Graduating college with an undergraduate degree can be stressful. There is so much to do in the world, and all the possibilities can be overwhelming. This was the issue that Olivia Sokos faced after walking across the stage to get her diploma from West Virginia University.
Olivia had considered going to law school but needed some time to consider her options. The three-year commitment to legal education was daunting, and she wanted to be sure that she was ready for it. To give herself time, Olivia decided to take a gap year.
She wanted to spend her gap year doing meaningful work and helping other people. Having a special connection to Appalachia and her home state, West Virginia, she saw a perfect opportunity to serve people and the communities that have done so much for her.
During her time at WVU, she was faced with Covid-19. This put a damper on things as it forced her to cut her abroad trip short and caused her to struggle to secure internships and job opportunities in a virtual world. She didn’t let this stop her though.
Olivia was active in WVU’s Peace Corps prep program but decided that it was too intense for her to pursue at the moment. She did like to help people though, so when she heard about AmeriCorps through the Peace Corps prep, she was eager to jump on board. Doing a year of service at home was much more appealing. The opportunity fell into her lap, and she was going to take advantage of it.
After some searching, Olivia found herself being called to be a VISTA with the Education Resource Center (ERC) at the NASA Katherine Johnson IV&V Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia. Alongside her team, Olivia works to expand STEM education opportunities across the state. Her main project is the First Star program, which is a college preparation program for high school aged youth in the foster care.
This program worked to bring 26 youth in foster care from all over the state to Fairmont State University’s campus. This First Star program is the first to be done in West Virginia. The project partners with KVC Health Systems. The goal is to expose those in the foster care in West Virginia to opportunities after post-secondary education.
The transition into this position did pose to be a challenge, but she took it with a positive attitude. She jumped into the job without really knowing what she was doing which forced her to step outside her comfort zone and display the confidence others had in her. She was glad she was faced with this challenge at the beginning as it made her more confident in herself and her abilities.
Olivia has called her service fulfilling and said it’s a valuable experience. She has been given the opportunity to help more children in the foster care system graduate high school and to provide them with the tools to be an advocate for themselves. She wants to see these people do the best they can in their lives and show them that they have opportunities in the world to make it far.
AmeriCorps had given her the ability to grow herself both personally and professionally. It has helped to pave her path on where she wants to go next.
She has decided to continue with her education and attend law school. She said, “The purpose of being a lawyer is to be an advocate.” After she finishes law school, she plans to be an advocate for people who needs their voices heard. She cares about the people in West Virginia and wants to help more with the foster care system. She is excited for where her future will take her.
AmeriCorps has given her inspiration, and now she can’t see herself working a job unless it has a meaningful impact on others. She wants to wake up every day knowing that she is making a difference in the lives around her.
It can feel overwhelming in this world sometimes, but there are still actions a person could take to help better themselves and the people around them. It can be easy to feel hopeless, but as the pandemic struck and affected Olivia’s life, she pivoted and created a new path for herself. It wasn’t what she believed she would be doing right after graduating college, but she doesn’t have any regrets. She loves what she does, and she would do it all over again if she could.