My Last Summer

Classes start next Monday. What have I completed on my bucket list? Not much. I only finished one book. However, I did travel to places other than the usual New York and Florida, which sounds like such a first world problem. I was able to go to Mississippi and Illinois. Even though I’ve been to both of those places before, I had never been to Oxford or Chicago.

My sorority sisters and I took a trip to Oxford, Mississippi to see one of our other sorority sisters. There is not much to do there. It’s a dry county so they stop selling liquor at like 10:00 PM and their bars close at midnight. We did a lot of relaxing there. Oxford has a cute little downtown square area that we walked around and shopped. Ole Miss is also in Oxford so we took a short driving tour of their campus. That was basically the gist of what we did there. It was just a lot of fun to get out of Georgia and have a relaxing girls’ weekend.

Last weekend, I had a chance to finally go to Chicago. Last time I went to Illinois, I flew into  Chicago but I had to drive immediately to Champaign for a conference. So this time, I made sure to take advantage of my time there while I was at my sorority’s national Convention. I basically did everything I wanted to do while I was there. I went to Millennium Park, Chicago Riverwalk, the Skydeck at the Willis Tower, Navy Pier, and the Shedd Aquarium. I did not go to China Town. I totally forgot about that. So that’s one thing to go on the to-do list for next time. But, Chicago is awesome! The weather was beautiful and it’s so easy to get around the city. I want to go back… now.

My sorority Convention was awesome, as usual. I love getting to meet new people and reconnecting with the oldies. It’s so inspiring to see how the sorority is growing on a national level and how the younger generations are aiding in helping the sorority grow to a new level. Every time I come back from Convention, I just want to find more ways to become an involved alumnae member.

Now, my last summer is almost over and I feel like I haven’t accomplished much. But, I feel like that’s ok because I won’t get another summer off to just relax after I graduate.

Here are a few photos to recap my recent travels and the last of my summer.

On the ledge at the Skydeck on the Willis Tower

Getting ready to ride the ferris wheel at Navy Pier.

Mini photoshoot in an alley in Oxford, MS.

Well, wish me luck in my last year of grad school. It’s going to be a crazy year…

~SL

The Next Checkbox

It’s officially been one whole week of being 25 years old now. Nothing has really felt like it’s change except now I have to check the next box when filling out forms and surveys. People have been making fun of me reaching my quarter century mark, but I am grateful. I probably say this in every other post, but growing old is not something that everyone gets to do. As long as I’m celebrating another birthday every year, I will consider myself young. You just don’t know when it’ll be your last chance. That is something that too many people take for granted.

So how was my 24th year of life? I don’t know how else to sum it up other than a hot mess. But hey! Where’s the fun in leading a normal, predictable, vanilla life. No need to go into the details of what I accomplished, or failed to accomplish, because it’s all been documented here already. I think one of the biggest things I learned this year is to never settle if you aren’t happy. I didn’t settle with my job. I didn’t settle with my relationship. I didn’t settle with my education. So I changed it. I’m happy I did. I’m learning about a completely new field. I’m pursuing a new dream career. I’ve started building new, exciting relationships.

I got a lot of conflicting comments about turning 25. One of my cousins warned me that 25 is a confusing year so I should prepare. Well, 24 was pretty confusing for me so I think that would just be a continuation. Nothing new. Someone else said, “It gets better.” Not exactly sure what she was implying. But, I would hope that every year is better than the last. Either way, I’m not really expecting much because I’ve learned that when I expect things, they never turn out that way. Let’s just see where 25 takes me.

As for my fundraising goal, it currently stands at $297.77. I had a total of 12 donors. I exceeded my goal by $47.77 and I met my deadline of raising $250 by my birthday on April 2. Again, thanks to everyone who contributed! It’s a great way to memorialize the 20th anniversary of my grandfather’s death. Also, 4 of my friends told me that they quit smoking. That makes my heart so happy! Feel free to continue donating ;)

Overall, I had a great birthday celebration with my friends here in Athens. Special shout out to my awesome friends who actually drove up from Atlanta: Shital, Kelsey, Amanda and Michael. You guys are crazy for doing that but I’m so happy you did. It was my first time at Terrapin. Tell them it’s your birthday, show them your ID, and you get in for free! Well, I guess I should say you get a free glass. You could technically get in for free anyway. We will definitely have to bring a frisbee (or borrow a dog) next time! I can’t really say much about dinner at the Capital Room. But, from the pictures, it looks like we had a great time! Thanks to everyone who was able to celebrate with me. I felt extra loved that day, especially since I’m not big into celebrating my birthday. I just thought 25 needed some special attention.

