For the 2020 AmeriCorps week, we sat down with our coach Madeleine Procopio to explore her pathway to AmeriCorps, her goals, and how her term has transformed her.
1. When did you know that you wanted to be an AmeriCorps coach, and what were the factors that impacted your decision?
I decided I wanted to serve as an AmeriCorps member during my senior year of college at Tulane University. Having been offered a number of incredible academic opportunities throughout my life, I knew I wanted to dedicate a year of my time to assisting students and guiding them on their path to higher education. After researching AmeriCorps positions in Austin, TX, I came across College Forward and immediately fell in love with its mission. Putting students first and working to improve education inequalities could not be more important and imperative.
2. Describe your coaching style in one word.
3. How has your experience with the College Forward, AmeriCorps program transformed you?
I have learned so much during my time with College Forward. I have been able to utilize and cultivate many of my strengths, such as my organizational and time-management skills, and I have seen a huge growth in my ability to listen and empathize. Working with students individually has made me more patient and understanding while teaching college-prep classes has enhanced my productivity and analytical skills. Also, having the opportunity to collaborate with my fellow CoFo coaches has made me appreciate and value teamwork.
4. What is your favorite part of working with your students?
I really enjoy working with my students on their college applications. In particular, I LOVE reading and editing application essays. Getting to read personal statements from my students has given me a chance to learn more about their backgrounds and life experiences. I am always grateful for students allowing themselves to be vulnerable with me, and I never take for granted the opportunity to assist them with their essays and applications.
5. What are your goals for the rest of your term, and beyond?
My main goal for the rest of my term is to keep putting students first. I want to focus on getting my juniors ready for next year and preparing my seniors for graduation and beyond. I also want to continue working on both my personal and professional development. Following my service term, I am planning on remaining in Austin, TX and, hopefully, finding a job or program in which I can continue my work in college access.
6. What is the best advice you have ever received?
The best advice I have ever received came from a very wise woman whom I consider a mentor. She told me, “The best thing you can do in any situation is ‘take pauses.’” As a loud, extroverted person who loves to share her opinions, I initially did not understand her advice. I didn’t quite understand the point of taking your time or holding back your thoughts. But, upon further reflection, I realized that taking a moment to think before you speak or act is one of the most powerful things you can do. Taking a pause to reflect on a moment before making your next decision gives you the time to truly understand a predicament and your place in it. In turn, you end up saying or doing something that helps both you and others involved.
7. Can you share something that you wished your students knew about you?
I wished my students knew how much I want them to succeed and how proud I am of them. My students are a fantastic bunch, and I have certainly enjoyed working with them. I want each of them to know that they are smart and can achieve their goals if they work hard. I also want them to know that I am very lucky to be their coach, and I look forward to seeing and assisting them everyday.
8. What advice do you have for the next generation of AmeriCorps coaches?
My best advice for the next generation of AmeriCorps coaches is “be ready to be stressed and work hard” and “have fun.” Serving as an AmeriCorps member certainly comes with a number of challenges. Days can be long and stressful, and at times, it can be hard to see all of the positive impacts that your work is making. Be ready to face those days and create a plan in which you will remind yourself of why you decided to serve in the first place. Most importantly, have fun with those you are serving and with your fellow AmeriCorps members. This is an incredible time to meet new people and gain invaluable experiences. Enjoy every moment and be grateful!
9. Who has been your biggest inspiration throughout your term?
While many of my CoFo co-workers and students inspire me, I want to highlight my liaison at William B. Travis High School, Amin Duran. Mr. Duran is Travis’s College & Career Counselor, and he has been working with students at Travis for over six years. Mr. Duran dedicates countless hours to ensuring that all students feel supported on their journey to higher education. He makes every student recognize their worth and potential, and he pushes them to succeed. On top of his job at Travis, Mr. Duran is also pursuing a Master’s Degree in Higher Education at UT-Austin. His commitment to making higher education more accessible is beyond motivating, and I aspire to work as hard as him everyday.