Renee Gaillard, a Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring, is currently serving a second year at Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative (DSNI) in Roxbury, MA.
The Bronx, NY is where I was born and raised, but I moved to Boston in 2010 to attend college. After graduating, I worked in customer service for a little over a year but started to feel an urge to work more face-to-face with the local community and by fate, I came across the AmeriCorps role at DSNI. It was just the right fit. DSNI's mission is to empower Dudley area residents to organize, plan for, create and control a vibrant, diverse and high-quality neighborhood in collaboration with community partners. The opportunity to work with young people in the communities of Roxbury and North Dorchester by connecting them with caring adults committed to their success was an opportunity like no other. I have been blessed to have several informal and formal empowering relationships at various times and spaces of my life, so I have witnessed the benefits of having someone in your corner to either help you get that first internship or to simply have someone to talk to.
From the moment I started my position at DSNI, I knew that this was the type of relationship-building, youth-focused work I was meant to do. As I continued in my first service year, I began to think of ways to improve and innovate with the program. After only a few months in, I knew I wanted to stay a second year to continue the service I had been doing. This not only allowed me to continue the flow of this important work, but it also increased my opportunities for additional professional development and overall growth. As a Highland Street AmeriCorps Ambassador of Mentoring, my role holds both a lot of excitement and challenges because no day is truly the same. Primarily, I’m the point person for all things mentoring at DSNI and execute all aspects of the program from mentor recruitment to evaluation and closure. A day in my life could be anything from following up with mentors and mentees to planning group programming or sharing a resource or event. I might be attending a training to further my professional development or meeting with community partners.In addition to the typical one-to-one match support, we’re constantly pushing ourselves to think about what mentoring looks like specifically in our community, which we call the “Dudley Village Campus” or the “DVC.” We also think about how mentoring fits into the context of community organizing and in the fabric of DSNI’s work.
At DSNI, I have seen how my AmeriCorps role is valued in the greater conversations around youth engagement or DSNI’s overall work. Mass Mentoring Partnership has prepared me to not only be one of the mentoring experts - or ambassadors - in the room, but to also understand the inner workings of a nonprofit through monthly trainings with our Corps that cover topics from nonprofit leadership to mentoring 101. Because of this consistent professional development and the value my role has had, I have been able to bring forth these conversations about mentoring and receive great flexibility and trust to try out different ideas or projects.
As I come closer to the end of my time with AmeriCorps in June, I have been flooded with a mix of emotions. My life’s trajectory greatly shifted after being an AOM these past two years and in no doubt, has been influenced by the relationships I have developed in these spaces. Being in a position to help young people build relationships with caring adults, learn new skills, and ultimately, supporting them through their path to success has been a feeling I hope to never be separated from. At the end of the day, I have full confidence in whatever role I pursue next in the field of youth development because of my truly growth-filled and dynamic service year(s) experience.
If you are looking for an opportunity to learn about nonprofits or youth development work firsthand, become an AOM.
If you have an itch to support young people in their life journeys, become an AOM.
If you want to push yourself to think differently, try new things, and overcome unexpected challenges, become an AOM.
If you simply believe in the power of relationships to create a better and brighter future for our world, become an AOM.