I don’t believe this post was cohesive at all. I apologize. I’ve got group projects, reports, presentations, and homework like WHOA for the next couple weeks. Then, finals! Wish me luck!

The Gang at Terrapin

~SL

My Mini Getaway to NY

In my previous post, I mentioned my bucket list for my weekend trip back home to NY. I didn’t do much on it, but I got to do lots of fun stuff with my family! On the list, I only completed #5 and #7 completely. I did go to the Christmas Tree Shoppe but they didn’t have any cookie tins I wanted. We didn’t have time to go to David’s Tea in the city, but my cousin, Amy, gave me an early Christmas gift: a tin of David’s Tea’s “Read My Lips” black tea (which later caused my bag to be searched at LGA). I only went to the Rockland Bakery twice. I could have gone three times, but I resisted. No bagels for me. I didn’t spend much time in the city so I couldn’t meet up with my big or little. Shital’s flight was delayed into Jersey so I didn’t get to hang out with her and her fiance. But, I’m sure I’ll see them soon. No one brought BANG! but we played this new card game. I don’t even know the name of it but I won twice!

I had Friday to myself to do homework since my sister was at work. I didn’t do much homework though. I took a run along the Old Croton Aqueduct and got lost. I ended up at Sleepy Hollow high school and eventually turned around and made my way back to her place. It was a nice trail. The town was built around the aqueduct so you end up running through people’s backyards and stuff, which is why I got lost. My sister came home from work and we watched the Glee tribute to Cory Monteith and cried our eyes out.

The rest of the weekend was spent with the rest of my extended family. Saturday was dedicated to prepping for my cousin, Amy’s, bridal shower. We went to the new Fairway market twice! There’s so much stuff there! It’s like the Whole Foods of Nanuet. There was a lot of cooking, baking, and crafting to do. I made quiches, sandwiches and helped squeeze a million lemons for some ginger lemonade. Her theme was Paris, so everything was Parisian. Very fancy. It’s where her fiance proposed to her! So cute! The bridal shower was so much fun and went very smoothly. I won these awesome measuring spoons from Sur La Table. Perfect because my garbage disposal ate my 1/2 tsp. We, of course, had to end the night with Bon Chon for dinner and card games. I love our family traditions. I’m already counting down the days until I’m back in New York for the big day!

Among the many other adventures of the weekend, I did get to meet my two new baby cousins, Hannah and Leonardo. They are adorable! I think they’re about 6 months now. I also had the infamous chicken and rice from the Halal Guys on 53rd that everyone talks about. It was good…

We also went to the city on Monday morning to go wedding dress shopping with my other cousin, April, who will be getting married next summer. It was her first time trying on dresses so I’m so glad I got to go with her. She looks pretty in everything!

I got hit on by the guy who sat next to me on the plane from ATL to LGA. I tried so hard to look like I didn’t want to talk to people. I wore all black and didn’t smile the whole time. WTF else do you want from me!? Go away… I was also questioned about my age at LGA. I guess they thought I was an unaccompanied minor. And then they proceeded to search my bag because my tea looked like drugs.

Great weekend! I love my family and I’m so sad that I live so far. I wish I could afford to go to NY for Thanksgiving again. It’s so hot in Georgia. Gross. 98 more days until I’m back. Yes!

