AmeriCorps Volunteers Give, Gain Much Laura, Emily, Janie Guest Contributor: Rachel Gobep For some it’s money. For others prestige. For Emily Anne Martin, the best motivation to work hard comes from helping others. “Happiness is truly not found by making a lot of money, but instead by making a difference,” Martin comments. Through the federal AmeriCorps program, Martin is one of three women performing post-college service with the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown. The AmeriCorps program provides opportunities for college graduates to perform anywhere from six months to two years of service with a nonprofit, school, public agency, or community and faith-based organization. Communities gain valuable service and the participants gain valuable experience toward their future careers. Martin was pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree with a concentration in Nonprofit Management at Kent State University, when “I realized that before I graduated, I should gain some real world experience in a nonprofit setting. Not to mention I was ready to move on and do something more meaningful.” Martin serves as a Nonprofit Management Specialist at Beatitude House, Youngstown, where she interned while earning her baccalaureate. The Ursuline Sisters’ ministry helps homeless women and their children break the cycle of generational poverty through housing, education and other assistance. “I help with developing a system for tracking volunteers, assist in creating marketing materials, plan and volunteer at events, sort donations and work with other homeless social service agencies in the area,” she says. Martin and her fellow AmeriCorps participants have contributed 1.4 billion hours since 1993 toward making the world a better place through volunteering, engaging with the community and improving people’s lives, according to the Corporation for National and Community Service. It’s a concept that seems simple. But according to participants like Laura Roch, the benefits are complex and unexpected. “Not only have I learned a lot about myself through my service experience,” she says, “I have learned more about my hometown than I would have ever known had I not taken advantage of this amazing opportunity.” Roch is serving as a Nonprofit Management Specialist for the Ursuline Sisters. Initially she planned to pursue a Master’s degree in Mental Health Counseling after graduating from KSU in 2016, but a former instructor of hers from Ursuline High School recommended the AmeriCorps position with the Ursulines. Through her work with the Ursuline Sisters’ ministries, Roch’s opportunities have ranged from tutoring youth from disadvantaged and privileged homes to helping Spanish and Arabic-speaking women learning English to working with the incarcerated at a local prison – and more. Her work experience at Huntington was a big advantage. “I’ve learned how to better serve individuals of different races, socioeconomic status, and personalities,” she observes. “I’ve learned how to lesson plan, empower individuals, and run meetings about different topics and projects I’m working on. I have become much more aware of the environment around me, rather than being so naive of things going on in the town where I’ve spent 23 years.” Roch says her work with the Ursuline Sisters has brought her closer to God because she sees the struggles that others go through daily. “After seeing the issues and things people right down the street from me deal with, I have not been able to turn a blind eye,” she states. “I know that prayers will be answered and these people will be helped soon.” Janie Rosko serves as an Education Specialist for the Ursuline Sisters. While in college, she volunteered several years at Potter’s Wheel, the Sisters’ immigrant education program in Youngstown. After graduating from Youngstown State University in 2016 with bachelor’s degrees in both Philosophy and Psychology, Rosko decided to wait before pursuing graduate studies. “I decided to take this [AmeriCorps] opportunity because I wanted to gain experience serving all varieties of people in all types of situations,” she states. Among her many on-the-job experiences, Rosko co-teaches an English Language class to immigrant women, serves as a tutor and mentor for children at Ursuline Preschool and Kindergarten, Canfield, the Potter’s Wheel and Casa Madre, Youngstown, the Ursuline Sisters’ HIV/AIDS Ministry providing mentoring and other assistance to children infected or affected by HIV/AIDS. “Serving various kinds of people can be challenging at times,” Rosko observes, “but I’m gaining so much knowledge and feel right where I need to be at this moment in time.” Sister Norma Raupple, Director of the Young Adult Outreach Ministry for the Ursuline Sisters, says Martin, Roch and Rosko “perform a great service by bringing their education and enthusiasm to the Sisters’ ministries and make a positive impact on the lives of those served. “The women involved with us through AmeriCorps grow by developing their abilities in taking initiative and honing their leadership skills,” she continues. “They become more confident, relate well to the children they work with and become good role models.” Martin, Roch and Rosko all highly recommend AmeriCorps to anyone considering their career after graduating college. “It is immensely rewarding and there is much more to learn than one may originally believe,” Rosko posits. AmeriCorps participants must be 21 years or older. In exchange for working full time, they receive a twice-monthly stipend and are eligible for health benefits and housing. Upon completion of their contract, they earn an education award they can use toward future studies or for paying off student loan debt. Rachel Gobep is majoring in Journalism at Youngstown State University and interning as a Strategic Communications Specialist with the Ursuline Sisters of Youngstown.