Here and Now: Jessie’s AmeriCorps Experience
Jessie Israel is a current 2nd term AmeriCorps member serving as Volunteer Coordinator.
Some AmeriCorps members seek service in an unfamiliar city or state, somewhere they’ve never been. Jessie Israel saw the AmeriCorps program as an opportunity to connect with her current community in a new way. Keenly aware of the affordable housing problem in her hometown, Jessie was inspired to apply for the AmeriCorps position with Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity to learn about and engage in housing issues.
The complexity of Habitat for Humanity; the inner workings of a successful non-profit; the process of using unskilled volunteers to build homes. It was all new.
“I never thought I’d work in construction,” Jessie remarked. “It’s a unique opportunity to come onto a construction site with no experience and just learn. AmeriCorps service is a great way to get experience in an area you might not otherwise.”
Jessie’s enthusiasm for her AmeriCorps service with Asheville Habitat is heartfelt and authentic. After several months of experiential learning and training, Jessie was helping lead volunteer groups on Saturdays, teaching them how to stucco foundations and install flooring. The confidence boost that developed from learning new skills surprised her.
In bigger than imagined ways, Jessie says she has grown professionally and personally. She felt as though she was just hitting her stride when her first AmeriCorps term (10 ½ months) was coming to an end. And she didn’t feel “done”, so she signed on for a second term.
“I love the community of Asheville Area Habitat. All the staff, the volunteers. It’s a really nice environment to work in.”
As her time with Habitat extended, so did her responsibilities. “I feel like I can contribute even more this time around, and I am taking on additional volunteer coordination roles, continually learning and growing.” Empowered and excited, she looks forward to the return of Collegiate Challenge in the spring.
In addition to learning the “hard skills” of construction, Jessie is also grateful for the “soft skills” she is acquiring. A self-acknowledged perfectionist, learning how to frame was hard. Not physically, but emotionally. When she didn’t get it just right, she felt as though she had failed. Senior Construction Supervisor, Kenny Busch, told her not to worry and showed her a quick and effective way to straighten out the 2×4 that was only slightly off-kilter but in her mind was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. “Kenny showed me that things can be re-worked and corrected. I learned that it really is okay to not be perfect. If I make a mistake, it’s okay. That is an important life lesson.”
Having an above-expectations experience, Jessie is quick to recommend AmeriCorps service as an excellent opportunity to explore career paths, learn and grow, or travel and live somewhere new. With outstanding college loans, the AmeriCorps Education Award was attractive, and the housing stipend made her year of service possible.
Jessie is focused on being in the now but hopes to stay in the non-profit sector once her second AmeriCorps term ends in Fall 2024. For Jessie, a newlywed and certified Yoga instructor, what comes next isn’t as important as what happens here and now. Jessie is happy to currently work alongside like-minded people in an empowering environment, where “coming to work is fun!”