Here are some pictures from my weekend:

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~SL

Mini Bucket Lists

I am flying out to New York this Thursday. All I have to say is that it’s about freaking time! I haven’t been back at all this year. I went 5 times last year! Or 4…? And it’s already October! I’ll land late Thursday night and leave Monday afternoon. Sunday is my cousin’s bridal shower so I have two full days of New York fun! Since this will probably be my only 2013 New York trip, I want to make sure I do everything in this one trip… or as much as I can. Here is my bucket list for New York 2013:

1. Go to David’s Tea. But try not to spend my entire paycheck there. I make no promises though.
2. Get some cookie tins from the Christmas Tree Shoppe.
3. Go to Target with the fam at least twice.
4. Go to the Rockland Bakery at least 4 times with the family. Yes, four times in two days. That isn’t even a lot. It’s pretty doable.
5. Meet Leonardo and Hannah. This probably should be more at the top of my list. Haha. Sorry, babies.
6. Meet up with my sorority big and little in the city. Maybe we can all go to David’s Tea together!
7. Visit Cau Dung and Grandpa at the cemetery. That’s just a given. But, maybe we don’t get lost this time.
8. Hang out with the BFF and her fiance in White Plains.
9. BANG! All day!

Also, I love October and the fall! There are lots of things I want to do this month before I hit my depression mode around Thanksgiving. Here’s my October Bucket List:

1. Go pumpkin picking.
2. Carve said pumpkin.
3. Go to a corn maze and finish without cheating.
4. Go to some sort of Fall Festival… like this one.

So I am now taking volunteers for who wants to complete these things with me. Any takers? Let’s go have an adventure!!!

~SL

Another Year Wiser

Whoops! I haven’t posted since the beginning of the year. I guess not much has been happening so I haven’t had anything to write about. You should go read a more interesting blog.

Just a quick recap… February was pretty bland. I ran the Spartan Race in March. I basically died. Slipped on a metal bar and hit my shin. Paramedics were called. I limped for most of the race. My left calf seized up jumping over the last 8 foot wall. Basically, both of my legs were shot and I could hardly walk for the next few days. I kind of want to do it again to see how much better I can do. But probably not for a while…

The team after the race.

 

The rest of March flew by until my birthday. I headed out to Texas for 5 days, 4 nights. I met up with my two cousins (Amy and April) and my sister (Christina) in Austin. Instead of staying in a hotel, we stayed in a condo that the owner rents out to visitors. Amy found it through airbnb. I would highly suggest everyone try it out! It was way better than a hotel. Lots more space, a full kitchen, and it felt like you were going home after a long day of walking instead of going back to a stuffy hotel room. I want to have an airbnb when I grow up.

We did a lot in Austin. Farmer’s Market. Whole Foods everyday. The flagship store and Whole Foods HQ is there so it was crazy awesome! Lots of food. The customer service in Austin is so amazing. We used my sister’s surgery to get some free meals. I even took a morning jog around the river with my cousin, April. Austin Zoo and Animal Sanctuary. They’re actually a nonprofit organization and they rescue animals! Very cool. They had chickens and peacocks running around everywhere. The zoo was kind of far so we used my cousin’s zipcar membership to rent a car (a really nice Audi) for a couple hours. Zipcar blows my mind…

It was super hot though and I got a major Toms tan on my feet. Totally worth it. Can’t wait for the next cousin’s trip! All I have are pictures of food though…

L to R: My sister, Christina and my two cousins Amy and April

 

I’ll be running another 5K this weekend, the Color Run. I was signed up to do it last year. But on a whim, I quit my job and ran away to New York for two weeks so I was unable to race. Hopefully, it will still be worth it.

I started to freak out about my future and what I’ll be doing after my AmeriCorps service is over in August. So I just started applying to grad school one day for a Masters in Public Administration. Everything is submitted, so fingers crossed. I guess I’ll start thinking of a plan B until then…

Hope this post was worth the wait. Thanks for all the birthday wishes! 24 years young! After the start of this year, I’m so grateful to be another year older.

 

Here’s to 2013!

Happy New Year!

I’m a little late with the New Year’s update. My sister was in town for the holidays. We had the usual family Christmas and celebrated New Year’s Eve with my closest friends at our favorite gay bar to ring in the New Year.

I don’t know what to say about 2012. While it was happening, I couldn’t wait for it to be over. Now that it’s 2013, I feel like it went by really quickly.

I quit my “real world” job and spent about 5 months being unemployed again. I finally got into something I really love doing through AmeriCorps. I make about 60% less than I was making at my old advertising agency, but I don’t think I can put a price on having a job that doesn’t make me cry in my car in the parking deck before walking into the office.

Technically, I spent the whole year single. That’s the first time since I started dating in high school. I think that helped me accomplish my 2012 New Year’s Resolution of concentrating on myself and doing what’s best for me. So, that worked out nicely.

I got to travel a lot in 2012. I went to New York four times, one more that 2011. I also went to Houston, Biloxi, D.C., Illinois, and Boston. I crossed off a lot of things on my bucket list. I need to find some new things to add to my list. I’m burning through it!

What will 2013 hold for me? My year of service ends in August. I’ll be on the job hunt again. Hire me! I’m already planning my travels. I’m excited to see what new places I’ll be exploring this year. That’s pretty much all I’ve anticipated for this upcoming year. I don’t really expect any big changes or developments. I’ve also learned to keep little to no expectations to reduce disappointment. It’s been working.

As for New Year’s Resolutions, I’ve already started changing what I’ve wanted to change. I wanted to keep up with working out. I’m on week 3 of going to the gym in the morning before work. Hopefully, mornings will stay less crowded than going after work. I want to cook and bake more. I used to bake all the time. It helped me release my stress. But, the problem is that I need someone to eat all of my baked goods. I don’t really eat a lot of sweets or desserts. Any takers? This past weekend, I had a dinner party at my house and it made me realize that I really suck at keeping in touch with people. I’d like to try to rekindle friendships and reconnect with old friends. But, maybe I’ll wait until I’m more successful and have something to talk about. We’ll see about that one. Of course, there’s always general self improvement – less cursing, more reading, less television and computer time, more outdoor/active time, etc. I think that’s a good list to start with. Oh and try to keep up with this blog. But, I guess I’d need a more interesting life to do that. Note to self, do interesting stuff.

Here’s a nice video I made to recap the highlights of 2012. I used less food pictures and more pictures of actual events this year. Hope you like it!

Happy New Year!

~SL

My Bittersweet November

I can feel that my dam of emotions is about the burst and that I’m going to be emotionally unstable for the next two months. I should have never signed up for those Timehop – what happened a year ago today – emails! I so don’t want to remember what happened this time a year ago. Anyhow, here is a recap of my most recent New York adventure.

I got to go back to New York for Thanksgiving with my sister and extended family for the first time since moving to Georgia. That’s twelve years. Since we moved, Thanksgiving is usually just me, my sister, my parents, my grandma and my uncle. But then, my sister moved back to New York for work so it didn’t make sense for her to come home. And my uncle got divorced and passed away around last Thanksgiving. So this year was just going to be super depressing. We would have probably just had sandwiches again. Instead, my grandma and I flew up to New York while my parents stayed behind to renovate the house.

I stayed for a whole week – Friday to Friday. I was lucky that my cousin, Amy, flew in and out the same days that I did so I had someone to hang out with while everyone else was at work. My sister, my cousins, their significant others, and I went to the city on Saturday. We spent the usual hour or so in David’s Tea. It was their 1 year anniversary so we got to sing happy birthday to them! We walked around, shopped, ate, had some drinks. It was a good time.

David’s Tea 1 Year Anniversary

 

First Shake Shack Experience

The rest of the week was relaxing. Just hanging out with my cousins and playing a lot of Bang! and Phase 10 and Blokus. Everyone should play Bang! There was a lot of eating and drinking tea involved, too. We also took a trip to Jersey one night for dinner. There was Bon Chon, chicken and waffles, walking Kara in the park. I only went to the bakery once though. That’s surprising.

Bang!

We sort of had a mini cousins adventure on the way to the cemetery to visit Grandpa and Cau Dung. No one had ever driven there before so we got lost. But, we made it!

Thanksgiving with the extended family was just as crazy as I remembered. “What time should we get there?” “I don’t know. Last time we got there at 2 and they had already eaten the first turkey at 12. They said they couldn’t wait for us.” “Oh ok… so 4?” We had a lunch turkey and a dinner turkey. Ham, mashed potatoes, veggies, brussel sprouts, mac and cheese, seafood salad, fried rice, eggrolls, and Vietnamese beef stew. For dessert, we had Chinese jello, sticky rice, cassava cake, and a pumpkin coconut pie… and a birthday cake. Ugh thinking about it makes me so full. But it was so good…

Our Feast.

