December 3, 2018

Amber Dechaine“None of us understand what we are doing, but we do beautiful things anyways” -Allan Ginsberg. 

That is how my year of service began. Confusion and chaos amongst paperwork and packing boxes. I was unsure of what I was committing to and how I would budget bills and expenses with only a living stipend at my disposal. It wasn’t until orientation that it began to sink in. Three days spent with people I have never met. Team building, sharing meals, service learning. In those three days we learned about our mutual connection. The passion to give something of ourselves to those in need.

“Some people like neat suburbs. I always am attracted to the rundown and the old and the offbeat.” – William S Burroughs. 

A background in social work is what I brought to my service project. An education in how social injustice has been the foundation of our society. My career path has been an investment in serving the underserved. Hearing the stories, and the trauma, and the confusion, and the tears of the “rundown and the offbeat.”

“I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” – Jack Kerouac

I landed at the Montana Career Lab, a unit inside of the Research and Analysis bureau inside of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. I had no background in career development, I had no background in labor and industry. I had only the experience that at the age of 18 I had no idea about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. How could I commit four years to one degree when I didn’t know if I would use it, how much it would cost me, and if it was something I would remain passionate about for years to come.
I have come to realize that I landed at the Montana Career Lab because I wanted to make that experience better for others.
While serving with the Montana Career Lab I have been able to work with their newly developed curriculum called “Careers Build a Community.” This curriculum was developed to help expose youth, in first through third grades, to the concept of careers and the idea that every career is valuable inside of a community. So far, my service has allowed me to network with educators and parents from an age population that the Montana Career Lab has not yet connected with. We have attended conferences, spoken to organizations, and I will soon be putting the curriculum to use with afterschool programs throughout the Helena School District.

For me it has been difficult to see other AmeriCorps leaders working with students daily and doing very direct work. Part of my inspiration to serve with AmeriCorps was to get that direct experience with youth and to make a lasting impact on their lives. My background in social work allows me to take a step back and understand that I AM making an impact. Creating change on a larger, more macro level so that students for years to come can better understand what a career is and the value of exploring these ideas through every step of their education.
So not only do I get to work on implementing change on a larger scale, but this winter I will also get to directly work with youth on a part time basis. Perhaps the best of both worlds.

“Find your place on the planet. Dig in and take responsibility from there.” -Gary Snyder

I don’t know if this is “my place” but I do know that every step along this journey, things have fallen into place. My decision to serve with AmeriCorps, move to Montana, and dedicate my time to helping students of all ages gain access to career development resources, all this coming together makes it feel like a custom fitted experience, tailor made for my journey.
“And so love goes. And so life goes. And so I go.” -Neal Cassady