This may come as a surprise, but I have never been the type to sign up for extra work. I did what was assigned of me, I did it well, and everything seemed perfectly copacetic. Last year in the Charter Corps, my term of service was great. I taught my students, I submitted my monthly reports, I read my Justice Talks assignments, I graduated from the program. I felt like I had a successful year. My hours were complete and I did not greatly offend any coworkers. Terrific!
And then I signed up for OSEEC.
The service year began as typical AmeriCorps service years do. We had pre-service training for two weeks and bonded with our entire team. Then, we were sent to our sites where we had to quickly learn new material so we could begin our service year and educate the public about the environment. I began down my well-travelled path of satisfactory with a clear trajectory.
As our service year progressed, we had the opportunity to participate in extra activities. When the Program Director asked if anyone wanted to be in the Inter Corps Council, I thought, HA! Absolutely not! Then he asked again. And then he followed up a few days later. I thought about it slightly further, maybe it won’t be THAT much extra work… What did it really require anyways, one monthly meeting? That’s like, 2 out of the 740 hours in a month, which is barely extra work.
The first meeting I went to seemed ordinary enough: we had to attend the meetings monthly, we had to act as Team Leaders during Days of Service (on some distant holiday in the future), we had to create a Video showcasing our AmeriCorps team (due sometime in February), we had to join a committee within the ICC and plan events (sometime in the Spring) among other seemingly small responsibilities. I knew all of the requirements, but I also knew that I wouldn’t have to address most of these requirements until after the New Year, which was very far away.
For some reason, the New Year surprised me that year. My panic surprise didn’t quite set in until Mid-January, which is when I realized how much extra work I had actually signed up for. My requirements were creeping up on me: team leading was approaching and I had one month to complete this video.
My first requirement was revealed in the form of team leadership. I, someone who has never lead a group in my life, lead a team of AmeriCorps members and volunteers of all ages to paint a hallway, something else I’ve never done in my life. I assumed it was going to be a disaster, so I just dove in, expecting to come out covered in pale yellow and lime green paint and defeat. I will not say that I excelled as a leader; I will not even say I did especially well as a leader, but I led. More importantly, I did extra work! I did extra work and I survived! This brief encounter with extra work somehow sparked something inside of me because that day, a facilitator of Justice Talks, a civic reflection series required of all AmeriCorps members, asked me if I’d like to be her co-facilitator and I agreed. I’m not sure if I had a leadership high, or if it was the paint, but I felt motivated by the extra work I had already taken on, to take on more extra work. I was team leading, I was spearheading the video, I was facilitating, and I was enjoying myself!
Instead of this extra work seeming like “extra” work, it has become part of the enriching and rewarding experience that an AmeriCorps term of service offers. Not only do I have a completely different perspective than last year, I am finding that I am much more invested in my service than I ever could have been. This new perspective makes me proud to be an AmeriCorps member and willing to take on extra work because I’m doing something I believe in.