Written By: Kalie Dunican 17′

It’s funny; typically when a 23 year old college student like myself utilizes the word “lit”, it’s usually in reference to an overcrowded house party full of intoxicated twenty-somethings snap chatting awfully angled videos and selfies. But for me, it’s not. For me, SERVICE is what’s lit, and I’m about to tell you why.

My name is Kalie Dunican and I am a senior in the Social Work and Sociology programs here at Castleton. Five years ago I embarked on a journey that no one in my family had ever completed before. I packed up my ’07 Subaru Outback, kissed the southeastern shoreline of my Connecticut hometown goodbye, and headed north to Vermont to become a college freshman, where I would learn to change the world. I hit the jackpot, because Castleton became the best place for me to continue that dream and allow it to flourish. Over the last five years I have vigorously worked to find opportunities to give back. I’ve been a volunteer, club member and Executive Board Member of CU’s Habitat Club. I’ve been a mentor at the Castleton Village School. I’ve interned with the Mentor Connector of Rutland County working to match high-risk youth with mentors to increase high school graduation rates. I’ve aided the pregnant and parenting youth of Rutland County in finding solutions to their homelessness through the Rutland County Parent Child Center. While all of these experiences have played an avid role in the lobbying, activist I’ve become, there is no comparison to the experience I was most recently introduced to; Service Year.

Service Year Alliance is an organization that was created to protect national service year opportunities asthe current presidential administration is seeking to eliminate and defund them: AmeriCorps, PeaceCorps, Youthbuild and City Year, to name a few.  Myself, and fellow classmate, Emma Blaiklock were given the opportunity to attend a conference in DC (all expenses paid for) to learn what this organization is about and how we could become a crucial part of it’s movement; to save national service. Arriving in DC we had no idea what to expect, and were shocked when we spent the following four days getting trained in grassroots organizing, meeting alum who participated in service years, networking and engaging with congressmen and representatives that support Service Year and it’s mission, and lastly, actually LOBBYING on Capitol Hill! The knowledge, power and inspiration that was generated from this trip single handedly changed my life. It was like all of the sudden, the last five years that I’ve spent working to make this county and our world a better place, came full circle. I was in the most powerful city in the country, telling my story to the most powerful people that run it. I had the opportunity to run meetings with legislative aids at the offices of Bernard Sanders and Peter Welch asking them to help us help the world by protecting these service year opportunities. I’m currently in the midst of writing an apology letter to Bernie, as I stood 10 feet away from him, saw his distinctive white hair, dropped both my purse and jaw and screamed in the middle of the Capitol Building. Yes, this is true. I wish it wasn’t.

Coming back from this trip, I had perspective. I knew I needed to take everything I had learned in DC and use it to mobilize Castleton. Since, Emma and I have co-founded a Service Year chapter here at CU called Service Year Campus. We hosted a kick-off event that was a smashing success. We had AmeriCorps Members from all over Vermont come tell their service stories, we letter-wrote our respective congressional offices, we signed the petition to save national service, and we MOBILIZED CU to both support and partake in service years.

It is with the utmost pride, hope and inspiration that I walk across the stage in just a few short weeks knowing that I helped create a movement here at Castleton. A service movement. The legacy is not what’s important to me, but the outcome is. CU is about to undergo a massive movement that will touch the lives of students, encourage them to serve and furthermore, give back to our country as there is more than one way to serve it.

Thank you Castleton, thank you Service Year, and thank you, service, for you were a much better companion to me than a solo cup over the last five years. #ServiceIsLit