By Claudia Hewston
I am writing to you as a reflection of what service means to me. For the past two years I have dedicated my life to service. First through my AmeriCorps position as the Montana SMART Schools Coordinator, and again when I served with the National Wildlife Federation as an Education and Outreach Assistant. The decision to serve, however, hasn’t been easy, and for the past two years has required me to manage a second job. But I have persevered because I believe the work I am doing is making the best better. In the past two years I have presented lessons and lead activities with students grades K-12 showing and teaching new and innovative ways to make small differences that build lasting change. I have directed camps, lead field trips and made necessary adaptations when complications arose; because I understand and value the impact that hands on learning can have on youth development. I have organized volunteers, coordinated community events, and driven countless hours to present at various venues because I believe that hard work and commitment are what build strong communities.
But this passion for service, community building, and youth development is not simply a two-year endeavor. During my college career-while enrolled as a full time student and athlete along with other extracurricular responsibilities including theater, student body government, and chemistry club-I chose to continue serving. I joined the Providence Formation Program, a program dedicated to serving vulnerable populations and building them up for success. I regularly volunteered with Eagle Mount, an organization designed to create a healthy and safe environment for children and adults with special needs. What I learned was the value of time, and that investing your time in others is time well spent; it says to a person, you are important.
And I know how much that can mean to someone because of the countless people who invested their time in me. Perhaps this is the reason why AmeriCorps is based off of hours served; because they too acknowledge the value of spending time with individuals and within communities and the lasting impact that this can have.
My time with AmeriCorps has been a time of growth. It allowed me to expand upon my passions but also forced me to grow in areas I had previously neglected. All things considered, I am a better person because I served. The ongoing maxim is that I, along with thousands of other AmeriCorps members, “Answered the call to service”. But there’s another line ringing and it is time for me to go, but my commitment to serve others will remain with me on my journey moving forward.