Wednesday, March 25, 2009

News and Gratitude from an AC Alum

The following email was sent by an AmeriCorps Alum (from '07-'08) to one of our staff members. How awesome to hear what she is up to and how her service has had a lasting effect in her life!

I wanted to write to you and everyone else at Generations Incorporated to share my experiences training for the Boston Marathon and to express gratitude for the influence my experiences at GI continue to have in this endeavor as well as in other aspects of my life. I am so grateful for my experiences as an AmeriCorps member at Generations Incorporated because of the things I learned, the spirit that I felt, and the persons I associated with. And I wanted to let everyone know a few of the ways those experiences continue to influence my life post-AmeriCorps. Would you mind forwarding this and/or posting it at the office (as it's appropriate)?

While serving in AmeriCorps I learned a lot about non-profits that is helping me in my graduate courses in museum education. The value of that is not only the knowledge of how non-profit organizations work but in how they can become a part of and benefit the community--the difference they can make in the lives of many individuals and how they can uplift and strengthen each individual that they serve--from volunteers to families to civic leaders, etc. And the experiential knowledge I gained last year is every bit as valuable, if not more so. For example, my communication skills are much improved thanks to all the collaboration I was a part of (especially during the Read-a-thon). A couple of weeks ago we talked about the importance of supporting volunteers and I was able to contribute some insights that opened the eyes of some of my classmates. And here's another example: thanks to the expertise of the devo team, my supervisor, and really everyone else, drafting my marathon fundraising letter was a breeze. All that practice with in-kind letters comes in mighty handy. :)

The motivation behind the service makes all the difference. And the willingness of so many to spend so much time to create wonderful experiences for others brings energy and spirit that carry you through each task. That spirit touches the hearts of those who serve and extends to the lives of those who are served. When everyone pulls together amazing things happen that lead to greater energy and consequently greater things--like making stone soup. I will always appreciate my fellow AmeriCorps members whose excitement fueled mine in a way that helped us all give more than we thought we could. That experience, I think, is what gave me the courage to leap at the chance to run the marathon as part of a team that would pull together for an important cause. Not sure if I could really do it, I signed up anyway; and being part of a team gets me through the rough spots. Last week it literally got me up and over Heartbreak Hill.

I love people. I love people! My experiences as an AmeriCorps member at Generations Incorporated immersed me into the variety of culture and community of Boston. I love it here! And not just because Washington once walked these streets. :) I have gotten to know so many people and have been given opportunities to work with them and learn about them that I would not have otherwise had. Those people are special to me. And you are some of them. Thanks for sharing your lives with me. Thanks for recognizing my strengths and allowing me to rely on yours. Thanks for recognizing my weaknesses and supporting me to accomplish our mutual goals. Life goes on and our goals are less closely aligned than they were, but our relationships matter and impact our lives in great measure.

Well, I didn't mean this to be quite so long. Turns out I had a lot to say (typical of when I have strong feelings about something). I appreciate each one of you and the powerful impact you have had on my life through your service and kindness. I hope you will consider helping me support Perkins School for the Blind this year as I prepare for and run the Boston Marathon. To do so, or to simply read a little about my experiences go to:

Warmest regards,

Christina Ashton

Monday, March 16, 2009

Experience Gained, Experience Given

In observance and celebration of Black History Month, many Generations Incorporated programs, including the Kennedy elementary, took part in discussing historical figures and events that shaped the rights of people in the United States. However, a group of students at the Kennedy were able to expand their experience, when a volunteer shared her encounters as a participant in Civil Rights demonstrations in the Deep South.

One day in conversation Jean Webber mentioned taking part in a march with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois. This just absolutely blew me away! Here was this woman who had participated in a demonstration with one of the most important figures in history, and she was going to be working with our students…Awesome! So, when Black History month arrived, I asked Ms. Jean if she would share her incredible experience with a few of our older, lunch time mentoring students. I was surprised when she hesitated a bit, but delighted when she agreed. Later I realized that her hesitation arose from the depth of emotion that surrounded her memories.

Turns out that Jean had taken a solo trip that toured the southern states in the height of the Civil Rights movement, and was full of vivid stories that confirmed many of the horrors many have only heard about. Jean shared a story in which she joined a peaceful march in a Mississippi town that was chaotic with racial tension. It was extremely interesting to observe the students as Jean described fellow white people screaming, and attempting to physically harm her for marching with African Americans. Jean left no detail of their abuse hidden, and the students reacted with shock, and confusion. When Jean finished, the students asked only a few questions, however, I truly feel that they were fascinated by the images, and emotions in her story. The perspective that her experience allowed these young students to explore is invaluable to their appreciation of their rights as people, and might not have ever occurred if they were not able to come into contact with the volunteers at Generations Incorporated. Almost anyone can sit with students and help them read, but these kids are truly lucky to not only have a friend and a tutor, but a resource to experiences that is sure to build strong character.

Kirkland Ahrens is an AmeriCorps State Community Engagement Coordinator at Generations Incorporated. You can e-mail him at