It was a tough question. The two young women both sat, looking intently at the ceiling, trying to find the most fitting answer. After some thought, “inspirational,” and “purposeful” were the sentiments that Meredith and Shaquela used when asked to describe working for On the Road Collaborative in one word.
Meredith and Shaquela have been AmeriCorps members with OTRC for a little over a month now, but their work with the organization started even before they had full time positions.
Meredith had been looking to do a year of service in order to help hone her skills and find her place in the realm of youth development. “Getting the leadership from Deanna [Reed] [OTRC Program Director] and Brent [Holsinger] [OTRC President & Founder] has been really helpful,” she says. “We get to work with youth still; it’s not like we’re just sitting in an office every day,” Meredith added. Shaquela agreed that the highlight of their time with OTRC is being able to be hands on in the schools, interacting with the children, and participating in the leadership aspect of programming.
“The program being four days a week has just been amazing. We’re getting to know the kids a lot better and in a different way,” Meredith said enthusiastically about the direct service aspect of their work.
Shaquela first got introduced to the prospect of working with On the Road when she started to near the end of her time at Boys and Girls Club. Shaquela has been working with Brent since OTRC was Beyond the Bell. Meredith and Shaquela both worked as Team Leaders before they started their full time positions. “That amount of development he’s given me…has really helped me grow,” she says. “I’m basically gonna follow him wherever he goes,” she added with a chuckle.
Shaquela is a Harrisonburg local, having grown up here and attended school at Harrisonburg High. Meredith is from the Valley also, but was born and raised in Strasburg and moved here after graduating from Eastern Mennonite University this past May.
“This is the kind of area that I’d like to stay in…non-profit, working with kids. It’s just been really enriching,” says Meredith about her major and the connection to her current job with OTRC.
“I’ve been doing youth development for a really long time…probably about…eight years,” Shaquela says. She starting working for the Boys & Girls Club here in Harrisonburg as junior staff at age sixteen, and continued to move up from there. “So I’m pretty set in stone with working with youth,” she said with a smile.
“I’m so used to being worried about my own growth…so it’s really cool to see that I can actually lead someone in a good direction,” Shaquela says as her favorite part so far about working with OTRC. She works a lot with scheduling and program design for team leads, and it’s empowering to her to see where she is making a difference in their lives.
“My favorite part about this job is all of the outreach that it offers us.” Meredith enjoys getting to talk to parents and volunteers about On the Road as an AmeriCorps member. “Getting to tell people about what we do on an everyday basis is really exciting,” she added.
I asked the girls why they chose the words that they did. Shaquela, who chose “purposeful”, said, “What I do…matters, with the youth. On the flip side of that, the development that I’m getting front Brent also matters. It’s what I’m doing, and it’s my future, too.”
“I’m getting a lot of inspiration from my coworkers, Brent, Deanna,” Meredith said about her word, which was “inspirational”. “And also from the kids. Every day…we help these kids succeed.”
We are so stoked to have Meredith and Shaquela as a part of our team! Catch them when they’re not out and about in the schools – they would love to say hello and talk more why they’re on the road!
Rianna Hill, On the Road Collaborative Board Member and Media and Events Coordinator for Our Community Place, is the author of this blog post.