by Jessica Grove

For too long I pretended that one person’s actions couldn’t make an impact. Subconsciously I knew that if I believed that, then it removed my responsibility to do anything about what was happening around me. When I graduated college, I assumed the path to my future included heading straight for graduate school and pursuing more degrees. I tried to silence the voice in my head that told me I needed to do something different. But in the end, I couldn’t stand idly by while everywhere I looked in America I saw pain, division, and hatred. So I decided to join Americorps.

When I walked up to my site the very first day, the only thought that bounced around my head was, “What did I get myself into?” I had moved completely out of my comfort zone. It was a new city, new people, and my world was shifting. I became very aware I had no idea how to run a mentoring program for these kids. Their whole life they learned how to survive in public housing communities. They know which streets not to go down, they know when it is and isn’t safe to play outside, they’re used to school lockdowns and hearing about shootings in their neighborhoods. So I asked myself again, “What did I get myself into?”

The truth is, I got into one of the best, most heart wrenching, and perception shifting jobs of my life. I quickly learned that you find what you’re looking for, whether strengths or weaknesses. I learned that these kids are strong, independent, and able to rise above their circumstances. I learned that they have big dreams and are capable of effecting real change in their communities. I learned that building a better world started at the most basic level: the heart of a child. I learned that Kids usually become what you believe they will and that’s why mentoring is so important. Because if the only real thing I get myself into this year is connecting one child with a mentor who shows them they’re capable of achieving their goals instead of telling them they can’t, then redirecting my whole future was worth it.

Although I don’t know how to handle every situation I encounter running this program, I know how to show up day after day. I know how to keep an open mind, make mistakes, learn, and believe in people’s ability to mentor and change lives. I found out that one person, one program, and one year, can affect real change. So what did I get myself into? I got into making a difference and now I’m addicted.