Zach Johnson, CAC AmeriCorps Alum 2008-2009
I, Zach Johnson, volunteered and completed two service years in Americorps which have helped me grow as a person during and after my completed service. Serving as an Americorps member has impacted my life positively in a number of ways. I made excellent professional, social, educational, and mentor/mentee relationships during both of my AmeriCorps service years. I am from Knoxville and served both AmeriCorps terms in the community and have been fortunate enough to see the impact of AmeriCorps programs on the community.
My first year of service was through the Emerald Youth Foundation (EYF) after school program from 2004 to 2005 where I assisted inner city youth with their math, science, and reading as a peer mentor. I also was a mentor to these children whose ages ranged from 2nd grade to high school. I would take the children out to eat, to movies, and local community events. I would also discuss with their parents how they were doing in school and what could be improved upon. A lot of children were on the honor role by the end of the school year. I continue to donate to this program yearly to pay for students who may not be able to afford the program. Former co-workers keep me informed of the needs and the status of the EYF program. I love this particular program because the impacts made on children’s grades can be seen as the school year progresses.
My second service year as an AmeriCorps was with Knoxville’s Community Action Committee (CAC) office. My service as a CAC AmeriCorps member directly led to my current professional position as Knox County’s Recycling Coordinator. I met John Harris, CAC AmeriCorps Director at the time, while working as an AmeriCorps with EYF. He was very positive and encouraged my interest in alternative fuels. While he did not have a position open in that field at the time he did tell me of an open position with Knox County Solid Waste as a CAC AmeriCorps Member. I was intrigued by the position, applied and was offered the opportunity to promote recycling in the Knox County community. I found solid waste and recycling to be fascinating and the position motivated my interest in reducing waste and encouraging recycling, composting, and sustainability.
During my time as a CAC AmeriCorps Member, I also completed a Masters of Public Administration degree from the University of TN, Chattanooga. My graduate thesis was on recycling and solid waste management in Knox County. I met exceptional mentors and professional colleagues through my CAC AmeriCorps service in 2008-2009. I also made and continue to make many life-long friends and colleagues directly related to my involvement with AmeriCorps. The overall experience of AmeriCorps service has changed my life forever. I would not have my current position as Knox County’s Recycling Coordinator if I had not served through CAC AmeriCorps.
More recently, I saw a former student of my previous AmeriCorps service with EYF at Knoxville’s premier Earth Day event, EarthFest. She was volunteering and during our conversation I learned that she had earned a scholarship to East Tennessee State University. Also, on another occasion I saw a second former student of EYF who was now serving as an EYF AmeriCorps at the site where he had been mentored by myself and other AmeriCorps members. He remembered my name and we were both glad to see each other at the EYF site. He told me that he was planning to attend a local community college the following semester.
I would encourage any recent college graduate interested in volunteering, local government, non-profits, and/or their community to take a look at AmeriCorps programs offered in the Knoxville and Knox County area. My AmeriCorps service has been extremely helpful to me in advancing my career and my education. I am thankful that I was given the opportunity to volunteer myself for two fantastic AmeriCorps service years!
This blog post is a collection of personal reflections and expressions. All opinions represented are those of the author and do not represent the official opinion or views of the Knoxville – Knox County Community Action Committee, CAC AmeriCorps or any other party referenced.