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AMERICORPS Reflections

Reflections on a Year of National Service

~November 2011~

Editor's Note: For the fourth year an AmeriCorps or VISTA member from the Federal Way AmeriCorps and VISTA Team has written a reflections column for Volunteer. Instead of one writer this year, three AmeriCorp members will share this column space. These columns are a reflections of the impact that volunteering has on someone's life. Enjoy.

Federal Way AmeriCorps and VISTA Team. Established in 1995, the Federal Way AmeriCorps program works to strengthen the Federal Way community through academic tutoring and modeling an ethic of service.

AmeriCorps members in Federal Way serve full time in the Federal Way Public Schools. In addition to tutoring students and developing before and after school programs, members manage two community tutoring programs, implement civic engagement community projects and serve in area service projects. AmeriCorps members also recruit and train community volunteers. For more information on their programs http://www.fwps.org/dept/volunteer/acfw.html


Question: What brought me to volunteer with AmeriCorps and this program specifically?

Sky Friedlander's response:

         My road to AmeriCorps is nothing too exciting, really; I knew someone who had recently completed an AmeriCorps NCCC (Conservation Corps) program, and he spoke highly of it.  At the time I saw AmeriCorps as a way to get me out of the State College, PA bubble I had built for myself.  I was born there and ended up attending Penn State, which is also conveniently located in State College. I went to school there because at the time I wasn’t ready to step out into the big world.  But by the time I was ready to graduate, I felt differently.  I also think looking back now, that I was searching for something to care about, something that would fill up my whole being with purpose. AmeriCorps seemed like it could fit the bill—isn’t volunteering supposed to be rewarding, I thought to myself?
I applied to what seems now to be about a thousand AmeriCorps programs, but Federal Way AmeriCorps was the program situated farthest away from where I grew up.  That is one thing I love about it: finally, I am independent and feel as grown up as I ever have.  I remember searching for Washington state programs on the AmeriCorps website, thinking about how unbelievable it would be if I ever made it to the West Coast.  Here I am, separated by a three-hour time difference and thousands of miles from my State College bubble!
         What is something to care? The program, volunteering? (It) is also something to care about; a program that could take over my whole life if I ever let it.  At Penn State, I never felt that connected to the school or my studies, I never felt like the stakes were that high.  Here, I feel a sense of urgency, that what I’m doing here actually affects others.  It is crushingly overwhelming and extremely satisfying at the same time. 

Laura Ingalls' response:

         If you had asked me two years ago what I was going to do with my life, I would’ve had a million different answers. But volunteering wouldn’t have been one of them. I have always been an active volunteer in my community, but it was always a side project, or something I did as part of a class or because it was a cause I was passionate about. I never expected it to be the main focus of my life.
           The summer before my senior year of college, I decided that I wanted to travel. Now, the way I came to volunteer with AmeriCorps may not be the selfless story you’d expect. I figured that the easiest way to travel and experience new people and places fresh out of college, with all my student debt, would be to apply as a volunteer with some agency. I will say that my motives weren’t all selfishly motivated. I do enjoy working with people to improve their situations. But the primary reason I decided to apply to this program within AmeriCorps was to further my travels.
           However, once I actually began the process of interviewing and really became involved in dedicating the next year of my life to volunteering, I realized that it wasn’t as simple as I had made it out to be. Yes, I’d potentially get to travel, and of course I’d meet new people, but it wasn’t going to be sunshine and rainbows all the time. It was going to require dedication and serious passion to be accepted and to survive my contract.
           During my senior year, I grew a lot and became more aware of the ability I have to affect change. I used to hate that phrase, “affect change,” because I never really understood what it meant. Now I feel like I have a more concrete understanding of it, and through the experiences I had during my last year of college and the summer before I entered “the real world,” I believe it is something that I can consciously achieve in my time with Federal Way Public Schools AmeriCorps and after.
           If you asked me today what I want to do with my life, I wouldn’t be able to give you an exact answer. I could give you a vague idea, based around traveling, working with people, and learning, but I couldn’t pinpoint one specific thing or job I want. And I’m okay with that. AmeriCorps has taught me, in the short time I’ve been volunteering, that it’s all right not to have all the answers as long as you never stop trying and learning. And in the words of a woman of excellence, sometimes you just have to fake it until you make it.

Monica Kaplan's response:

         Initially, I applied because I was in between jobs and in the process of looking for one. I was at a crossroad about where I was going with my life professionally and personally. Throughout my college years, and through friends and colleagues, I had heard about AmeriCorps in passing and how great of an experience volunteering was for those who went. Two particular friends had been encouraging me to join. They said that the experience would be exactly what I was looking for in a career and in life: challenging, transformative, and purposeful.
         When this journey began in October 2010, the purpose was to get a job but not just any kind of job. Preferably and ideally, a job that meant something. Anything that would give me passion and a drive to do work that created impact and a positive domino effect. I have always wanted to live a life that was authentic with purposeful intentions and holistically fulfilling.  Intrinsically, I believe to have that kind of life, the kind that I want to live, that means serving in a compassionate, altruistic, community-oriented way. 

How to do that?  I applied to AmeriCorps and looked into a variety of programs. During the search process, I found the AmeriCorps program in the Federal Way Public Schools, which happened to be the first to contact me back. The program is just outside of Seattle, and I had never visited. I didn’t know anyone there either. No past references to connect me to a brand new place and quite possibly a new life. I said yes, because on an intuitive level, it felt like it was the right move to make.
So that is why I chose AmeriCorps and this program specifically. I chose this place because serving is a way of life for me and, I believe, is a life that is truly fulfilling. I have heard a wise woman say  “There are so many ways to do life,” and this is how I choose to live mine.


photo Sky Friedlander hails from State College, Pennsylvania.  She attended Maryland Institute College of Art for one year and proceeded to transfer to Penn State University, where she graduated in 2011 with a B.A. in English.  This year she is pleased to call herself a member of the Federal Way AmeriCorps team!


Laura Ingalls


photo Monica Kaplan, graduated in May 2009 from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA, with a Bachelor of Science degree. I am currently serving with the AmeriCorps Program in the Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS). Volunteering hands and heart to service, changing young minds, and making a difference in the greater scheme of life. ands and mind to service, changing young minds, and making a difference in the greater scheme of life.


Corporation for National and Community Service

Interested in becoming an Americorps volunteer?


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