Editor's note: This is part of a series of essays about the experiences of AmeriCorps volunteers in Southeast Alaska.
Growing up near Pittsburgh and after spending three years in the San Francisco Bay Area, Alaska has been a more than welcome change.
I joined AmeriCorps because I was tired of working for corporations whose only goal was to make as much money as possible. I wanted to make a difference and know the work that I did everyday may someday impact the quality of life for children and all members of a community.
Currently I am an AmeriCorps SAGA Connections Member serving at the Department of Transportation on the Safe Routes to School program. Since my arrival in Juneau, I have had the opportunity to visit Anchorage several times, as well as the communities of Naknek, King Salmon, Sitka, Soldotna and Seward. It is fascinating to see the different problems and possible solutions to improving health and travel for students in these different Alaskan communities.
I have also had the opportunity to participate in several conferences related to health and safety - including the Alaska Wellness Institute, The Alaska Health Summit, and most recently SRTS Alaska, which helped to organize a Health and Safety day as part of the Alaska Bike Summit in Anchorage. I was even able to present my research paper on Safe Routes to School: "Walking and Biking Programs to encourage sustainable physical activity."
Serving as a SAGA Connections Member has not only given me the opportunity to help communities foster an environment around safety and encourage children to be more physically active, but has exposed me to a variety of different experiences.
As a Connections Member, we get to participate in All Corps Days, where all of us get together and learn something new or team up and volunteer on a service project. Since my arrival in September we have smoked salmon, decorated Christmas ornaments with the residents of Wildflowers, done the high ropes course at the SAGA's Eagle Valley Center, had an avalanche safety workshop, and visited the Alaska Native History Museum.
Serving for AmeriCorps has been the most rewarding and inspiring experience of my life! I look forward to serving another term on the Safe Routes to School program here in Juneau.
Michelle Gololobish is an AmeriCorps volunteer. She is currently serving at the Department of Transportation on the Safe Routs to School program.