Changing the World with YVC and AmeriCorps

AmeriCorps members serving with YVC in 1994–the inaugural year of AmeriCorps.

After a three year-hiatus from AmeriCorps funding, all of us here at YVC are thrilled to announce that YVC was awarded a National Direct AmeriCorps grant that will enable us to provide AmeriCorps members to YVC Affiliates throughout the country. YVC has had a long and fruitful history with AmeriCorps as a way to enable YVC programs to reach out to even more youth, and thousands of Youth Volunteers and hundreds of AmeriCorps members can tell those stories.

I’m one of those former members who stumbled upon YVC through AmeriCorps four years ago. Serving a year as an AmeriCorps member as an alternative to entering the job market in the midst of a recession seemed like a great idea. I would get the opportunity to make a difference in my community, gain practical job skills, explore a career path, and delay my entry into the highly competitive job market for a year.

AmeriCorps members serving as YVC Team Leaders in 1997.

I had never heard of YVC, but I ended up moving halfway across the country to serve as an AmeriCorps member for YVC of Greater Kansas City. It only took a little background research and a few phone conversations for me to see that this organization had the potential to change the world, and I wanted to be part of it.

I served alongside three other AmeriCorps members as a Team Leader planning and supervising projects with YVCKC. I remember being shocked at the amount of responsibility and freedom that I had as an AmeriCorps member. Our Program Director empowered us to run as much of the program as possible, encouraging us to bring up new ideas that would help YVCKC connect even more youth to service, and nearly always, he then empowered us to run with those ideas. We weren’t at the bottom of the totem pole—we were the hands and feet of the organization.

I also noticed quickly that without the four of us AmeriCorps members, the YVCKC program wouldn’t be able to offer volunteer opportunities to nearly as many youth. The two staff members were busy seeking funding for the program, marketing the organization and focusing on the day-to-day operations of a nonprofit. The four of us AmeriCorps members were the ones actually planning and supervising all of the projects, developing relationships with Youth Volunteers, and ensuring that YVC was offering these youth the opportunity to volunteer in a transformative way.

Lacey Helmig (far right) with two of her fellow AmeriCorps members and YVCKC Team Leaders along with the YVCKC staff.

I built relationships with Youth Volunteers as someone just a few years older than them, and I never got tired of hearing how my role in their lives helped shape their future. Many of these youth even aspired to become AmeriCorps members themselves. If I was only one AmeriCorps member, and I felt that my year of service with YVC changed so many youth’s lives, I could only imagine how YVC was making a difference on a national scale.

So as YVC celebrates a National Direct AmeriCorps grant for the first time in three years, we’re also celebrating the hundreds of AmeriCorps members who have served with YVC in the past and the thousands of Youth Volunteers who were able to volunteer because of the support of these AmeriCorps members. Even more so, we’re celebrating the many more youth who will be exposed life-changing service through YVC with the support of AmeriCorps members.

Lacey Helmig is the Communications and Media Coordinator for YVC. She began with YVC as an AmeriCorps member in 2009, where she learned from Youth Volunteers the most efficient way to mulch a nature center trail, how to play Ninja, and the undeniable fact that youth can change the world.