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, like some of our recent Middlebury graduates, commit to serving the community by engaging in youth mentoring, fighting poverty, increasing academic achievement, and more.
The state of Vermont has the 4th highest rate of AmeriCorps members per capita. We are proud of our alumni who contribute to that rating and how community engagement experiences as students shaped their decisions to serve in Addison County.
Read below to learn more about our first AmeriCorps member spotlight, Paola Meza ‘19, and her trajectory from student to part time AmeriCorps member and Open Door Clinic worker.
Where are you from? What did you study? What were you involved in on campus?
My name is Paola. I’m originally from the Los Angeles area. I studied neuroscience, global health, and Portuguese at Middlebury College. As a student, I helped found an organization called UR-STEM (underrepresented in STEM) and worked as a fellow at the Anderson Freeman Resource Center (AFC) and as a peer career advisor at the Center for Careers and Internships (CCI).
In what ways were you involved in the community during your time at Midd? How has this influenced your decisions to stay and serve here? How did this experience shape your time as a student at Midd?
As a student fellow at the AFC, I worked closely with the directors of the Center to design and carry out programs and events primarily for first-generation college students at Middlebury College. I also volunteered as a translator and interpreter at the Open Door Clinic.
How did you grow in your understanding of what it means to be an engaged citizen? In your understanding of service?
A major takeaway from my service year so far has been that impact is greater when you work in team. Over the past 7 months of my service year, I’ve been able to sit down with many students, staff, and faculty, and engage in discussions and actions to better support our community. There are challenges, sometimes it’s frustrating, and there is always more work to be done and not enough time. But service is a life-long responsibility, and each of us have a role in enhancing the community around us through small actions every day.
But service is a life-long responsibility, and each of us have a role in enhancing the community around us through small actions every day.Paola Meza ’19, AmeriCorps Member
Why did you choose to stay and take your current role? How was this experience (of staying at Midd/Addison Country and being a non-student) been?
Organizing and leading First@Midd, AFC’s pre-orientation program for first-gen students, played a major role in my decision to stay and work at Middlebury College after graduating. I saw first-hand the importance of identity development and community building among first-generation students, and I wanted to continue supporting programs for first-gen students, as well as students of color and queer and trans students as an AmeriCorps VISTA.
Can you see yourself staying longer, after your service year is up?
I love the work that I do at the AFC, and I have definitely grown close to the students that participate in our programs, as well as the staff and faculty that support our programs. I anticipate staying in Vermont for at least another year to serve the greater Addison County community through access to health care.
I saw first-hand the importance of identity development and community building among first-generation students…Paola Meza ’19, AmeriCorps Member
Paola plans to continue working in Vermont to serve the greater Addison County Community through access to health care after her service year ends.