After graduating from Oregon State University, Callie decided to complete two terms of service as a high school coach and AmeriCorps member at Reynolds High School outside of Portland, Oregon. Although she now holds a full-time leadership position as a program coordinator at College Possible, Callie still reflects on her time as an AmeriCorps member.
Q: What did you enjoy most about serving as an AmeriCorps member?
I enjoyed a lot of things about being an AmeriCorps member. I really enjoyed the community piece. AmeriCorps is such a huge community and it really feels that way in Portland. It was really fun to serve at a site where there were so many people around my age that were interested in social equity. It’s really inspiring to be around so many people who are driven by the mission. At that same level, the direct-service component was really cool, being in the school, serving students, building relationships with teachers and counselors in the school, and other community-based organization members. Those were the two things that stand out: the community and direct service.
Q: What was most challenging about your term of service?
I would say the most challenging thing was remaining positive for students when they didn’t get opportunities that they had worked really hard for. Seeing students put a lot of work into something and care a lot about something and then it not working out for one reason or another is really hard. There’s not really another way to put that. It’s really hard.
When that happens, it’s really important to validate how students feel. I think it’s great to jump into solutions, but leaving space for students to feel the way that they feel is really important. After that, when they were ready to jump into the next thing, we would reflect on whether they took anything away from the experience. For example, if they applied to a school and didn’t get in, but now they have a bunch of great essays they can reuse for scholarships, or even if they didn’t get into that school, they spent time on the phone with a financial aid offer and learned what that conversation usually looks like. Anytime we got a chance to reflect on skills they’d gained, that was always great.
Q: What advice would you give incoming AmeriCorps service members?
My advice for incoming AmeriCorps service members would be that you’re not going to know everything, and that’s okay. Even at the end of my two years I really felt like I didn’t know everything and couldn’t solve problems for students all the time, or help them solve problems for themselves. But I learned one of the most powerful things you can do for your students is to have unconditional positive regard for them and just be there for them. Just being a positive force in someone’s life is very powerful.
Q: Why is it particularly important to think about serving as an AmeriCorps member?
I think—not I think—I know that having lots and lots of voices at the table is crucial for the future of success in our country. I think in order for all the voices in our country to be heard at a governmental level and a policy level, it’s imperative that we get those voices to and through college. I think there are so many capable young people who don’t get the opportunities they deserve. If you have the opportunity to serve, I think you should.
Apply to serve as an AmeriCorps member with College Possible in our six locations.