On Friday some of our staff members shared their thoughts on our AmeriCorps members and the impact they had during their year of service. Today, Chris, Adrienne and Jen reflect on the past year and talk about the highlights and what they’ll take with them as they pursue their next adventures.

It’s that time of year again, time to bid farewell to our wonderful AmeriCorps members as they complete their year of service with Chicago Cares. We have loved the opportunity to get to know Chris, Adrienne and Jen. We’ll miss them here at Chicago Cares but we know that they will continue to do great things as they take the next steps in their careers!

What was your favorite/most memorable experience during your year with Chicago Cares?

Jennifer: My favorite experience throughout my year at Chicago Cares was the Student Service and Leadership Program at Mather High School. Over almost an entire school year I was able to see the students I worked with grow and truly learn to love volunteering. I had an opportunity to be in the classroom and at many projects, working with the youth volunteers on a one to one basis which was a lot of fun and pretty exciting.

Adrienne: I have been a regular volunteer at Marillac Social Center in the East Garfield Park neighborhood of Chicago for a couple of months now. I volunteer for two programs, Math + Science and Read-with-Me at Marillac, which help to support mostly 2nd and 3rd grade students in reading, math, and science. In April, I was given the opportunity to be a volunteer leader for the Read-with-Me program. Although I was a bit nervous about leading this program for the first time, I decided to take the chance and try it out. I had a group of about 8 students and 5 volunteers, several of whom were first time volunteers with Chicago Cares. I led the students and volunteers in reading a story about geography and creating U.S. states out of cookies and icing. The project was a great success, the students were exciting to learn geography in a new and fun way and the volunteers were excited to help the students work on their reading skills. I was glad I took the opportunity to try leadership for this program for the first time. Also, when I went back to Marillac a couple of weeks later, I saw one of the new volunteers who returned to try the program again, which was an awesome feeling.

Chris: My favorite experiences came while leading youth groups through projects that involved interactive activities. I think many youth volunteers go into projects not thinking they can have much of an impact on the population that they will be serving. So, it is very satisfying to not only see the great appreciation that people have for these youth that volunteer their time, but also the ‘ah-ha’ moment that the youth have when they realize they are making a difference.

What skill/knowledge/practice did you gain during your time at Chicago Cares and how do you think it will support your future career goals?

Jennifer: I would say that one of the great things I learned during my term is how much Chicago has to offer. Before this, my knowledge of Chicago was rather negative and this job gave me the opportunity to connect with many organizations throughout the city and work with wonderful people who truly want to make a difference. I also loved working with youth groups and volunteers of all ages. It was great to see how dedicated kids can be and how much they can change over just a three-hour project. This job has made me appreciate things more in life and to not judge people as quickly as I may have before. It has reminded me of the passion I had in volunteering and working with youth and how much of a difference one person can make.

Adrienne: During my time at Chicago Cares I was very involved with volunteer and volunteer leader recruitment. I was able to attend volunteer fairs, I facilitated a workshop for high school students, and I helped to create blog posts for the Chicago Cares website, which were all valuable experiences. I learned that the positive relationships I have built with volunteers throughout my term helped me to be more effective in recruiting the same volunteers to come back and serve with Chicago Cares again. I believe the skills I have gained in this area will be assets to me in the future.

Chris: Practicing the skill of communicating with people who have different backgrounds and life challenges from my own is something I certainly enjoyed most. I want to work in healthcare. So, I think being able to communicate and build trust with all patients, regardless of their background or situation, is essential to providing the highest quality of care.