Story last updated at 8/19/2009 - 5:58 pm
Editor's note: This is part of a series of essays about the experiences of AmeriCorps volunteers in Southeast Alaska.
Where to begin? I started my journey with AmeriCorps in March of 2008, when I boarded the jet from Detroit Metro to Juneau, Alaska. It was bittersweet leaving my family and friends for the Last Frontier, knowing I would not be returning to Michigan for at least nine months, the longest I had ever been away from home.
Nine months came and went, and before I knew it my term was over. I had had an amazing experience with my fellow AmeriCorps members, serving in the Alaska Service Corps as a solo team leader.
Sweat, tears, anger and joy had all graced us over the nine month term, and as anxious as I was to return home to my family, Alaska had grown on me, and I was not ready to leave quite yet.
I did return home for the holidays, trying to figure out what was next, hoping that a position I had applied for to do a second term would work out. But, as Christmas came and went I was convinced, I was going to have to start looking elsewhere.
As I sat in the hospital room with my newborn niece/goddaughter, I received a call telling me that I had got the AmeriCorps position and was going to be heading back to Alaska to serve a second term of service, this time with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in the Safe Routes to School Program.
I was very excited to start this new term of service. It was a cause I really believed in and a position I knew I would enjoy. I had worked previous summers in the field as an intern with a local road commission and really enjoyed the transportation industry, I had also been pursing a degree in Civil Engineering before applying for my first term of service, to take a break from school for a bit. The Safe Routes to School program has given me the opportunity to get more involved in the walking and biking area of transportation, something that is often looked over when building new roads or reconstructing new ones.
Safe Routes to School has really opened my eyes to the small changes we can make in our communities that have a huge impact. For instance,a walking school bus in a neighborhood, that gets parents involved with the kids, everyone gets exercise and the kids do better in school. No one looses! There are many more examples of these small things that any community can do, and I am excited to be able to help communities to start such programs with their children.
I am really looking forward to the start of the new school year and to see what these next five months with bring.
Stephanie Bushong is an AmeriCorps volunteer serving with the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities in the Safe Routes to School Program in Juneau.