Leaving with a Full Heart: My Last Day as an AmeriCorps

It seems like just yesterday that I was writing my first blog for Goodwill about how I decorated my office, but my time with AmeriCorps come to an end today. During my AmeriCorps orientation, I was told how fast this year would fly by, and that just when I thought I was getting the hang of my job, it would be time to leave. I didn’t believe it; 41 weeks seem can seem like a long time when you are looking forward, but when you are looking back, it feels like the blink of an eye. I have treasured my time at Goodwill, and I am thankful for the opportunities that I have had in this position. As I am filling out job applications and going on interviews, I wanted to reflect on my experience both at Goodwill and with AmeriCorps. There is not a doubt in my mind that this position has permanently and positively affected my life.

One of the first things I learned at Goodwill was their mission (besides selling me inexpensive clothes). In 2015, Goodwill served 4,124 individuals with barriers to employment. In the short time I have been here, I have seen 80 people join our CNA program to become nurses, 16 people join our SPACE program to learn how to use a computer, 29 people join our Driver’s Ed program to learn how to drive, and 165 people join our Careers in Retail program to advance from entry level positions to middle skills positions. As one of the clients that has been though the Careers in Retail program, I can vouch for the services that Goodwill provides not only as a member of the marketing team, but also as someone who needed them herself. I have never gone from knowing nothing about an organization’s mission to caring so deeply about it and the people it serves so quickly before. I have worked for many wonderful organizations before accepting this position, but I have never seen such a direct impact on individuals in my community, both through my work with Goodwill and AmeriCorps as a whole.

In this position, I have often learned the value of each person’s unique story. I have produced several client stories while I have been at Goodwill, and each of them has been so unique. Not only has it helped me share what Goodwill does with the public, but it has given me a greater appreciation for the work I see happening every day.

Most people will, at some point, face a barrier to employment. Barriers can be anything: not knowing how to operate a computer, not having a driver’s license, not having recent job experience, or having a disability, whether it is mental, physical, or emotional. Many of those obstacles can seem insurmountable if you are trying to navigate it alone, but I have had the privilege of seeing the people that will work hard to help you reach your goals. When I was facing graduating college, I applied to so many jobs, I couldn’t even keep track. At that time, I didn’t have enough job experience to even get a call back. I was fortunate that a mentor recommended that I apply to AmeriCorps, and that I was placed here at Goodwill. I am thankful that Goodwill had just started the Careers in Retail program where I was able to receive my Leadership and Management Certificate. Being at Goodwill has given me experiences and knowledge that I didn’t even know I needed, and has helped me overcome my barrier. They have given so much to me, and it has been amazing to get to help them along the way.

I have so much to thank both the people at Goodwill and at AmeriCorps for, there is no way I can condense it into one blog post. Seeing leaders in both of these organizations serve their communities so selflessly has reinforced my desire to continue to serve my community for the rest of my life. When I first started with AmeriCorps, we were asked to take the following pledge:

I will get things done for America - to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.
Faced with apathy, I will take action.
Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.

I have seen these qualities in clients and co-workers at Goodwill who are strengthening our communities and overcoming adversity. I strive every day to live up to this pledge and the examples I see around me.

If you are interested in joining me in supporting Goodwill and our community here in the Knoxville area, consider donating your unused items, or shopping in one of our stores. This directly supports Goodwill’s mission and helps them to continue to provide services for our community. In the meantime, this is not goodbye, it’s just see you later!

About Alyssa Watson

Alyssa is an AmeriCorps member serving at Goodwill Industries-Knoxville in the Marketing Department. She is looking forward to spending some time at the pool this summer.