Submitted by dsong on
Beth DeHart

AmeriCorps Monitoring Officer Beth shares how taking her young son to work with her inspired him to serve his community years later. 

During AmeriCorps Week, we recognize and thank members, like Beth’s son, who commit to making a difference in their communities and lives, too.

In 2005, my son Jonah DeHart-Thompson was five years old. At that time, I had the great honor of serving as deputy director for City Year Columbia, which was my first formal interaction with AmeriCorps. I fell in love with AmeriCorps as I learned about the incredible growth and learning opportunity it was for members and the powerful impact that AmeriCorps offers to communities.

Jonah came with me to many City Year service events, serving alongside AmeriCorps members to clean up parks in Columbia, paint railings at schools, and set up events at our local parks and recreation centers. He did his best to be helpful as a five-year-old, and the members treated him as if he was one of their own – even finding the smallest City Year shirt they could for him to wear so he felt like a real part of the team. Early on, our development director had the idea to invite Jonah to serve as emcee for City Year's opening day in 2005, and Jonah agreed. My five-year-old stood on stage with a microphone and led the flow of the Opening Day event from start to finish. The Superintendent of our school district commented, "That young man will be something special one day." We may have predicted that he would follow in the footsteps of the many AmeriCorps members he met.


Jonah as the City Year emcee in 2005

As he got older, Jonah always remembered City Year – he would talk about particular members over the years, reminisce about some of the service experiences with which he helped, and much later, he even got to hold one of the former members' babies when he was born. Jonah mentioned how he might want to serve as an AmeriCorps member himself one day while growing up. After he graduated from Clemson University in August 2023, he took the step the very next month to begin his own service as an AmeriCorps member with American Connection Corps. AmeriCorps made an impression on Jonah as a very young child, as I'm sure it did on thousands of other children who benefitted from the services AmeriCorps members provided. Jonah is passionate about the project he is working on as a member and is even considering a second term of service.

For Jonah, national service is an opportunity to understand his community and what it takes to make a difference there. He better understands that when we are a part of the community we serve, we recognize the needs and specifics of what people are experiencing, plus the importance of relationships and stepping up. Being a part of the community also helps bolster efforts to meaningfully address unique needs. Jonah feels this is an understanding that will serve him throughout his professional and personal life, as he hopes to carry his service forward no matter the career path he pursues.

Beth and Jonah
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Beth and Jonah
Jonah 2
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Jonah during his service with American Connection Corps
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Jonah during his AmeriCorps service

The impact AmeriCorps makes is powerful and often hard to measure. National service allows us to connect – to each other, to our communities, and ultimately to our nation. When Americans, like Jonah, choose to serve, it also means choosing to set aside our personal needs and focus instead on a broader issue that may or may not directly benefit us. Serving our communities helps us remember that to live together peacefully and purposefully, we must consider each other. When we serve, we are reminded that living is not just about us but about all of us.

I hope stories like Jonah's highlight the lasting impact service has on one person and the difference it made and is making in his life.