Our family doesn’t really sit down at the table and eat together. Everyone just kind of… attacks the food and sits around the living room. Then we had a game of Taboo and Phase 10 and watched Glee. What a great way to end Thanksgiving!

It was also Baby Emma’s first Thanksgiving. I think she had a good time. I can’t believe next Thanksgiving there’s going to be two more babies! Everyone is just popping them out! My family has some cute babies. I should have taken a video.

Baby Emma’s First Thanksgiving

I really hate leaving New York. I don’t know what’s worse though – leaving New York or heading back to Georgia. I love being around so much family. I love being so close to NYC so that you can just hop on a train and go. That is so not like Atlanta. It’s also more diverse, which I miss. I need to get back to the North somehow.

Now, after over a week of vacation, I’m back in Georgia, back at work. My parents have been renovating the house so there’s no furniture downstairs and everything smells like paint and laquer. It’s giving me a headache.

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my uncle’s death. It’s so crazy how fast one year passes. That’s another reason I really wanted to spend the holiday with a lot of family around. Last Thanksgiving was so bad and I just fought with him. That was the last conversation we had before he died. I don’t know how many years it’s going to take for me to forget that. I really don’t deal well with death… at all… with anyone… even people I don’t know.

I can’t imagine the end of 2012 going that well if I keep letting my past eat me up. Help me.

~SL

Hello, October

I think September ended on a good note. I spent the last weekend of September in the Classic City – Athens, GA!

I went to my first sorority tailgate. In undergrad, I worked at the University Bookstore. Game days were our busiest days of the year so I was always working during home games. I’m glad I finally got to go to one. It’s not really exciting to me though. It’s just like having a barbecue but there’s a whole bunch of people around you doing the same thing.

I wasn’t planning on going to the actual game, but we ended up going. I don’t understand football. We were in the student section and I was really annoyed by all the sitting down and standing up. It was a pretty cool experience, but I still prefer baseball. Sorry. Still love my Georgia Bulldogs though! Glad we won! I saw some good plays from what I could interpret.

I got to visit my old co-workers at the Bookstore. It was great seeing everyone again. The Bookstore was my first job ever. I was there for three years, my longest term of employment. They’re all really great people. I learned a lot of really great skills working customer service there, dealing with drunk customers on game days. It was awesome, a really great first job.

I’m glad I got to see so many of my sorority sisters at the tailgate. I also got to spend time with my big sis at lunch on Sunday before I left too! It was great being able to catch up with everyone.

But, I think a part of me is really over Athens. It feels weird going back and not really knowing a lot of people. It makes me feel really old even though I’ve only been gone for a little over a year. Plus, I didn’t realize how far it is. I guess in college I was just used to driving to Florida every other weekend, sometimes by myself. But now that I don’t need to drive that far, the drive to Athens (especially the dreaded 316) is just so long and boring. I had to have an energy drink to make it. That makes me feel super old.

Hopefully, October will be good to me.

Like always, here are some pictures. GO DAWGS!

Red Out UT!

 

All of my sorority sisters at the tailgate!

 

My lovely Doc Family Line.

 

~SL

My Week at Google

This post is a little past due, but better late than never!

It’s been a little over a week since I got back from Google Headquarters in Mountain View, CA. The HandsOn Tech Corps nationwide traveled to Mountain View (popularly abbreviated as MTV) for Tech Camp. It was a week of training for our program for this next year. There was about 30 of us from the 8 cities where the program is held: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, New York City, Pittsburgh, Seattle, and San Jose. Since there were so many of us, the hotel got us a party bus to shuttle us to Google campus everyday instead of taking 3 shuttles. It looked like a school bus on the outside, but so fancy on the inside!

We arrived Sunday morning. Monday through Thursday from 9-5 was filled with training for our program. We were in different buildings around Google campus all week. We also took a campus tour on Wednesday where we got to stop at the Android sculpture garden and the Google store.

