2022 was a summer of service and leadership for some AmeriCorps members at the Dream Center and throughout Western NY, learning the power of serving others while gaining leadership skills. Selfless service has always been and always will be a powerful tool to break away from some forms of depression. This year millions of young people, almost 20% of Americans, 17 to 25, are struggling with depression. Here are a few young people that broke the odds, serving in Buffalo’s poorest neighborhoods.
Buffalo Dream Center AmeriCorps members’ summer reflections:
I asked Tom Rutherford, a 17-year-old summer AmeriCorps member, “What have you learned this summer at the Dream Center Kidz Club program?”
He said, “I have learned how to manage a team of people, how and when to give breaks, and make sure everyone is working hard to accomplish the task at hand. I also learned how to teach new people how to do jobs they have never done before.”
“What areas have you grown in?”
“I grew in two areas, being flexible and working with a team. There were many instances where plans were changed, or I was thrown on something last minute and I had to be very flexible. I have worked with teams before but one thing I had to work on was submitting even when my leaders were my peers.”
I asked full-time AmeriCorps member, Alex Johns, “What have you learned about leadership this summer?”
He answered, “I’ve learned that consistently being ‘comfortable’ is not how you grow as a leader. To become a great leader, you must go beyond what you’re comfortable. Also, I believe the difference between a “Good Leader” and a “Great Leader” is how you yourself serve. A leader leads with their words, a great leader leads with their actions.”
Anna Jones, full time AmeriCorps member answered, “This summer, I learned that I don’t need to be so hard on myself. I don’t need to be perfect at something right away, and that it is okay to have to learn first, then lead. This summer I really learned a lot about how to bring effective and constructive correction when there is a problem. Leadership is every bit about the correction as it is about encouragement. I learned you can do both to solve problems! The highlight of my summer was forming closer relationships with the youth and team members.”
Summer AmeriCorps member Bien Aimee responded, “I surprised myself, I’m a very reserved person so I never imagined that I could get in front of a big group of kids and get them excited and be as excited as them. I’ve learned how to better interact with kids and how to match their levels of excitement and I enjoyed spending time talking to kids and getting to know more about them.”
“This summer I learned the characteristics of a leader. I learned how to become a strong leader and how to balance being a leader and being a friend to the youth of Buffalo!” said full time AmeriCorps member, Jessica Robertson. “I also learned that leadership takes a lot of patience and repetition. The highlight of my summer was the opportunity to be a mentor to Buffalo’s youth and children.”
Summer AmeriCorps member Nate Johns (18) said, regarding the summer of 2022, “I had more opportunities to lead people then I ever have before. I really feel like I grew as a leader. Also, I was able to spend a lot of time with kids from the inner-city. Very simple things like throwing a football or coloring a picture with them. Even though I was there to make an impact in their life they also made an excessively significant impact in mine.”
The Buffalo Dream Center Kidz Club, in partnership with Mission Ignite’s AmeriCorps program served over 2000 inner-city children from 4 years old to 12 years old.
If you know someone that is struggling with Depression or mental health issues, please refer them to www.bestselfwny.org. For more information about service and volunteerism, contact the Buffalo Dream Center, and for more information about AmeriCorps or service contact Mission Ignite and its AmeriCorps program.