AmeriCorps logoSenior Corps logo

 

Our Programs

AmeriStories

Read what AmeriCorps members and alumni have to say about their service experience.

CollegeCommunityCareer image
CollegeCommunityCareer
2016

Would college be an option our CollegeCommunityCareer (CCC) students in the Title I schools we serve?  Perhaps, but for the most part, unless you are in the top 10% in Texas (guaranteed admission to a Texas Public University in Texas), most of our students would end up taking an hourly job after high school graduation with no aspirations of attending  college. 

CollegeCommunityCareer was founded to address the dire need to increase college success among low-income students in the greater Houston area.  CollegeCommunityCareer fosters a college-going culture with low income, first generation high school students and families.  CCC prepares students for admission to and graduation from a four year university based on these four foundational principals: college success, leadership development, civic engagement and career discovery. Our vision is to have employable civically-minded, college graduates.

Our high school program—which begins in grade 10 and continues through senior year—helps low-income students navigate the complex processes of college research and selection, financing, and acceptance, and once they are enrolled, we continue to support them four more years until they get their bachelors degree.

Why start in 10th grade?  Courses begin to get tougher, choices to take AP/Dual Credit begin to be made and students begin to get involved in clubs, organizations.  Students are on the cusp of really committing to making their dream a reality.  CollegeCommunityCareer steps in to boost that dream into reality, help their parents visualize that dream and their teachers to get behind that dream.

Our AmeriCorps VISTA members are helping build the curriculum, build our social media presence, work educating families about financial aid, building partnerships with the businesses and  nonprofits in our  community as well as local school districts so we can serve more students in the Houston area and sustain our growth.  With help from our AmeriCorps VISTA members, CCC has grown from 22 students serving one high school to over 350 students serving 8 high schools and 146 college students.

CollegeCommunityCareer is changing the path for these students and their families as they enter college and graduate with a degree that will earn a wage to lift them out of poverty, giving them a hand up rather than a hand out.  CollegeCommunityCareer is "Changing the face of college success one student and family at a time"

Charles Adams - profile picture
Charles Adams
AmeriCorps 1995 to 1996

Charles Adams began his service career with Public Allies in Washington, DC, in 1995 at the New Community After School Program. During this service, he noted that, “Unbeknownst to me, AmeriCorps would be my road map and my guide.”

Charles' experiences working with children through Public Allies led to a 20-year career as an educator in Brooklyn, NY, Philadelphia, and in Washington, DC, where he is now the head of the SEED Public Charter School.

Teach for America group photo
Teach for America
2016

Brittany Creary teaches 11th grade AP Physics and 12th grade AP Statistics at IDEA College Preparatory Mission in the Rio Grande Valley. She also serves as the Chess Club sponsor, founding Dance Team coach, and the Campus Science Content leader at her school.

“I wanted to become an AmeriCorps member with Teach For America to ensure social justice in an area where there is a lack thereof. I knew that I could use my energy and passion to help youth get to and through college. I want to be the person who changes the perception of how students view education. I continuously strive to uphold the standards of aiding individual and community living standards alike. This opportunity to become an educator means not only to grow in character as an individual, but to also use my resources to contribute to the growth and furtherance of all.

This year I would like my students to be the first to pass the AP Physics exam at my school. We have previously offered the course but the exam has proven incredibly challenging. Through additional outside training and support, I hope to provide students with the opportunity to earn college credit for this course. Additionally, I enjoy the opportunity to build a child’s moral character and critical thinking skills. In life, discussion-making and openness to question is needed to ensure a quality education.

In my classroom I encourage my students to take responsibility for their education. I teach them how to study, how to manage their time, how to be college organized, and how to think smarter and not harder. I know that none of my students will remember every content lesson that I deliver, thus I made it my duty to teach them life skills that they could use during college and for the rest of their lives.

College Signing Day serves as a reminder for me of the reasons that I do what I do every day for my students. I have personally taught every single student who will be walking across the stage at College Signing Day. I know their stories and their families. I know what professions they will pursue once they head to college, I have seen them on their best and their worst days, and I know their full potential. To see one hundred percent of our seniors announce the University they will be attending in the fall literally gives me chills. Like myself, I know that a majority of our students will be first generation college students, and I can only imagine how proud their parents must be.”

