Glimpsing the AmeriCorps Experience

Article Author: Lane Mochow, CAC AmeriCorps VISTA Member (21-22)

I have spent the past couple of days visiting sites around Knoxville to see the daily lives of my fellow AmeriCorps and photographing my experience. It has been beautiful being up close and personal with my new friends’ service experiences.

Jace in front of the Tennessee River

The first site I went to was the municipal building on Gay St. to visit Jace Swain-Crowley. The Knoxville Regional Planning Organization has strict restrictions on spacing and masks during the strange age of COVID-19, so we stood outside and spoke a bit about his daily life here.

A post-undergraduate of the University of Tennessee, Jace found AmeriCorps to gain experience in the field and create lasting relationships with his fellow members. His factual, yet relaxed tone was really encompassing of how our work shapes us as young professionals, and something I’m beginning to see sprout within myself as well.

Six months into his AmeriCorps service, Jace intends to serve another year, because he appreciates the work he is doing and the small effect it has on the world around us.

You can hear his experience in his own words here:

The next day I visited Saylor White’s Knoxville Parks and Recreations volunteer forester class on pruning fruit trees. The class consisted of about seven people, who all asked very knowledgeable questions about proper trimming techniques.

Saylor stayed in the background during Leo Rumble’s talk, a University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension agent, and gave quiet advice to Knoxville volunteer foresters eager to get their hands on the shears.

I walked in knowing nothing about pruning or its importance and walked out drenched and giggling.

Saylor is serving her third term of service with AmeriCorps and really enjoys Knoxville. Amid a myriad of degrees and certifications, she has a master’s in nonprofit management, so AmeriCorps provides her experience with the hands-on aspect of serving communities.

Saylor helping prune a tree

She spends her days wandering the parks of Knoxville, marking memorial benches or sites along the Tennessee River tourists can stop on. She was really excited to show me pictures of a greenway path she poured asphalt and river rock for.

Elizabeth Ramsey and I met at her service site, Beardsley farm. Beardsley’s community garden is a host for many AmeriCorps service members. We spent most of the time I was there in the chicken coop, her holding them, and me asking questions about her service experience.

Elizabeth rooms with another AmeriCorps member, Sabrina, and they became fast friends. Seeing her eyes light up when she talked about all the goofy things do together was beautiful.

Elisabeth talking to the chickens

Noelle serves at Centro Hispano, a nonprofit that supports the Knoxville Latino community. I joined Noelle at an after-school program at an elementary school in East Knoxville.

Noelle at an afterschool program

Having never experienced a primarily Spanish-speaking area, walking into the school building was strange. Even the signs for the library or cafeteria also had the Spanish word beneath them. We started out at a table in the cafeteria playing board games. The kids were so energetic and cheery and had a lovely time figuring out the states on a map and guessing animals stuck to their foreheads.

Then we went upstairs to a hallway, where the kids met an art teacher to finish their paper mâché elephant.

Noelle tore old paper bags for the kids to glue to the elephant base, and when the kids got bored, as children quickly do, she helped them pick out a book.

Even masked, I could see how much she genuinely cared about these elementary schoolers, and that was the most beautiful part of it all.

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.