AmeriCorps Week: Nick Brandi-Miller

Location: Collins Middle School, Salem, MA

After studying psychology and education in college, I was excited to begin a career that was centered around making a positive impact in people’s lives. Following a combination of open houses, semester-long seminars, frantic online job searches, and countless hours of thought, I decided that a year of service with AmeriCorps was most tailored to my interests.

The AmeriCorps program that seemed like the best fit for me was the United Way AmeriCorps Program because it allowed for the opportunity to serve in a school while also providing monthly trainings that centered around career-building and social-emotional learning. On top of this, the program incorporated data collection and analysis to help quantify the social-emotional and academic impact I would have on each of my students.

My year of service ended up being incredibly valuable, not only because of the platform it gave me to make an impact, but also because of the tangible skills and self-knowledge I was able to cultivate in the process. After reflecting on my year of service, I couldn’t help but feel like there was still a variety of ways I could help the population I was serving with and more room for myself to grow. It was because of this and my positive first-year experience to opt to do a second year of service.

During the summer leading up to my second year, I had the unique opportunity to collaborate with my program coordinators, my program director, and teachers I was serving alongside to start a welcome program for newcomers at my service site. This idea came from a project that two of my team Members from my first year had undertaken at an elementary school. This was mainly in response to newcomers from other countries arriving at their site and lacking the necessary academic, social, and emotional support for such a substantial life transition. I recognized a similar necessity for support at my service site and starting a program of this nature seemed like a great way to develop skills that would apply throughout the rest of my career.

This program has led to a substantial change in how newcomers are welcomed and included in the school community. One of the best aspects of the program was creating a video with this year’s class of newcomers that included questions that a future newcomer would have when arriving at the school for the first time. In doing this, I was able to engage the students’ voices, creativity, and emotion in a way that they don’t typically get to during a normal school day. It’s this kind of impact, mixed with all the other small moments of growth and success, that have made my time with the UW AmeriCorps Program both enjoyable and transformative.

Think this could be you?