Reflections of an AmeriCorps VISTA

Rainbows: Societal change and safe spaces

By Andrew Taylor: GEAR UP NH Alliance AmeriCorps Member Throughout this AmeriCorps year, I often had new experiences and learned from my mistakes. Capacity building is something that is new to me, but throughout my service, I was able to learn from my failures and revel in my triumphs. My time working with GEAR UP, Campus Compact for New Hampshire, and my site, Hillside Middle School, allowed me to build stronger connections with the LGBTQIA+ part of my identity. As an extension of my previous AmeriCorps year, I continued to spread positivity and inclusion at my site. Normalizing queer identities and providing a safe space for students in an educational environment is my ultimate goal. Through my presence, I wanted to show LGBTQIA+ youth that although it can be scary to be yourself there is nothing wrong with how you identify. However, this is not enough. Throughout my service, I gauged how openly inclusive schools were in Manchester and integrated...

Reflecting on a Year of Service: Some Thoughts and Advice

By Miranda Orcutt - AmeriCorps member at Champlain College, Office of Diversity and Inclusion The week this blog post goes live, it will be just about a year since I applied for my current AmeriCorps position. In July 2021, I had recently sat down in my supervisor’s office and broken down while I submitted my resignation for a job that physically and mentally drained me and pushed my tolerance level over the edge. When I applied for this AmeriCorps role, I was scrambling to train others who would cover me after I left the department and mentally preparing myself for backlash once everyone knew I was leaving. When I announced the news of my resignation, people had positive and negative responses–some understanding, some not so understanding. If you are considering an AmeriCorps position, you may face a mixed bag of responses from people around you. In reflecting on advice I would give someone considering an AmeriCorps service year, one thing...

(Re)Building an Engaged Community

By Rachel Bartholomew - AmeriCorps Member at Middlebury College It’s hard to discuss the state of higher education without acknowledging the impact of COVID-19 on. Even with many schools finishing their 2021-2022 school year in person, institutions are still grappling with the question: “What will our campus community look like now?” There are students who have been enrolled for two years and are just stepping foot onto campus for the first time. Some student groups, including many multicultural groups, have gone dormant because of low membership. More students are experiencing increased financial need, food and housing insecurity, and mental health crises. All these elements have had a disproportionate impact on students historically undersupported in higher education– low-income, first-generation, LGBTQ+, and students of color. Overall, student engagement with the campus community has suffered. Middlebury College, where I am completing my year of service, is located in rural Vermont. The student body and surrounding community are primarily white, with drastic income inequality...

Service with a Smile: Using Names to Unlock Community

By Tian Robinson - AmeriCorps Member at Manchester Community College How many people can you picture whose names you don’t know? Maybe each morning you share the bus station with a familiar stranger who dressed in an exceptional fashion last week, presumably for a special occasion you declined to ask about. Maybe your regular barista has perfected your order, but on Thursdays your afternoon coffee tastes a little too sweet because they have the day off. Don’t forget the coworker whom you exchange unceremoniously microwave-related remarks on your overlapping lunch breaks. How many more of these nameless faces in your life are coworkers? How many of them were classmates? Can you even remember how many names you’ve forgotten? I have been serving my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at Manchester Community College as part of Campus Compact for New Hampshire’s College Access and Success program (lots of titles; I work at a college). Perhaps the best thing I’ve done...

Putting Things in Perspective

By Madalyn Shircliff When I went to college to study journalism and political science, my dreams were almost Herculean. I had a clear image in my mind of the path I would follow, the career I would have, the impact I would make. What I didn’t expect was the cynicism that followed, a feeling of inefficacy, that nothing I did really mattered. I believe this is something we are experiencing on a much larger scale these days. The world we live in is overwhelming; we are inundated daily with more news, more events, more stories that make us feel helpless. There is a communal fatigue, a feeling of burnout among much of the population, and many of us don’t know what to do with that. How can our voice matter in the grand scheme of things? How can the action of one person even make a dent? After a period of succumbing to this negativity, I decided to start over...

Forming Connections on the Playground

By Austin Dumont - AmeriCorps Member at Bates College Coming into my year with AmeriCorps VISTA, one of the greatest external pressures was the lingering COVID pandemic. As we all know too well, the reality of the pandemic has required that much of our lives take place behind a computer screen. While the shift to remote work, and a remote lifestyle, have impacted all of us in unique ways, adverse effects have been especially profound on children. Being at home and away from school has meant many children have gone without peer interactions and socialization. As a new school year started up in the fall of 2021, and as students returned to in-person learning, teachers and school staff became increasingly aware of how remote learning had impacted students’ ability to form close bonds and connections with their peers. School administrators at two Lewiston elementary schools reached out to the Harward Center with the hopes of partnering to create a playground...

Bagel Fridays

By Ciera Miller - AmeriCorps member at Champlain College Almost every Friday this year, the Women’s and Gender Center at Champlain College has held a ‘Bagel Friday,’ which means that once a week, we offer free bagels to everyone who goes to Champlain. This is in an effort to bring students into the space and to also feed them, since we know the average college student is always on the search for food. We really take the tradition of “breaking bread” to the next level. (Are bagels considered bread? They should be.) At first, my supervisor and I were taking home a lot of leftover bagels. We didn’t buy many, maybe a dozen, but students didn’t show up immediately. It wasn’t for lack of publicity, or because students weren’t searching for free food and cozy couches to eat it on. It was partly because our center is a half mile down the road from what’s considered the ‘main campus’ and...

AmeriCorps Service: A Life-Long Lesson

By: Arria Hauldin - 21-22 AmeriCorps VISTA Leader August 2022 marks my second anniversary with AmeriCorps! As I get closer to this anniversary, I wanted to take the time to reflect on these two years with Americorps and Campus Compact for New Hampshire (CCNH). In August 2020, I started as a COVID-19 Recovery AmeriCorps Member for CCNH. As a South Florida native, my first time in New England (let alone New Hampshire) was when I moved here to start my service. I was fresh out of college and entered a world plagued with uncertainty due to the pandemic. As a COVID-19 Recovery Member, I had a steep learning curve; I was tasked with learning about a new area of the country. From the education system of the tri-state area to finding community partners tasked with combating the spread of COVID-19, I felt incredibly overwhelmed and underqualified in those first few months. As time went on, I learned more about the...