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 our first AmeriCorps member spotlight, Ellie Dickerson ‘19, and her trajectory from student to CCE’s AmeriCorps VISTA member.
Where did you grow up, and what did you study at Middlebury?
I grew up in a little North Central Nebraska town called Ainsworth. I studied International & Global Studies with a focus on Latin America, and spent my Junior Spring in Montevideo, Uruguay. During my time at Middlebury, I was involved in Community Friends and the Privilege & Poverty (P&P) Academic Cluster.
How did community engagement shape your time as a student at Middlebury?
I became a Community Friend during the second semester of my first year. My engagement with the community deepened considerably during the summer after my first year, when I was a Shepherd Intern with Charter House Coalition. I also became very involved in Middlebury’s Memorial Baptist and began leading the 7th-12th grade youth group during my Senior year.
These experiences allowed me to form relationships with community members, learn about community needs first-hand, and feel like a member of the larger Middlebury community. They offered me a break from the constant demands of campus, and they helped me gain perspective on those demands. Getting out into the community helped me to remember that I am only one part of a much bigger world, and that connecting with and serving others is so much more important than getting good grades.
How did these experience deepen your understandings of civic engagement and service?
My internship with Charter House, combined with weekly CCE reflections and P&P academic coursework, allowed me to reflect deeply on what it means to “serve,” especially from a place of privilege. I analyzed and questioned my actions and thoughts in an effort to unpack my own biases. Was I saving, or was I serving? Was I projecting, or was I relating? The “real-world” piece combined with the academic research and classroom discussions complicated my understanding of service and helped me to grow as a person.
I analyzed and questioned my actions and thoughts in an effort to unpack my own biases. Was I saving, or was I serving? Was I projecting, or was I relating?Ellie Dickerson ’19, AmeriCorps Member
What led you to decide to serve as an AmeriCorps member in the CCE?
My involvement with the CCE played such a huge role in my experience at Middlebury. I wanted to be able to support students in their connections with the community just like CCE staff and faculty partners had supported me. My love for Vermont also influenced my decision. Vermonters care about vulnerable populations, as is evidenced by the hundreds of non-profits in Addison County alone. I know that if I have an idea for making change, I will have a supportive community behind me. My husband and his family all live in Addison County, which has further connected me with the community.
I know that if I have an idea for making change, I will have a supportive community behind me.Ellie Dickerson ’19, AmeriCorps Member
How has living as a non-student in Addison County been?
Being here as a non-student has honestly been lovely. So far I’ve found that without the stresses of student life I have been able to take advantage of all that Vermont has to offer. I get some of the perks of student life (such as access to the fitness center and the library) without the drawbacks. Beautiful.
Have you given any thought to what comes next?
At this point, I am still unsure of my next steps, but I would love to continue to serve in the area if possible. I have so much Vermont pride. I have also formed relationships with people here, from Charter House Coalition to my Church Family to my husband and in-laws, that make each day meaningful and root me to this place.
Stay tuned for more upcoming blog posts about our other Middlebury alumni AmeriCorps members!