Editors Note:  This is Anna’s final post as an AmeriCorp member with our initiative.  She is taking new position in our community and we wish her well.  


Americorps Fellow Anna Carlson is working with youth fro the Itasca area to assess the results from the Youth Voice Student Survey.

Americorps Fellow Anna Carlson is working with youth fro the Itasca area to assess the results from the Youth Voice Student Survey.

For those that know me, they know weightlifting is an important part of my life; it’s something I became passionate about after my days of distance running came to a halt due to an injury. Because of my slender build, when I mention weightlifting it’s sometimes met with a smirk and an eye roll, to which I pull out my classic response: “Hey, I’m little, but I’m lethal.” For me, lifting is as much about fulfilling a competitive drive as it is about empowering myself both physically and mentally. Though I don’t mind laughing off the sometimes snide remarks I encounter when I launch into a rant about squat technique, it makes me wonder how many people have hidden passions that go undiscovered or are not developed because it goes against what society assumes about  them. It especially makes me wonder how many kids don’t have the opportunity to showcase their talents because adults have expectations for the direction in which we think they should go.

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of my time serving with Americorps  for the Itasca Area Initiative for Student Success has been to dial back  the voice of adults so youth have the opportunity to do the unexpected. I’ve noticed when planning with youth, great ideas are often generated through them, but those ideas trigger a response and opinion from the adults in the room who sometimes rush to guide where that idea goes. Though some careful questioning is often very helpful for youth, the best learning comes from being able to think through and plan all aspects of an idea .

Like in weightlifting, when I struggle to push the weight up out of the bottom of my squat, I don’t call on someone else to do the work for me. Instead, I grit my teeth, battle the bar, and sometimes– fail. This is perhaps where we as adults can be the most beneficial for youth: allowing them to try, but being ok with the possibility of failure. We serve a vital role in being there to support, push, and challenge them to go forward; encouraging them to think critically about what worked and what didn’t, and equipping them with the resilience to carry on despite roadblocks.

I encourage the adults in the community who have stepped forward to do this important work  to bear that in mind as we go forward. Work in communities is off to a great start, with lots of success stories. Inevitably, however, not everything we do will be met with success. There will be challenges along the way, and changes will have to be made as a result. Some ideas will work, others may not.

We don’t truly know what outcomes will occur because of the work we’re doing  in communities. Yet, it’s important that we’re doing something, and it’s essential that it’s initiated and planned by our youth. It’s important that we allow opportunities for both success and failure, as that will help guide us in new, better directions.

Though I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time working in the various communities, my service with Americorps is coming to a close, as I was offered a full time position with a local landscaping company. Perhaps another non-traditional choice, it’s nonetheless a passion I have and an opportunity I can’t pass up. Thankfully, the locality and flexibility the job offers will allow me to maintain some ties with the Student Success work. I will continue to support and cheer for the work on the sidelines, and look forward to seeing where it goes. In the future if you need to find me, check the nearest excavator, the weight room (where I will continue my barbell battles), or out in the community, quietly championing for our youth as I watch them being encouraged by you to try the unexpected.


Please don’t hesitate to reach me going forward.

[email protected]