January 16, 2019

I had never heard of AmeriCorps until I moved to Montana last May with my partner. Having recently finished my Masters, I came to Montana, not sure how my MFA in photography would play out in trying to find work. I was in the process of transferring my out of state K-12 art teaching license to Montana, but was soon realizing that teachers had been long hired for next year. Through some serendipity, I met the executive director at MAPS, and applied for the AmeriCorps position.

The mission of MAPS is to better the lives of Montana youth through media arts education. My role is to assist with classes and community outreach and form a career/college readiness program, along with an alumni program. Because there are no grades at MAPS, and classes aren’t for credit, the environment is an incredibly unique one. Instead of completing assignments for a grade, most students come because they’re genuinely excited to film, write a song, make a video game, or any number of creative projects.

When we surveyed our students at the beginning of September, we found that almost 70% of our students are considering a 4 year degree after they graduate high school, with another 17% considering a 2 year degree. After a few College Information Nights and now the formation of ‘Future Fridays,’ MAPS students can get personalized mentoring on all things college and career related each Friday. I’m able to have those conversations with students about how they can achieve their goals. After one of the college information nights, I had an 8th grade student tell me that he hadn’t really thought much about college, but that now he was.

Having an impact on students is generally not something so straightforward, but typically comes over time with trust. I’m finding that the longer I’m here, the more I’m able to facilitate those conversations with students and assist them in finding a path that will work for them.

Cheers to growing and continuing onward.