On Belonging by Amber Peretz

Tomorrow will be my 29th birthday. September 14th.  This time last year I was moving out of my apartment in St. Petersburg, Florida and preparing to move to Montana where an AmeriCorps VISTA position was waiting for me at the MSU Billings Native American Achievement Center. At the time of my move, there were some very big questions on my mind- questions that more truthfully stemmed from my heart. There was this feeling that although Florida would always be my home, it seemed to be pushing me away for the time being. My family would joke that it didn’t need…

Sacrifice and Service by Nathan Switchenko

AmeriCorps VISTA member Nathan Switchenko “What’s it going to be then, eh?” was a question I often asked myself after I graduated college-though I had a rather less poetic retort. This uncertainty, during the height of Covid lockdowns, soon reached a head, and pushed me into moving a thousand miles to a state I had hitherto never set foot to serve as an underpaid AmeriCorps VISTA member. Other factors such as a confluence of friends serving or entering service also helped, but the root of my interest was in a desire to prevent other college graduates from feeling the same…

Do Good, Try Your Best by Emily McMath

Emily, our 2021-2022 AmeriCorps Senior Leader, served two terms with Montana Campus Compact Excitement, learning, hesitation, perseverance, grief, burnout, growth, frustration, resolve. My AmeriCorps experience can and will be described in a multitude of ways. After two years, one might think the ability to talk about what you have experienced would be familiar, become habit, but honestly my description changes every time. I reviewed past blogs from my first year of service to see if my opinion changed, if my outlook of the world differed in any way. The remarkable thing is, at the core, it has not. I still…

Witnessing Inspiration Bloom By Jonathan Carter

Jonathan is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at spectrUM Discovery Area at the Missoula Public Library As I enter the penultimate month of my service year, I would like to take a moment to pause and reflect on my experience so far. I’ve found my community impact can be a bit more challenging to measure than that of my fellow cohort members. While their high school and college students are working hard on grades and applications, my zero- to ten-year-old audience is concerned with simply having fun (and learning new things!) at the museum. Ultimately, smiles and inspiration are trickier to…

Investing in a More Hopeful Future by Noah Aukerman

Noah serves with Montana Technological University in Helena at Capital High School “My parents kept me out of school today because of shooting and bomb threats,” a student explained to me. Their absence from school prevented them from attending their weekly meeting to receive the academic mentorship and college readiness services my service site offers. However, this student’s worries were well founded. The day prior, Helena police arrested a man who had made three explosive devices with the intention of detonating them at Helena High School. He was also in possession of three semi-automatic rifles which he expressly intended to…

Service With Snqweyłmistn By Emma Myers

After having completed my first service year at a family shelter, I knew I wanted to continue serving parents and children. That left a lot of room for me to explore and search, but when I saw the opportunity to work with indigenous foster families in rural Montana, everything about it excited me. I was initially intrigued by Snqweyłmistn as a host site for my service year because of how many people they wanted to impact through their programming. They weren’t only concerned with the well-being of current foster families, but also the seven generations of indigenous people that would…

The Meaning of Success by Cindy Morales

Cindy is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at Poplar High School Every community is different. Oftentimes people are measured by a standard level used for all, that completely disregards the outliers and minoritized individuals. These standards are based on communities or groups of people who do not encompass everyone. Serving on the Fort Peck Reservation with high school students has made it more apparent that these standards are hurtful. We must celebrate every improvement and every success. Just like communities are different, so are individuals. The difference lies not only in the present, it lies in the journey and hardships leading…

Remember Our Past…Build Our Future by Donna Stuccio

Donna is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at Blackfeet Community College. Five months have passed since my previous blog. I couldn’t remember so I had to look through the archives to remind myself how much time passed since I wrote it. My feet feel so firmly planted in Browning, that I was certain it was much longer ago. In my first couple of months here, I couldn’t foresee how seamless this transition could be. There has been huge swath of generosity that has continued to surround me since I arrived in Montana, starting with all the leaders of Montana Campus Compact,…

Perspective By Alyx Chandler

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with labeling everything as either right or wrong, truth or lies, and had a hard time understanding what was between those two, that concept of a gray area. Looking back, I have a lot of respect for my parents. I realize I was probably a hard kid to parent at times: highly sensitive, intense, with a strong need for perfection. Not only did I have a tendency to demand too much of myself, despite some difficult circumstances, but I also demanded that from everyone else around me, despite their difficult circumstances. Let’s…

The “Else” Word by David Mariani

David is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at Great Falls College Some questions in life are better left unasked. “Where are you from?” makes me bristle with its (hopefully) unintended micro-aggressive questioning of my origins and American-ness. “What do you do for work?” forces me to do a sidelong glance for insinuating my worth goes only as far as my useful to others. Word to the wise: Do not ask me when I plan on getting married and having kids. Recently, a new question made its way onto my list of questions that earn my ire, “What else are you doing?”…

