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Reflections on a Year of National Service
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
THE PERKS OF BEING A MENTOR
The last three months of service have been truly eye opening for me. I have learned a lot about myself as well as the community in which I serve. I understand that serving is supposed to be about those who are being served, but it's impossible to remove yourself from the process.
When I first began my term of service, I had it in my mind that I was going to go into my school site and save the world. Volunteering meant helping those in need by any means necessary. I didn't really think about it as serving. Even during training, all the talk about the difference between volunteering and serving didn't really sway my mindset. I was keen on helping students, and I was going to do that without becoming overtly involved. Well, that was very ignorant on my part.
Serving is clearly about much more than just helping out students in need. It's about more than tutoring, and it most definitely spills over past the set hours I'm at school. My students are constantly on my mind, whether it be something that happened that day in class or something that popped into my mind as a technique to help a student or improve Homework Club. Even activities that seem completely unrelated to my service have the potential to be tied back in. It's crazy the times I've had tutoring tips spring into my head.
The time I've spent thus far as a tutor has shown me one thing I haven't experienced in a work-related situation: Passion! I sincerely love what I am doing and the people I have had the privilege to interact with [students included]. Each day brings forth new challenges as well as new victories. Each day is a reward in itself. Even if a student is being naughty, I know that it's just one day out of the entire time we'll spend together, and it doesn't change the relationship we have or the dedication I have to that student.
Serving is about the student. It's about helping the student learn and grow through whatever processes work for that student. But it's also about learning and growing as a mentor through those interactions. It's about being open and vulnerable to new experiences and the struggles that will come up.
In my mind, there are only perks to being a mentor. Perhaps that's just my rose-tinted glasses fogging up my view, but even if that's the case, I'm not taking those glasses off anytime soon.
Corporation for National and Community Service
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