What you are about to read is taken form a speech I was asked to give after my first year of service in the spring of 2006. Though there are some edits, the bulk of the speech – and the spirit of the speech – has remained.
~Peter F. Marotto, M.Ed.
“When I volunteered to speak at this luncheon I began to think about many things: My service experience, what and more importantly why we serve, and my own past that lead me to joining AmeriCorps. I am speaking as a new member, though I am one of the older members as well.
In May of 2005 I applied to Springfield College, I was 31 and thought many experiences, including AmeriCorps were long past. I saw flyers posted, however, and by the middle of the fall I applied to AmeriCorps.
My service experience has been in Capacity Building for Step Up Springfield, my sight placement site is listed as WGBY, however, I divide my time between WGBY and my 2005 Chevy Aveo — it’s the little red roller skate people see me driving all over Springfield, many times up and down the same three or four roads while lost.
I’ve learned a lot during my first service experience. I went in a bit arrogant, thinking I could accomplish the task at hand with little to no help. In the end I would not have had the experience I did, or the success I did without the support of my sight supervisor, Russ Peotter who years later I finally was able to thank properly, as his lessons I use daily in my professional life.
That is the “What” of my service; the “Why” is more important. Why I chose to serve was two-fold: First, because I had wanted to join an organization like AmeriCorps, and I had the chance; second, the living stipend afforded me the opportunity to go part time at my job.
The Why, especially the non-altruistic motives for service are out there; what we as AmeriCorps members need to remember is that we all have a multitude of reasons for joining…and not all of them have to be altruistic. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get something out of your service experience, and we need to be mindful of that.
AmeriCorps service is a fine line between wanting to serve and to wanting to have done something that sets you apart from the crowd.
My second year will be more altruistic, and maybe a little less rocky. My car might even be retired as a placement sight.
Having an undergraduate background in history I remember a documentary on the history of WestPoint Military Academy. One part that came to mind, one that I will never forget regards the cadets that were accepted in the 1960′s, during the Vietnam era. The cadets were compared to people that joined the Peace Corps. Both groups had an innate drive to serve a cause bigger than them; to achieve something great. AmeriCorps members are part of this driven group.
At some point in your life you will meet someone; whether a new co-worker, someone at a party, or while traveling; and as you get to talking, your past experience with AmeriCorps will come up — and then you find out that they were in AmeriCorps also. Your conversation from that point on will revolve around words and phrases like service experience, placement, sight supervisor, capacity building, youth development, counseling, academic coaching. And anyone that has not served with AmeriCorps is going to be out of the loop, because they didn’t serve.
Service shouldn’t end with your AmeriCorps experience. Volunteer with community programs like Step Up Springfield. Start your own program. Get Involved.
The AmeriCorps slogan is “Getting Things Done”; if you join you’ll have already done this. The rest of your professional lives will be the marathon to stay involved, to remember that the world is run by those who show up. Prove you can show up. Serve in AmeriCorps.