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By Laurel Gower, Former Project RISE AmeriCorps Member

About the Author

“This experience outside of the medical field has served me well in treating and empathizing with patients of vulnerable populations, especially immigrants.”


If you have come to this page looking for an older Thought Leadership piece, please scroll down to the archives.


Reflections on a Year of Service

When I was about to graduate college in the spring of 2014, all of my friends seemed to have everything figured out. They had jobs lined up, new apartments in new cities, and they were ready to start their new lives after college. I, on the other hand, had no idea where I’d be living, what I’d be doing, or even where to start. I was planning to apply to medical school immediately after graduation, but that would leave a full year open before I could start school. I knew I wanted to do something different—something outside of my comfort zone, not related to medicine, but still fulfilling and fun.

I stumbled across AmeriCorps while I was looking for volunteer opportunities in the Atlanta area. There were a couple different Atlanta AmeriCorps sites, but the one at New American Pathways (at the time RRISA and RFS) caught my eye. The AmeriCorps member description suited me well—I liked the idea of being in the office for part of the day and spending time in an afterschool program for the afternoon. I had never worked with refugees before, and I was excited to get to know this unique population of immigrants.

Throughout my time at New AP, I learned much more about the refugee resettlement process than I had ever known. I got to know clients from around the world, listened as they spoke about life before their move, and encouraged as they made plans for their new lives in the United States. My co-members, as well as all of the New AP staff, were some of the most unique and wonderful people that I’ve ever worked with. Together, we made many trips to the DMV, helped clients apply for jobs, put on workshops, made afterschool lesson plans, and figured out how to best serve the refugee community.

Now, I’m about to start my fourth and final year of medical school in Charleston, South Carolina. I look back fondly on my time at New American Pathways, and I talk about it often with patients, friends, and colleagues. This experience outside of the medical field has served me well in treating and empathizing with patients of vulnerable populations, especially immigrants. I’m grateful that I found AmeriCorps and New American Pathways four years ago, and I know I’ll use the skills that I learned there for many years.

Laurel Gower graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2014 with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. She served as an Project RISE Employment Services AmeriCorps member at New American Pathways during the 2014-2015 term. She is now a fourth-year medical student at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, SC, and plans to pursue a career in pediatrics. 

Are you interested in serving the community through AmeriCorps? Now in our 10th program year, New AP is officially opening up recruitment for 2018-19 AmeriCorps Project RISE (Refugee and Immigrant Success through Education) program members! We encourage all who meet the requirements to apply, Learn more and apply here.


Archived Thought Leadership Stories


April 2018: Why I Serve with Refugees by Minji Kim

February 2018: Where are the Refugees? by Stephanie Jackson Ali

January 2018: Sharing Riches Through Mentorship by Kelsey Smith

December 2017: Thoughts on Doing Good This Season by Andrew Leba

October/November 2017: Thoughts on Thankfulness by Paedia Mixon

September 2017: Undocumented and Unafraid: My Parents, My Heroes by Raymond Partolan

August 2017: Building PathDriver: My Path to Drive an Impact by Robin Deutsch Edwards

July 2017: Civic Engagement Regardless of Citizenship by Maria del Rosario Palacios

June 2017: Celebrating World Refugee Day by Rabbi Peter S. Berg

May 2017: Love>Fear: And It’s Good For Business by Bonnie Kallenberg

April 2017:Talking with Babies Makes Their Brains Smarter by Nitza Vega-Lahr, Ph.D.

March 2017: It’s All About Student Support by Terry Segovis

February 2017: Clarkston, Georgia: An Ever-Changing Town by Awet Eyasu

January 2017: Reclaiming Georgia’s Legacy of Love by Paedia Mixon

December 2016: Reflections on Welcoming Communities Trip to Germany by Alicia Phillip

November 2016: Thanksgiving in America by Bishop Robert Wright

October 2016: Voting: The Real American Dream by Elizabeth Poythress

August/September 2016: From the Road: das Willkommen by Paedia Mixon

July 2016: My Life In AmeriCorps by Lauren Mertens

June 2016: Reflecting On World Refugee Day

May 2016: A Gift for my Parents by Bee Nguyen

April 2016: The Ripple Effect by Breauna Hagen

March 2016: Lessons I’ve Learned Tutoring a Refugee by Ashley Hager

February 2016: For the Love of Humanity by Safia Jama

January 2016: 4D Service Learning at The Galloway School by Scotti Belfi

November and December 2015: A Case for Syrian Resettlement by Paedia Mixon

October 2015: Creating a Welcoming Atlanta Interview with Luisa Cardona

September 2015: Third-Annual Red, White and NEW Event Exceeds Fundraising and Advocacy Goals by Kelley Lugo

August 2015: Patti Garrett – August 2015 Food for Thought by Patti Garrett

July 2015: Engaging International Families in Parent Groups by Patti Ghezzi

June 2015: Reflecting on the Fourth of July by Kevin Abel

May 2015: Looking Back on Iraq by Whitney Kweskin

April 2015: All Hail Hall by Spencer Hall

March 2015: Honoring our Volunteers by Adriana Varela

February 2015: Celebrating New Americans by Charles Barnwell and Bob Glick

January 2015: What Refugees Leave Behind by Wendy Cheeks

December 2014: Welcoming Week in Atlanta by Emily Pelton

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