“Taking the BOLD chance to serve ESP this year is one of my favorite decisions I have ever made. You see, I kind of did this all backwards. Most people choose to serve in AmeriCorps, and then search for organizations or missions that fit the path that they want to work towards. Scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed one day, a service year ad peaked my curiosity with a picture of a young man staring off into a foggy, mountainous landscape, with the caption “For one year, this was my office.” Bracing for adventure, I immediately made an account on the service year site and entered my interests to see where I could dream of being while I waited to hear back from the OT school waiting list. Little did I know, everything was about to change… The first suggestion based off of my interests was a nonprofit called Extra Special People, nestled right outside of Athens. It didn’t take long for me to watch all of the videos on ESP’s website and Facebook page, so I quickly fell head over heels for this organization and wanted to do anything possible (join AmeriCorps) to be a part of their mission. With the pursuit of grad school in the back of my mind, I knew this would be a rare opportunity for me because I would gain once in a lifetime experiences, memories, and bonds that I could get nowhere else.
Before I left my small hometown to move to Camp Hooray, our fearless leader, Laura, shared a quote by Margaret Mead with us in a welcome email that has been a constant motivator to me these past few months – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Being a part of such a positive, driven, and committed team has motivated me to utilize my strengths to the best of my ability to provide the magic of ESP to our participants, their families, and our supportive community.
This fall, my AmeriCorps team and I were able to lay a foundation by making connections with new families and special education departments throughout northeast Georgia through 360 showcases, board meetings, new parent meetings, and ESP events like Spaghetti Suppers. From buddying up at NKA and Club, to shuttling participants to and from 360, and organizing Fall Festival and Jolly Jubilee, I have found that I learn something new everyday about my teammates, our participants, and how ESP has made a priceless impact in the lives of others. The word, “can’t” is not in our vocabulary here, which has not only given me the opportunity to push our participants to work to their fullest potential, but also to push myself to be a stronger leader, an active listener, and a present friend. Finding ways to create fun with a purpose and celebrate life in everything we do in the most accessible way possible has challenged me to think outside the box and interact more with our participants. Through ESP, I have been immersed in a world where I am constantly reminded to slow my pace and think about how my actions can be used to help others engage, connect, and thrive.
In the upcoming spring and summer semesters, I plan to grow my existing relationships with our ESP participants and their families and to reach out to the community to connect with unreached families who want to experience transformative joy. With exciting plans like Big Hearts, Family Beach Weekend, Big Jump, and Summer Camp just around the corner, the ESP Family waits with open arms for the families we hope to serve in the future!”
AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 members in intensive service annually to serve through nonprofit, faith-based, and community organizations at 25,000 locations across the country. These members help communities tackle pressing problems while mobilizing millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve. Since 1994, more than 900,000 Americans have provided more than 1.2 billion hours of service to their communities and country through AmeriCorps. For more information, visit NationalService.gov. AmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages more than 5 million. Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve.