Alumni Testimonials

Project MARS alumni reflect on their years with with AmeriCorps and how National Service has impacted their lives.

Resiliency

"Covid-19 is tough. Let’s say it together, it suuuuuuucks. No one said Americorps was easy, but the added challenges Covid-19 chucked at you from across the room the exact moment you turned your back, shows how strong the Project MARS team is as you continue your service. I remember when Covid-19 started, I didn’t know what to expect and I can understand the difficulties have been quite, could I say, diffi-cult, beginning and continuing your year in a similar boat I ended mine in. 

I learned a lot before the pandemic. How to manage a classroom full of students, supporting them one-on-one academically and mentally, and even how to support my other Americorps members (we all need it and we know it and that’s fine, we’re fine). Though when the pandemic hit, I honestly think that is what made Americorps for me. The ability to make a difference in a child’s life from a computer (or 6 feet apart), truly taught me where my passions lied. Being there for them when it almost felt not possible. I would not have discovered my deep passion for social work if it wasn’t for Americorps. 

The hard service you (and we) provide in the schools when the students are not there and the incredible service you provide when those mini-masked faces walk through those doors DOES make a difference. The pandemic taught me how important teamwork was and how important it was to be there for yourself, and your Ameri-fam (just lean into it). The people that surround your weekly zoom meetings are you rocks. They understand the difficulties and exhaustion. 

I made some of my most cherished friendships in Americorps and I will lie and say I did not cry on my last day with the MARS team (I swear I didn’t).  I admire the strength you all carry to stay connected while being so apart and to start your year of service at the peak of a global pandemic. Your strength and continuous motivation to continue serving empowers me. It’s what makes

Americorps, Ameri-CORPS."

Rachel Boyle, 19/20

University Of North Carolina Asheville

Vision

 

I feel like my AmeriCorps year consisted of 2 different worlds: pre-pandemic and post-pandemic. Pre-Pandemic we were in the classroom every day, helping out with tutoring and the afterschool program. It was a grand time of learning, engagement and growth, and I am so grateful to have gotten to have that in-person time for the first 6 months. I made a lot of strong connections with the kiddos and saw my skills improve vastly!

 

Once COVID hit, things did shift a lot but having my other teammates by my side made all the difference in the world. We could turn anything into a great time and it truly tested our resiliency and strength, as I know it did for you. I can fully say that it gave me the insight to figure out which direction I wanted to move with my career (School Counseling). Through the program, I was able to realize that as much as I love being around kids I don’t have the bandwidth to be with them in a classroom all day long, and would rather do more 1:1 and small group work most of the time. Without AmeriCorps, I don’t know that I would have come to that conclusion.

 

The things AmeriCorps can teach you about what you want to do (and really don’t want to) are equally valuable. It’s letting you step into the pool of a career for a limited period of time without fully diving in, and then you can take that experience and learn from it and make intentional decisions about your career in the future.

Emma Snope, 19/20

Masters of Counseling

Lenoir Rhyne University Class of 2023

Learning

The time I spent as an AmeriCorps member in Project MARS will always stand out to me as one of the best experiences I have ever had. After finishing my undergraduate degree in Environmental Science, I was not sure yet what specifically was my calling or where I wanted to end up. It was a time where I could have gone into a regular desk job and quickly burned out or lost my passion for the environmental field.

 

Instead, I got to spend a year doing meaningful work and making great friends. Having the opportunity to be a mentor for the kids at my school showed me that in a lot of ways, kids have even more to teach us than we have to teach them. They will persevere through challenges and look for the good in the world that we sometimes forget to see as adults. Each day brought new experiences, whether it was driving a remote-control car in the parking lot with my Little through the Big Brothers Big Sisters program or having a dance competition with the kids in after-school care.

Being a Project MARS member gave me a lot of the confidence in myself that I needed to begin my career. Today, I am almost finished with law school, and I am excited to use my degree to help people one day. Even if your journey takes you in a different direction than teaching, I truly believe this program can help anyone grow as a person. Project MARS is the chance to set aside a year to give back to your community, form great friendships with caring people, and reflect on what is truly important.

