March 11, 2017

The military isn’t the only way one can be of service to country.

The drive to serve isn’t borne by servicemembers and veterans alone; it is the flag under which veterans and civilians unite.

An integral part of our philosophy is that while continued service can play an important role in veterans’ lives, change can only happen when we join hands with the next generation of Americans: our youth. Just as we enlist veterans to serve where their community needs it most, AmeriCorps enlists young adults to do the same.

In our experience, both AmeriCorps alumni and veterans come away from their experience with a drive to continue serving. While it’s no question that the military and AmeriCorps are vastly different, there are a few notable common threads. Like the military, AmeriCorps provides young adults in their formative years a unique opportunity to shape their careers, experience comradery, grow personally, find their niche, and even find a sense of purpose.  In this way, government programs like AmeriCorps are an important part of the service ecosystem in which we live.

In fact, as connecting veterans and civilians to each other through service is a practice we implement within our own walls, we are proud to say that a considerable amount of our longtime staff here at The Mission Continues have found their way to us through AmeriCorps placements. Some of our staff have also completed tours of service through Peace Corps and Teach for America.

Photograph from an orientation weekend for Mission Continues Fellows and Platoon Leaders.

Communications Manager Nick Zevely and Taylor Sprague, our Learning & Development Specialist, were both placed with us by AmeriCorps as Communications Coordinators. Nick says the program clicked with him because of this. “I’ve always been drawn to public service, I just wasn’t sure how to do it. So when I found AmeriCorps VISTA, I immediately knew it was the opportunity I’d been looking for.” In the end, “my service experience gave me the opportunity give back in a meaningful way and to start a career.”

On a personal level, said Taylor, “When you take part in national service, it provides a certain sense of pride, purpose and belonging to your community and your country.”

City Impact Manager Jess Peter had her eyes set on service early on, but AmeriCorps helped her find her niche. “My year of service was one of the greatest influences on my life. AmeriCorps is where I learned about volunteer management as a profession, and I am still in that field today!” Jess was placed within the AmeriCorps St. Louis Emergency Response Team, where she led teams of volunteers responding to disasters. Now she’s using the leadership and technical skills she honed during her year fighting wildfires and assisting disaster-affected communities to support service platoons and our operations at large.

Regional Resource Specialist Katrina Hill’s experience exemplifies this parallel. She served in AmeriCorps NCCC for two years after college. This program was special because it entailed that she live, work and travel with a team of about ten people, completing a variety of service projects. It’s not surprising that the strong relationships she developed left an impression, so the camaraderie her veteran counterparts often hark back to is something that resonates with her. Katrina said, “It was incredibly powerful to serve alongside a group of like-minded idealists, who really believe that they can affect positive change.”

Photograph from a service project in Washington D.C.

Elizabeth Ray, Fellowship Program Specialist says she found her own sense of purpose from her AmeriCorps service, which involved developing a mentorship program between at-risk youth and community leaders. “Once zeal and determination to address a social issue surfaced, my attitude and approach to life changed immensely.” Elizabeth reasoned it “gave me a sense of purpose.” This helps Elizabeth rock it at work, where she build relationships with veterans in The Mission Continues Fellowship Program. She helps our fellows achieve their professional, personal, and continued service goals. Most important, though, is their goal to regain that sense of purpose they first experienced while in the military.

“There is no better way to grow as a person than to dedicate a portion of your life in service to others,” Jess posited, and what’s more, we believe that service to something greater than yourself—whether through the military, AmeriCorps, our programs, or something else—is an invaluable part of our country. These ideals are at the core of our patriotism.

We implement programs that connect veterans to new missions because at its heart, service is a win-win for all. The biggest challenges our country faces today are well within our reach to solve. But we need the collaboration and dedication of creative, mission-driven individuals in order to solve them.

If such opportunities are taken away, our nation’s youth—the next generation—will lose out.

 

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.