Skip ahead 6 spaces; advance to payday. Jessica cunningham recounts her year as a digital service fellow

I joined the AmeriCorps Digital Service Fellow (DSF) program in 2011 after withdrawing from college due to financial concerns and because I was floundering academically. I was at a difficult point in my life because I could see my High School classmates excelling at their prospective careers and was comparing it to my situation -- which felt like a failure.

My experience as a DSF disproved my doubts that I could be successful and validated my skills.

Joining the Urban Technology Project (UTP) as a DSF was ultimately the decision that launched my career. My experience as a DSF disproved the doubts that I could be successful and validated my skills. In just one short year, I was exposed to several different industries and opportunities that I never could have or would have sought out on my own. I took my first business trip to Minneapolis and spoke at a National Conference. I learned how to code and built multiple mobile and web applications.

I was thriving in the way in which I had imagined I would in College. Only, it was way better than I could have imagined it. When I finished my year of service as a DSF, I was hired through UTP to become a Computer Support Specialist (CSS). Shortly after, I received a part-time employment offer at a software consulting firm by one of the mentors I met through UTP.

So now I was balancing two jobs in the tech industry, pulling in enough income to live on my own, and I used my Segal AmeriCorps Education Award to pay off most of my student debt. This is around the same time my old High School classmates were graduating and entering “the real world.” Because of the job market, a lot of them were having difficulty finding a job in their industry and they were terrified of their looming student debt. If we were all in a game of Monopoly, it felt as if I had skipped 6 spaces and advanced to “Go” to collect my payday.


Created with images by pcdazero - "play board game monopoly"

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