From Hands-On Service to Leadership: Jared McClean's AmeriCorps Journey

Jared McClean

Journey from NCCC to TMA VISTA Leader

Serving a year in the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) was a wildly different experience than a VISTA position. Naturally gravitating towards leadership roles despite not being a Team Leader, the decision was made to continue the AmeriCorps journey by applying for the TMA VISTA Leader position. The goal was to challenge oneself and develop new skills that differed from those honed in NCCC.

Surprises and Challenges

One of the first surprises encountered as a VISTA Leader was realizing how rusty software skills had become. The work in NCCC was primarily laborious direct service, which meant rarely using the computer skills learned in high school and college. As a VISTA Leader, relearning and mastering those skills became essential to perform effectively.

Highlights of the VISTA Leader Experience

The highlight of the VISTA Leader experience was the interactions and engagements with the VISTAs. These individuals are some of the most dedicated and service-driven people ever known. Watching their projects unfold over their year of service was incredible, but even more inspiring was listening to them talk about their work and what motivated them.

Advice for Current and Prospective Service Year Participants

If there's one piece of advice for someone considering a service year or currently in one, it would be to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. Attending every workshop offered by the host site and making connections with like-minded individuals is crucial. Additionally, asking the host site about other professional development opportunities can be highly beneficial. Service years are unique in that they allow individuals to develop professionally in areas they might not have had the chance to otherwise.

A Shift in Perspective

The biggest perspective change during two service years has been in self-view. After graduating college, there was a sense of directionlessness compared to some peers. Joining AmeriCorps NCCC provided a community of others on a similar journey, and there was a real sense of making a difference in the communities served. This experience boosted self-worth. Moving on to VISTA, being surrounded again by people dedicated to changing the world for the better solidified the desire to dedicate life to service. AmeriCorps helped find inner value and gave life a direction to be proud of.

Looking Forward

In the new role as a Success Coach for the Maryland Department of Service and Civic Innovation, the most exciting prospect is helping more people engage with service. There's still a stigma that service years don't hold the same value as other positions or jobs. However, with hundreds of service members each year serving in Maryland, there's potential to change this perception. Being part of this necessary change is an exciting opportunity, and there's great anticipation for the impact to be made.

Listen to Jared share more about his national service experiences!