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What AmeriCorps Means to Me: Sam Hartzell

AmeriCorps Week Spotlight on Sam Hartzell, Alliance AmeriCorps VISTA Leader

Why have you made the decision to serve multiple terms?

“When I think back on why I made the decision to serve multiple terms, it was always because I was excited to do the role, to work with that particular team, and because I felt that each position was an opportunity to make a difference for others and continue to grow and strengthen myself. The rewards of skills gained, connections made, impact created, and great memories forged outweigh all the challenges of service. I enjoy what I do, and value all the people I have had the opportunity to serve with and for. Doing service has helped me understand my own strengths, and grow beyond my limits. I’ve transformed from a unsure recent grad moving to a new city into someone confident in myself and ready for the future. Because of service, I know I am just one of a great force of powerful, brilliant, ambitious and principled people who want to make our country and the world better.”

What does AmeriCorps means to you?

“To me, AmeriCorps means being at Pre-Service Orientation totally overwhelmed, but meeting all sorts of new and exciting AmeriCorps members serving all across the country. AmeriCorps means sitting with my new host site team for the first time in a little ring of chairs at the office and eating donuts while taking notes. It means long hours with cool people, last minute deadlines, grant applications rejected, grant applications accepted, lots of writing, and lots of blurry pictures taken (and a few good ones). It means beans and rice. It means crowded public transit in winter, the windows all fogged up. It means training days with my cohort and talking about how hard service is but also the cool stuff we’re doing and our victories and our struggles and our ambitions for the future. It means meeting my best friend by bonding over English comedy and giggling together in the back of the training room. AmeriCorps means being adopted by a high-school debate team of brilliant, assertive young people who are an inspiration to me. It means taking the jump into leadership and getting to know a dozen astounding people who are serving in my cohort this year. AmeriCorps, to me, has been a haven, a hard school, and ultimately a community of so many amazing people who have crisscrossed my path and lit up my life. AmeriCorps means that I have been useful to others.”

Why do you think service is powerful? 

“When I talk to people about service, I always say: “Folks who do AmeriCorps service don’t fall into this role by accident.” I have known a lot of AmeriCorps members. We’re all different people, but we are united by a wish to help others and make our communities stronger. Service brings like-minded people together and offers a common mission across the diversity of who we are and what we do. They say that a small group of motivated people can change the world, and in fact is the only thing that ever has. And although maybe that sounds fanciful, it’s not. It’s true. I think service is powerful because it takes our idealism and our drive to help and collides them with intense challenge and the true complexity of the world. And that makes us powerful. I really believe that when you impact even one life – even just by getting to know a young person for a few months and being for real and really hearing them – well, that does change the world for the better. Every good seed grows, right?”

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