Well, I can say for certain that when I started my year of service at Boston Partners in Education, I was unaware of what I was signing up for. I had no idea how lucky I would be to get to work for such a great organization and a group of truly amazing people. That, and I had no idea I’d be spending my last four months of service working from home due to a global pandemic. I definitely did not see that one coming.
But let me start with what I did know. When I signed up to be an AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring (AOM), I joined Boston Partners as their Outreach Coordinator, meaning I’d be in charge of recruiting volunteers and building relationships with community organizations. I already knew the positive impact mentoring has on the lives of young people having had a few mentors myself (I owe them the world). I also had first hand experience with Massachusetts public schools, both being a product of the Andover Public Schools system and having spent time in Northampton public schools while I was a student at Smith College. This inspired me to serve in my community and more specifically, with local public education.
Here’s what I learned along the way:
1. Pandemics really throw a wrench in projects. You’ll adapt.
So, you planned a workshop for mid-March. You signed up for various recruitment events throughout the spring. You might have left your lunch in the fridge thinking you’d eat it tomorrow but haven’t been back to the office in four months. You’ll be okay. All of this taught me how to be quick on my feet, change plans, and roll with the punches. What’s true today might not be true tomorrow and what is needed of me today might not be what I planned on yesterday – and that’s completely okay.
2. Trust yourself and trust others too.
It’s all part of working with a team, especially one as passionate as Boston Partners. We won’t always agree on everything but other people bring perspectives that I haven’t thought of and vice versa. People want to hear what I have to say, even if it goes against popular opinion. Bringing perspectives together is how we reach the best conclusions.
3. Welcome the support system!
People want you to succeed. I am lucky to have not one, but TWO amazing professional support networks – Boston Partners and AmeriCorps. With our open door policy, everyone at Boston Partners is always willing to share their knowledge or opinions. My fellow AOMs are always exchanging advice and resources, helping each other to improve and expand our mentoring programs. Because each of our mentoring programs is unique, AOMs are a great source for different perspectives. Rely on the resources you have! You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
4. Be proud of your work! You did that.
I took on some pretty cool projects, did some pretty awesome work, helped launch our first Virtual Gala and made successful mentor/mentee matches. I also completed 1,700 hours of service and received a grad certificate in Positive Youth Development and Social Equity from Boston University as part of my AmeriCorps program! All worth being proud of!
5. Color coding is brilliant.
I wish I knew this in undergrad, but color coding is an absolute lifesaver and completely underrated. I cannot recommend it enough, especially as someone with historically questionable organizational skills. Notebooks? Spreadsheets? You name it – it can, and should be, color coded.
6. Know your audience and buy raffle tickets accordingly.
There’s a story here but just trust the advice. When it comes to fundraising events, go for raffle items that don’t fit the crowd and you’ll probably walk away with them.
7. Where to find the best coffee in each neighborhood.
Being an AOM at Boston Partners frequently involves going out into the Boston community to make connections and recruit our volunteer academic mentors. I was able to learn more about my community and realized just how small and wonderful Boston really is. From bookstores to local coffee shops, I stumbled upon some true city gems along the way.
8. How to navigate the MBTA system (for better or for worse).
Going along with getting to know the community better, I became an expert at all things MBTA. I can name every stop on the Orange Line (in order) and am guilty of getting way too excited when I was lucky enough to catch a brand new Orange Line train during rush hour. On the downside, I am far too familiar with the crowded 9:00AM and 5:00PM trains and the 15 minute delays that always seem to happen when you have somewhere to be. It’s one thing I don’t miss now that we’re working from home. But, from the orange, red, and green line to various bus lines around the city, I now like to consider myself a pretty decent tour guide of Boston.
9. Once AmeriCorps, always AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps members and alums have the best ideas for free events, activities and most impressively, free food. It’s all part of being on the AmeriCorps budget. Members and alums are always willing to share the tricks of the trade. Although frequently unprompted, their great advice is always welcomed.
10. Our mentors are amazing.
I was lucky enough to interview volunteers with different backgrounds, experience, interests and reasons for mentoring. Each mentor has their own unique strengths and style, but one thing they all have in common is a passion for education.
These are some of the many things I learned as an AOM. As my year of service comes to an end, I am more grateful than ever to have had this amazing opportunity. I met some incredible people along the way, learned some very valuable lessons, and expanded my knowledge of the nonprofit world – all while serving my community. I could not have asked for a better team to work with, both at Boston Partners and my AOM Corps. Although this ending is bittersweet, I won’t be going too far! I’ll be switching desks and becoming Boston Partners’ new Development Associate and continuing my work at this great organization.