Reaching My True Potential: A Reflection of AmeriCorps Service

Ashleigh refurbishing
Ashleigh Barker refurbishing a bicycle during Hands On Nashville’s 2015 YVC Spring Break at Oasis Center.

Ashleigh Barker reflects on a year as a Hands On Nashville AmeriCorps Member.

For the last year, Ashleigh Barker has served as Hands On Nashville’s YVC Outreach AmeriCorps Member. In this role, Ashleigh has poured her heart and energy into connecting Nashville youth and teens, many of whom attend Metro Nashville Public Schools, to meaningful service opportunities designed to help them grow as leaders in their own right. From guiding a team of Youth Volunteer Corps interns who develop and lead their own service projects at area nonprofits, to facilitating a dynamic service-learning Summer Camp educating young Nashvillians in multiple issue areas, to creating social-networking content and the regular youth newsletter, Ashleigh has made a lasting impact in the lives of youth leaders, and those they benefit.

During her final week at Hands On Nashville, Ashleigh offered this reflection of her time as an AmeriCorps Member.

After leaving college, I was trying to find a career doing something I loved. Volunteering was always a hobby for me, and I was interested in a career in the nonprofit/public sector. I had no idea what “AmeriCorps” was, but as soon as I learned more about it, I was so thrilled that there were opportunities for people to gain valuable professional and personal skills, all while serving the community!

I was really impressed with the YVC program and I knew I wanted to be a part of it. My love for volunteering started when I was in high school, and I wanted to help inspire that same passion in other youth. While serving as an YVC AmeriCorps member, I got the opportunity to share the great benefits and rewards of volunteering. I also watched young people grow as peer leaders through service-learning

Serving as an AmeriCorps member helped me reach my true potential. A year ago, I had trouble envisioning myself performing many of the tasks required of me. Before my first day I set goals to come out of AmeriCorps a different person than when I started. Under great supervision I was challenged to try new things and take different approaches towards challenges I was afraid of. My love for, and commitment to, the YVC program gave me the bravery to step out of my comfort zone and spread the word to others about the benefits of volunteerism and the importance of getting involved.

I had a unique experience in AmeriCorps in that I returned to my hometown to complete my term. This was an amazing opportunity to connect with the Metro Nashville School system. I felt great giving back to the educational system that served me well. I even got the chance to provide youth leadership training at my alma mater, Hume-Fogg Academic Magnet High School!

At the end of my term, I can confidently say I am prepared for the next chapter in my life: graduate school. AmeriCorps has given me countless skills and networking opportunities that will enable me to maximize my contribution in the Public Administration program at Western Kentucky University. It’s been an honor to work alongside the amazing Hands On Nashville staff, which includes some of the most dedicated, passionate individuals I’ve ever met.

Thank you, Ashleigh. We wish you the best!

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