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…

COMBATTING CLIMATE DETERIORATION IN BUTTE MONTANA BY RYLIE YAEGER

When I lived in Beijing, people would always ask me how the pollution was. I told them two things: The Communist Party planted trees to stop sandstorms from entering the capital. They also moved factories away from the city, but didn’t shut them down. Despite all this, the Chinese Capitol still experiences terrible air quality for periods of the year. This past summer I moved home to Minnesota and was amazed to watch everyone taking pictures of the smoky haze drifting east from California, Washington, and Oregon and south from Canada.  While this was new for them, Minnesota generally has…

The Power of Empathy: Reflections on MLK Read for Peace by Jonathan Carter

Jonathan is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at spectrUM Discovery Area in Missoula. The recent wave of school boards nationwide removing books from curricula (and even from libraries themselves) has prompted me to reflect further on the significance of MLK Read for Peace. This service project connects community volunteers with kindergarten through fifth-grade classrooms to read age-appropriate books and honor the legacy of Dr. King. Montana Campus Compact hosts this event in elementary schools across Montana to commemorate AmeriCorps and The King Center’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. While many schools enjoy a day off in observation of MLK…

Chicago to Montana: A Bona Fide Experience of Trust By Demetrius Sudduth-Peterson

Demetrius is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at Montana Technological University with The Institute for Educational Opportunities Before AmeriCorps, I was a high school substitute teacher with interest of gaining more professional development and career readiness within higher education. The education benefits and network provided by AmeriCorps was my initial motivating purpose, however, after being three weeks into my term, I now feel beyond appreciative of the precious privileges that serving others has taught me about myself. The State of Montana is a completely different culture than Midwest Chicago. Much more loving and friendly people in the communities. I had a…

Collective Action Is Key For Climate Justice By Andrew Mades

My name is Andrew Mades. I began serving as a VISTA member at the National Center for Appropriate Technologies (NCAT) in November 2021 and will serve until November 2022. A historian by training, I studied in Massachusetts before moving to in Berlin, Germany in 2018. There I completed a master’s degree in project management and law and was married to my husband. While that is my background, and history is a passion of mine, I have become dismayed at the lack of urgency in addressing the climate crisis. I felt I had to act, and so began looking for a…

Unexpected Gifts in an Unexpected Place By Cindy Morales

Cindy is an AmeriCorps Leader serving at Fort Peck Community College and Poplar High School I made hard decisions and big leaps in 2021 that led me to an unexpected call to serve. I wasn’t sure what I would do next, until this opportunity presented itself. Even though I was scared, even though it was out of my comfort zone, I ventured out to Poplar, Montana to serve for a year. The big sky and wide open spaces of eastern Montana captivated me. I had told myself to be as open as the landscape that I was coming into, not…

PAYING IT FORWARD BY HILARY ROSA

This is my second year of service at the University of Montana Food Pantry. This is also the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, and things are not looking up for the majority of people- not even close. Everywhere I look, people are struggling to make ends meet. Homelessness is on the rise, people are angry. There seems to be a lot of talk from our leaders, but not much action to back it. The problems we are facing seem insurmountable given our current trajectory. The world seems a much colder place lately- and not just because it’s winter in…

Science, Try It! By Chase Campbell

Chase Campbell is an AmeriCorps Leader serving with Broader Impacts Group in Missoula, Montana. Listen to a day in the life of her service year!

The Unfrettables by David Mariani

David serves at Great Falls College MSU MTCC AmeriCorps at Great Falls College MSU operates out of the Office of Student Engagement and oversees the Great Falls College MSU Food Pantry. Students are welcome to find me for food, hygiene products, and meaningful human interaction, all freely given with no strings attached. Once in a while, I throw in some words of wisdom as a bonus. I recently had a student visit me at the food pantry with a few needs. My service always comes with a genuine concern for an individual’s wellbeing, so my trips to the pantry usually…

The Kindness of Strangers by Donna Stuccio

Donna serves in Browning, MT at Blackfeet Community College I grew up on a quiet little street in the coal mine region of northeast Pennsylvania that dead ended at railroad tracks. The coal cars would wobble and rock as they shook the ground below me. I would rush to collect coal that toppled from the overflowing cars. The deep black anthracite would come in handy for hopscotch. It was the 1960’s, years before jumbo sticks of colorful chalk were the norm. While counting cars, I anxiously waited for the end of the train and the always gracious man in the…

The Value in my Authenticity by Robyn Michalec

  I came out of the closet when I was 16 in a Wisconsin town that did not embrace its LGBTQ+ community. In many instances, it outright rejected those who came out of the closet. Fortunately, I have an overwhelmingly supportive family, and I only lost a couple of friends as I embraced my identity as a queer woman for the first time in my life. Despite my luck in receiving unwavering love from my family and many of my friends, I was not shielded from the backlash of my community. I was harassed, bullied, and threatened by classmates and community…

Why Not?: A Journey of Autonomy by Omiah Mitchell

Omiah serves at Dawson Community College with Dawson’s Promise These past two years have been unlike anything I have ever experienced before. My mind would have never been able to conceive what has occurred in this world during these past two years. At first it was wonderful to rest and just be still. Then, life quickly became a mundane redundant routine. Wake up. Shower. Log in to zoom. Log off. Sleep. Repeat. I began asking myself, “Is this really what life is going to be like?” “Is this all there is?” These supposed formative years were condensed into something that…

The Language of Dreamers by Katey Funderburgh

Katey Funderburgh serves at Salish Kootenai College Upward Bound The inside of my wrist is tattooed with a pencil. Cliché, perhaps, for an English major, but more important to me now than it was when I got it in 2019. It was the start of my Junior year, and I was reeling from an Emily Dickinson poetry class that had shattered my world and proved to me that I had something to say. My tiny pencil tattoo commemorates the discovery of my own voice. Today, the Montana leaves are colored like millions of tiny wildfires and I am 956 miles from my…

Not sewing swimsuits by Fisher Ream

My first full week of VISTA service began with the State of Montana Arboretum (SMA) Committee Retreat in the Lubrecht Experimental Forest, roughly forty minutes from the University campus. The Committee of a dozen members spent the day working on a three year vision for the State of Montana Arboretum. The facilitator, unfamiliar with the work of the Arboretum Committee, asked us first to describe the operating environment for the SMA. She said that this narrative summary would ensure that we, as a committee, were not “inside sewing swimsuits while there’s a snowstorm outside”. That is, I suppose, that the…