Every individual should spend a year in public service. Specifically, every individual should spend a year in national service with AmeriCorps. A service year is so much more than just a "gap year" or a "filler" on a resume—it's an engaging, enlightening, and transformative year, not just for the Service Member but for the communities and individuals that member serves. Through two terms of hands-on, direct service with AmeriCorps I've cemented my belief that I do not volunteer for the pursuit of a monetary prize or noble recognition, but because I simply enjoy community service. Thanks to AmeriCorps, I was provided a platform to strengthen my passion of advocating for comprehensive urban health through hands-on community engagement. This past service year has given me the opportunity to better myself, but more importantly to better community health.
AmeriCorps has allowed me to serve side by side with others who vary in socio-economic status, gender identity, race, politics, and religious beliefs—teaching me that volunteerism joins together individuals from every population. AmeriCorps creates a platform that allows individuals from every walk of life to connect through community development, and personal growth. As you volunteer, you're making connections, gaining a deeper understanding of the service you are doing and the people you are doing it with, while inciting change and encouraging progress. Through national service you are connected to the solution as well as the problem. Service to others, means being unselfish—it means doing something for someone else without expecting any reward or gain. By serving people, you are nurturing your values and the values of those around you. AmeriCorps gives you the capabilities to do good and be good.
Serving with AmeriCorps NCCC after college graduation, I had the unique and specific opportunities of tutoring and mentoring students in low-performing schools, rehabilitating a local garden, assisting a community in responding to disaster, and developing an urban youth center. Now, in my second term with AmeriCorps, as a Health Educator with National Health Corps Chicago, hosted through Erie Family Health Centers—Lake View High School, I'm putting my college degree to work—serving with a Federally Qualified Health Clinic, providing sexual and reproductive health education, nutrition guidance, healthy relationships training, and mental health counseling to Chicago school students. With NHC Chicago, I'm providing practical, realistic, and lifelong education to students through relatable and hands-on instruction. Recognizing the lack of reproductive, mental, and nutritional health in urban high schools, I feel fortunate to assist students in sensitive, sometimes awkward, but immensely important and relevant topics, including a comprehensive definition of consent, discussing safe and correct condom use, and detailed STI knowledge. Through National Health Corps Chicago, I've discovered public service touches more than just classrooms, it fosters safe and applicable life experiences.
As my term of service with National Health Corps Chicago ends, my passion for community service, public engagement, non-profit outreach, and urban development is earnest and urgent. I'm excited to continue my career in the public health, non-profit sector as a Community Health Organizer with Montefiore Medical Group in New York City, educating public school students, community members, parenting adults, and urban professionals on sexual reproductive health, healthy relationships, and safe mental health practices. I'm grateful for the lessons I've learned, the relationships I've made, and the knowledge I've gained with National Health Corps Chicago, I couldn’t have asked for a better year.
This blog post was written by NHC Chicago 2017-18 member Devon Martinez.
Devon is a Health Educator at Erie Family Health Centers - Lakeview High School.