Member Position, Front Yard Bikes

What was your motivation for becoming a Serve Louisiana member?

After serving with another AmeriCorps program in Baton Rouge for a year, I knew I wanted to stay here but work with a smaller nonprofit. Serve Louisiana appealed to me because it’s made up of individuals working with different organizations, and I was already interested in one partner. I also liked the fact that members work on a specific project within their partner organizations.

Tell us about your experience — the good times and the challenges.

My Serve Louisiana partner, Front Yard Bikes, provided a very flexible and comfortable environment to work in because it’s a place for creativity and experimentation. I was responsible for organizing and running the Wednesday tutoring program, which was mostly reading, math, homework help and an occasional special project.

Each day was different because we supported what the students wanted to learn on that day. This made planning a challenge because any number of kids could come in on any given afternoon and keeping track of volunteers was sometimes tough. To me, the most successful days were when we had planned activities available so students could participate in various activities depending on interests.

Having previously served with an AmeriCorps program, I was experienced with budgeting on a stipend. I made time to earn extra money babysitting during weeknights and working at the farmers’ market on Saturdays. The location change was exciting, too, because I was interested in moving to Baton Rouge.

What did you gain from being a member?

Serving introduced me to the importance of connecting to the community you’re working with — and forming my own community was an invaluable experience. The kids who participated in the program were dedicated to making the shop a fun and creative space; I was there to foster it. Since it’s also a bike shop, I learned how to build and repair bicycles, and to help customers find the right bike.

My year with Serve Louisiana met my expectations because I got to work with kids in a capacity I didn't know existed, through an organization that fills many meaningful roles within the community. Working with kindergarten through high school students helped me understand how to better interact with kids of different ages, and how to encourage students with different interests to work on the same tasks as a team.

Working with a small organization can be challenging, but open communication and our daily morning meeting taught me the value and importance of consistency in running an organization. I built solid relationships with my co-workers and trusted and supported them. Our relationships grew stronger the more I spoke up and expressed my own ideas and expectations because it furthered our mutual understanding. I learned that if you come prepared and focused on the task at hand, it’s much easier to juggle the curve balls that will come with any job. And when your coworkers and the people you serve know what to expect from you, it makes the work environment more comfortable.