Today's post is written by Laura Nutty, an AmeriCorps VISTA and the Youth Service Program Manager at HandsOn Charlotte.
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.
This quote by Neale Donald Walsch has been my motto to live by over the past few years, and is something I feel adequately defines the experiences as an AmeriCorps member.
My name is Laura Nutty and I am currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Hands On Charlotte in Charlotte, North Carolina. Last year, I served with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) in the Pacific Region. The year before that I served as an AmeriCorps State and National member in Rochester, New York. My decision to serve in AmeriCorps was largely based on the fact that I did not know what I wanted to do after graduating college, and I was so unsure of myself and what career option I wanted to pursue. AmeriCorps was the answer for me at the time, and proved to be the best decision that I could have made.
While each branch of AmeriCorps is very different from each other, there is one common link; you are not only serving with others in the community you are in, but you are serving yourself along the way. I not only served communities by cutting down trees on fuel reduction projects, and shingling a roof on a historical building during NCCC, but I also learned how to conquer fears and take risks. I not only managed volunteers for a family program or built planter benches for a local school during my VISTA year this year, but I also learned how to better communicate with community members and build valuable networking skills.
Each year, presented a new challenge. Whether it was my initial decision to serve in AmeriCorps, moving 3,000 miles away from home and living with 10 strangers for 10 months, or moving to a new city, to a new position for a year, I definitely stepped outside of my comfort zone each time. Once the initial shock and fright of the new situation subsided, I blossomed and really took advantage of the opportunities. I felt an increase in self-confidence and self-esteem after each year as a result of being able to tackle each challenge successfully.
The people you meet along the way in AmeriCorps are not only inspiring, but also motivating. As AmeriCorps members, we also step outside of our comfort zone with the people we surround ourselves with everyday. AmeriCorps places us in environments that most of us did not previously have exposure to before we started serving. These environments can include people who are our teammates, our staff members, or the community members we aim to serve with. The people that we engage with teach us about ourselves, and make us better versions of ourselves in the process. Through my experiences in different cities and neighborhoods, with different kinds of personalities and work styles, I have certainly learned how to be more patient, to be a better listener, and because of that to be a better communicator. I have learned to take each struggle and each challenge, along with each triumph, as a way to learn and grow.
My current term as an AmeriCorps VISTA member has been challenging in different ways. However, because of my past two years with AmeriCorps, I knew that it would be worth the risk in the end. This year with Points of Light and the Hands On Network I was given the opportunity to once again push myself, and step outside of my comfort zone to not only better myself, but better the community I am serving with.