This great story was written by Emma Scheetz, an AmeriCorps Alumna who served with College Possible Washington. Great stories like this one are written by AmeriCorps members and read weekly at team meetings as a way for our team to reflect, share learnings and stay connected to the students and coaches who have come before us and will come after us.
Sometimes, as a coach and a volunteer, you forget about the reasons why you started. You get used to your daily routine, just knocking off tasks without thinking much about your purpose. For several weeks I had been making my usual phone calls and texts to students, going to my work group meetings, and just crossing things off my to-do list. I had been so focused on the details I forgot to look at the big picture: my impact on my students. A week ago, I presented for the Serve Washington board about College Possible and what we do. Serve Washington approves AmeriCorps grants and has recently helped College Possible get more funding. The presentation seemed like a routine run-through of what we do as an organization and as volunteers. Afterward, however, I received an email from one of the board members, who is a professor at University of Washington (UW). They wrote:
“I have a UW student in my class right now and she says that College Possible is the reason she’s in school.”
In a moment I was reminded of my purpose as a coach, of the reason I am a part of AmeriCorps. It was one simple sentence, but it will take me to the rest of the service year and beyond. Sometimes we do not hear this gratitude directly from our students. But it is important to know, always, that we are making an impact as coaches. Students are graduating every year from colleges and universities because of College Possible and the AmeriCorps coaches. We are lessening the degree divide one student at a time.
As I say goodbye to my students this year, this reminder of my impact rings in my ears. I am heartbroken to be leaving them, but I know they will be in the capable hands of another coach next year. For those AmeriCorps coaches coming in next year, I hope they can see the words above and be reminded of their impact, just as I was. The service year is not always easy. Whether it involves dealing with financial aid offices, students in impossible situations, or having to pay money you don’t have to fix your car one more time, you will face some hardships as a volunteer. But what makes it all worthwhile is how you change your students’ lives. And while they might not say it directly to you, rest assured that you are making a difference.
This small email also brings to mind that a little bit of gratitude goes a long way. So, if you get a chance, send a thank-you to an AmeriCorps volunteer. It could be the message that they keep with them through their service year and beyond.