In a time when there are commemorative days and weeks for just about everything, for example Pi Day was yesterday and World Consumer Rights Day is today, it may seem like special weeks to honor or recognize groups can get lost among the heap. But one commemorative week we at Girls Inc. do not miss, perhaps less well-known than many, is AmeriCorps Week. The quality of service our AmeriCorps members demonstrate deserves recognition throughout the year so we’re glad for another excuse to shine the spotlight on their valuable work and dedication!

Christen Peterson (left), Public Ally II, and Jen Van Dame (right), VISTA, enable Girls Inc. to reach thousands of girls through new, more efficient processes, project management, advocacy initiatives, and increased, positive public awareness. Please read more about these wonderful women below!

1. What has been your favorite part of being an AmeriCorps member?

Jen: My favorite part of the AmeriCorps experience has definitely been the opportunity to make new friends from all over the country. Like our hometowns, our backgrounds are diverse, but we all have AmeriCorps in common.
Christen: My favorite part of being an AmeriCorps member has been working directly with the people in our community. I have met so many amazing individuals both at Girls Inc. and Public Allies that have changed my perspective on service and leadership. They have shown me how collaboration is truly a key part of making a difference in our city. Paul Schmitz, the CEO of Public Allies said it best, “US history has demonstrated that change always comes from the courageous and extraordinary acts of many ordinary people, not just the inspiration or direction of a few.”

2. What have you learned, that you didn’t expect, thus far during your year of service?

Jen: I’ve learned how to be even thriftier than I was in my college years. 
Christen: I did not expect to learn how to do self-defense, let alone teach it! Girls Inc. Project Bold® has quickly become my favorite program to facilitate for our girls. 

3. What have you appreciated about Girls Inc. as your service organization?

Jen: I’ve appreciated the opportunity to serve with an organization whose mission aligns with my passion for gender equality.
Christen: I have appreciated the opportunity to learn and grow as a youth facilitator. Girls Inc. serves girls from different racial and socio-economic backgrounds. This was a great chance for me to learn how to be inclusive and effective in any learning environment and to ensure that all of my girls have the chance to blossom into strong, smart, and bold women!  

4. How will your service year help shape future professions, goals, or volunteerism?

Jen: I will be starting law school shortly after the end of my service year, and I very much believe that my exposure to advocates for social justice will shape the sort of lawyer I will become. 
Christen: My two years of service through AmeriCorps have made me realize that I would like to have a career in youth development. When my term of service is complete, I would like to pursue a master’s degree in teaching or education and continue working with youth in the Indianapolis community. 

Thank you Christen and Jen for your service to greater Indianapolis girls!