Q & A: The AmeriCorps Member Who Served with the President

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United We Serve
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By: 
Adriana Lopez

Last week Americans around the country commemorated the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks with prayer, reflection, and remembrance. 

Like thousands of Americans, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama marked the day with service. In fact, President Obama served next to an AmeriCorps member in Washington, D.C.

President Obama serves with AmeriCorps member, John Tamariz and other volunteers at Food & Friends in Washington, DC on September 11, 2013. [Chris Burch Photography]

We caught up with that AmeriCorps member, John Tamariz, and asked him about this experience.

John, where are you from?

I was born and raised in Miami, FL. My mother and father were both born in Cuenca, Ecuador.

What were you doing before AmeriCorps?

I actually graduated in 2012 from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Health Science.

What drew you to Food & Friends?

What drew me in to Food & Friends was its focus on food and nutrition. Those areas are very important to my lifestyle and I hope to incorporate them into my future career. After reading more about this organization, I felt that it fit best with my views, personality, and interests.

Though you've only been on board for a few months, what do you like so far about serving with AmeriCorps? And with Food & Friends?

Actually this is my second AmeriCorps program. My first program was FEMA Corps based at the North Central Region. Overall, I am really enjoying my time serving in AmeriCorps. This year, I am joining a program focused on helping the community through health services. From day one, I loved working at Food & Friends: the mission, staff, events, and tasks all fulfill me in ways I have not been previously. They really opened my eyes on how impactful and fulfilling it can be to serve a community.

What was it like serving with the President? Did you tell him any good jokes?

It was surreal to be quite honest. In my head, all I thought was “I am passing a lunch bag to the President of the United States.” He was really into the service we were doing which made the work all the more fun. He was very casual, asking everyone where they were from and making small jokes when everyone got quiet. I asked him random, but more personal questions, such as “Do you ever get used to the spotlight? What do you miss most about living a regular, non-political life? What time do you go to sleep, really?” I asked him those questions rather than political questions because the latter can be found by watching the news.  I really wanted to learn something about the man behind the presidency.

Over the course of the day, I kept saying, “You better speed up, Mr. President.” He would say, “Am I slowing everyone down?” At one point I forgot to add in a banana in the lunch bag and he actually said, “Oops you missed a banana,” and I responded, “Well you know what, if we’re playing that game, I’m going to start checking your bag for missing apples,” – a response at which he actually chuckled. All I thought was “I just made the POTUS laugh… I am officially hilarious.” I mean if you could make the President laugh, then you can make anyone laugh, right?

What is John Tamariz doing five years from now?

I will hopefully be returning for graduate or professional school in the next year or two. I hope I will find work in a non-governmental organization, like Food & Friends, or in a health-related international organization. On another note, I have so many interests, including nutrition, physical fitness, medicine, public health – I wish I had the time and money for them all. But for now, this year is my year to focus on the interests I am most passionate about and how I want to apply them to my career. Food & Friends and AmeriCorps are helping with that.

John Tamariz is an AmeriCorps member with AIDS United and serves at Food & Friends in Washington, DC. 

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