There is Life After AmeriCorps- The Alumni prove it

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Today Project CHANGE had a special training and Re-Union all rolled into one. The occasion was to reflect on the last few months of service and what comes next.

Founder Judy Lapping ran the team through the process of using the Education Award and then, we were joined by over a dozen illustrious alumni from as far back as 2004-5. The current team introduced where they serve now and what their plans were for Post Project CHANGE. Then the alums shared where they had served, where they are now, and what stood out about their service and if they had any advice for current members.

It was amazing to hear about Jeanne who in 2005 lost everything in Hurricane Katrina and was evacuated from New Orleans to Washington and signed on to AmeriCorps as one way of bringing some stability back into her life. It did so much more than that, she said. Her advice to the team was, “Be Open, and be prepared to struggle for what you really believe in, or what you really want.” Jeanne was enrolling into Med School as a mature student and reached out to Divya, our current member, who starts Medical School in NYC in the Fall.

Jermarkus is currently working in the DC office of AmeriCorps and is about to take up a new post as Volunteer Coordinator of Martha’s Table, in DC. His advice, not to give up.

Ashley, who served at the YMCA and is there now as a program manager said, when she was on AmeriCorps she was so inexperienced and ignorant and at the same time, so entitled. She said AmeriCorps taught her a much needed humility and how to be teachable.

Greg had come down all the way from NYC to attend, and he said, after his AmeriCorps year, his family life fell apart with deaths and illness in his family and it was a long while before he even had a chance to process what the year meant. His advice was to let the dust settle first before you draw any conclusions. For him, the whole year of service gave him professional skills and personal confidence that he did not have beforehand.

Cynthia said she left AmeriCorps with her heart set on a graduate program in Social Work, and after two semesters, realized she was in the wrong program, and that she had to learn again what CHANGE had taught her, to be open and to be flexible.

Emily moved into various management positions after leaving AmeriCorps and said that it was important to never lose touch with your core values and not be tempted to obsess about what something seems like, as distinct from what really  mattered. She said she had just written a large grant to fund an after school program in DC and was looking to hire AmeriCorps grads interested in that field.

Julian shared his time at MHP and saying that he was very new and very young and was not even sure he contributed much to the site, but it launched him on his path, working now as a paralegal and also, writing and publishing his own books of poetry. His advice- that what you at AmeriCorps do really matters and is deeply appreciated, even if the supervisors don’t always take time to express that. What you do is critically important to so many people, and you should never forget that.

David served at the YMCA Einstein High School and he said that this experience was both hard and inspiring. It stirred within him a deeper desire to want to give back and for that he is grateful.

Judy said she felt like a proud Mom, seeing how all her graduates in the room had gone on to careers that made significant contributions to their communities, and how they credited Project CHANGE with making a decisive difference to their lives. There are plans to build on the positive energy of today and plan another re-union over the summer- this time as a pool party at Judy’s place.

The energy in the room showed me the level of interest and engagement. Current members were making connections and asking alums to mentor them, while alums were asking what training was offered to current members. I heard Justin say, they had training in  community mediation, and storytelling and peer to peer coaching and Financial Literacy and Social Styles. The alum said, “Wow. All that?  I am jealous now.”

Thank you Judy. Your legacy is amazing and precious. Thank you alums for being there for the team, and sharing your wisdom, not just about AmeriCorps  but about life. And thank you to my august 2016-17 Project CHANGE team for all that you do to make this world, this county and this country a better place.

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