How Our Members Grow
Members typically serve on teams of 4-6 throughout the year while out on project, including one Team Leader. Teams change throughout the year-- meaning at some point, every Member will serve with someone they don't see eye-to-eye with. Additionally, the intensity of disaster, the exhaustion of fire response, or the endlessness of invasive species gets under every Member's skin eventually.
Learning to live and work with a variety of different personalities in a variety of different settings is extremely valuable. Members learn to communicate and collaborate with one another - something we think more people in the world should learn to do. And at the end of the year, Members consistently report that the relationships they made with each other are one of the greatest takeaways from their year.
One of the most important qualities that our Members must employ is flexibility. "It depends," is sort of a running joke around AmeriCorps St. Louis as it's often the answer to every question. Members find themselves having to adapt to anything from a rained out project to a longer than expected deployment. Sometimes we're asked to help out with tasks we have no idea how to accomplish. Sometimes we show up ready to cut out invasive trees out of a prairie only to end up washing and pinning bees for pollinator research!
AmeriCorps St. Louis' motto is, "See the need, meet the need". Indeed, Members must be adaptable and ready to meet the need, even if it's different than anticipated. However, this is one of the qualities of our corps that makes us excellent in emergency response. Our partners and the communities we serve in know that they can count on us to take on any challenge.
Members can expect to experience stressful situations during their service term. They may have to make an important team safety decision when a lightning storm hits while hiking out to a project site. They may be one of the first to arrive in a chaotic disaster scenario. They may even face the challenge of solving a conflict within their own team. Members are put to the test in many ways, but they come prepared with the skills they need to approach difficulties.
All Members are certified in First Aid, CPR, and AED. Members are trained as wildland firefighters through online courses and in-house practices. Members complete training in FEMA's National Incident Management System (NIMS) and Incident Command Structure (ICS). Finally, many Members come to us with prior experience as WFAs, WFRs, EMTs, and W-EMTs and are happy to share insights and tips with their teammates.
Leadership opportunities abound during the service year with AmeriCorps St. Louis. Members are selected because they have qualities that will make them great leaders-- ERT allows those qualities to shine. Whatever a Member's leadership style may be, the opportunity to flex and grow will be there. At some point during the year, each Member serves as a TLIT (Team Leader in Training) and many go on to become Team Leaders on certain conservation projects, leading teams of their peers.
We highly encourage Members to consider staying for a second (or third!) service term with us. Second year Members usually serve as Team Leaders on conservation and disaster deployments. They are given a huge amount of responsibility and leadership experience as we rely on them to teach and lead first year Members out in the field every day.
AmeriCorps St. Louis' mission is to provide assistance to the least served, last served, and never served. In times of disaster our relief and recovery efforts focus on empowering communities to help their most vulnerable citizens: the elderly, the disabled, and the socioeconomically disadvantaged. Our Members learn how disasters reinforce social problems and stratification.
On disaster deployments Members meet and connect with survivors from every background and life experience. Every survivor's story is different, and AmeriCorps St. Louis provides compassionate service to each individual regardless of that survivors' background. Members also learn to collaborate with volunteers, other AmeriCorps program Members, and community leaders from all different walks of life.
Whether it's in the Missouri Ozarks treating invasive plant species to protect threatened habitats, on fire rotation working with the U.S. Forest Service to respond to wildfires to ensure public safety, or at a damaged home helping disaster survivors salvage personal belongings, Members demonstrate the power of service throughout their time with us.
Our Members may not all go on to work in the fields of disaster, conservation or fire, but they carry with them the importance of service to a cause greater than themselves. We believe and hope our Members will be ambassadors for volunteerism within whichever community they live and inspire others to give back.