Pictured above: Our 2016-2017 AmeriCorps Team Members
Now in our tenth year of Project RISE AmeriCorps and looking forward to our eleventh, we surveyed the AmeriCorps members from our past several years and collected some favorite stories to share. From the bottom of our heart, New AP thanks ALL of our former and current AmeriCorps members for dedicating a year (and, often, two years) to serving the refugee community in Georgia.
2011-2012 RRISA Adult Education Member
Megan served with Project RISE prior to the merger of RRISA and RFS, and we soon after hired her as our resettlement coordinator. She has been part of our family ever since – and she always will be. Due to lack of arrivals and resulting decreased funding, we no longer have that position in Resettlement. We were very sad to see her leave and wanted to share some of her terrific memories:
One of my favorite parts of working at New American Pathways is going to the airport and greeting new families with their relatives who often have not seen each other in years. The reunion of parents and children and husbands and wives never fails to cause my heart to swell. The tears of joy are plentiful and the hugs of relief long-lasting. One can feel an immense weight being lifted from their shoulders. I love standing back and witnessing such pure moments.
I recently went to the airport to pick up a new client and bumped into a former one from Ukraine who was also there picking up a relative of a friend. As we waited, he was telling me about his job and how he travels around the southeast managing a team that lays flooring in new or renovated buildings. He showed me pictures of his work, explaining how it’s done. He also told me that his two young sons who arrived with him and his wife now speak fluent English and enjoy school and that his daughter (who was born here) and wife were doing well, too.
It was incredible listening to his family updates entirely in English, knowing that when he arrived here in October 2014 he didn’t know more than a few words of the language. Equally amazing was the content of the conversation. I was there at the airport waiting to welcome a new refugee starting her life in the US while my former client, who went through the same process, was there with me proudly exclaiming how his family is thriving. He is looking forward to being able to start the citizenship process next year and eventually having the opportunity to vote.
I am continuously inspired by the people I’m surrounded with at New American Pathways, both clients and colleagues. The sheer strength and resilience our clients possess in the face of so much adversity as well as the seemingly limitless compassion my colleagues pour out to them on a daily basis blows me away. I am honored to work with, serve, and learn from such a diverse group of individuals. The people I interact with each day exhibit the determination and hard work that strengthen this country, and as someone born and raised here, I am proud to welcome these new Americans to our communities.
2015-2016 Volunteer Engagement Member
After completing my AmeriCorps service at New American Pathways, I went on to a management role in a nonprofit school for refugee girls. I head all community engagement efforts at the Global Village Project (GVP) which includes management of service member programs (volunteers, interns, mentors, and AmeriCorps members). I also manage external communication and community partnerships for GVP. Serving at New American Pathways was the start of my work within the refugee community and nearly three years later I continue with work directly and indirectly with refugee youth and adults. My AmeriCorps service also allowed me to understand the operations and management of a nonprofit. This experience was a deciding factor in my current career choice and it confirmed my love of nonprofit work.
The most important thing from my AmeriCorps service that I apply in my role as a nonprofit manager is my use of empathy in my work. Having been in a service role and coordinating volunteers at New AmeriCorps Pathways, I know what it’s like to serve and support those that serve. I was also a Peace Corps volunteer, so I’m a firm believer in service to others, its impact, and its need. I empathize with the AmeriCorps members, mentors, interns, and volunteers that I supervise and support throughout their service at my school. I’m able to understand their experience because I too experienced it and I’m more considerate of their needs and challenges. Empathy is helpful and important in my current work because it allows me to switch perspectives and respect others perspectives. I learned to utilize empathy during my service in the nonprofit context and more specifically use it to work effectively with service members within the refugee community.
2015-2016 Elementary Curriculum Development Member
As an AmeriCorps member at New American Pathways, I worked to make learning fun and educational for students. In my opinion, AmeriCorps at New American Pathways has impacted students participating in the afterschool, summer and Young Women’s Leadership programs. In collaboration with AmeriCorps at New American Pathways, students improve their academic performance, learn about the importance of serving their community, gaining social skills and mentors. The most memorable moment from my AmeriCorps service term was watching a group of students become collaborative, supportive, resourceful, and confident to accomplish their goals, overcome obstacles and adversity, resolve conflict and encourage everyone they encountered.
Following the completion of my AmeriCorps term, I began pursuing my master’s at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. I am currently a second-year student in the Masters in Development Practice (MDP) program at Emory University concentrating in urban development and program evaluation. As an MDP student, I have worked with academic institutions, nonprofits, government agencies, and international organizations on social, economic, and political issues. I am working as a graduate intern at CARE and completing pro bono work with New American Pathways. I will graduate from Emory University in August 2018.
Other AmeriCorps Alumni Favorite Moments and Reflections
2016-2017 Middle School Curriculum Development Member
One of our students came to us knowing about three English words. Over time, he picked up more and more English which was his fourth language. A few months into his time in afterschool, he said his first complete sentence to me while we were playing jump rope. He looked at me, smiled from ear-to-ear, and said, “You turn too slow!”
A few months go by, and it’s the last day of my summer camp. I had barely made it to the last day due to my new teacher orientation at my upcoming career. I was explaining to the middle schoolers where I had been. The young man mentioned earlier asked if I was returning to afterschool, to make sure he understood what I was saying. I told him I would not be, but that I plan on volunteering when I get the chance to. He shook his head in understanding, and said, “I will miss you.”
2016-2017 Volunteer Engagement Member
I’m currently an analyst at a benefits consulting firm. It took me a while to get to where I am but the journey can be just as wonderful as the destination! I landed here after briefly working at a software company and an events company. I’ve had the unique opportunity to experience vastly different industries, but the adaptive nature of AmeriCorps and the empowering workplace perspective at New American Pathways helped me create a sound understanding of who I am and my professional self-worth. Out of that, I’ve been able to focus on professional values such as culture and fit rather than position descriptions because I have the confidence to learn new tasks. What I’ve enjoyed most out of my AmeriCorps year that I took for granted at the time are the connections I’ve made with fellow alumnae and New American Pathways supporters. I recommend everyone to take a year to get involved in a service program!
2012-2013 Family Literacy Member
I learned how to do in-home work while running the Family Literacy Program. I continue to do in-home work as a child welfare social worker.
Advice: Be patient with yourself and others; don’t be afraid to use your voice.
2012-2013 Volunteer Engagement Member
My time with Project RISE started my career path towards TESOL. Volunteering in the afterschool program made me realize how much I enjoy working with immigrant and refugee youth, and I began searching for types of careers where I could continue this work.