Benjamin Blonder - profile picture
Benjamin Blonder
AmeriCorps 2008 to 2009

Dr. Benjamin Blonder co-founded the University of Arizona’s Sky School, a residential science school that provides inquiry-based environmental education on a campus located in the heart of the Coronado National Forest. Because of his efforts, each year hundreds of K-12 students, primarily from Title I schools, are now able to conduct independent research while exploring the unique ecology, geology, and astronomy resources of the region. These experiences are key for inspiring and preparing a more diverse next generation of scientists and conservation leaders.

Benjamin’s vision for the Sky School was inspired by his AmeriCorps service in central Idaho at the McCall Outdoor Science School, a National Science Foundation-supported teaching fellowship in a Tucson public school, and his long-term volunteer leadership with the Sierra Club’s Inner City Outings program, which provides opportunities for urban youth to experience nature. He recently received his Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Arizona.

Christina Bodison - profile picture
Christina Bodison
AmeriCorps VISTA 2013 to 2014

As Christina Bodison navigated a demanding course load at Howard University, the former biology major actively searched for ways to be of service to others.  First, she mentored high school students during an alternative spring break program in Detroit. Then, she researched HIV, AIDS, and the socioeconomic factors that bar access to health care. All of this compelled Christina to join the AmeriCorps VISTA program and the fight against poverty, and she is urging other to do the same.

“I was presented with so many opportunities that allowed me to see the importance of service,” she said. “I learned about giving back to the community I live in.”

As an AmeriCorps VISTA member and volunteer coordinator for the Baltimarket “Virtual Supermarket” Program, Christina found new ways to link residents to healthy and affordable food. Christina managed a team of community volunteers, known as neighborhood food advocates, who help shoppers with transportation challenges submit and pick up their orders. Through this Baltimore City Health Department initiative, she helped raise awareness about the link between poverty and health.

Blair Brettschneider - profile picture
Blair Brettschneider
AmeriCorps VISTA 2010 to 2011

Blair Brettschneider didn’t plan on creating her own nonprofit. But something she imagined had never been done before. So Blair decided to make a change.

That’s when the 25-year-old launched what is now GirlForward, an organization that offers mentorship and educational opportunities for girls who have been uprooted from their war-torn countries. Blair credits her experience with the AmeriCorps VISTA program for exposing her to the plight of refugee youth and their families.

Blair served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member from 2010 to 2011. As part of her responsibilities, she completed fundraising development projects at RefugeeOne, a refugee resettlement agency in Chicago. 

GirlForward, a once modest enterprise, has now grown to one that has served more than 100 girls. In fact, the organization’s success prompted media giant CNN to name her one of its top 24 CNN Heroes for 2013.

Still, Blair’s newfound celebrity has not fully resonated yet.

“When I see people sitting in the office I think, ‘Wow this is an actual organization,’” Blair said. “I’m really proud of everything that we’ve done and I’m also really thankful for all of the support we’ve received.”

Jon Brito - profile picture
Jon Brito
AmeriCorps 2010 to 2013

Jon Brito served three AmeriCorps terms with Kupu's Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps from 2008 to 2013, as a team member, team leader, and a year-long intern. During these terms, Jon engaged the local youth and community members on the rural island of Moloka'i in critical environmental community service and indigenous cultural practices. Jon's commitment to serving the island's land and people has helped protect and restore countless endangered native Hawaiian species and habitats, perpetuate native Hawaiian knowledge and culture, and has inspired other local youth and community members to take an active part in the conservation movement on Molokai. Currently, Jon is a fellow in Kupu's RISE Program, where he is finding ways to make agri-businesses more energy efficient. He is also completing the Electronic and Computer Engineering Technology Program at the University of Hawaii's Maui Campus.

