An Education Element:
An AmeriCorps Experience
This post is part of a series dedicated to our AmeriCorps members who have donated a large chunk of time as well as their skills and willingness to learn to the Habitat for Humanity – Seattle King County mission. You can find more stories like this one by clicking on the “AmeriCorps Experience” tag.
With a background in Architecture and the built environment, Paige came into the Habitat SKC affiliate supporting our Neighborhood Revitalization program. Over the course of her 10.5 month service term, she developed a better understanding of how the built environment impacted communities across the socioeconomic spectrum and left with a more particular vision for the work she wanted to do next.
The AmeriCorps position excited Paige because the NR program, which looks for ways to support the community and homeownership outside of home building and repair, encouraged her to use her creativity to devise new plans and ideas. The position ended up introducing her to multiple aspects of the planning process including how to advocate for communities equitably and look at the overall impact – safety, health and quality of life – that it has on people’s lives. While Habitat for Humanity does a lot of teaching – from how to build and repair homes to financial literacy for socioeconomic mobility – we also rely heavily on information we get from the residents we serve including how to best address the barriers they face in their communities. The Habitat model and Neighborhood Revitalization program is ultimately built on an exchange of knowledge and Paige’s consistent attendance at neighborhood meetings and Town Hall’s laid the foundation for the work she did.
“I’ve learned a lot especially in regards to the lower socioeconomic populations and how we can assist them. I’ve learned that homeownership is sometimes a secondary thought and you really have to advocate on behalf of its importance and equity building and there’s definitely… an education element that comes with it especially when working with a lot of first time homeowners and people who are just beginning to move up the socioeconomic ladder… I’ve really enjoyed working with all of the diverse populations that Rainier Valley has and the many many languages and the many different kinds of people and learning that everybody has their own stories and their own needs and trying to work with them and listen to them. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is how to listen better and how to be a successful partner by listening to the community and discussing what they need rather than you’re preconceived notions of what they need.”
In wrapping up her service, she looked forward to continue working in community and public space development. While she originally wanted to pursue a career in the architecture industry, she now looks forward to working in public administration or the nonprofit sector where she can mold the built environment sector with organizations that prioritize preserving culture and designing equitably. She recently accepted a position in Pittsburgh as the program manager for a public bike share program.
“[My term has] definitely taught me that I want to keep using these skills because I’m noticing how valuable they are. I want to use them to promote better public space development and continue to advocate on behalf of community and grass roots approaches. It’s a little bit chicken and the egg … but [ultimately] if you’re not working with designers and developers who are talking to the community, then they’re not going to be designing for the community.”