Story last updated at 7/22/2009 - 12:13 pm
Editor's note: This is part of a series of essays by AmeriCorps volunteers serving in Southeast Alaska.
My AmeriCorps experience has been extremely interesting and rewarding. After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Business Management in 2008, I was ready to go out and change the world. Immediately after graduation, I interned at UNICEF in downtown New York City where I gained invaluable hands-on experience in the international non-profit world. Once my internship ended in September, I assumed finding a job would be the least of my worries with my experience and degree. Unfortunately, the economy and job market took a nosedive just as I began my post-grad job search.
Confused and disheartened, I searched for other options to further my education or build on my work experience. After four months of tirelessly searching for jobs and coming up empty-handed, I came across an AmeriCorps opportunity working with the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Intrigued, I applied for the position hoping for the best. By the end of January, I was leaving Logan International Airport in Boston and headed up to Juneau in the dead of winter.
After my culture shock finally subsided, I began my AmeriCorps volunteer work with NAMI-Juneau (the National Alliance on Mental Illness). I was hired as a volunteer coordinator, but I quickly realized there were many other aspects of NAMI that needed attention first. I began creating a database of membership information and a volunteerism history. I also helped form several committees such as the Publicity, Membership, and the Annual Meeting committees. Another project I worked on was the JDHS Service Learning Project with Health Teacher, Nancy Seamount. I recruited, trained, and coordinated a Service Learning Project for 35 high school students from April-May. I taught the students the history of mental illness, diversity, team building, and how to advocate for the mentally ill. The Service Learning Project was a huge success and on May 7, the students presented what they had learned at the NAMI-Juneau Annual Meeting. All 35 students completed the program.
After the amazing response to the Service Learning Project, I decided that Juneau needed some type of mental health support system for kids and teens. Since then, I have been working to create a year-round Mental Health Club in schools throughout Juneau. This club will help break down myths and stigmas related to mental health and provide support and resources for kids and teens in need. Over the next year, look for "MITHS: Mental Illness Teen Health Support" in schools, or contact NAMI-Juneau for more information at (907)463-4251.
In January, I came up to Juneau to make a positive difference in the world. Over the past few months, I feel my work with NAMI-Juneau and JDHS has greatly benefitted the community and I look forward to the rest of my term of service.
Laura Manley is from Westfield, Mass., serving at NAMI-Juneau as Volunteer Coordinator.