Morgan Tracey is being honored as a Champion of Change for her time and effort in AmeriCorps.
Although I graduated from AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps almost ten years ago, it seems like yesterday when I left small town Champion, Ohio with big dreams of serving others. Since my time in AmeriCorps, I have been a member of an elite Interagency Hotshot firefighting crew, I’ve graduated from law school and passed the Ohio bar, and I recently began training in the sport of skeleton with the hope of one day representing the United States in the Winter Olympic Games. People frequently ask me why I’ve chosen to pursue these diverse, challenging endeavors. My answer to this question is always the same. I pursue them because I want to take the path less traveled, and my experience in AmeriCorps gave me the courage to do so. Most importantly, AmeriCorps taught me following my heart could positively impact the lives of others. Whether sliding headfirst down a mile of ice at 90 miles per hour, or being the last line of defense between a wildfire and someone’s home, I’m fighting for positive change in my own communities.
An important part of AmeriCorps NCCC mission is to strengthen communities in which we work. In Blythe, CA we helped build twelve homes in which families could raise productive members of society. In Astoria, OR we built a multipurpose space for everything from meetings to disaster relief. In Pasadena, CA we inspired children and encouraged them to play together after school rather than sit in an empty house. In each and every community, we left it stronger than when we arrived.
Our community work was felt at a personal level as well. We inspired one another to be better teammates and better leaders. We learned to embrace change and encourage it in others.To this day I look with admiration at the accomplishments of my ten teammates since graduating AmeriCorps. We entered as young adults, some directly out of high school. Today we are doctors, lawyers, world class athletes, community leaders, and academics. My teammates have competed in World Cups for the US Women’s Rugby Team. They have volunteered their time teaching in Africa. They have earned Masters degrees and Ph.D.s while working on important community health initiatives. Individually we have done amazing things in our own unique ways, but we will always be united in our desire to effect positive change in our communities.
Being an elite athlete is a selfish undertaking. We spend hours, weeks, months, and years training for just a few moments of glory on the international stage. When I began my pursuit of an Olympic berth, I had to consider that most people will never make it to the Olympics and that I may be one of them. This would have been paralyzing were it not for the lessons I learned in AmeriCorps. I can lead by example. I can inspire positivity. I can dedicate myself to excellence. Most importantly, I can commit to leaving my sport a better place than when I arrived. Similarly to while in AmeriCorps and leaving our communities better than when we arrived. If I do these things, I will succeed.
I’m thankful every day for my time in AmeriCorps. It is the most important thing I have ever done. Without those experiences I would never have the courage to take the path less traveled. I would never have met the people who pushed me to embrace change while inspiring change in others. If this is what ten people can accomplish in ten short years, what will the future hold? And one day, as I dream of standing in front of a stadium packed with thousands, watching the American flag being raised as the National Anthem plays, it dawns on me. Not even an Olympic stadium can hold the 775,000 talented, inspiring, AmeriCorps alumni whose ranks I’m proud to be a part of.
Morgan Tracey is currently part of the United States National Skeleton Program training at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center with her sights on Sochi Russia and Pyeongchang, South Korea.