In honor of AmeriCorps Week, I’m interviewing people who are current or former AmeriCorps members, to talk with them about their service, and its impact on their communities and their careers. This interview is with Sara Lozito, our Idealist.org podcast intern who’s currently serving with the Northwest Service Academy (NWSA).
Where do you serve?
I currently serve as an Individual Placement Team Leader at the Northwest Service Academy (NWSA) in Portland, OR. From 2007-2008 I served at Ecotrust also in Portland.
What were you doing before you joined AmeriCorps?
I was: helping to build the Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center at Idealist.org, running a before-school program at a Portland elementary school, and teaching in an after-school program at a Portland middle school.
Why did you join AmeriCorps? What did you hope to accomplish?
I hoped to help organizations build better programs and to accomplish those goals that could not otherwise be met with their current capacity. I wanted to build a diverse skill set to take with me on my next adventure.
What have you done during your two terms of service so far?
This term, I organized a Diversity Workshop Series, put together a training on addressing white privilege, spent many hours mentoring my 11 members, and continued to deepen my involvement with many organizations throughout the Portland area. During my time at Ecotrust, I spent most of my time talking with folks about bioregionalism and citizen involvement in their communities — at times while wearing a giant salmon suit.
How many other NWSA members served with you?
I serve with four other Individual Placement (IP) Team Leaders, and work most closely with a team of 11 members whose service all focus on volunteer management and outreach. Out of our Portland office, NWSA has about 90 members at a time.
What impact has your work at Ecotrust and NWSA had on the community?
While at Ecotrust, I coordinated the Salmon Nation program, the intent of which was to celebrate this region and its citizens. It amazed me how running a program where a large amount of the work was intended to be fun, and to celebrate life and living in this place was confusing to people. It was exciting to watch the assumption — that my position would be antagonistic toward their work or life — break down and float away. I’ve heard people say things like “this town runs on NWSA.” And I am often surprised at the number of people currently working in nonprofits or government that are current or former corps members.
What has been the greatest challenge?
I have been challenged by trying to create powerful change with both limited resources and a finite amount of time.
How else has your NWSA service helped you?
I have learned that I do not need to be working for an organization to create change in my community. My time at NWSA has helped me learn to identify creative ways to address community needs and to realize that I can help create that change as a community member without an official title.
Learn more about Northwest Service Academy, AmeriCorps, and how to apply. Get involved with AmeriCorps Week in your own community!
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