A Beginning of AmeriCorps Service Reflection
By Michael DeVito, 2015-16 CalSERVES AmeriCorps Member
I never thought I would end up across the country working for a volunteer organization. I never would have thought that I would leave my home in New York and move to California for a year; a place I have never been to. And I especially never would have thought I would be able to afford living on a monthly stipend out in wine country without a car. Well guess what? I did.
All of the “I never” sentences running out of my mouth slowly turned into “I did” statements. My first “I Did” statement happened when I accepted my offer to be a tutor/mentor at a primary school in Napa, California. With only three weeks until my departure date, I quit my part time job in Manhattan, bid farewell to family and close friends, packed my bags, and left my bedroom knowing that I wouldn’t sleep in my own bed again until the New Year. The “I Did” feeling sunk in when I was riding the Evans transportation bus from SFO to Napa. Everything familiar to me including friends and family was now thousands of miles away. I remember I felt older than I was a few days ago, and realizing all I could go to for advice and reassurance was I. My sudden wave of independence was overwhelming. I felt like a tiny Island surrounded by rushing waves caught in the middle of a cyclone.
I remember speaking with the staff at the Napa County Office of Education about out-of-state volunteers. I was assured that they had out-of-state volunteers in the past and currently have some serving in Napa County. It was made clear I wouldn’t be the first to make this bold move. “We have never had anybody go homeless in AmeriCorps” was the famous statement from my recruiter. Even though I was given support from the staff at NCOE and family and friends back home, it still wasn’t enough to convince me that I made the right decision by saying “Yes” and signing a contract to work for CalSERVES as an AmeriCorps volunteer from September 15th 2015 to July 15th 2016.
I was first welcomed by three AmeriCorps volunteers all of whom were returners from serving the previous year. They graciously let me stay at their house until I was able to find my own room for rent. After three days of constant emails and phone calls, I was able to find a place within walking distance from the site I would be working at and the Napa County Office of Education. Once I signed the housing contract, it became official that I was here to stay. I secured a job for myself and was able to find a place to live. I knew deep down that I was doing the right thing and that I was about to challenge myself in ways I never challenged myself before.
If asked three weeks ago what my plans were for the future, I would have probably responded with “applying endlessly to jobs online”, or “working”. I never would have thought my life would have steered in such an unlikely direction that would take me all the way to California. Even though I can’t ever be fully prepared for the future, I am very glad I can now begin sentences with “I Did” and proud of myself that I said “Yes” to one of most rewarding and memorable job offers I could ever have.