Sarah Beckmann completed two AmeriCorps terms in Austin as an AmeriCorps Access Coach at College Forward and an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader at Texas Association of Charitable Clinics. After completing her service, she returned to College Forward to join the staff as a Program Manager, supporting AmeriCorps members in growing professionally and effectively serving students.
Sarah joined the OneStar team this year to support the OneStar AmeriCorps VISTA Project in recruiting and managing members.
What made you decide to join AmeriCorps?
I joined AmeriCorps to start my career in nonprofits and education. I had an interest in working with students and wanted to try something that would help me gain hands-on experience while also giving back to the community I was serving in. People should join AmeriCorps if they are looking for a fun way to engage with their community and develop professionally in their fields. AmeriCorps is an incredible networking experience to find people that want to give back and serve their community like you. I’ve made some of my best friends from my service terms, and I am so thankful to have been part of some amazing cohorts of other members.
How did AmeriCorps affect your perspective on service and your community? What insights did you gain about your community through AmeriCorps?
AmeriCorps was the first time I truly engaged in full-time service. I came from a more “office job” kind of background and wanted to feel more connected to the community around me in my day-to-day work. I wanted to wake up every day knowing that the work I was doing was actually making a difference. AmeriCorps gave me the opportunity to do that in both my service terms and helped me realize the passion that I had for helping others. It also helped me learn more about the amazing work being done in the community I lived in every day.
Do you have a notable memory from your time in AmeriCorps that illustrates the impact service has had on you?
One of my most notable moments from my AmeriCorps experience was the VISTA convening myself and other VISTA managers and leaders put on during my second term of service. This conference brought together VISTA members serving from around Texas for a chance to learn and develop together. It was also the first time I had met many of my own team members in person, and the experience really brought us together as a group. It was a great event to plan and helped me connect with members from all over Texas, both in my program and so many others.
What skills or experiences did you gain during your AmeriCorps service that you use in your current career?
I truly believe the best professional experience I’ve gained in my career was during both of my service terms. I was able to learn so much through hands-on service and learning with my peers. I learned how to be a better team member and leader, as well as how to help others develop alongside of me. From working with students on FAFSA applications to creating volunteer programs for medical clinics, I learned so much about the education and healthcare fields just from being around other AmeriCorps members and staff that I worked with. It was an experience that I am so thankful for, and I still use the skills I developed during service to this day.
What advice would you give to AmeriCorps members to make the most of their service experience?
My biggest piece of advice to AmeriCorps members is to be open and ready for anything. You have no idea what amazing opportunities are out there for you until you open up to them. I think everyone has the chance to grow during their service terms if they put themselves out there and takes risks at new things they are interested in. Take advantage of this time to learn what you like and don’t like to do. I learned so much about myself and my career goals from both of my terms, and I am so glad I made an effort to branch out of my comfort zone to make the most of my experience.