Alex Bryan
Alex Bryan
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Alex Bryan, Garden Project Program Manager, Greater Lansing Food Bank, Michigan

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Alex served in 2005 and 2010 with CA Conservation Corps and Greater Lansing Food Bank, respectively. His experience with the outdoors and the food bank in his two years of AmeriCorps service has led to him managing a community garden support program (100+ community gardens helping 7,000 people access food through gardening), and a farm business development program for lower-income residents and refugees who want to start small farm businesses. In addition, Alex serves as Board President of the National Young Farmers Coalition, which works to lower the barriers to entry into farming. He also co-owns a 4-acre urban farm in the city of Detroit called Food Field. “I learned that the desire to accomplish tasks you set for yourself far outweighs the difficulty in actually accomplishing them. With that and a strong team and good leadership, the most difficult of things can be done.
Kevin C. Miller
Kevin C. Miller
AmeriCorps VISTA AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Kevin C. Miller, Strategic Partnership Associate with Swords to Plowshares

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Kevin (service began in 2013 with Swords to Plowshares) is a former Sergeant in the Marine Corps infantry and multiple-tour Iraq combat veteran. During his time in service, he sustained multiple traumatic brain injuries and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. These factors made Kevin’s transition from military to civilian life difficult. Kevin struggled in his personal life becoming unemployed with multiple DUIs. He found a new direction through an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer position with Swords to Plowshares in California. His experience with AmeriCorps reminded Kevin to “redefine what it means to be ‘successful.’ You cannot dwell on what you cannot change, but you can use your ‘failures’ as motivation to drive towards your own definition of success.” After his service, Swords to Plowshares created a full-time position for Kevin within the Institute for Veteran Policy, and Resource Development & Communications Departments as the Strategic Partnership Associate where he ensures fellow veterans get the services and support they need to prevent chronic homelessness, poverty and untreated mental and physical health issues. 
Brandon Cardet-Hernandez
Brandon Cardet-Hernandez
AmeriCorps NCCC AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, Principal at Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters and Co-Founder of Project Nathanael
 
AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Through AmeriCorps and the New York City Teaching Fellows program (service began in 2007), Brandon strengthened his passion for social justice by focusing his work on equity and access in education. Brandon has experience as a teacher, as the Director of Strategic Initiatives under Chancellor Dennis Walcott (NYC Department of Education), and now as a principal in the South Bronx at the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters. Among other activities, he has led student organizations like the school Gay-Straight Alliance and Student Government and developed deep and rich relationships with students and families, leading to students’ impressive gains in and outside of the classroom. Brandon is committed to service in education because, he says, “when we strategically nurture young people, we are fighting against racial and economic injustice, leading us to develop the next generation of thoughtful, caring, ambitious and service-minded global citizens.”  Brandon also co-founded Project Nathanael, a nonprofit that has developed and supported a tuition free, co-ed school in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. 
Germain Castellanos - profile picture
Germain Castellanos
AmeriCorps 2004 to 2005

Germain Castellanos served in AmeriCorps as a Youth Developer with the Youth Conservation Corps in Waukegan, IL, where he was honored with the title of AmeriCorps Member of the Year in 2005. He has served since 2008 as Program Director for the SHINE Educational Leadership Program, a workforce development program serving over 300 at-risk youth at Waukegan High School—where the student population is more than 70 percent Latino. Germain’s transition from being a recipient of services to a provider of services for at-risk youth earned him the Illinois Governor’s Journey Award in 2008. The son of immigrants from Mexico, Germain also works to create change and opportunity for the residents of his hometown of Waukegan by serving as Vice President of the Habitat for Humanity Lake County Board of Directors; Program Chair and Member of the Board of Directors for Youth Conservation Corps; and as Member of the Lake County Workforce Investment Board’s Youth Council.

Image of Agnes Chavez
Agnes Chavez
AmeriCorps VISTA 2015

Artist and Older American Serving in AmeriCorps VISTA

I am in my second year serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, with a mission to bring individuals and communities out of poverty. We make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency. I am also part of a growing demographic of ‘older adults’ serving within AmeriCorps VISTA. Add to the mix that I am also an artist contributing a unique skill set that is not normally associated with AmeriCorps VISTA service and you might be asking, so how is that working out?
 
Why the Arts?
 