On Thursday, we got to go to the Google employee talent show, called the G Factor. We only got to stay for the first half. Apparently the performers have to audition to get the chance to perform at the show. It’s pretty intense, but that made it a really good show. They also gave out lots of free stuff like candy, water, popcorn, and my favorite, cotton candy! I think I ate one and a half bags of cotton candy by myself. It was great! I wonder how Googlers have time for work and being in bands, choirs, and dance groups. They were crazy good! My favorite was this barbershop quartet that created a song about standing in line at the Google Cafe.

Speaking of the Google Cafe, we got to eat lunch and one dinner at the cafe through the week. I guess since people eat there everyday, they have to make a lot of different, fancy foods so people don’t get sick of eating the same thing over and over. Most of the meals I had were really fancy and delicious. But, they’re also very health conscious, which is good. I think the most difficult thing about eating at the cafe is trying to figure out which trash can to put everything in when you’re putting away you’re dirty dishes.

I guess a lot of the amenities are designed to make your comfortable while working. There’s barber shops, masseuses, laundry services and probably a lot more that we didn’t see. One of the Googlers working with us mentioned that Google thinks you should never be more that 150 feet away from food at all times. Sounds like a good rule to me! But, everyone who worked there seemed really fit.

Campus was so huge. I think he said there were 40+ buildings… or maybe it was 60+? So they have Google Bikes everywhere. You park them outside of the building and just take them around campus wherever you need to go. They also have conference bikes that 7 people can ride at one time. So efficient! I re-learned how to ride a bike on a Google Bike! It was fun!

We were only on main campus for our half day on Friday. It was so beautiful! The building was pretty cool. There was a spaceship displayed on the ceiling, a life sized Android phone (but it was just for information, not really working), and a Google voice phone booth. We also saw two Google Earth setups where there are a bunch of screens that surround you. You can type in a location and it’ll zoom in to it. It made me nauseous because it made me feel like I was flying really fast.

There was nothing much to do around our hotel. There was one bar where all the MTV locals go. They had karaoke night on Mondays and Thursdays. So on Monday, a whole group of us walked into the bar to check it out. There were literally two people sitting at the bar and no music playing. They set up the karaoke for us and we ended up having a lot of fun. They even set up the karaoke for us on days they weren’t supposed to have it. The locals there were super nice. I guess they get a lot of business from people visiting all of the big companies in Silicon Valley. It was a good time though!

I think one of the big things I came away with from my week at Google was that they’re a company that really cares. They have a lot of projects dedicated to helping nonprofit organizations and so many benefits for NPOs. It’s just a matter of spreading the word about the different things Google offers for NPOs. But, it’s really great to see that from such a big company. Gives me hope. Maybe I’ll work for them one day! There’s a dream…

Our last day was a half day. But, our fight back to Atlanta wasn’t until midnight. We went to the airport and rented a car to check out San Francisco. But, I’ve already been to San Francisco before. We went to see the Golden Gate Bridge and explore Chinatown.

I left the group for a bit to have dinner at my cousin’s apartment. I also had dinner with her on Monday night. She stopped by MTV on the way back from a weekend vacation. It was really good to see family!

Here are some pictures!

HandsOn Tech Corps 2012-2013

 

Google Main Campus

 

Google Main Campus and Community Gardens

 

Life sized tetris!

 

Golden Gate Bridge

 

~SL

1 Down. 364 To Go. My First Day of Service.

As many of you already know, I left my last job at the end of March. I was really unhappy where I was. After working in the real world, advertising agency life, I realized that it was just not for me. I didn’t enjoy the work I was doing or the company culture. I felt like I couldn’t have a life. If I left work on time, I was looked down upon as a slacker. The work was very repetitious and mundane. Honestly, if you were just trained on the software, anyone could do my job. It wasn’t fulfilling. I felt like I wasn’t contributing anything to society and giving back has always been ingrained within me. I just felt like I was working for large corporations, helping them make more money. I guess the aspect that I did like about advertising was the account planning/research and the project management side, which wasn’t really what I was doing. And I figured I could just bring those things to another industry.

About AmeriCorps

I had already looked into AmeriCorps after I had graduated. I heard about it through my university’s career website as a gap year option. Basically AmeriCorps works out of the Corporation for National and Community Service. It’s like PeaceCorps, but just in the United States. The main goal of all AmeriCorps projects are to alleviate poverty across America.

