Leave Them Better Than You Found Them

By Amanda Lynn Crawford-Steger, AmeriCorps VISTA

In May 2010, I graduated from college and was forced to become an adult. This meant that, for the first time in my life, I was going to have to make choices that would not have a clear outcome or ending in the same way as high school and college graduations. In the whirlwind of decisions that had to be made that summer following my culmination, I received an email from a representative of PAIR asking me if I may be interested in an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) position with their organization. I had considered becoming a VISTA in the past but truly hadn’t given it a thought for months. But I thought, “Why not?” As I began to research the organization and found out more about what my position would look like, I became more and more excited about the prospect. I felt the decision had already been made that PAIR was where I belonged, before I even entered the conversation!

For the next year, this feeling of belonging only grew as I was given every opportunity to explore, excel, and grow as a professional and young adult. I gained friends in my coworkers and volunteers, life-changing moments with my students, and a more comprehensive view of the world. PAIR gave me these opportunities, and I accomplished everything I had set to achieve in my year as a VISTA and more.

Through managing the Saturday Sessions program, I was able to witness incredible transformations in my students.

Amanda, left, with program coordinators and two students who won awards for "Most Improved"

Amanda, left, with program coordinators and two students who won awards for "Most Improved"

I watched kids who were new to the country, extremely shy and reticent to talk, completely come out of their shells to become cheerful and outgoing. I saw young ladies become animated as they learned about the career options available to women in the U.S.—that girls can, in fact, do anything boys can do.

As I sit here on my last day as a member of the PAIR team trying to collect my thoughts on the year, I can’t help feeling a bit overwhelmed. I suppose this is rather appropriate. The mission of PAIR to further the education of refugee youth and ease their transition into the United States can be overwhelming to implement. Yet, the strength and determination of our refugee students is awe-inspiring. The volunteerism and commitment of our university students and community is astounding. The overall vision, willpower, work ethic, and grit of the PAIR team is positively overwhelming.

PAIR has grown exponentially over the last year and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so in the years to come. I count myself lucky to have been a part of this fantastic organization and sincerely hope that I am leaving it better than I found it, as my predecessors have done and my successors will do.