I gaze up at the ornate pine cone carvings decorating the beams within the great hall of Menucha Retreat Center, where Mt. Adams Institute is hosting our VetsWork orientation. Saying “our” is still not natural for me in my new role as the Executive Director of the organization. Only a month in, I am still observing, learning, listening, and trying to find meaningful ways to connect, add value, and better understand the work that we do and why we do it. Luckily for me, this week, I am on similar footing with the group of 19 VetsWork AmeriCorps interns, all here to also learn more about their new roles for the next 10 1/2 months with USFS, NOAA, and Fish and Wildlife.
The week’s agenda is a blend of the functional necessities required for the positions, team building, self-reflection, service work, all leading up to the supervisor day, in which interns meet their supervisors in person for the first time. I glance at the agenda again as the seats around me fill up. Files turn to faces, and as the week unfolds, all the people in this room teach me about hope, goals, service, and the uncertainty and excitement surrounding transitions. Being in the midst of a transition myself, I take off my ED hat and immerse myself in the experience, listen, and learn.
Hope: The sentiments shared with me about hope stand out. Everyone is seeking that next career that aligns with their values, personalities, and skill sets.
Goals: These vary per individual but overall include finding purpose, their forever job, job satisfaction, and a different way to serve.
Service: Again, this varied per individual but a resounding number of people expressed the importance of being part of something greater than themselves in roles that served the greater good.
Transition: Most had come to the above realizations and sought a new path forward through MAI and AmeriCorps. Many related seeing this job posting and not really believing that this opportunity existed and then went to great lengths to make this change happen.
The stories shared were personal, insightful, and not mine to share, but being there to listen to them, really hear them out, and think about the importance of the training and support MAI is offering this group of people who have already given so much to us all made me incredibly proud of our team, of our work, and the importance of career development opportunities. MAI, AmeriCorps, and our partners in the USFS, NOAA, and Fish and Wildlife are offering more than just training opportunities; we are helping connect people with their passions, purpose, people, and the natural world.
Over the course of the week, strangers become friends, anxiety fades to enthusiasm, and the jokes flow freely. The explanations and how-to’s have been informative, but it is the focus on interpersonal relationships that stands out. Each member has shared, listened, learned, been heard, and laughed together in a way that places value on the whole person rather than the functions or roles and responsibilities we all assume in our work life.
At the end, we say goodbye, but many people linger, not quite ready to fully disconnect from the group that has been formed. I wonder to myself what stories they will bring to training in September.