Reflections on Two Years of AmeriCorps Service

The 2020-2021 AmeriCorps Cohort is wrapping up their year of service at New American Pathways this month, and we are incredibly grateful for this team. This 15-member group faced virtual and remote serve during the COVID-19 pandemic with a lot of patience, perseverance and innovation to ensure New AP clients received the best possible support during such a stressful time. AmeriCorps Program Manager Caitlin Barrow says about the current cohort “This year’s AmeriCorps cohort has gone above and beyond despite the challenges of serving remotely.  During the last 11 months they have provided services such as vaccine outreach, school enrollments, employment assistance, and virtual afterschool to over 800 adults and 180 children. Though this year was unique and challenging, we are so proud of that our AmeriCorps Team was still able to provide over 3,000 services to our clients. Their impact will be felt long after their time at New American Pathways.”

Pam serving in the afterschool program before the pandemic.

We spoke to two outgoing members about their service experience. Teresa Bryant has served as the Women’s Empowerment Member for two years, and Pamela Swartz has been in her role as Family Support member for two years as well. Both began their time at New AP providing in person services, and then had to transition in March of 2020 to virtual services. Teresa and Pam decided to extend their time with New AP by serving for a second year, and both said that they felt that the needs were great during the pandemic and their work wasn’t done.

Teresa’s primary role in AmeriCorps was to work with new American women on their path to self-sufficiency and empowerment. This includes helping clients find jobs, but Teresa has found that it is just as important for her to help the women she serves gain self-confidence as well. When New AP moved to remote work, Teresa said it was hard to get clients to open up at first while balancing her own hours and workload, but she and her colleagues were creative and patient, and eventually things became easier. As she reflects on her time with New AP,Teresa says “We should stand up as women, help each other, and show that we can do anything. I want refugee and immigrant women to feel good about themselves, both inside and out. That’s what I have learned and try to do in my role”. As Teresa wraps up her time in AmeriCorps, she will continue to support New AP clients in a temporary role for a few more months.

Pam’s role as Family Support Member allowed her to work with children and their families who are new to the United States. She both taught refugee students in the afterschool program and helped their parents gain knowledge and confidence in navigating the school system. COVID-19 has been very challenging for the clients she serves and the Education and Youth team had to figure out the best way to engage with students and their parents, as communication was challenging. However, they worked through the process and were able to continue to support families in the best way possible. Of all of her tasks at New AP, Pam says  “The best thing I’ve ever done is teach students who are new to the United States, and watch them gain knowledge and confidence. I hope to continue to work in the refugee community, as my involvement has moved from a personal interest to a professional passion.” 

The AmeriCorps team did an amazing job supporting students with virtual learning.

As Pam and Teresa wrap up their time as part of the New American Pathways AmeriCorps team, they have some words of wisdom for individuals considering joining the incoming AmeriCorps Cohort. Teresa says that you must “have an open mind and be compassionate, a good listener and be ready to serve.” Pam agreed and added that the program is great for entering the nonprofit sector after college to explore, and said that “You must be taking care of yourself in order to effectively care for others. Self-care and talking about mental health is important for a service role”.

Pam, Teresa, and all the other amazing AmeriCorps members who are wrapping up their time with New AP- THANK YOU! We are so grateful for all your hard work and dedication in helping refugees and Georgia thrive.