Making a Difference with the Help of the Segal Education Award
I have often wondered where I would be if I had not been able to attend college. Finishing my undergraduate degree alone was a dream. My original intention was to enroll in community college “just to take some classes” and potentially become one of the scores of Black and Brown high school graduates who enter college, many of them junior colleges, but fail to graduate. But then again, just taking a few classes would have been more than anyone in my family had done previously. Looking back, a decade removed from graduating from Morgan State University with a BA in sociology, I was once fearful that graduate school would not be a viable option for me because I was not confident that I could get into a program of my choice nor afford the tuition.
After my undergraduate degree, I struggled to adjust to postgraduate life and became unsure of what was next. My mind raced with questions. Should I apply for graduate school? Could I get in if I did apply? Where should I attend? What should I study? AmeriCorps was not on my professional radar at the time. But once it was, my life changed in ways that I couldn’t possibly imagine.
My first AmeriCorps position offer was as a community liaison at a prominent community center in my hometown of West Baltimore. Despite interviewing well and being offered the position, I felt overwhelmed by the learning curve and the self-driven nature of the work, so I declined the position. Still, through AmeriCorps service, I discovered an entirely new world of lively and diverse opportunities to serve throughout the country, better my community, and learn about myself and the world around me.
After my initial AmeriCorps position, I prioritized serving young people, serving in a school or similar setting, and leaving my home town. Ultimately, I chose a charter middle/high school in Wilmington, Delaware for my second term of service, benefitting greatly from the connections I made, both personally and professionally. I also took advantage of the opportunities I was given, including coaching youth sports and teaching and tutoring throughout the school day. Upon finishing two service years there, I was ready for a new challenge, even if I felt that I was not yet ready for graduate school.
Heading back home, I found another great AmeriCorps opportunity serving youth in Baltimore. Volunteering as a supervisor, job coach, mentor, and so much more. I advocated for youth vocationally, legally, and educationally, and connected with them recreationally. There the great supervisors and others I worked with saw what I had been unable to see myself. They encouraged me to pursue a graduate degree.
With recommendation letters in tow, I began researching graduate programs that would match the two Segal Education Awards I had earned from my AmeriCorps service. I grew confident enough to apply to various programs and felt that I could legitimately get accepted, afford, and excel in the graduate programs I was interested in.
I was accepted into two graduate institutions, but ultimately chose Marquette because of their commitment to my success by providing a 100% match of my Segal Education Awards. That, plus additional scholarship money and a graduate assistantship enabled me to pursue my graduate education in a way that made financial sense. Now I work hard, both to maintain a high GPA and in my assistantship. I believe that when someone invests in you, it’s your duty to do all you can to provide a rich harvest.
In line with community service and engagement championed by AmeriCorps, I am proud to continue to make a difference within my new community in and around Milwaukee. Through academic support, mentorship, and coaching lacrosse, I have been able to connect with local middle school students at the Milwaukee Academy of Science, bringing smiles to young people’s faces in person and online during this tough school year. I am excited to continue working with each student I have had the pleasure to get to know this past year.
Without the “social safety net” that I was given through AmeriCorps, I would not have envisioned graduate school being a possibility for me. I received so much more than money to further my education. I learned how to work hard, became more confident in my own abilities, and developed an exceptional network of peers and mentors who pointed me to additional resources to help me in my journey.
I currently serve as a CCMA AmeriCorps VISTA leader and though I have received the maximum amount of Segal Education Awards, I am living proof of the value of AmeriCorps service, the Segal Education Award, and the incredible benefit of an institution that matches the Segal Education Award. I urge all of CCMA’s member institutions to make a difference in the lives of AmeriCorps alums by providing a match for the Segal Award. Please register to attend CCMA and Maryland Governor’s Office of Service and Volunteerism’s information session on How to Become a School of National Service by matching the Segal Education Award on Wednesday, June 30th from 9:00 – 10:00 am.
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