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2018 New Mexico will need to fill 53,000 STEM-related jobs. To address this, STEM to STEAM is an initiative to add art and design to the agenda of STEM education and research in America. A recent rewrite of the nation’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) legislation will now integrate the arts into STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math). According to the latest research, for students to be prepared and job ready in the new economy, creativity and innovation are just as essential as reading and math.
 
How I got involved
 
I have been a practicing artist for over 30 years, and like many mature artists out there, we have specific skills that are under-utilized in todays’ society. In 2009, I started an R&D project called STEMarts to bring new media artists into the classroom to develop STEAM skills and explore new roles for the artist in our society. In 2015 I heard about Andrea Polli’s AmeriCorps VISTA project, Help Build Capacity for STEAM Education in New Mexico, through The Social Media Workgroup (SMW) which investigates the social and ecological impacts of media technology through practice-based research. Based at the University of New Mexico, the group designs and creates projects related to media technology, environment and social change. As one of five AmeriCorps VISTA members selected for this project, my role as STEAM Innovator and Networker for Northern New Mexico, is to strengthen an existing network of partners and sustainable funding sources to support the education and employment of students, along with emerging professionals, parents and other community members throughout the state in STEAM fields.
 
Has it worked out?
 
It is an exciting time because decision makers are waking up to the value of the arts, science, and technology and there is much work to be done developing innovative STEAM educational programs and employment opportunities for students and educators. By pooling resources, reporting on outcomes, learning about ‘capacity building’, and laser-focusing on a shared goal, I have been able to have more impact and reach than was possible on my own.
 
It has been an incredibly rewarding experience and I highly recommend to older adults and seasoned artists to explore the AmeriCorps VISTA job postings.  My advice is to find an organization that resonates with your passion and is doing similar projects. In this way the work becomes seamlessly aligned. I also would recommend to AmeriCorps VISTA administrators to seek out older adult artists as a valuable under-utilized resource. Artists are innovative problem solvers, know how to make something out of nothing, and are always volunteering their time and donating work to help their community and make the world a better place. Who better to help carry out the AmeriCorps VISTA mission of ending poverty in America?
 
Below are some examples of projects have been developed as part of this collaboration to date:
 
For more information on AmeriCorps VISTA opportunities throughout the country, go to www.nationalservice.gov/VISTA
William Consuegra
William Consuegra
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
William Consuegra, Economic Development Representative for the New Mexico State Land Office

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
In the 20 years since he was sworn in, William (service began in 1994 with Texas Youth Harvest as a high school senior) shares, “I have carried the AmeriCorps commitment and pledge with me every day over the past 20 years and am very glad that I can say that I have been getting things done since my swearing in.” William, who went on to earn a law degree, has worked in business development at the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, facilitated international education and real estate opportunities for global organizations, led national service reviews with the Corporation for National and Community Service, and worked with both sides of the political aisle to build renewable energy and economic development projects for his home state of New Mexico. 
College Advising Corps advisers visit the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. This year, 532 advisers have been placed in 531 high schools across the nation, where they are serving more than 160,000 students
College Advising Corps
2016
Did you know that, on average, students spend less than 20 minutes per year with their school counselor? Nationally, the student-to-counselor ratio is over 450 to 1, which means that many students aren’t getting the guidance and support they need to prepare for and apply to college. This is especially true among America’s highest need students, who often receive the least assistance navigating the complex college admissions and financial aid processes. College Advising Corps works in high schools throughout the nation to increase the number of low-income, first-generation college and underrepresented high school students who enter and complete higher education. To do this, we place well-trained, recent college graduates from 24 partner institutions of higher education as full-time college advisers in our nation’s high schools. In the 2015­2016 school year, 532 advisers have been placed in 531 high schools and are serving more than 160,000 students. Our advisers are close in age and background to the students they serve – this year, more than 70 percent of advisers are low-income, first-generation college and/or underrepresented themselves – which means they can connect with students in ways that others often cannot. 
 
As a result of their service to students and collaboration with families and school staff, advisers learn new skills that enable them to pursue a variety of career paths upon the conclusion of their two-year service with College Advising Corps. Many alumni are so inspired by their experience that they ultimately decide to pursue a career in college advising, college admissions, or higher education administration. Two former advisers, Aiyah Josiah-Faeduwor (who served with the Brown University College Advising Corps from 2013-2015) and Christine Shanaberger (who served with the Pennsylvania College Advising Corps from 2008-2010) share more about their experiences below.
 
