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A Reflection on My Year of AmeriCorps Service

In September, I moved over 1,000 miles from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Milbridge, knowing no one and with no idea of the kind of community and lifestyle I would encounter. I opted to join AmeriCorps this year because I was interested in service and volunteerism at both a local and national level. I researched positions across the country and finally settled on the position with Great Strides Rural Education Corps at Mano en Mano. Maine is notorious for its natural beauty, so I knew I would enjoy the coastal landscape. I was also interested in gaining experience in non-profit work, teaching ESL and Adult Education programming.

Ten months later, Milbridge and Mano en Mano are Home and it’s hard to imagine leaving my newfound community. This year has exposed me to completely new lifestyles, cultures, environments, foods, and values, which I will incorporate into my self-development and next stage of life. I came here not knowing a word of Spanish and ten months later I can understand quite a bit, even if I can still only speak in the present tense. I now feel confident teaching English as a second language to adults and coordinating Spanish classes for interested individuals and businesses in the community.

But undoubtedly the most important aspect of my year of service is the people I met and came to recognize as my Maine family. I moved to Milbridge knowing no one, and now I can go to the grocery store and say “Hi” to at least three people (which is a great feeling)! I learned quite a bit about perseverance from my English students this year, as well as the high school students I tutored. My co-workers at Mano en Mano have become my close friends and I especially owe much of what I learned and the new knowledge I can take away with me to my wonderful supervisor, Robin Lovrien, without whose guidance and support I would not have had such an enjoyable year of service.

What’s next? I hope to move into the Peace Corps or international development work, taking my lessons and experiences from this year into the next part of my life, wherever that may be. In a recent report for AmeriCorps, I was asked the 3 lessons I could take away after my 10 months of service. Although I’ve benefitted from more than just three lessons, I tried to narrow it down to some main mantras that rest in my heart ten months later: the importance of education in strengthening a community as well as appreciating diversity and new experiences and their ability to help you grow as a person. My year as an AmeriCorps member will forever be a part of my identity and I will certainly be back to Downeast Maine and my Maine family one day soon.

Kristen Hagemeister Americorps Member

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