As we wrap up Global Volunteer Month, we wanted to take a minute to thank all our volunteers who have contributed to Willis Dady. In particular, we would like to highlight the work of past and future AmeriCorps members. AmeriCorps service can take several different shapes and forms, but it always has a heart of service at its core. For two Willis Dady staff members, that’s where they started their careers.
What was your AmeriCorps project?
Sierra: I was the Volunteer Coordinator VISTA here at Willis Dady. I worked on capacity-building projects for the volunteer program and personally supervised volunteer projects.
Marin: I had several projects in my two terms of Green Iowa AmeriCorps. In my first year, I mainly put workshops together for the non-profit Matthew 25 focused on environmental issues and sustainability. I also sat at the front desk for Willis Dady during the first 6 months of the pandemic. In my second year, I lead Matthew 25’s education program at Cedar River Academy. This included putting lesson plans together and teaching the kids how to garden! I also led the high school program (Root and Seed Crew) at the Urban Farm where they learned how to run a small urban farm.
Why did you want to do AmeriCorps? What made you interested in the program?
Sierra: My older brother had done a couple of years of AmeriCorps at another location so I knew the program existed. When COVID hit and I was graduating college, I wasn’t sure what my next step was. Signing up for AmeriCorps gave me sort of a “pause year” to figure out what I wanted to do for a career. I wanted to make sure non-profit work was the route I wanted to take. Plus, the loan forgiveness part didn’t hurt my motivation at all.
Marin: I wanted to do AmeriCorps to better understand my community and to help educate people about how to better care for our environment. I was especially interested in Matthew 25’s program because they had an urban farm and lots of other programs in place to help the community and the environment.
How did your AmeriCorps term help you either personally or professionally?
Sierra: I had grown up volunteering but never worked on the other side of it. It gave me a really good understanding of the backside of volunteering – volunteer coordination. I was able to gain hands-on experience in a field I was interested in. It also gave me peace of mind that if I decided it wasn’t for me, I could amicably leave after my one-year term. Since this was my first full-time job, it was nice to know Willis Dady cared about my professional development and wanted to help me succeed. In the end, I was offered a full-time position to continue the same work that my AmeriCorps project focused on. I was able to do so with more confidence and experience than I would have had if I started right out of college.
Marin: Being in AmeriCorps for two years really prepared me for the real world. I learned how to set goals and create my own deadlines. I also learned how to live on a low income which helped me understand a small portion of what many of my clients are going through.
What advice would you give to someone starting their term?
Sierra: I would tell them to not be scared to ask questions! Your host site should be fostering your professional development and helping you to be curious about the work they are doing. Of course, stay on task with the project you signed up for, but don’t be afraid to learn about the other programs your site offers.
Marin: Make sure you really advocate for yourself and be open to learning new things and making mistakes. Pay attention to what you enjoy doing as well as what you don't, this will help you choose what you want to do in the future. Last thing, stay connected! The people you work with will be great references for future jobs.
Are you or someone you know interested in AmeriCorps? Willis Dady is recruiting for three full-time VISTA positions set to start this summer (2022). To learn more, check out the job postings below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Donor Engagement VISTA – This VISTA will work on projects focused on donor engagement strategies and data with our Development team. https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=110521
Willis Dady Works Operations VISTA – We recently expanded into a new employment hub! This VISTA will help our Employment Services Director and Volunteer and Operations Coordinator determine best practices for the operations of the building in addition to working with our volunteers. https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=110431
VISTA Disaster Impacts Research Coordinator – This VISTA will work on research projects focusing on the impacts of COVID and the derecho on homelessness and housing insecurity. https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/viewListing.do?fromSearch=true&id=110480