My AmeriCorps Story

By Fatima Koko, New AP Data and Service Specialist

After a decade of AmeriCorps service, New AP just kicked off our eleventh year with a new team! While I mostly work on the backend of managing AmeriCorps logistics, this time around my responsibility in recruitment and onboarding members has been more on the active side – and one I truly enjoyed!

Prior to joining the New AP team, I had a similar experience to that of our members. Right out of undergrad a couple of years ago, I was also faced with the many questions that so many of us contemplate once we finish school. I did not want to go into the workforce right away as I wanted to serve in my community, reflecting on the advent of the political climate we have now.

I was interested in the impact of education on youth because that was something that my parents instilled in me from a young age. As I grew older I was able to comprehend the gravity of this and what opportunities may come of it.

I was recruited by AmeriCorps for a few programs and ended up serving a term in the great big city of New York as an assistant teacher in math, alongside the greatest group of people I could have asked for, and ones who I’m proud to call my best friends to this day. Teaching young students in the underserved neighborhoods in the Bronx was definitely an experience that I will never forget. I came across so many intelligent and inquisitive students who were hungry for knowledge and guidance, and who throughout the year realized that so many opportunities await them as they get older, whether it’s in their neighborhoods or elsewhere. It was for sure tough work, but I saw it as something that builds character and empathy.

Coming into this role at New AP, I knew exactly what AmeriCorps members are going through, despite the differences in the type of community. I had the opportunity to navigate the inner workings of recruiting, interviewing, and placing members across the many departments we have. Our cohort this year is comprised of a very young group, yet they have had a world of experience that not only our staff has but that is paramount to the work we do to support our mission in the best and most sincere manner. As someone who falls in the age group of the members we have this year, and having gone through this experience right out of college, I definitely can relate personally. But I also look forward to working alongside them as my peers. Even more so, I anticipate the energy and fresh ideas that they will bring into the office.

Even during our training, the new cohort had a session on social media training and were asked about the best ways to engage young people in causes through social media. Without hesitation, the whole room began to fill with voices telling what works best, which platforms catch our attention the most, what content to create, how often people should post, among so many other suggestions. Just being in that room and observing the engagement reassured me that not only are we expecting an open and engaging cohort but also shined a light on the impact of young voices on how causes such as ours can effectively share information for public consumption and awareness.

Currently, members are in their first full week of service and already I’ve heard amazing feedback from supervisors on how quickly they’ve gotten acclimated. They have fully pitched in to support with airport pickup, setting up apartments, and helping buy groceries/other necessities for our new arrivals. Others in our education department have already begun developing lesson plans for our afterschool program, which has just recently commenced and is appreciative of AmeriCorps presence. With their support in the office and in our afterschool program, the impact they are making on our adult clients and their children is palpable.

The members have also been able to foster relationships with each other rather quickly. I’ve received comments from staff members about how wonderful it is to see members round up each other to go have lunch in this circular table that we have upstairs. I’ve also reflected on this as I’ve learned in the past how metaphorically powerful circles are for building trust and ensuring there’s equality since there is no beginning or end in this formation, so it’s great to witness this confirmation in such an inclusive and realistic way as the members have made it.

Having gone through this experience of training and bringing this group of people together in the last three months has allowed me to grow in more ways than I could have ever expected in such a short period of time. As we are going into this year, I continue to reflect on the many moments and lessons I’ve learned thus far and hope to impart gems on our members if needed throughout the duration that they will be here serving in our office. We are extremely grateful for them serving as pillars in our departments because we could not do it all without them. I look forward to what this year has in store!

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