Friday, March 15, 2013

CVN AmeriCorps Story Contest Winner: Siobhan Maloney

By Siobhan Maloney, Boys Hope Girls Hope

AmeriCorps Position: Academic Support Coordinator
As an AmeriCorps Member, my service at a non-profit in Southern California is sometimes a 24/7 situation. For nine months, I have been at Boys Hope Girls Hope; an organization that provides family-like homes to academically motivated and capable young people, along with scholarships to the most prestigious high schools in the area.

The scholars apply to our program and their families have to show a financial need. As a result, their circumstances are very different than the kids at their school. A handful of the children come from abusive homes while others are just from less than ideal situations. Some have been bounced from home to home, so needless to say, attempting to build a relationship with them was not the easiest task in the world.

They were apprehensive of adult authority, but by showing my loving nature and genuine interest, the walls were soon let down after a few weeks of being with them. In a way, we have been growing together, and although just children, they know that I was put into their lives – if only for a short time – for a reason.

Regardless of the scholars’ situation, or the struggles that they have experienced before the program, it cannot be easy for any child to leave their parents and enter a house of strangers. Truth be told, it was difficult for me to leave my parents as a young adult. This makes their lives so different from the very traditional upbringing that I was lucky enough to have in Buffalo, New York.

As the Academic Support Coordinator, I am officially involved in their academics.  But, as a live-in member of the home, I am involved in so much more. My experience of living in the community with the students is a unique opportunity, and one that I cherish as an AmeriCorps Member.

I have fallen into many different roles during my nine months at the program.  During homework time, I am an AmeriCorps tutor.  During meal time, I am a cook.  After meals, I am a maid; although the boys can be very helpful when they want to be! Once in a while, we will cook together and talk about school and what’s going on in their lives. To me, that is one of my favorite parts of my position.

However, one of the hardest parts of my role is when I have to discipline the boys for bad behavior or not keeping up with their homework assignments. As one of the only parent roles for them in Santa Ana, I get to see the good, the bad and the ugly.

At 23-years-old, I never would have thought I would be responsible for the wellbeing of all these kids, but at the same time, it gives me so much respect for my own parents. Sure, I was provided with an ideal upbringing, but I owe them so much more for the little things that they had done for me; lending an ear, teaching me lessons without me realizing it and shaping me to be a woman who genuinely cares about others. Living with six boys aged 12 to 18 years old, in addition to two other staff members, is a unique situation where I learn every day.



I am able to see the transformation in the lives of the youth, but I am also able to see a transformation within myself; I can take on the role of nurturing mother, trusting older sister and fierce video game competitor within the same hour. I am whoever they need me to be at that moment, while always keeping the mentor aspect in mind. Adolescence is such an important time in the development of humans.  So much of what one experiences at the time shapes and mold them, and in turn, will shape and mold the people around them.

Being part of AmeriCorps is like being part of a family. I feel that I always have someone to turn to and that makes this experience much more worthwhile. Sure, I can call up my friends or send an email, but at the end of the day, it really makes a difference when you chat with a fellow, or former, AmeriCorps member and it feels like they just “get” you. It’s an amazing feeling and helps me produce better results for the children and Boys Hope Girls Hope as a whole.

I am not only honored, but also blessed to be in the lives of these children; they needed a person to look out for them, to discipline them in a loving manner, and to just be there for them. I’ve found a place where I belong, but more importantly, so have the children.