Serving as a PASS AmeriCorps Member with Common Wealth Youth Programs grants me the opportunity to work directly with teens from a very diverse set of backgrounds. In the mentoring aspect of my position, I develop relationships with high school youth who complete our three-week training and then become eligible to apply for and get placed into part time jobs. Specifically, I develop these relationships through checking in weekly or bi-weekly, preparing students for interviews during the application process, and keeping an eye out for my mentees when I’m at their high schools.
As can be expected, serving in a youth-work capacity falls nowhere short of having many highs and lows. Some moments are great, like when students disclose to me that they’re writing a short novel or decide it’s important to share that they’ve tried a new Cheeto, or give me a hand-drawn picture on the last day of training. A bit more significant are the proud moments when students get hired for a job on the spot or hear some very rewarding feedback from managers. Then of course scattered throughout the school year are some discouraging moments – a student who has so much potential but struggles to meet our expectations; a student who pushes away our attempt to mentor her because that’s what her background has taught her to do; a student who shares she’s been facing depression and anxiety and feels a little hopeless.
As discouraged as I feel when encountering these “lows,” I continuously push myself – with the help of the rest of Youth Programs staff – to see the moments as learning opportunities. They provide me with chances to further develop my youth work skills and to better understand where these students come from, all in an effort to serve them best.
It’s an honor to know these students accept me as their mentor, whether that means they feel comfort in confiding personal struggles with me and sharing minute details of their day-to-day lives, or if that means a quick weekly conversation and a friendly wave at school.
Liz Machesney started at Common Wealth in September 2015 in the PASS AmeriCorps program.