The Beauty of Evolution: The Learning Curve by Omiah Mitchell

Omiah is an AmeriCorps Leader serving with Dawson’s Promise at Dawson Community College. There is so much to be said about my experience thus far I honestly do not really know where to begin. So I guess I will begin here, Montana as a whole is the 17th State with the largest homeless population. 9.2% of that population (the population I serve), are between the ages of 18-25. While another 4.4% are between the ages of 13-17. The homeless youth in rural Montana is an issue that has been steadily growing as far back as the early 1900’s. When looking…

Defining Success in Service By Robyn Michalec

The Great Falls LGBTQ+ Center is a beautiful mess of color, filled with mismatched furniture, shelves of books and board games, and always an abundance of goldfish crackers and fruit snacks. We are located in a building with a lot of history; built in 1899, the space has seen thousands of faces and has heard just as many stories. While the Center has only occupied this office for a few years, countless moments of joy have added to those stories. Hundreds of members of the LGBTQ+ community and allies have been able to enter this space and add their authentic…

A Day in The Life of an AmeriCorps Leader: Alternative Spring Break by Demetrius Sudduth-Peterson

Demetrius is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at Montana Technological University with The Institute for Educational Opportunities As my second blog 4 months into my first term as an AmeriCorps Leader, I have happy adventures to share after climbing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid; Survival, Safety, Belonging, Esteem, and Self-Actualization. My first blog post revolved around adjusting and relocating from Chicago, Illinois to Butte, Montana. Here at Montana Technological University’s Institute for Educational Opportunities, I am now experiencing the rewarding phase of service while serving with students that are members of the TRIOS and Upward Bound programs. The past weekend, I…

Growth Through Adversity by George Lindbom

George is an AmeriCorps Leader serving with the International Rescue Committee in Missoula. When President Biden decided to withdraw military forces from Afghanistan in August 2021, many Afghans chose to or were forced to flee their homeland. President Biden directed the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to lead the federal government’s initiative to resettle these vulnerable Afghans. First, Afghans were transported to different military bases across the country and housed in military barracks that were quickly turned into extended-stay residences for individuals and families. Then, the DHS worked with refugee resettlement agencies, including the International Rescue Committee (IRC), to…

Service Through Soft Skills By Ethan Krenzer

Only one week away from having three months left in my AmeriCorps VISTA service term, I have begun to see positive results with growing membership capacity at my service site, the Montana College Attainment Network. Unlike other service members working in the nonprofit educational sector, my role does not involve any sort of direct service. I do not help students and parents navigate the obstacles of filling out the FAFSA or Pell Grant, encourage underserved Montanans to join the three programs that make up the Federal Organization known as TRIO, or take part in summer trips that reward students who…

Life is Precious Here by Katey Funderburgh

Katey is an AmeriCorps Leader serving with Salish Kootenai College Upward Bound Prison abolitionist Ruth Wilson Gilmore believes that “where life is precious, life is precious.” When we treat each life with the full sanctity it deserves, when we provide people with everything they need to live healthy, happy lives, we engage in mutual care for our communities. We reduce the chance of harm and violence. We break down barriers and allow people to thrive. Providing high-quality education, clean water, good food, reliable healthcare, safe housing resources, access to natural spaces– everything a human needs to thrive– all makes life…

Help Yourself Help Others By Sabre Campbell

Sabre is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at Montana Technological University in Butte Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt stuck? Like maybe you knew what your big dreams were, but you didn’t know how to start chasing them? That is exactly how I felt after graduating college last year. Just like everyone else in the world, my path in life had taken a turn due to the emergence of Covid. My dream of studying abroad while in college was disrupted by Covid. My longing for a service year abroad had also seemingly become out of…

Food Sovereignty: Life at Missoula Food Bank and Community Center By Taylor Hill

Taylor is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at EmPower Place at the Missoula Food Bank I’ve only been at Missoula Food Bank for a little over a month, but I could tell on my very first day that the people who work here care deeply about their community. It doesn’t matter how much money you make, where you live, or how many kids you have, no one leaves here hungry. But we do more than feed people – we connect people with housing resources, help them pay their utility bills, give out hats, gloves, and heaters. We also have a free…

Reflections on Becoming Through Life & Service by Amber Christina Perertz

Amber is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at the MSUB Native American Achievement Center My name is Amber Christina Peretz. I type these thoughts while sitting on the carpeted floor of my cozy Montana home; music playing softly, a candle burning its gentle light.  I’ve come a long way to arrive here at this particular moment. Physically (I moved here from Florida), emotionally (2020 was hard for everyone), and spiritually (a story for a different time).  For years now I’ve identified as a teacher. First of little humans in elementary school, then later of undergraduate students who were preparing to become…

Learning, Healing, and Other Two-Way Streets By Noah Aukerman

Noah serves at Montana Tech University in Helena For much of my life, the societies I have lived in have conceptualized learning as an activity with two primary actors; the learner and the teacher, with the former understood to be somewhat dependent on the latter in this model. However, this season of my life has been marked by repeated realizations that the world cannot be fully understood through the lens of these categories we create to make sense of things. As an AmeriCorps service member serving with TRIO Upward Bound and Talent Search at Montana Tech, I find myself in…