What National Service Means to Me

By Josi Carder, 2019-2020 Literacy First Tutor

AmeriCorps has forever shifted my perception on work. In high school and college, you learn that the virtues of the workforce inculcate a sense that hard work is to be a direct exchange of monetary value. We work so that we can make enough money to live a good life, right? But what about a rewarding life of purpose? You never hear about purpose in an economics class.

After I graduated college with a looming pile of student debt, I definitely felt the pressure to begin my search for that job where I could make substantial income. However, I knew that my heart was directing me somewhere else. I wanted to get my feet on the ground, to move out of my North Carolina home and explore the needs of this nation and how I could truly be of service. AmeriCorps presented me with an opportunity to help where help is needed most.

I knew that national service wasn’t the way to make a lot of money quick, but I felt supported in the community around AmeriCorps and I knew that they provided the resources to ensure I would be healthy and safe. National Service is about the resource of community. It is about sharing the struggle together and working to provide opportunities for disenfranchised communities. 

Now my first service year is coming to an end; it surely wasn’t conventional, especially in the wave of COVID-19, which interrupted our 2020 school year. This was my first job working 40+ hours a week and I had to prioritize caring for myself during my off-hours in order to ensure that I could be fully focused and motivated during work. It was hard and continues to present new struggles all of the time. National service is about challenge. However, through all of the hardships and challenges, I have learned the necessity and value of accountability. I witnessed how showing up for a child on a daily basis gives them the tools they need in order to thrive academically and personally. National service is about change. Change is only possible when driven minds come together who are willing and motivated to put in the hard work and time.

I have been irrevocably impacted by the work I am doing with Literacy First. Not only has the value of education been reinforced within me, I feel inspired to continue a career in education where I know I can work together with a community of folks to inspire good in our communities. National service has taught be that the time that you put in matters, and that efficiency can only take you so far. Children are not machines, and they need you to give them your undivided attention and patience in their process of learning.

As I continue further into my life and possible careers, I know that national service has put me on the right path to make a true difference. I continue to learn and relearn the meaning of work and how it relates to service. National service has inspired me to pursue rewarding work that is purpose oriented.

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