By Madelynn Nelson
“Time flies when you’re having fun” is a hackneyed saying, but one I can attest to. My brief but memorable chapter spent with Energy Corps is coming to a close as quick as a snap. Looking back at my 6 months of service and recalling the growth I experienced in both professional and personal development, I can gladly say that I wouldn’t change a thing about my time in Butte, America. I have learned and accomplished so much more than I could have even expected as a newly minted college graduate.
Back in the fall of 2018, I was one out of many college seniors whose heads blared with unanswered questions. What am I doing next? Should I go to grad school? How long is it going to take me to get a decent, full time job in my field and pay off my student loans? The answers weren’t clear but the process was. I needed to start applying for jobs. But being a fall graduate, I saw that almost no one was hiring in December. Most of what I could find were summer internships, until I stumbled across an opportunity to serve an AmeriCorps term.
An AmeriCorps term. Why not?
Further reading revealed that AmeriCorps offers a variety of service opportunities, from the classroom to the outdoors, and everything in between. No matter what you’re passionate about, where you’re from, or why you choose to serve, AmeriCorps is your chance to be the greater good.
It was decided. I wanted to expand my horizons outside of my home state. Serving an AmeriCorps term meant I could go anywhere, while serving community and gaining work experience. I’d have the time and the perspective to properly think about important future decisions, like whether or not I wanted to go to grad school. In the meantime, I could make some money to put towards my student loans from that sweet, sweet education stipend.
I started looking for AmeriCorps positions in Montana and that’s how I found my position with Energy Corps. But that was not the end of the questions and doubtful comments, many of which came from family members. What is AmeriCorps? What do they pay? What will you be doing? Surely you can find a better job than that!
This gave me an opportunity to state my values to both myself and those closest to me, and to clarify just how little money plays in that value system. I did not choose what I went to school for and what I want to do with my life to be a billionaire. My goal is to make a positive and tangible difference. It’s to educate people on sustainability, stewardship, and ways of protecting the land we depend on. There is so much that can be done to reduce our negative impact and ensure our resources are conserved for future generations. I want to make a difference. I want to help people who are living without or fighting for basic resources and to protect the beauty this world has to offer. I want to make this world a better place.
At the beginning of your AmeriCorps term, you are asked to recite the pledge.
“I will get things done for America – to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.”
Multiple times throughout my service, I’ve returned to these words. I WILL carry this commitment with me this year and beyond and I WILL get things done.
It’s important to know that your AmeriCorps term is what you make it. You do not always have a day to day task list. At the beginning of your service, you set up goals you want to accomplish during your term. It is up to you how you achieve those goals. You can collab with other members. You can seek outside help and travel out of the office if it benefits your service project or the goals of the project. But it is up to you to follow through with it.
Now that my service is coming to an end, I was asked to reflect on my 3 biggest accomplishments. I thought about it and I counted 3 on my fingers right away in relevance to the work plan I set up in January with my supervisor. Easy peasy.
- The Armed to Farm training I helped put together in April was a success.
- I interviewed Armed to Farm Alumni and created articles and podcasts to tell their stories and use as references for future beginning farmers.
- I presented to the Butte community about the importance of sustainability and community resilience in combating the effects of climate change, in Montana specifically.
Like I said, easy peasy.
But I feel as though I have accomplished so much more.
- I was involved in community events for a community I didn’t even realize I was a part of.
- I learned to appreciate the small things, because they are the big things.
- I developed better written and oral communication skills in professional settings.
- I learned budgeting and time management.
- I learned to smile when people said “Thank you for your service. You are doing great work.”
And that’s what I’m really taking home from this chapter.