Emilee Winter, 17/18

J.D. Candidate at Campbell Law School

Class of 2022

Purpose

"My service year with Project MARS was exactly what I was looking for while in-between degrees. It gave me direct experience in the schools, and I got to engage with students every day. Whether it was providing after-school homework interventions, or simply reading a book to first graders, every day felt fulfilling and purposeful. Students need at least one adult in their life who believes in and encourages them. With Project MARS, you will be that person that so many students need."

 

From a future school psychologist, thank you for your service, you are all so appreciated and you are doing incredible things!

Alli Schreiner, 18/19

Masters of School Psychology

Radford University Class of 2022

Confidence

I served with AmeriCorps Project MARS for two incredible years and honed skills I never knew I had. There were many challenging days at the two schools I served at, but I knew I had a whole team to support me every time I felt overwhelmed. Katie and Victor gave me the tools and encouragement to develop my team working and problem-solving skills through frequent training and meetings. I met lifelong friends in my cohort and trust the Project MARS leadership team with just about anything.

 

I feel I can go forward and succeed in my future endeavors of graduate school and beyond because of everything I learned during my time with Project MARS. I came to this AmeriCorps program as a capable, determined person and I left even more of a go-getter who is passionate about education and supporting children. I truly found people I can rely on whom I know will support and root for me for the rest of my life. There is a reason I served for two years and those include the phenomenal Project MARS team, the children I served, and the constant learning and improvement in my day-to-day service.

Caroline Sprinkle, 18/19 - 19/20

Masters of Communication Sciences and Disorders 

East Carolina University Class of 2023

Growth

I primarily served the middle school children and After School program at Francine Delaney New School for Children. I didn’t want to limit myself to only those age ranges, so I took it upon myself to try to get to know everyone or at least have it to where everyone knew who I was (there were so many kids!). I remember being so intimidated walking in because of my predecessor, he’d only been there for a year, but he’d made such strong connections with everyone. I felt like I had big shoes to fill. After a short few months, I realized that I wanted to leave my own legacy and not live up to anyone else’s, and once that thought was planted, everything else fell into place. I served for 2 years, if I’m being honest, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do was telling the kids goodbye.

My day-to-day was eventful! There was never a moment of being still, even during lunch (mostly my fault, I’d take that time to joke or talk with the kids before eating). Most of my days were spent helping them with their work in class or taking them out for breaks and recess, which was my favorite part. There were moments I would bring my Nintendo (yes, from the 90’s) and TV from my home as a reward for good behavior and we would play it during After School. I introduced both an Art Club and Trivia. I wanted to use the gifts and talents that I already had and bring them to the table. It was well received by the staff, students and parents! Without question, my favorite thing about serving was getting to know the kids. Finding out their dreams, fears, hobbies, favorite books, favorite animals, places they wanted to visit - the whole nine.

Serving with Project MARS has taught me valuable lessons that I’ll forever have at my disposal. I’ve always been one to love public speaking, but thanks to the rattler of Victor I have sharpened those skills. I’ve learned better time management. I also learned how to deal with different personalities from different age groups. Learning how to adapt and budget has been the greatest lesson I’ve learned while serving.

With all of that being said, my time in Project MARS is one I’ll remember and cherish for the rest of my days. I’ll hold onto the memories and bonds I formed along the way. This program gave me friends for life and I couldn’t be more thankful than I am. It was my goal to impact the lives of the people, not just the children of FDNSC, and my fellow Project MARS peers. I feel as though I was successful. Going one step further, I had no idea how much they’d impact my life. Every single person that I had the person of serving or serving alongside, their faces are forever engraved in my heart.

 

Torrean Smith, 16/17 - 17/18

Clemson University

Rewarding

Project MARS was life-changing for me. I discovered my passion for serving students in a school setting, gained valuable life skills, and met some really great friends. Thanks to this program I have marketable skills and can give an impeccable elevator speech.

 

Everyone involved in Project MARS does their best to make sure you feel supported, receive useful professional development, and make great connections. I cannot say enough about how rewarding this program is! Your community and your future self will thank you for joining the team.

Claire Dobson, 16/17 - 17/18