By: Caroline Fazzio
When I left home for college, I was a bright-eyed eager kid ready to go learn how to change the world. The idea of college was empowering, and I felt certain it would be my launch pad into a greater, meaningful career. Twelve months ago, as I prepared to graduate, I was a little less eager and a bit wiser. A college degree didn’t guarantee I would be handed a dream job on a silver platter. Like many of my peers, I found myself facing graduation with no idea where to go next, and zero employers fighting to recruit me. Having spent months filling out applications and scouring the web like a madwoman for jobs, I jumped at the first phone call I received. A Mr. Brian Hubbard from the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa (CCMI) wanted to interview me for a position that I barely remembered applying to. A month later, I was on my way up to Baudette, MN to start a summer position there as a CCMI Apprentice with the Lake of the Woods Soil and Water Conservation District.
I’ll admit, at the time, I didn’t fully recognize the connection between my position, CCMI, AmeriCorps, and national service. My job was just that—a job I was lucky enough to snag right out of college, even if just for a few months. It wasn’t until later that year when I was in Florida for disaster response post-Hurricane Irma that AmeriCorps finally began to click in my head. I had stayed on with the Corps, joining one of their field crews after my summer term ended, but I didn’t anticipate going to Florida. Participating in that kind of ‘drop everything and respond’ service gave me a new perspective on AmeriCorps and my own role as a member.
I learned in Florida that AmeriCorps is more than just a fancy logo; it is a network. I served alongside people from Washington, Florida, the Southwest, the Gulf states, Illinois, and Montana—all brought together under the AmeriCorps banner to serve in the wake of a disaster; separate organizations doing localized work, all willing to drop everything and come together on a national level when needed. Hearing their stories, listening to the kind of work they did in their own communities changed my whole perspective of what it means to serve with the Corps.
Serving for AmeriCorps doesn’t always feel like you’re doing national service. Indeed, I often forget that at its core, CCMI is a service organization, and that I as a member, am part of a larger network of individuals also working in their local communities. However, as I think back on that excited kid who left home to change the world five years ago, I realize that in a small way, that has come true. I may not be in the perfect permanent job I’d imagined for myself back then, and I may not be leading a wave of change sweeping across the globe, but that doesn’t mean my work has no meaning.
Change doesn’t always come in massive phenomenon. Sometimes, the biggest change comes from the small everyday deeds of individuals; people who remember that their greatest job isn’t outlined in a spiffy position title, but in who and how they serve. On my desk at work, I keep a picture with the following quote:
“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I’ve found it is the small things, everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love.”
Now perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, but I’d argue it relates to AmeriCorps perfectly. See, my AmeriCorps story climaxed when I realized that it’s not the kind of work I’m doing that makes a difference, but how I chose to do it. When I stopped focusing on the nuts and bolts of my job and began focusing on how to be efficient, effective, and compassionate in my role, I finally realized my own potential. You don’t need to be the smartest, best paid, or most well off to change the world. An AmeriCorps driven mindset of service will do the trick too.
Quote: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, New Line Cinema
I will get things done for America - to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.