I first heard about the Episcopal Service Corps through my brother-in-law and friends who enjoyed their years and were gracious about sharing their experiences with me. Although many of my friends from William & Mary were jumping right into big DC jobs, I felt like I needed to take a year to discern my own calling, explore outside of my comfort zone, and serve others. Aleta, Andrew, and Christina were so welcoming and enthusiastic about the Johnson Service Corp’s mission in my interviews that I knew JSC would be the best place for me to grow in the next year.
Residence life had been a big part of my life in college, and I loved the idea of continuing to have that kind of community with individuals in the same stage of life. Indeed, living in community with people from other states and learning about spirituality with people of different religious backgrounds has been a source of great personal growth in the past few months. As a lifelong Episcopalian and (almost lifelong) Virginian, there were so many things that I took for granted and intentional living has provided a supportive setting for me to interrogate these assumptions. I am grateful for this unique environment where young people are encouraged to talk about deeply personal issues and think about how we can best use our resources and skills to serve our community.
My placement with Partners for Youth Opportunity has been another important source of growth. Julie, my supervisor, is amazing; she cares fiercely for the students at PYO and can go from advocating for PYO in a room full of community leaders to personally supporting a student in crisis. I am learning so much from her and the staff, especially about what it takes to lead a successful nonprofit (notably, the flexibility to fix what does not work) and about the immense systemic problems facing youth in Durham. I never expected that my International Relations major would lead me to working on justice in education, but I am grateful for the opportunity to serve Durham students and develop my knowledge and skills in a compelling, crucial field.
Although I still do not know what I am doing next year, I am learning to define success in my own way. It takes real effort to live in accordance with one’s values and not constantly compare oneself to others. The Johnson Service Corps has emboldened me to center the important things like community and faith in my life and work towards a better world for everyone.