2012-2013 VIP Leaders share reflections of their AmeriCorps service, including what they've learned, successes and accomplishments, challenges overcome, and advice to the next group of AmeriCorps members.
When I started as the Lead here at Jewish Family Service, I was literally wide-eyed and fresh-faced. Right out of college, I was given real and tangible responsibility, a position of great potential growth, and a chance to understand the nonprofit world from within. I cannot express my gratitude enough not only to the AmeriCorps program, but also to JFS for taking a chance on me. My responsibilities ranged from volunteer interviewing, placement, and screening. Meanwhile my professional development expanded in leaps and bounds (almost unbeknownst to me!). I got to offer support to my VIP team, participate in JFS events, and get to know my own leadership style and strengths. I have the utmost respect for my coworkers and the fellows of the VIP program here in San Diego.
If you are considering applying to this wonderful program, I would like to take a moment to encourage you to do so. If you are looking for work experience, the VIP program offers its members a chance to get nonprofit experience, work on a team, develop some serious people skills, and provide an invaluable service to the San Diego community. If you are looking to utilize your creativity and ingenuity, the VIP program provides a space for members to build infrastructure—sometimes out of nothing! If you are interested in networking in the field, VIPs not only work side-by-side with the other staff members of their host organization, but also with the many partner organizations within the VIP program. Being an AmeriCorps alum is a prestigious title, but being a VIP alum is a designation I carry closer to my heart and wear with pride.
Margot Schein, VIP Leader at Jewish Family Service of San Diego
This past year as a VIP Leader has been a gift, both personally and professionally. Professionally, I have honed my experience in leading and facilitating meetings and trainings, learning strategies to engage both fellow VIPs and volunteers alike. Personally, I overcame the challenge of being both a role model and a friend, learning how to create a balance between the two. In my second year with the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, I was excited to be the lead on KOREH L.A.’s library restocking event this year, working with the administration of a partner school to manage the donation of over 1,000 brand new books to their school library. My advice for future VIP Leaders would be just to relax and enjoy your time, because the friendships you make in AmeriCorps will be some you will treasure forever!
Kelsey Larsen, VIP Leader at the Jewish Federation of Los Angeles
Top 5 Things You Should Know About Being in AmeriCorps
5. Do not procrastinate. Even though you have 12-months, do not wait until the end of your term to finish any sustainability projects because anything and everything will come up to distract you.
4. You will have busy and slow days. You should take initiative in different projects in your organization and/or find new volunteer opportunities in the community.
3. Member Development can be fun! This is a chance for you to learn new things as well as have some fun with other AmeriCorps members.
2. Your cohort can be a great support system. The other AmeriCorps members are probably the only people where you do not have to explain your circumstances (ex. we are the “domestic” Peace Corps).
1. You made a commitment to serve as an AmeriCorps member, and you will get things done for America and your community. There are days that might feel less eventful or meaningful, but remember that each day that you serve is a day that you made a difference.
Jobelle Duka, VIP Leader at HandsOn Central California
As I reflect on my year of service, I can't believe that a year has already come and gone. When I decided to take on the position as the VIP State Leader I immediately felt honored. Having not only the opportunity to be in AmeriCorps, but to also lead, mentor, and coach a coalition of volunteer coordinators seemed both exciting and daunting.
The one thing I learned from this year of service is that in order to grow, either professionally or personally, individuals must be willing to push themself out of their comfort zone. Try new things. Take risks. Accept more responsibility. Engage and listen to individuals whom you know nothing about. These can create profound impacts in not only yourself, but also within the communities you serve.
I want to thank CalSERVES, Lauren and Sara for believing in me and allowing me the chance to take part in the VIP program. This organization will continue to do amazing work throughout California and I’m excited to see the results.
Lastly, to the next cohort of VIP Fellows I hope your AmeriCorps year pushes you out of your comfort zone, produces positive change, conveys pride, and that you continue to uphold the ideals of service with you for a lifetime.
Cody Cibart, VIP State Leader at CalSERVES