AmeriCorps places you in a non-profit organization with a specific role. You can work in different industries like education, marketing, IT, agriculture, healthcare, finance, etc. You find the opportunities through the AmeriCorps site and apply just like any other job. The organization will then contact you for the interview process. If they decide they want you, they extend you a contingent offer. Since you’re actually employed by CNCS and AmeriCorps, the NPO then has to write a letter of recommendation to the national office of why they want to hire you. Once they approve that, they officially hire you on. Before your service, you will also attend a 3-4 day Pre-Service Orientation in which you receive AmeriCorps training and learn about poverty in the U.S. At the end of PSO, you officially get sworn into your term of service.

Since the goal of AmeriCorps is to alleviate poverty, you’re not actually paid for your year (could be more than a year) of service. You’re given a living allowance that’s paid bi-weekly. The amount is set at the poverty level of the area in which you are serving. But, it’s still taxed like normal income. Also during this time, you do get some medical coverage and insurance. If you have loans from college, you can apply for forbearance so your payments are on hold during your service and the Corporation pays for your interest that builds up during the year. That may not be entirely accurate. I never listened to that part since I don’t have any loans from undergrad.

Also, if you have children, you can apply for a childcare allowance. There’s also a relocation allowance and monthly living allowance depending on the organization you serve with. Program requirements vary, but most of them require that you are over 18 with a college degree. You are also not allowed to hold any other jobs or receive any other sort of income during this time.

After your term of service, you can choose between a cash stipend of $1,500 or an education allowance of $5,500. The education allowance can be used towards continuing education or paying your loans. You don’t have to use the education allowance right away. You can wait a couple years to go back to school and then use it. You also get some sort of non-competitive advantage when applying for federal jobs for one year. That doesn’t mean that you automatically get the job you apply for. It just means that your application gets priority if you meet all of the qualifications. You still have to go through the interview process like everyone else though.

There’s also different branches of AmeriCorps. I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). So if you hear me refer to VISTAs, that’s what I mean. And this information is just the best to my knowledge. All of the chains of commands and stuff confuse me and it’s just what I could retain from PSO. I urge you to do your own research if you’re really interested.

My Service

So hopefully, you guys have more of an understanding of what AmeriCorps is and how it works. My year of service will be with HandsOn Atlanta in the HandsOn Tech Program. I work on a team with two other HandsOn Tech Atlanta AmeriCorps VISTAs. We named our team the VolunTech Team today (so clever!).

We don’t work directly with people in the field. We work with other non-profit organizations. Our job is to assess the NPO’s technology needs and try to pair them up with a skills based volunteer to help fulfill those needs. For example, if they need a social media presence, we go out and find a volunteer who has social media marketing skills and pair them up with the organization.

By finding them free technological resources, we will also be able to help them work more efficiently and cut costs. This way, the organization will have the capacity to help more people. Hopefully, by giving them these resources and teaching them these skills, they’ll also be able to build their own skill set to help others. We act as the project managers/matchmakers for the organization and the volunteers.

Our program is also partially funded by Google. Our team, as well as the HandsOn Tech teams nationwide, will be flying out to Mountain View, California in September to receive some more hands on training at Google headquarters. Can’t wait for that!

It’s really strange going from working in the advertising industry to the non-profit industry. It’s so different. At my old agency, it seemed like money was abundant. We had a really nice office, brand name office supplies, Apple computers, etc. But in a non-profit, budget cuts are so prevalent. You can see it from having to rent our office space to the the downsizing of service projects. It kind of sucks to see that an organization that’s out there with the purpose of helping people has to downsize while a large for-profit company working to make millionaires into billionaires is thriving. OK… they may not be thriving. Everyone is going through budget cuts and downsizing. But, the difference is just so ridiculous to me. And so unfair.

All in all, I’m pretty excited to be working with HandsOn Tech this year. I think it will be a good transition for me to figure out what I want to do in life. I was looking at going into student affairs, but I may get enthralled by the non-profit industry. There’s a lot to be inspired by in NPOs and I think that’s what keeps me going.

Cheers to all of my fellow VISTAs beginning their year of service! Here’s to a great year!

~SL