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Meet Mary: AmeriCorps Promise Fellow Alum

Mary Dedeke served as an AmeriCorps Promise Fellow from 2013-2015 in Duluth, MN.

“As my graduation date approached, I seriously began to examine if the major I studied was what I wanted to pursue in life and the answer was, no. Upon that realization, I searched for what to do next. Soon after walking across the stage to receive my diploma, I saw a sign calling for AmeriCorps members.

During my first term of service, I was a student tutor and mentor at Denfeld High School, I learned building relationships with students and staff is the foundation of supporting learners in achieving academic gains. During my first year, I was also able to combine my interest in food with service to obtain a grant through the Serve a Smile program and create programming by connecting students to healthy food through farmers’ markets and food cooperatives in their community.

For my second term, I served through the Girls Restorative Program at Men as Peacemakers, a Duluth nonprofit. Through my time with the girls’ program, I gained a sense of self-awareness. Daring to be yourself is what being a role model is all about. I carried that lesson through to my time as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Rwanda.

The Rwandan government requested Peace Corps volunteers for the education sector and my role specifically was teaching, alongside Rwanda teachers, English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) to elementary school students. Peace Corps had been a lifelong dream of mine and being invited to serve was one of my greatest accomplishments. All that I had learned as a Promise Fellow I carried with me in my Peace Corps service. Building relationships with community members was key to creating sustainable projects, embracing my story and sharing it with community members allowed me to serve as a role model to young girls in my community, and finally I learned that I am a catalyst for change.

Shirley Chisholm, the first African American congresswoman, said “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining. You make progress by implementing ideas.” While in Peace Corps, I learned how to assess needs, manage projects, obtain funding, and center community members from the beginning. A highlight of my time in Rwanda was obtaining a grant to organize a leadership camp for high school Rwandan girls. Seeing their confidence and voices grow is a memory I will always cherish.

Currently, I am preparing to move to South Korea to continue my career as a TEFL teacher while also pursuing my public speaking and writing career. AmeriCorps was the first step on a lifelong journey of service. My years as an AmeriCorps member allowed me to explore my passion of working with young people, especially young girls of color, on their education journey. Throughout my years of service, I am constantly coming back to why I am drawn to this work, my mission. Again, I look toward Shirley Chisholm, who said, ‘Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth.'”

Thank you, Mary!

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