Fostering a Love for Service
By Courtney Halle
With approximately 3,000 student volunteers logging an impressive 107,106 volunteer hours per school year, Madison House fosters a sense of camaraderie through acts of service and interpersonal engagement with members of the Charlottesville community and beyond. Amy Ackerman, the Volunteer Programs Coordinator at Madison House, embodies what Madison House stands for with her excitement and passion for helping others. To her, and to many others, Madison House is a connecting point between the Charlottesville and UVA community.
In her undergraduate college experience, Amy Ackerman realized her passion for public service and decided to seek out a career that would allow her to pursue both her interest in service and in higher education; Madison House turned out to be the perfect fit. When applying to graduate schools, Ackerman noticed an opportunity to apply to be a graduate assistant at Madison House through the Curry School of Education. This internship was a deciding factor in her decision to attend Curry. She told herself “if I get the Madison House internship, then I am going to UVA.” Now, Ackerman has been working at Madison House for two years, one year spent as a graduate assistant and currently as the Volunteer Programs Coordinator. The transition to full-time employee had its challenges, but Ackerman is grateful for the opportunity to work at Madison House. Ackerman explained, “I feel very fortunate to have been hired by the place where I’ve learned so much, and I am thankful to continue to work with some of the greatest students.”
Ackerman has always viewed herself as strongly linked with others through her dedication to service, a theme that encompasses Madison House’s message. For Ackerman, the importance of being a team-player and working towards a common goal has always been meaningful. In college, she was a member of the marching band, and her instructor would constantly remind all members that “you are no longer an individual, but rather, you represent all of us.” Like the marching band, all students are fully representative of Madison House in promoting good through acts of service. Students are happy to be volunteers, and staff are eager to help students reach their full potential while engaging in service for others. Ackerman continues to strive to become a better leader and advisor for students, and her message is inspiring: “Personal growth is the reason why we continue learning. It's why I watch seminars, it’s why I stay involved in a professional organization. Not only do I have to keep learning to be the best and to know the most current practices to help students, but I also have the responsibility of representing Madison House 24/7.”
Madison House illustrates the dedication of the students and staff who believe so strongly in the need to help others. Amy Ackerman sees this daily through her interactions with students. Her favorite part of Madison House is “how you interact with individuals who are open to learning, being challenged, and not being complacent. These individuals do not stand back when something happens in the community, but instead really try to figure out how we can all come together to be a part of change.” Ackerman does not always see the direct impact that Madison House has on the community due to her large responsibility working backstage to ensure that all runs smoothly. However, without Ackerman’s quiet importance and dedication to Madison House, the entire operation would fail to function as successfully as it does today. The unfaltering commitment of Madison House staff allows student volunteers to thrive in service and learn to become well-rounded leaders. For Ackerman, allowing students to embrace student self-governance has been an integral part of her Madison House experience. Ackerman describes that the Madison House volunteers “are really talented students that we work with, and to give them an opportunity to run a program at such a high level...we’re giving them so much responsibility.” Ackerman further details that “To be a part of that process of leadership development is really beautiful.”
In the current heightened political and social climate, Madison House has provided an unfaltering sense of community and support to those who need it the most. Amy Ackerman recognizes the importance of Madison House as a stable figure of hope and trust in the Charlottesville community. Ackerman noted, “I think we’re getting to a point right now where we all need to work together to address the needs of our community...how we can be serving people in collaboration with one another.”
The small house decorated in blue and yellow off of Rugby Road is a place where transformative experiences and inspirational moments occur every day for both students and those who benefit from the service of Madison House. Ackerman explains that Madison House empowers students to be leaders and gives them the tools they need to successfully engage with community members. Madison House actively seeks to address the needs of the community, a mission that the staff is dedicates themselves to, through aiding and collaborating with organizations and outreach programs across Charlottesville. Madison House’s impact is far greater than what the eye can see, and its role in the UVA and Charlottesville community is unparalleled through the devotion of the staff and numerous student volunteers.