On Friday, October 19, midway through my third month as a VISTA in the Mayor’s Office of Education, I participated in the city-wide AmeriCorps Launch. This kick-off event brought together hundreds of volunteers from each AmeriCorps program in the City of Philadelphia, to celebrate our service and commitment to the city, and energize members for the year going forward. The day was an exciting opportunity to meet and connect with fellow AmeriCorps members.
The event kicked-off at 1 p.m. with a scavenger hunt, located in Center City, which served as a great team-building and bonding activity. It was a beautiful day, so being outside and walking around was the perfect way to start the Launch. I met up with my team at Reading Terminal Market, and we soon set out to find a series of Philadelphia landmarks, taking pictures and chatting along the way. Altogether, there were over 40 teams, made up of members of a variety of AmeriCorps programs. I got to meet people working with City Year, West Philadelphia Promise Corps, Power Corps, PHENND, Artist’s Year, and many other programs.
I was amazed to learn how many different types of programs and service opportunities there are in Philadelphia. Many of the people I talked with engage in direct service, working as teachers and mentors for community members. It was interesting to hear about their work and compare it to my own indirect service, which focuses on building programs and support systems for the city. I was impressed by everyone’s enthusiasm and commitment to their work, as I met people who’ve been serving for three or more years now.
After the scavenger hunt, everyone gathered at the Friends Center in Center City. Each program was recognized and shouted out for their work, and the energy in the room was palpable. We then heard from Stephanie Reid, Chief Service Officer for the City of Philadelphia, and Maureen Eccleston, Executive Director of PennSERVE, who talked about a new initiative to expand service opportunities and engagement in Philadelphia. Mayor Jim Kenney also spoke about the challenges facing the city, and the integral part
service members play in addressing these challenges. Each speaker highlighted the importance of our service programs, and encouraged us to continue dedicating ourselves to the city and to public service.
The program ended with everyone present reciting the AmeriCorps Pledge. This united the group and reaffirmed our shared commitment to service. It’s helpful to be reminded that I’m part of such a large network of people with similar goals and values. In addition to the Serve community, I also felt included in a broader community of Philadelphia service leaders, and this was exciting and inspiring to see. I look forward to learning more about the great work each program does, and connecting with these programs more as the year goes on!