Madalyn is an AmeriCorps VISTA member at University of Maine. After struggling with burnout and fatigue, Madalyn joined AmeriCorps with the purpose to help make education more accessible at the nonprofit level.
When I went to college to study journalism and political science, my dreams were almost Herculean. I had a clear image in my mind of the path to follow, the career to have, the impact to make. What I didn’t expect was the cynicism that followed – feeling inefficient and that nothing I did mattered. I believe this is something we all experience on a much larger scale today. I was tired and burnt out and didn’t know what to do. Many of us are overwhelmed and we are inundated daily with news, events, and stories that make us feel helpless.
How can our voice matter in the grand scheme of things?
How can the action of one person even make a dent?
After a period of succumbing to this negativity, I decided to start over and seek the drive again. Surprisingly, I didn’t find this through activities I typically gravitate toward like reading or studying. Instead, I spoke to classmates serving with AmeriCorps who shared about their various roles. I joined AmeriCorps soon after with an objective to learn about a new community and ways to get involved.
Madalyn during her service at Bridging the Gap
At the beginning, my service varied day-to-day on campus. Some days I would recruit and talk to students who wanted to volunteer. Other days I created flyers or schedule events. I’ve often found myself in the role of just talking to people to help answer their questions about taxes, tax credits, and financial resources for our CA$H Maine project. But between all these and any other roles I took on, I ended my day with the satisfaction of knowing that my service matters.
I also served with Bridging the Gap, a Goodwill organization based in Augusta, Maine, that provides the community as a warming center during cold months with a clothing bank, and basic essentials and hygiene pantry. My role was to offer resources such as matched savings programs, tuition-free classes, and free tax preparation to the people there. I was able to meet and connect with people from all walks of life. I’ve met people who raced demolition derby, and a pastry chef. I also had the opportunity to help people facing challenges during recovery and re-entry after imprisonment. I’m grateful I was a part of a team that strives to lower barriers to success in underserved areas. The connections I made reignited my ambition as well as my optimism.
National service taught me a big lesson: one person cannot change the world, even though many of us often burden ourselves by carrying the weight of the world on our shoulders. What we can do instead is recognize what’s right in front of us: our community. Sometimes the best thing we can do is help our neighbor and, more importantly, listen to their needs. This is a lesson that I plan to carry with me into the future because serving my community and seeing the impact gives me new inspirations.
Find out more about national service opportunities for students and young adults for this summer.
Madalyn Shircliff (she/her) is an AmeriCorps member serving in the VISTA program as college access and success coordinator with New Ventures Maine at the University of Maine at Augusta. Originally from Fort Worth, Texas, Madalyn was thrilled to move to Maine and join a new, unique community.