Fighting Poverty with Passion
One year ago, I was offered an internship position through AmeriCorps with a homeless outreach nonprofit. Within three weeks of being offered the job, I packed up my 2004 Ford Taurus with everything I owned and drove 17 hours from Virginia to New Orleans. I had never been to Louisiana and didn’t know anyone within 9 hours of the state either. I was 19 years old, blissfully ignorant of the challenges I was about to experience, scared out of my mind, and extremely grateful to be given the opportunity to work with Grace at the Green Light. Now that I’m 20 and filled with all the knowledge about life, I take pride in how far I’ve come since the beginning of my year of service. Previously the only professional experience I had was being a manager at Chick-fil-a. Frankly, I had no idea how to operate in a professional setting. I didn’t have many expectations before I began the job. I didn’t really know what to expect. However, looking back now, I know that all my expectations would have been surpassed by what I’m walking away with from this year. I have grown my professional and relational skills, I have higher confidence in what I am capable of achieving, and my passion for helping people has grown significantly. More than these things, I’m walking away from this year with a new family in my co-workers and in the homeless friends I have made over this year. Tiny, Bruce, Jordan, Kool, Drew, Orlando, Wayne, Kerry, Terry, Baine, Tony, Queen, Antonio, and Javier are just a handful of names of homeless guys who have greatly impacted my life and who I have grown to love and care for deeply. Of all the things I have gained from this year, meeting them and becoming their friend has been the greatest. It’s hard for me to move on from Grace at the Green Light, but I know that I’m walking towards my next adventure which will be filled with its own challenges that will force me to grow in new ways. Here are some highlights from this year:
*Lived alone in downtown New Orleans in an apartment at 19 y/o
*Learned how to write grants
*Raised $29,000 in grant funding for Grace at the Green Light!!!
*Completed a summer semester of college classes
*Flew to Arizona for VISTA in service training
*Gained 15 lbs (New Orleans food does not play around)
*Lost 20 lbs (I don’t play around either)
*Was a direct service worker with Grace at the Green Light, serving 725 meals each day during COVID-19
*Learned from my failures, celebrated in my successes
*Capacity built for Grace at the Green Lights grant funding and volunteer management.
*Decided I want to get a social work degree
*Built long lasting relationships with clients and co-workers.
I know without a shadow of a doubt I could not have been able to complete this year without the unending support I had from my parents (Ron and Kate, I love you guys), my 6 siblings (sorry there’s too many of you to name you all), my boss (Sarah Parks), my coworkers, (Jen, Page, George, Reggie, First Lady, Mary, Decan Bob, Mohammad, Bill, Javier, and David) and the man Himself, God.
For the next three years I will be in college completing my degree in Social Work. I am not completely positive on what field of Social Work I would like to choose. The homeless community is one that will always be near and dear to my heart. However, anti-sex trafficking is a field I have always been passionate about and am excited to pursue.
My heart will now always be torn into two places with half of it in New Orleans, and the other half in my home state Virginia. I heard a quote that stated, “If you love New Orleans, she’ll love you back.” I am leaving New Orleans will a full heart feeling ridiculously loved. I am so grateful for the opportunity I have had this year through AmeriCorps with Grace at the Green Light. I will look back on it with gratitude and pride for all that I have learned and all that I have accomplished. I’m not good at saying goodbye, so I’ll end this post with something cheesy and inspirational,
“Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
Here’s to the next chapter!