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Serving a Community

Service is a concept that all military families are intimately familiar with. We're familiar with it cause that’s why mom or dad are constantly traveling or deploying, why we're moving every few years. Military service – sacrificing and working for an entire country – can feel like an enormous weight, something that’s hard to wrap your mind around. I still want to give back and help people, but being able to actually do that on a significant scale is years in the future.

As a high school student, the more immediate concern was community service requirements. My requirement was linked to a civics class, but many honors societies or other groups require a certain amount of community service hours. These requirements all make sense - it’s a great way for students to do good and get involved in their community. The challenge comes when it doesn’t feel like your community. Military teens already have enough stress with fitting in, without adding in unfamiliarity about a place and having no idea where to volunteer. It’s more than a little ironic that teenagers in families dedicated to public service end up struggling to find a way to serve.

Curious about how others find a way to fit in, I discovered that Ella W., our internal communications director and a writer, got involved in her school’s sustainability club. In her opinion, getting involved with a club is, as we have all been told, a great way to meet people and make friends. Ella also said that it was “a way of convincing a community that’s a little skeptical of outsiders… that you really do belong there and [are] earning their respect in a way”.

The Internet also allows you to serve within communities that aren’t in geographical proximity. Scrolling through the team bio page on Bloom proves this – a community based on the shared experience of living in many different places (unsurprisingly) has members scattered across the globe, yet it still feel like a community. We’re able to commiserate and celebrate together, compare notes on shared places even if we lived there at totally different times, and have fun virtually.

The Internet has also allowed me to be involved in advocacy for migraine and headache disorders. The Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy (AHDA) connects people with migraine, caregivers, and doctors with their Congressional representation in an annual event called Headache on the Hill. While speaking to Congressional staffers initially seemed daunting, I felt empowered by sharing my story, mostly because I was supported by fellow advocates.

For both Bloom and AHDA, shared experience paired with communication over social media and the Internet created a community spread across the globe that still had the warmth and support of a more traditional, in-person community. These communities have stayed constant across multiple moves, including the transition to college. And, more importantly, are a way to serve two often-overlooked communities that I have personal connections to.

Community looks different for everyone, and adding the geographic turmoil of military life complicates that further. The good news is that there are so many ways to find and get involved with a community, whether that’s joining a school club or finding advocacy groups online. Whatever the specifics are, community and community service are incredibly rewarding, often in ways you can’t anticipate. So ask around your school, apply to join Bloom, or do some research online, and I promise that you can find a community that is right for you.


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