I remember the first day — August 1, 2013 — of my AmeriCorps service year at PYD as if it were yesterday. I was anxious, excited, and had way too much caffeine coursing through me. I had spent the month before my start doing nothing but making myself nervous about how I would fare in my first “real” job. Eight months later, I can’t believe how much I’ve learned from all of the unique experiences that AmeriCorps offers.
As PYD’s Ambassador of Mentoring, I’ve faced new challenges daily and experienced nearly as many triumphs. My first major success involved planning PYD’s Mentor Appreciation Night. It is the largest event of the year for the Mentor Match program. Since the event is in October in honor of Disability History Month, I had to begin planning immediately — on my first day, in fact — if I wanted the night to be successful. There were several bumps along the road in which I learned valuable lessons such as the importance of organization and asking for help when it’s needed — small things that seem obvious but are easy to forget when we are wrapped up in day to day tasks. However, overall, the process was successful and I discovered that I really enjoy event planning. Watching every detail of my vision grow from an abstract idea to a successful, large-scale event was exhilarating.
The greatest challenge I’ve faced during my service year is time. Specifically, not having enough of it. I walk away from every training and workshop I attend with my head buzzing full of ideas to bring back to PYD. Despite my best intentions, however, sometimes there just isn’t enough time to complete all the projects that I’d like. In turn, this challenge has given me tremendous, positive experience in prioritization and critical thinking.
That’s the thing about AmeriCorps — through all of the challenges, set-backs, and struggles, I’ve gained important skills and experiences that will benefit me as I move on to other professional challenges. Through my year of service I’ve learned more about myself and what I want out of my career than I ever thought I would. Although I believed that a year of service is important before I started my time with AmeriCorps, now I am certain that it is critical for personal and professional growth.