Ever since I can remember leadership and service have remained a prominent event in my life. Leading others takes a certain kind of person. Before AmeriCorps, leadership to me meant showing people the way. After meeting my team leader I have learned that leadership is more leading by doing. People follow by watching someone they emulate. I look up to my team leader more than she will ever know and from her, I have learned that leadership is not just showing a team how to run it. Leadership digs deep into the surface of the word lead. I feel leadership is showing others the proper way. My team leader has taught me this simply by being the leader that she is daily.
When I wake up for a day of service I think of, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” I risked leaving my home, job, and the known to come to a life of the unknown. I feel as though service is the same concept. Daily our job consists of waking up, greeting people of communities, and simply serving them. Service makes me feel like my life is complete. Daily we take part in some aspect of service through our work. Service gives me a feeling of accomplishment. It is important for everyone, young and old, take part in service throughout their lives because giving back to others is the ultimate way of showing appreciation for the next person. People never really know what they are capable of doing in any aspect of life if you sit and let life pass you by. It is imperative, in this program especially, that we all risk going too far to see how far we actually can go.
It is hard to put into words exactly what the experience in NCCC has been like. The only couple of words that I can possibly think of would be, life changing. We started on February 27th where we entered a world that immediately I thought was MTV's the real world. We were strangers, picked to be in a program where people stop living their real life and start living in the ameriworld a world where real clothes were a thing of the past and khaki and gray or green became something you wore and wore it looking good daily. Training could not have prepared us for what we were about to embark upon for the whole experience. Once in our permanent teams we set out for our spikes. Each day we were faced with adversity and we persevered. Our team became a family, a family that nobody else in the world would understand why. Spending each day together, working, eating, laughing, cooking, and dancing are experiences that cannot even be explained. You wouldn’t get half of the stuff each collective team went through unless you were on the team. I am forever changed because of the 8 members of my team, other team members, other team leaders, and our staff. This program has taught me that when you think that you can’t, you can and you realize you can because of your teammates. This program has taught me that no matter what is going on in your life, you will survive with the help of your team. This program has taught me that friendship goes beyond Massachusetts. Friendship is now in Ohio, Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana, Delaware and every other state in the country. Most importantly, this program has taught me that you have a family you are born into and a family you create for yourself. I can honestly say that I come from a large family, but now it has significantly grown because of this program. I would not change this experience, every tear, every laugh, every terrible singing and dancing session in the van, every fight, every ISP, every home gutted, every trail blazed, every ride with Roe, every tire slashed, every glass block installed, every WPR, every piece of drywall installed, every sleeping situation and everyday with my team and others for anything. How do you sum up what I have experienced in NCCC into words? You can’t, you have to live it to understand
I was so happy I got to address the Corps as emcee for the ceremony. It meant the world to me.
I have met some of the most amazing people in the last 10 months. I am forever changed by each and every person I have met in the last 10 months. I am so grateful I have a supportive family that allowed me to leave a full time job and making money to be in a national community service volunteer program. I am so thankful for my best friends, 5 girls I can now NEVER live without. I am thankful for my team and the year we had together. The members of River Ten will forever hold a place in my heart.
Tonight is the last night in Vicksburg, our little community. I remember the night before I left we all googled Vicksburg and I was more nervous because of what I saw, different things than Burlington. Weird. Now, I am in love with our little city. The sunsets, the Mississippi river, highway 61 coffee, The Tomato Place, Biscuit Company, Duffs, Roe's Cab service, and especially the Southern Region Campus. You can't really explain this to anyone. I love the south and I am moving the second I get somewhere down here.
As I reflect on the last 10 months I am realizing I am totally different than I was in February. I am happier, more open minded, more skilled, and my cooking is at it's prime. I really am trying my best to think of a good way to sum up what I am feeling and the last 10 months, but I am at a loss for words. This program has meant the world to me and I am so happy that I joined. I will forever be an AmeriCorps member, and I will try my hardest to "get things done" even outside of my "A" uniform.
I am so happy I got to share my journey with all of my readers out there. I hope a story or two has stuck with you while reading and it has made some sort of impact. I head to the airport at 4:30am tomorrow and will be in Boston by 4pm, just in time to hop on the ice with the high school team. For those of you who have read my 10 month journey, thank you. I enjoyed sharing my thoughts for everyone to read. Maybe I will continue writing, who knows. I am going to end this post with a quote that was read at graduation, but is one of my absolute favorites. I thought about it a lot while in the program, and it has helped me through some of my days where I wanted to quit.
"Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." - Dr. Seuss