By Jessica Schrader
Edited by Maia Lamdany
There’s a week or so left in July, and many of us are hitting the 1700 hour mark this week – or are already there! I recently talked with a former Literacy*AmeriCorps member, Diana Aschner, to find out where she is a year after completing her second term of service.
Where are you from, and where did you go to college? What did you major in?
I grew up in Mt. Lebanon and went to college at Chatham University. I majored in French and Studio Arts.
How did you hear about AmeriCorps, and why did you decide to apply?
I learned about AmeriCorps from my next door neighbor, Lori Como! She moved in when I was just about to graduate, wondering what my next step was. I have always been really interested in learning about other cultures and meeting people from around the world. Not to mention, the education award would help me survive a few more years.
Where did you serve, and what was your role there?
I served one term with Goodwill and one term with GPLC. I was primarily an ESL teacher, but also did some ABE and GED stuff as well.
What are you doing now, and how did you get there?
Now I am serving in the Peace Corps in Indonesia. I teach middle school English at a madrasah (government-run Islamic school) to classes of about 35 students. I am hoping to start a girls empowerment program in the future, but I’ve only been at permanent site for a month! I applied early on in my 2nd AmeriCorps term, and my service definitely added to my application.
How do you feel your experience in AmeriCorps affected your life after your term of service?
Not to get too dramatic, but AmeriCorps really turned my life around. I grew up in a community where people rarely had to struggle financially. Whatever they needed to live a comfortable life could generally be found. All you had to do was get into college and get a well-paying job, and then you were set too. I went through periods of depression quite often, but all that stopped when I joined AmeriCorps. I think I finally found some substance to my life. Giving my time and effort to others makes my existence more meaningful. While I may have joined in part to help pay off my student loans, I know now that service will always be a part of my life. I think it’s my duty to my fellow human beings, and it makes me feel great!
What was your favorite memory from serving with AmeriCorps?
It’s hard to pick just one memory that is my favorite. I really enjoyed my Nepali students in Carrick. They were always so positive and hard-working, even though they were just starting out. At the end of class one day, after working very hard to learn how to write her address, one of my students ran around the classroom with her arms stretched out like an airplane and cried “I feel happy!”
Do you have any advice for current members as their terms of service come to an end?
I would just say to be open to whatever opportunities are out there. These are uncertain times, and you might not end up doing what you always envisioned yourself doing. However, with the right attitude, you might stumble upon something even better.