From AC 2nd to… AmeriCorps

Our series of interviews with Bethel History and Social Studies Education alumni (From AC 2nd to…) continues with Amy Arends (’10). One of the only triple-majors in the recent history of our department, Amy is planning on a teaching career, but spent her first years out of Bethel as a participant in a restorative justice program associated with AmeriCorps.

1. Did you come to Bethel knowing you wanted to major in History and Social Studies Education? What drew you to those fields?

I came to Bethel withthe desire to become a social studies teacher and I knew that a dual major in one of the social sciences or humanities would make me more marketable in that field. I chose History because it was what drew me to social studies to begin with. I have always been fascinated with the past and how stories are told and passed on.

2. You also had a third major, in Reconciliation Studies. How did it fit with your studies in History?

Reconciliation Studies is inextricably linked to the study of history. I found that my history classes often provided essential context to ongoing social justice issues. Likewise, questions in reconciliation piqued my interest in uncovering the historical underpinnings of current conflicts. One of my final projects in Reconciliation Studies was a group proposal that crafted recommendations for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is impossible to begin considering future options for reconciliation without thoroughly researching the past.

3. As part of the Reconciliation major, you had the chance to study abroad. What was that experience like? While it was part of another major, did you find that studying abroad connected with your studies in history?

Studying abroad was an incredible experience and one that I would highly recommend. I had no intention of studying abroad when I first came to Bethel, but that changed after I had the opportunity to travel on a Sankofa trip during spring break of my freshman year. Sankofa means looking back to move forward and participants take a physical and personal journey through the American civil rights movement. Throughout my trip I had opportunities to visit historical sites and engage in critical discussion and reflection. The learning and relationship-building that happened during that week left me wanting more.  My subsequent semester in South Africa helped me continue to grow my knowledge of racial reconciliation and deepen my commitment to cultural bridge-building today. I now know a fuller history of apartheid because I have spent time with those who experienced it and listened to their stories.

4. Tell us a bit about AmeriCorps: What’s its mission? And how did you go about getting into the program? (Any advice for those interested in applying?)

AmeriCorps is a national service organization that engages individuals of all ages in making a difference in their community. A variety of programs fall under the AmeriCorps umbrella and it’s a great opportunity to get involved in a new area. I think it can be particularly useful for those who are still contemplating career options or for those wanting entry-level experience in a field like education or community development. AmeriCorps also offers an education award at the completion of a service term that can help with loans or go towards future education.

I was a part of the state and national AmeriCorps program through Serve Wisconsin. I applied directly with my organization, Barron County Restorative Justice, but you can also apply online through the national AmeriCorps website. I would definitely recommend getting in direct contact with the organization you’d like to work with because they are ultimately the ones who will make the hiring decision.

Amy Arends
Amy (far right) and colleagues during a summer camp event
5. What kind of work did you do with AmeriCorps? Do you expect to continue that work in your career?
Amy acting...
Another of Amy’s responsibilities in the restorative justice program: playing the role of a driver being pulled over by police, for an educational video

The bulk of my work in AmeriCorps was in a truancy prevention program that uses restorative practices to address attendance concerns among students K-12. My day-to-day work varied from one-on-one check-in times, group circles, and phone calls home to special events and summer programming. I also had opportunities to work with our Teen Court program, lead youth workshops, facilitate victim-offender conferencing, and organize a county-wide student essay contest. When I wasn’t working directly with students or families, much of my time was spent coordinating with other local agencies, coalitions, and the schools themselves in promoting student achievement and healthy living.

Being a part of the AmeriCorps network helped me make immediate professional connections and strengthened my networking skills. Without a doubt, the skills I have gained through this experience will stay with me as I transition to a career in teaching.

<<Read the previous entry in the From AC 2nd to… series                     Read the next entry in the series>>

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