By Lori Halvorson, proud Managing Director of People and Operations at City Year Baton Rouge
I’m a three-time AmeriCorps alum as well as a returned Peace Corps volunteer, and I now have the privilege of working with AmeriCorps members every day at City Year Baton Rouge. I know firsthand what it takes to be a national service volunteer and what you gain through serving. I look at the trajectory I’ve taken and I can confidently say that my volunteer experiences have directly affected the course of my life and how I live it.
I’ve come to realize there are certain soft skills that I honed throughout my service opportunities that have proved integral to both my professional and personal life. They are extremely valuable assets that don’t come easy or often, but can be attributed to the unique experiences I’ve had with National Service.
The first is resourcefulness. Webster says it’s the ability “to meet situations.” A service experience teaches you how to meet situations…beyond normal expectations, frequently without a reasonable set of tools and often in high-stress environments. We’ve been in situations that don’t appear to have a possible solution, but we’ve needed to find one – and we have. That’s not to say we’ve succeeded every time, but usually, the stakes are high enough that we’ve kept trying.
Collaboration is another talent that one grows during a term of service. Now I know that collaboration is not unique to national service – we do it in high school, or college, in previous jobs we’ve held. But let’s be real – our collaborative experiences in National Service are something special. National Service Volunteers serve on teams that are diverse in every way imaginable. These teams are tasked to do big things, and they learn very quickly that the best way to achieve goals is together.
The last skill I want to mention – It’s not quite something you’d put on a resume, but…it’s probably the most valuable thing I’ve taken from my service experiences, and that’s perspective. I can honestly say that my service experiences have shifted my perspective greatly. I have seen joy in the face of devastation, optimism in the face of adversity, love in the face of hate, and hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable doubt. While serving, you witness things that affect you – things that shake you, upset you, confuse you, even anger you. But you also witness inspiration. People and acts that move you. Experiences that will stay with you and influence you as you continue through life. This perspective is unique to alumni of National Service, and it is one of the most important ways in which a service year can change you.
To all the AmeriCorps members who are graduating from City Year and other programs across the country – congratulations! I wish each of you the very best in your next and all future endeavors. Continue to live out the mission of National Service and never forget what this very special year has taught you.