Alumni Perspective: Why I Joined AmeriCorps

This post was written by CHC alumna Karen Yocky.

Series: Healthy Futures

Karen served at Erie Family Health Center - Lake View High School as a Health Educator from 2012-2013.




For some, joining AmeriCorps is an easy decision. It’s an amazing opportunity to work in a potential field of interest and give back to your community. And for many, it’s an opportunity that comes at the perfect time—maybe upon college graduation or during a gap year. Who wouldn’t jump at that chance? But for others, like me, I was terrified. I knew that I was unhappy in my current position, sitting at my cubicle all day, taking the daily trip to Starbucks. I was unsatisfied and felt that I needed more purpose, but I wasn’t sure what to do next.

When I discovered the Chicago Health Corps, the description fit everything I thought I was interested in: public health, working with adolescents, and the opportunity to give back on a daily basis. I applied and it felt good to start thinking about something beyond my small gray desk. The day I got in though, I was unsure and afraid. While I wanted a new and fulfilling experience, there is comfort in the known and routine. I had the desire to work with adolescents, but had really only worked with younger children previously, and I certainly had never taught health education. I also wasn’t sure how I would manage my expenses. Would I be any good at it? Would AmeriCorps be the right fit for me?


But I decided to take the leap into the unknown, knowing that no matter what happened, this experience would teach me more about my city, how to 
help others and about myself. The experience proved to be so much more than I could have ever imagined. I learned about many different non-profit organizations and the overall healthcare system in Chicago. I learned how to work with adolescents and meet them on their level. I learned Chicago’s health disparities are the product of many different layers, from socioeconomic status and the community one lives in, to family influence, cultural traditions, and individual knowledge and motivation. From living stipend check to stipend check, I learned what my true values are and what was really important to me.  I learned that helping others is not always easy; it is hard work, emotionally taxing, and sometimes unappreciated. I learned that there are many other people in Chicago like me: people who have a passion and desire for making the world a better place. There are some people who are already making this change and plenty, like me, who are still figuring out where to fit into the bigger picture. And most importantly, I learned that there is still so much more to learn.

My AmeriCorps experience changed my life in unimaginable ways. It re-awakened my desire to learn more about others that are different from me. It is only through working together that we can make our community, city and the world a better place. AmeriCorps opened my eyes to my own passion and ability to create positive change, and will continue to inspire me to find my place where I can continue making a difference.