answer is pretty simple. My students. Yes that’s really it. Within a few short months I have fallen more in love with life through the eyes of the young women and men I get to coach during their senior year. They give me faith and reassurance that our next generation is worth a community that fully supports them.
I serve to be someone I wish I had at their age. I serve because I have learned that everyone has talent, but not everyone has opportunities. I serve because everyone has a story worth telling. I serve so I can see my student’s smiles as they walk across their own stage to begin their transformative college experience and take one step closer to the future they dream about.
by Rachel Reynolds
Every day I get the chance to work with students who are bright, hardworking and determined. They are just as deserving of opportunities to be successful as their peers, yet there are often barriers standing in their way. Serving with the AmeriCorps has helped me understand that continuing to say “someday” about the changes I want to see in my community is not good enough.
The first time I met with one of my students at the College Possible office, we sat and talked to each other for over a half an hour, yet seventy-five percent of the conversation had nothing to do with college. We covered the basics, talking about his classes, midterm exams and financial aid renewal. Quickly, I realized that I had breezed through my list of “college-related topics” that I’d scrawled onto a notecard before he arrived. Not wanting the conversation to stall after only ten minutes, I decided to sidestep my last question about study habits.
“What is your dream job?” I asked, hoping the question would take us out of the awkward silence we’d been sitting in. My student’s face lit up as he told me he wanted to be a teacher. His enthusiasm and passion were unrivaled as he told me about everything he wanted to do to give back to the local schools and community. He told me about the changes he wanted to make so that more people could have access to equal opportunities.
When I think about why I serve, I think about wanting to be involved in my community. There is a need to create change in the world we live in and that begins locally. College Possible and the AmeriCorps have given me the opportunity to work with students and community members who are making their voices heard. The playing field is not even; there are divides within education and the workforce that continue to be reinforced by the zip codes people live in. We should not have to settle for the way things are when there is so clearly room for change.
Serving my students and my community as a whole has been an experience that will continue to positively impact me for years to come. I have learned more from my students than I could have ever imagined, and I hope to continue to serve and learn from my community in the future.
by Lauren Kohlenberg