Tuesday, October 30, 2018


What do you want to get out of service? 
This question is often asked when members are at the beginning of their service year. Some members say professional development, others may say the experience to travel to a new community. When I think of service, expanding my comfort zone comes to mind. It is human nature to want to stay in a familiarized state. Being pushed into a new situation can be scary sometimes. Last week Montana Campus Compact (MTCC) hosted a training called “FRAME: Expanding your Comfort Zone”. This training is to help challenge our AmeriCorps Leaders and VISTAs to get outside that comfort zone and tackle topics that are not easy to discuss.
MTCC had several different speakers that brought up difficult topics that our members may experience at their host sites. EmpowerMT had Heidi Wallace come in to discuss diversity and inclusion. She did an amazing job highlighting what it is like having “glasses” on when looking at diversity. Ivan and Ivy MacDonald spoke with us and showed us film about missing indigenous women in Montana. These stories show what is happening on reservations and how not much is being done to help. It was eye opening! Lydia Schildt from the YWCA presented about Historical Trauma and Healing. She gave insight on what indigenous people went through and how they are still experiencing hardships and healing. All the members participated in a service project for Lubrecht Experimental Forest. We cleaned up waste on the side of the highway. It wasn’t glamorous, but service isn’t meant to be glamorous, it is about rolling up your sleeves and “Getting things done”. Marc Moss was a speaker on our last day who taught us about how telling your service story is important. He gave wonderful tips on how to do that, while also sharing some of his own personal stories.

At the end of each training, you hope that each person takes something away to use at their host sites. With all the amazing speakers at this training, I don’t see how you couldn’t. In service, you have to lose your comfort zone. You will be challenged and pushed to your limits at times, but, at the end of the day, it isn’t about you. Service is about serving the needs in the community you are in.

Monday, October 22, 2018


We all fear the unknown, but some people live it everyday, not knowing when their next meal will be or if they are going to wake up the next day. I personally feared failure in the face of ambition when I made my decision to serve Montana Campus Compact under AmeriCorps as a leader for Flagship. I feared not being able to make it here after wanting this for two years because of my financial situation, but sometimes you just have to go for it anyways.
Two flights and a car ride later, I was here not knowing what to expect. Running an after-school program for at-risk students, you want them to have fun, feel safe, with bellies full, and minds ready to learn. Some days are better than others, but knowing that they are here instead of being alone or engaging in dangerous behavior makes any stress worth it.
The photo above shows me in 7th grade
Serving middle school students makes me think about back when I was in their shoes (except for the iphones, can’t relate there). We were all so awkward and wanting to be understood.
 Using my own past experiences, even in my disillusionment of jumping into so many unknowns, I use empathy to relate to my students. I don’t see bad kids, but rather troubled souls and see the importance of working with their families to make sure that they are successful in my programs. I teach kids to look out out for one another and to see how my volunteers are trying to help them. The more that we are aware of our own impact in other’s lives, the more inclined students are to think before they act and observe before they deter.
One example of this is when I had to talk to a student’s guardian because of their constant misbehaving and it turns out that they had just recently started fostering the student, so they were just as curious as I was about how to help them succeed. They were so worried about their child being kicked out because my programs were the only option that they had for them. I worked with the guardian to make sure he can continue to move forward with us. Even among the chaos of whirlwind days, being able to serve in such ways makes it worth it.
Americorps as a whole is an incredible way to “get things done” for an amazing organization, while making an impact nationwide. It introduces you to great people you wouldn’t have met otherwise and shows how important you are in society. Whether you are working with youth outdoors, or in offices, your service is helping so much more than you realize. I’m grateful for this opportunity. I can’t wait to take on more challenges with a kind smile and open heart.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018


Jordan Fernandez
It was a brisk and grey day at the end of September when Head Start came for a class to help illustrate positive parent and child interactions. Outside, the hills were dressed with heavy clouds, while the Missoula valley floor felt the sprinkle of light rain. The seasons were changing and you could feel it in the crisp breeze. I had been serving as a MTCC AmeriCorps Leader at Empower Place (as part of Broader Impacts Group, SpectrUM, Missoula Food Bank, and Community Center) for a few weeks.
A family came in that early fall morning that really shifted my perspective on the basis of the people of our community. The mother of two came in with her son Chase. Abigail is a hearing impaired single mother. Her bright smile showed her love and care for her kids. She was doing the best she could for them, and it showed from the way that her son listened to her while her infant lay silently in her arms. Before meeting this family, I really didn’t have a sense of the people that I was serving or the community that I had just become a part of. I was starting to come to understand that these people are no different than my family or the millions of families across America just trying to live a full and happy life.
Image may contain: Robert Jordan Fernandez, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature
While I was still getting my bearings at EmPower Place, this young boy approached me and engaged in a positive interaction right from the start. We worked on his motor skills, while building with Geometric magnet tiles and a Duplo train set. His smile was enormous and full of light, just like his mother’s. When he saw the battery powered train move across the track that we had just constructed together, his eyes lit up with amazement. He would turn and jump. He would grab the train and turn it off and on. He never lost sight of it.
At the end of our time together, Chase did not want to leave. He didn’t respond to his mother's attempts or those of the Head Start people. I couldn’t blame him, I did not want to see him go either. His curiosity was memorable. He kept turning the train off, to flip it over and examine the wheels. You could tell the gears in his head were spinning. With the support of his community and the model that is informal education, this boy is going to make an impact. Such is life that we go from one moment to the next, unsure, but always curious.