By Ellie Sànchez, AmeriCorps member serving on the Summit Partners team with Winthrop Elementary School
I cannot believe it is already March because it seems like just yesterday I was putting on my red jacket and boots for the first time. With graduation approaching in June, I have started thinking more about the future. Every day I notice that there are skills I have gained this year that I can apply to anything I do in the future, in service and beyond.
Working with a Diverse Group of People
Every person I interact with in my service is completely different from me. They come from different backgrounds and perspectives. Although this has often been difficult to adjust to, it is also an enlightening experience. I have learned to facilitate conversations productively even if the conversation was first started because of something we disagreed on. Working with a diverse group of people has made me more compassionate and vocal. For example, I have learned to give each person the benefit of the doubt before jumping to conclusions. Not only does compassion create a safer space, but it also allows me to better support my peers in times of difficulty. However, when I am put off by what someone does or says, I have found that it is better to speak up, and address the problem in a respectful manner, rather than to let it fester, and turn into a bigger deal than it needs to be.
As much as I need all the people I work with to support me unconditionally, I also realize that I need to make decisions, and be accountable for my own actions. I have learned to leverage my teammates and leadership when I absolutely need them, but at the same time be independent and take care of pressing issues on my own. Taking initiative means raising awareness about ways to make a school environment more effective, and not always waiting for everyone else to tell you what to do. In service, I’ve learned quickly that I will not always be guided to do everything. Even though collaboration is crucial, sometimes effective service needs to come out of your own creative heart.
If there is one thing I have definitely learned throughout the year is that you should always be able to acclimate to the way things are going. A lot of the time, your schedule will not follow through as planned. You must be willing and able to adjust every single time this occurs. The more flexible you are, the more effective you are in service. Control is not always a privilege we have, but students need us to be fully able to support them—even on days when it seems that circumstances act against us. Knowing that the future is never truly reliably planned, perfecting flexibility this year will forever be a skill I keep with me.