Michigan's AmeriCorps Member of the Month
In 2014, Barb VanderJagt survived a traumatic brain injury (TBI) that altered her memory and learning abilities. She had to learn to read and speak all over again. At the time, Barb was in the middle of completing a Master’s Program at Oakland University and was teaching children with Autism Disorder. The TBI put a damper on Barb’s goals and a halt on her education. She thought she may never complete school or return to work.
A few years later, Barb found AmeriCorps. She is now in her second year of service as an AmeriCorps member with the Economic Opportunity Coaching program. The Economic Opportunity Coaching program is administered by Peckham, Inc. and utilizes AmeriCorps members to provide coaching in the areas of financial literacy, tax preparation and employability skills. Members are placed at Peckham service locations in Ingham, Eaton, Clinton, Calhoun and Kent counties.
Through her AmeriCorps service, Barb was able to regain her confidence, knowledge, and skills to be successful in the workforce. AmeriCorps provided her with the opportunity to continue her passion of helping others and serving her community.
“My empathy and judgment regarding what people are capable of has really been heightened,” Barb reflected. “I came back for a second year so that it wouldn’t just be a memory, but something I incorporate in the world. It’s been very rewarding helping people through difficulties that others see as road blocks. It’s truly rewarding to serve in an atmosphere where teaching lifts a diverse population into becoming more independent and socialized.”
Barb’s fellow Corps members have also benefited from her participation in the program. “Barb is an inspiration to me because of the things she has accomplished over the last four years,” stated AmeriCorps member Kat Pothoof. “I admire her determination, patience, and compassionate nature. Barb is extremely patient with each client and her fellow AmeriCorps members. She meets people where they are and looks for the good in everyone. Barb takes her time to address each client’s questions and slows down when she sees hesitation in their eyes. Going through a significant learning curve herself, she knows how challenging it can be at times. She uses her experiences to relate to each person and help build them up. Barb inspires not only me, but also the rest of her team, Peckham staff, and the clients she serves. I am so happy she signed up for another year of AmeriCorps!”