Austin Reynolds, CAC AmeriCorps 2016-2018
Before doing Americorps, I had applied and been accepted to do Peace Corps in Madagascar. After deciding it was not the right time for me to uproot and ship off to a foreign country for two years, I looked at local options that would allow me to serve the community I was already a part of. I had heard about CAC Americorps in Knoxville through volunteering at Beardsley Community Farm. I did some research and liked that the program was run by a local organization that was extensively integrated into the community.
My favorite memories are the food recoveries after home football games that I helped lead during my first term. We did them after an already very long day of Game Day recycling, and they usually lasted well into the night. But I loved working with the students in the Food Recovery Network, trying to make things run as smoothly as possible so that we could donate as much food as possible to local food banks. That felt like very worthwhile and meaningful work. And everyone always seemed to be in good spirits while we worked.
I love the varied work of my position. One of my favorite days recently began with me going building to building, counting sinks in restrooms to figure out how many hand dryers would need to be installed so we can replace paper towel dispensers with hand dryers to save costs on labor and waste disposal associated with paper towels. Then after lunch, I defended a proposal to the Green Fee committee to procure $5,000 to fund an organization to visit our campus and help us write our Zero Waste Plan. And I ended the day shoveling horse manure out of a trailer at our compost site because the battery to lift the trailer was dead. All of that to say I really enjoy the mix of big-picture planning/policy development and down-and-dirty physical labor that I get to do in my position.
I was born and raised in Knoxville, but I never truly appreciated the city until moving away for college and then returning a couple years ago. One thing I love about Knoxville is the easy and abundant access to nature. I love running at Ijams and Sharp’s Ridge, swimming at Fort Dickerson, and hiking and backpacking in the mountains nearby. Now that I’ve been back here for a while, I’m really starting to enjoy the sense of community I’ve found. A lot of that is thanks to my involvement with CAC Americorps, but there are tons of great groups to get involved with in town.
I would tell incoming members to muster all of the perseverance that they possess and channel that into every new initiative that they try to implement here on campus because that is what it’s going to take to get things done. Stasis is much more appealing to most people than change and nowhere is that more true than at a large institution like UT. If I had to tell them 5 things, I would probably just repeat that 5 times.
For those considering Americorps, I would highly recommend doing your research on the organization that will place you (in my case CAC) and on the specific host site where you’ll be serving. Some positions are more effective than others, and the type of work can vary tremendously from one site to another. I’m now closing in on the end of my second term, and I can honestly say that my time in Americorps has been some of the most meaningful and rewarding of my life.