Sarah DeGrandpre is the DC Program Director for the Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP). She served as YSOP’s DC AmeriCorps Fellow from 2008-2010. A native of Freeport, Maine, Sarah graduated from St. Michael’s College in Colchester, VT in 2008 and has lived in DC for over four and a half years. Sarah loves service because anyone can serve in a multitude of ways and it unites us, regardless of background and skill.
Service has always played a leading role in my life story. Throughout my adolescence, undergraduate studies, and most recently, as an AmeriCorps Member, I’ve found great inspiration in service work and what others have done for me. Regardless of how one defines service, the word is regularly associated with positive, important work, carried out by individuals of all abilities and backgrounds. As we celebrate National AmeriCorps week, I am reminded of the power of service and its ability to unite and transform lives, starting with my own.
Service changed my life. When I first applied to be an AmeriCorps Member with the Youth Service Opportunities Project (YSOP) in 2008, I thought I would spend one year as a member, then head to the Peace Corps or Law School. I never dreamed that AmeriCorps would lead to the professional and personal opportunities I've had over the past four and a half years. I have wonderful memories of my time as an AmeriCorps member, but one story really resonates when I think about service as a unifying force.
During my second full time term with AmeriCorps, I worked with a group of college students from a technical school in Massachusetts. At YSOP, groups of youth spend between one day to a week participating on service-learning programs in NY or DC. This particular group was made up of fraternity brothers, who came to YSOP in DC to participate on an alternative fall break program. My initial thought was, "how am I going to relate to this group of men and aspiring engineers?" As a former political science major who prefers arts and crafts to physics, I had no idea what to expect going into the program; little did I know, this group would leave a lasting impression on how I view service.
The fraternity brothers not only came to DC with great compassion and enthusiasm to volunteer, they also brought the lessons they learned in school to their work. For example, a few of the students spent one day fixing household appliances for an elderly woman who could not afford to buy new items, nor get rid of the ones that were broken. The woman was so grateful for the boys assistance, particularly their help in fixing her microwave. When asked about a highlight of the week, one student commented that it was seeing this elderly woman excited about a functioning microwave, something he took for granted, and how he was able to use his technical training to make an impact on this woman's life.
I am inspired by this story because it demonstrates how service
can bring people together regardless of skill, background, education, ethnicity, age, and countless other factors. Volunteering excites people and can be performed in a multitude of ways. Seeing this young man speak about what he gained from giving back illustrates the power of service to connect people and transform lives. Whether you serve for a year with AmeriCorps, a week with YSOP, or a few hours annually, service leaves impressions that last for a lifetime.
Following my AmeriCorps service, I transitioned into a few different roles at YSOP and am now the DC Program Director. One thing that has not changed is my passion for service. Virtually every day I hear young people talk about a skill they learned volunteering at a shelter, a new friend they met at a meal program, or a fresh perspective they gained through visiting a community agency. As we honor AmeriCorps, I encourage you to think about what service means in your life and how you can celebrate the spirit of supporting others and giving back.