This week, we are celebrating National AmeriCorps Week by highlighting recent Middlebury graduates currently serving as AmeriCorps members in Addison County!
AmeriCorps is “a network of national service programs, made up of three primary programs that each take a different approach to improving lives and fostering civic engagement.” Members, including some of our recent Middlebury graduates, commit to serving the community by engaging in youth and mentoring, fighting poverty, increasing academic achievement, and more.
The state of Vermont produces the 3rd highest rate of AmeriCorps members per capita! We are proud of our alumni who contribute to that ranking and the role that their community engagement experiences as students played in their decisions to serve as AmeriCorps members in Addison County.
Read below to learn more about AmeriCorps member spotlight, Luna Shen ‘19.5, and her trajectory from student to AmeriCorps member with John Graham Shelter in Vergennes.
What did you study at Middlebury, and how were you involved on campus?
I studied Sociology and was heavily involved with visual arts while at Middlebury College. I was also Chair of the Charter House student organization, and involved with a Fall Dance Concert and a collaborative arts piece.
How did community engagement shape your time as a student at Middlebury?
I have been involved in the community in a variety of different ways. Perhaps my longest and most profound connection is with Charter House Coalition. I volunteered weekly at Charter House Coalition since my first year at Middlebury College. I was also a J-Term intern at Charter House and served as the Chair of the Charter House student organization on campus. I also spent a summer interning with HOPE. In addition to working with local non-profits, I do CrossFIT with a group of college and non-college affiliated community members and attend Middlebury’s Congregational Church.
Being a part of all these groups has led me to see familiar faces wherever I go in Middlebury. As an introvert and not too outgoing person, it has been a nice surprise to see so many people I know around town.
How did these experiences deepen your understandings of civic engagement and service?
My experiences in the community have widened my understanding of what it means to be an engaged citizen. To me, being an engaged citizen means caring for the people around me, and it doesn’t have to take the form of explicit social service work. Service looks like so many things!
I’ve also learned that service is difficult because so much of it requires me to purge my own misconceptions and see and reflect on my blind spots — When am I impatient? Why am I being snappy? Why is it hard to practice self-care?
Being an engaged citizen means caring for the people around me, and it doesn’t have to take the form of explicit social service work!Luna Shen ‘19.5, AmeriCorps Member
My understanding of service has shifted in that I am asking myself what I get excited about and what I am proud of having done after a day’s work. Knowing what excites me helps with sustaining service. For example, I do visual art, and I’ve been able to bring that into my work with John Graham shelter!
What led you to decide to serve as an AmeriCorps member with John Graham Housing & Services in Vergennes?
I decided to stay and take my current role in part because I knew I would need a strong emotional support network to transition smoothly from college to post-college life. I have a community here, and “adult friends” I hang out with. Serving with John Graham in Vergennes was an exciting and effortless decision because I was familiar with the Director already, and felt confident learning to become a service coordinator at John Graham because of having worked with Charter House.
How has living as a non-student in Addison County been for you?
I have really enjoyed being a non-student in Addison County. I have enjoyed seeing my friends who are still in college, including my partner. Addison County had become my home over the past few years.
Addison County has become my home.Luna Shen 19.5, AmeriCorps Member
Have you given any thought to what comes next?
While I am not sure of next steps yet, I could see myself reapplying to my current position as AmeriCorps member of John Graham Shelter. Or, I could see myself working in Burlington!
Thank you to Luna and all Middlebury College alumni who have served or are currently serving as AmeriCorps members in Addison County!