May 25, 2022
Transform Mid-Atlantic AmeriCorps VISTA members Hadiyyah Abdul-Jalaal and Aasha Henderson, along with TMA Associate Director Anthony Wagner recently participated in the second annual Maryland Civic Education and Engagement Leadership Summit, hosted on Saturday, April 30 by the Maryland Civic Education Coalition. The 2022 summit’s theme was: “Empowering Maryland Youth Through Service and Civic Engagement,” and featured an array of roundtable discussions and guest speakers, including Governor Larry Hogan, Senator Chris Van Hollen, and 2021 TMA Engaged Leader Award recipient Dr. Nancy Shapiro, Associate Vice Chancellor and Special Assistant to the Chancellor for P-20 Education at the University System of Maryland.
The 2022 Summit brought together students, parents, educators, community partners, and policymakers to celebrate the achievements of Maryland-based efforts to engage students with service opportunities and to envision new ways of collaboratively doing so in the years to come.
Abdul-Jalaal, Henderson, and Wagner participated in a two-part roundtable discussion titled: “When in Doubt, Serve!” facilitated by Mr. Bill Mandicott and Mr. Patrick O’Brien of Frostburg State University. As speakers on the first part of the panel, Abdul-Jalaal and Henderson shared their stories of service, including information about their education and unique paths to participating in the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
Resources and Advocacy through Service: Hadiyyah Abdul-Jalaal
Abdul-Jalaal, a TMA AmeriCorps VISTA member at the University of Maryland (SAFE) Center for Human Trafficking Survivors, is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy at George Mason University, where she previously graduated with a bachelor’s of arts degree in government and international politics. She spoke about how she has combined her strong academic interests in creating equitable communities through policy making with the work of the SAFE Center, where she increases the center’s capacity to serve clients by supporting the creation of internal policies and program updates with a focus on systemic racism and operationalizing the SAFE Center’s survivor leadership program.
“I came in[to my service year] very interested in wanting to work on equity and engagement for internal and external policies at the SAFE Center” to support both staff and clients, said Abdul-Jalaal. Through her service, she has learned that “there are different ways that you can advocate for someone. It’s finding that balance of...specifically listening...and not doing something for someone, but listening...to what resources they need,” something she has learned in part through her involvement with TMA’s Collective Impact Initiative.
Expect the Unexpected: Aasha Henderson
Aasha Henderson serves as an AmeriCorps VISTA member working with the Central Kenilworth Avenue Revitalization (CKAR), a lead partner with Kaiser Permanente in developing a place-based initiative in Greater Riverdale, Maryland to lift residents from poverty and identify affordable housing opportunities and avoid displacement. A native of Rockville, Maryland with a BA degree in sociology from Duke University, she has always been drawn to service, being involved with service opportunities as a high school and college student and a member of the youth group at her church.
Two important skills she has developed on account of her service experiences are flexibility and collaboration. “Sometimes, in different service fields, you might have a lot of different things under your job description...that maybe you didn’t expect when you walked into the position,” Henderson told panel participants, “but to take all of those [experiences] as opportunities to learn and grow as an...individual really impacts your experience.” Although Henderson has worked with the Health and Wellness Department at CKAR, she has gained invaluable experiences working across different departments and offices that she did not foresee when she began her service year. For example, Henderson helped to coordinate CKAR’s application to be recognized by Maryland Nonprofits as a Standards for Excellence certified non-profit, which required Henderson to work closely with the organization’s Board of Directors. This was an unexpected opportunity to explore her own leadership and management skills. She encouraged young people to be flexible and open to exploring new opportunities as they engage in service programs.
Service for All
Wagner participated in part two of the roundtable discussion alongside Dr. Jennifer Domagal-Goldman (Executive Director, ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge), Maryland State Delegate Jessica Feldmark, and Dr. Samélia Okpodu-Pyuzza (Associate Director, Governor’s Office on Service and Volunteerism). He highlighted that every student and community member can and should engage in service opportunities given the challenges that Maryland communities face.
“There’s room at the table for everyone, and there’s work to be done by everyone [through service],” Wagner said. “You don’t have to major in sociology, political science, or social work to engage in service. If you can find away to pursue your passions, to use your skills in a way that intersects with some great need in your community or world, no matter what that looks like–that’s a form of service.”
Serve your Community Today!
If you or a recent graduate, colleague, or friend are interested in learning more about opportunities to serve as a 2022-2023 TMA AmeriCorps VISTA member in the Maryland, DC, and Delaware region, click here!