When you are preparing to graduate, you have lots of options. This series highlights people who chose service, and how the volunteer experience has made an impact on their lives.
Name: Emily Dumont
Volunteer Program: AmeriCorps Member with Christian Appalachian Project (CAP)
Location: Jackson County, KY
Hometown: Auburn, ME
College: Stonehill College ’14, Mathematics and Religious Studies major
How did you first learn about post-graduate service? Stonehill College really values service and strongly encourages their students to participate in service in some form throughout their time at the school. Through Stonehill’s alternative spring break program (The HOPE Program) and post-graduate service fair I was able to get more detailed information about possible post-graduate service opportunities. From my freshman year I heard a lot about post-graduate service and it was always floating in my head as an option for me.
What other options were available to you, and why did you decide on CAP? My senior year of college I was considering studying actuarial science or accounting. I had also spent a lot of time debating whether or not I wanted to be a teacher and I was considering trying to find a job working in a school. I went on an alternative spring break trip to Christian Appalachian Project’s WorkFest in March of my senior year and after that service was really the only option I was considering anymore. Everyone I encountered at CAP seemed so passionate about the work they were doing and about sharing their experience with others. The feeling at CAP was like no other I had ever experienced and it was definitely something I wanted to be a part of.
Tell us about your volunteer experience. I can’t say enough great things about my service placement. From September to May I work with children in the local elementary schools. I teach fourth graders practical living classes. I teach lessons on anti-bullying, conflict resolution, consumerism, and career education. I get to work with my fellow AmeriCorps members to create lesson plans and come up with creative and engaging ways to work with our students. I also am able to do a lot of in classroom assistance helping mainly in math classes. Because math is what I am really passionate about I have been able to start a math club at one of our schools to give small groups or students a little extra attention and practice. I love the way our work in the schools is set up because each AmeriCorps member has an opportunity to work in an area that is most suited to them.
The other major aspect of my service experience happens from June to August, although we talk about and prepare for it all year round. I work with Camp AJ, so a large part of my service is about helping to run a summer camp. My first two summers at Camp AJ I worked as a counselor. I got to learn a bunch of games and songs and cheers and my job was to play with (and supervise) children for seven weeks. I now help to plan schedules, register children for camp, train counselors, and communicate with parents. For many of our children their week at summer camp is their favorite week of the entire year. Being a part of that experience is absolutely amazing and has definitely made the seven weeks of summer camp my favorite of the year.
One of my favorite aspects of CAP is that the participants in their programs are all interconnected. In my community I live with other camp volunteers as well as volunteers from the housing and elderly services programs. I love living in community and hearing about what is going on in other programs and also seeing how our programs are all weaved together. Some of our children’s grandparents are in the elderly program and my housemates might be putting a new roof on one of our camper’s houses while they are with us. Community is a great built in support system and it also helps me to see the bigger picture that my service is a part of.
What benefits have you gained from this experience that you might not have received otherwise? I feel that in my service I have learned many, many tangible skills. I have learned to write lesson plans, and use an electric drill, and just the other day I learned how to fix a fishing pole. I definitely am happy I learned those things, but I think the biggest benefits have come from the children I work with. I have learned a lot from them about perseverance and gratitude. I don’t think I ever fully appreciated all of the opportunities that were provided for me to get me to where I am today. Seeing the situations that some of our children live and learn and grow in has made me so grateful for the childhood that I had. It also has shown me how strong and resilient children are. I really believe that serving here has taught me to look at the world and my life through a different lens.
What advice do you have for someone considering post-graduate service? I think my biggest piece of advice would be to be willing to take risks. If you told me a few years ago that I would be living in Eastern Kentucky working at a summer camp I would have told you that you were crazy. I never went to summer camp as a kid and probably would have cried the entire time if someone had tried to make me. I remember lying in bed the night before I was going to fly to Kentucky. I was horrified. I couldn’t figure out why I thought moving away from my family and friends was a good idea. I was scared, but I went anyway. It was definitely the best decision I have ever made. At CAP there have been lots of opportunities for me to do new things and step outside of my comfort zone. I won’t say that I have taken all of them, but I try to as much as I can and I have never regretted taking a chance and trying something new.
To learn more about post-grad service opportunities, check out our RESPONSE directory, listing thousands of opportunities across the United States and abroad.