Alanna McKissack, Executive Director of Keep Blount Beautiuful & CAC AmeriCorps Member 2015-2016
On my college graduation day, I like many others had no idea where my life was headed next. I had applied for numerous jobs and graduate school programs. None of which seemed to be working out for me. While graduating from the University of Tennessee with a degree in Biology was the happiest moment of my life, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next.
I had applied for a position with CAC AmeriCorps as the Program Coordinator for Keep Knoxville Beautiful back in April of 2015. I thought the position was perfect for me! Weeks went by and I had heard nothing. Turns out KKB had lost their Executive Director and was unsure if they would be hiring an AmeriCorps member. I panicked. Thankfully Jessica Hardy was there for me and assured me that she would help me find an AmeriCorps position. So I waited.
Two weeks after graduation, I finally got the call I had been waiting for! Ariel Allen, the past AmeriCorps member at KKB, said the Board President wanted to meet me. I was offered the AmeriCorps position two days later. KKB still hadn’t hired on a new Executive Director so I had no idea what to expect come August.
August rolled around and it was time for me to start my AmeriCorps term. I still had no idea what to expect when I entered the KKB office for the first time. I had just learned the day before that my site supervisor’s name and I had only spoken to her briefly on the phone. (In my opinion I ended up with the best site supervisor, Patience.) Starting a position around the same time your boss starts too is not always the easiest thing , especially if the staff consist of you two. I knew the next 11 months would be a challenge. What I didn’t know is how much it would shape my future.
My role as the Program Coordinator was mainly to promote the KKB mission of being clean, green, and beautiful. I did this mainly through organizing litter pickups, coordinating recycling events, volunteer management, and providing educational programs in Knox County schools (dressed up in a tree costume…from the 90s). Most people would pass on a job that consisted of picking up trash and having to report everything you do. If you know me, this was the job for me. I am the type of person who hates sitting at a desk all day and I enjoy making spreadsheets. I am obsessed with being organized. CAC AmeriCorps Program Director, Jason Scott, once came to my office and was amazed by organizational skills. It also came in handy for Patience.
Throughout my term I was given a lot of freedom in what I did with KKB’s programs. I am so thankful Patience trusted me to do that! I got to work revamping the education program and planning as many cleanups and event as I could. During my AmeriCorps term 442 children were educated; 1862 volunteers were managed; 62,025 pounds of litter were picked up; 97.1 miles of roads, greenways, and creeks were cleaned; 60,000 daffodils were planted; 100 crepe myrtles were planted; and 6,038.5 pounds of material were recycled. I loved what I was doing and was willing to work hard to help reach these numbers. I worked a lot of overtime and for a couple of months I worked every weekend. When you can see the difference you are making in your community it really fuels you. My favorite part of the job was the positive feedback we would receive from volunteers, community organizations, and sometimes just random people who loved what we were doing. My AmeriCorps terms helped me solidify my passion in community enrichment and environmental sustainability. I always thought I would be working in a research lab or possibly even being a science teacher, but my life has taken a different route.
I titled this article “Like a Boss” because I am now the “boss”. At 23 years old, a year out of college, I am now the Executive Director of a non-profit. Back in March, I interviewed for the Executive Director position for Keep Blount Beautiful. I thought it would be a long shot for me to get it; I had short term experience in the field. I walked into my interview confident of my passion for public service and my desire to make a difference in Blount County. I got the job, my dream job! I owe it all to CAC AmeriCorps, Patience Melnik, and of course my parents (they have supported me in everything that I have done).
While I have only been working officially for KBB now for 2 weeks it has been an amazing experience. I have so many ideas and so much to learn. I am thankful that I will still be involved with CAC AmeriCorps as a site supervisor and with KKB as a fellow Keep America Beautiful Affiliate. It will be a change from being an AmeriCorps to having an AmeriCorps.
If you are considering applying for CAC AmeriCorps or any AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, etc. position, do it! Being an AmeriCorps was truly an amazing experience. You will face challenges but the end result is worth it. To the future KBB, KKB, and KSB AmeriCorps: don’t be afraid to make the programs your own. Be confident in what you are able to accomplish.
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.