During AmeriCorps Week, we put a special emphasis on thanking and celebrating our currently serving AmeriCorps members. At the same time, MCAN is taking the opportunity to recognize outstanding AmeriCorps alums who are continuing to serve their communities every day. As a program, AmeriCorps has been around since 1994, and VISTA has been engaging members in service since 1965. To date, there are over 1 million AmeriCorps alums!

AmeriCorps alums go on to work in nonprofits, schools, colleges, all levels of government, foundations, and businesses around the country. They are, in general, more civically engaged than the general public and more likely to vote. In other words, AmeriCorps alums live out the words they recited when they took the AmeriCorps pledge:

I will get things done for America – to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier…

Faced with apathy, I will take action …

I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond …

At MCAN, we have six AmeriCorps alums on staff who have leveraged their AmeriCorps service to launch their own professional careers and continue to take positive action for Michiganders. Get to know MCAN’s AmeriCorps alums:

Ashley McCloud, AdviseMI Program Supervisor

Service Experience: Michigan Nonprofit Association Civic Engagement AmeriCorps VISTA Program serving at UM-Flint (2 terms)

Some of my favorite memories came from the times I was able to interact with other AmeriCorps members. Whether it was through the Flint National Service Accelerator meetings, Member Celebration, service projects or through training with my program. It was such an amazing feeling to be around people who had the drive to make a difference in communities in need.

When I started as an AmeriCorps member, I had little confidence that I would be able to fulfill the duties at hand. I'd never been in a position where I had autonomy in my work, so naturally I thought I wasn't the right person for the position — so much so that I almost withdrew from the program before I ever started. With a bit of encouragement from my site supervisor, I decided to stay, and although there were challenges along the way, my confidence grew and I began to do things I never thought I'd be doing. I learned to look at challenges as a way to develop personally and professionally, rather than looking at challenges as something that is holding me back.

Zack Kowalski, College Completion Corps Assistant Director

Service Experience: AdviseMI college adviser serving at Lincoln Park High School

I enjoyed serving high school students and having conversations about what options they had after graduation. It was a time they were usually very excited and very nervous about, and knew it was a conversation that needed to take place. LPHS was a top high school with the GetSchooled program, and one of our students ended up getting highlighted on a big billboard in NYC!

AmeriCorps allowed me to begin asking more systemic questions when it came to educational access and support and how it influences students in a bigger picture. On an individual level, this experience really prepared me for getting into grad school by giving me experience to talk about in graduate assistantship interviews, and it also helped me demonstrate my experience when I was looking for employment after graduation.

Jordan Baah-Sackey, MCAN Consultant

Service Experience: Year 1: Michigan Education Corps serving at Kent City Elementary; Year 2: Michigan Nonprofit Association Civic Engagement AmeriCorps VISTA Program serving at MCAN

One of my favorite service memories with Michigan Education Corps was working with a student all year and seeing her confidence grow. At the beginning of the year, she was nervous to even read in her 1:1 time with me. By the end of the year, she was invited to read in front of all the first graders! At MCAN, a great memory from my service year was launching the Impact Map and seeing that project come to fruition after a year of work on it.

My service in AmeriCorps has allowed me to manage small- and large-scale projects, make valuable connections, and continue to make an impact on the lives of students in Michigan — whether directly or indirectly. Personally, service has allowed me to develop a heart for service in my community and has enabled me to learn from a variety of perspectives and experiences that challenge my own.

Autumn Kearney, Strategy Manager for High School Innovation

Service Experience: AdviseMI college adviser serving at Plainwell High School (2 terms)

I have so many favorite memories from my service experience! With my students, some of my favorite memories involved going on college visits. Though chaperoning large groups of students posed challenges, many of my students hadn't visited a campus before, and it was exciting to see them dream about what their futures could be. With other AmeriCorps members, I enjoyed participating in the Russ Mawby Signature Service Project each year. I loved reconnecting with other advisers and learning more about what challenges members were working to solve across the state.

Through my service, I became a better problem solver and a more creative thinker as I worked to meet the needs of my students, school, and the community. In the positions I have held since, I try to keep this attitude — no problem is unsolvable!

Chloe Edmonds, Strategy Assistant for High School Innovation

Service Experience: Teach For America, Jalen Rose Leadership Academy

I was a twelfth grade math teacher in inner city Detroit. Classroom rigor was a priority for me because I wanted my students to practice thinking critically — even if they didn't master graphing trig functions! I went to great lengths to design lessons and activities that gave students easier access to content and made our math fun. During my trigonometry unit, I assigned a Unit Circle Workout Project. We moved all the furniture aside, turned the classroom into a coordinate plane, and students choreographed workouts (or line dances) to help one another learn the angles and formulas of the unit circle. It was amazing!

My AmeriCorps experience challenged me to use my voice. Most times, I served as a liaison between many stakeholders — parents, administrators, board members, consultants, curriculum leads, etc. — all well-intentioned and passionate, though they often struggled to truly hear and apply the needs of one another. I could push as an empathetic advocate to help move conversations. While sometimes uncomfortable or challenging, the experience taught me how to be a bold advocate. The advocacy tests during my time in AmeriCorps have made my voice stronger!

Jenny McArdle, Director of Service Strategy

Service Experience: Year 1: The LEAGUE Michigan VISTA in Jackson schools Year 2: Michigan Nonprofit Association Civic Engagement AmeriCorps VISTA Program VISTA Leader

I was brand-new to the state of Michigan when I did my two terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA. All of my previous experience had been in community development abroad, but serving in communities in Michigan allowed me to see that the challenges faced by individuals and communities around the world are really parallel in a lot of ways. Service allowed me to get to know my new state and to have some fun experiences along the way. One of my favorite memories was bringing in a Disney star to Jackson High School to raise money, donations, and awareness for food insecurity in the community.

When I joined AmeriCorps in 2011, I never dreamed that it would be a career path for me. Since then, I have directed multiple programs, launched multiple programs, worked with thousands of AmeriCorps members, and had the great opportunity to explore how service can truly be a strategy to positively impact lives. I’m proud to be an AmeriCorps alum!