Jessica Griffith, AmeriCorps Member serving on the Rice Family Foundation team at Susie E. Tolbert Elementary School and AmeriCorps Alum of Habitat for Humanity Jacksonville, shares her answer to the question: "Why Do I Serve?"

Service is in my blood.

My brother is a firefighter for the City of Jacksonville, my sister a police officer. So where does that leave me? Well, I am in the middle of my second year of service, this time as an AmeriCorps Member at City Year Jacksonville. I have a servant leader heart and my mind is set on dedicating my life to service. I just cannot imagine spending my life any other way. Sometimes I find myself wondering why am I so hard-wired to serve?  

Every day I find myself walking through loud, crowded hallways jam-packed with students who sometimes need help redirecting their energy towards learning. Despite the chaos, it is okay because we love them. When we are able to harness their energy towards reading, writing, math and science our students are stars - bright balls of burning gas (this can sometimes have a much more literal meaning) capable of anything they hope to achieve. 

So here I am in the midst of my second year of service trying to answer the ever so burning question. Why do I serve? I think in order to answer this question I first need to reflect on: Why did I first choose to serve with AmeriCorps? And more importantly: Why did I choose to do it again?

Jessica serving with Habitat for Humanity

I first chose to serve with the AmeriCorps program because I desired an experience that was hands-on, an experience that would allow me to directly serve people and communities in need. During my first year of service, I served with Habitat for Humanity Jacksonville as a Volunteer Services Coordinator and it was an exciting and rewarding experience. Habitat for Humanity is an organization that connects families to safe and affordable home ownership. As a Volunteer Coordinator, I organized volunteers that helped with the construction of Habitat homes and I assisted potential homebuyers in completing sweat equity hours, a requirement for Habitat homeownership.  

Jessica serving with Habitat for Humanity

What made my first year of service so rewarding were the relationships I made with homebuyers, volunteers, and staff members alike. But as my first year of service came to an end I still felt like something was missing. That something was working with children. 

Sooner than I could say: “pressed khakis!” I began my second year of service, this time surrounded by children. It took me almost two years of service to truly understand why I serve. It was through City Year's strong culture and the unconquerable spirit of children, for me to reflect on and realize why I choose to serve.

While I enjoy the power greeting, the social justice conversations, the leadership development, the Unity Rallies (my rhythm has significantly improved due to our physical training moves), my favorite part of being a City Year AmeriCorps Member is building relationships with students who share their thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, and fears with me. It is sitting on a bench with one on my students and helping to support and motivate her when she tells me that she is scared that she will not reach her dreams in the future. It is when I sit on a bench with one of my students and tell her the potential I see in her and that she is going to achieve more in her life than she could ever possibly imagine as a 10-year-old. My favorite part of being a City Year member is when students share their lives with me and I share mine with them.

Jessica with a student at Susie Tolbert Elementary School

So the question remains: Why do I serve? With the help of the 3rd through 5th grade students at Susie E. Tolbert Elementary school, this is my answer:

I serve because I want to share my life with others. I want to serve with others, I want to work with others, I want to talk with others, I want to share my experiences, ideas, thoughts and feelings with others and want them to share all those things with me. There is unity in service. There is no difference between the one who serves and the one being served because the reality is that we are all serving each other. We are all giving each other something that we did not have before coming together. Everyone leaves better, stronger and fuller after service takes place. And that is something that I want to be part of every single day for the rest of my life. I serve because I want to share my life with others and I want them to share their lives with me. 

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