Aiyah: As college advisers, our role is to look at everything our students bring to the table, empower them to believe in their capabilities, and advocate for them in every way and space we can. We provide choice to the choice-less and voice to the voiceless. Our students, typically described as “at-risk,” often don’t realize they are truly “at-promise.” The support of college advisers who acknowledge, respect, and recognize who our students are beyond their test scores and transcripts can transform how students view their potential and future. Effective advising requires listening to our students’ stories, building reservoirs of trust with our students and school communities, as well as seeking and providing resources far beyond their radars.
 
I see myself in many of my students. Anthony was one of those students. When I reflect upon Anthony’s story, it reminds me of my own in many ways. As the only male in his family and the youngest child, there was immense pressure on him to succeed yet not much direction to show him how. His older sisters had gone to college, but as a young male of color, his experience in school had been starkly different. I met Anthony while he was a “C” student – serious, yet not seemingly motivated, he spent much of his time beatboxing in the hallways. One day, I rhythmically communicated to him, “If he didn’t get to class and calculate his math, the self-fulfilling prophecy will most certainly come to pass.” Impressed with my lyrical cadence, Anthony and I connected immediately. I had his respect, and I gave him mine. Anthony was in my office the next day. He opened up to me, and I listened, believed, and invested in him. He became one of my most ambitious and hard working students. Throughout his senior year of high school and freshmen year of community college, I have remained Anthony’s adviser and mentor. I am proud of all he has accomplished today.
 
Christine: Neither of my parents had earned a bachelor’s degree, so I had to figure out how to navigate the college search and application process by myself. I spent a lot of time in high school poring through online guides, observing my college-going friends, and pestering my teachers to review application essays. So although it took joining College Advising Corps for me to learn that college access was a field of work, scholarship, and advocacy, I had been living college access for years. My time with College Advising Corps allowed me think differently about education as a system and solidified my passion for making a college education available to anyone who seeks it. As a first-generation student, I knew my own experience, but my time as an adviser made me think more holistically about the K-12 structure and how this feeds (or doesn’t feed) students into postsecondary options that set them up for varying degrees of success. 
 
Being an adviser also exposed me to so many careers in education – from K-12 teachers and administrators, to admissions and financial aid officers, to institutional assessment and fundraising professionals, to education policymakers. Helping students think about their futures also taught me about other professions, how education for various fields differed, and even how people talk about their work. This gave me a clearer picture of what opportunities existed for me after College Advising Corps. It also forced me to start thinking about my own professional values and goals, and how I would translate my experience as a student and an adviser into tangible skills that I could carry into my own career. 
 
Learn more about College Advising Corps here
 
Jorell “Joey” Diaz - profile picture
Jorell “Joey” Diaz
AmeriCorps 2012 to 2014

Jorell “Joey” Diaz was born in 1991 into an unstable household. He was adopted by his grandparents, whom he lost at the young age of eight. Joey then entered the foster care system in the South Bronx, joining a house of eight children. During his freshman year of high school, he dropped out of school along with his foster brother, who had become his best friend. One day while Joey was skipping school, he witnessed his foster brother die from a stray bullet. This devastating experience motivated him to re-enroll in high school and graduate on time. Joey got a full scholarship to attend Trinity College in Hartford, CT, and graduated in 2013 with a degree in Education and Urban Studies. Putting his degree to use, Joey joined City Year New York in the summer of 2013. He served as an AmeriCorps member at PS/MS 57 in East Harlem, NY, where he partnered with teachers to help keep students in school and on track to succeed. After completing his first service year, Joey returned to City Year as a Senior AmeriCorps Member and Team Leader at the same school, where he continues to serve today.

George Dong
George Dong
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
George Dong, Director of Operations at Teach For America Chicago, Founder of Education in Sight

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Through his experiences as a Teach For America corps member, George (service began in 2009) found his passion lies in the intersection of public service and education. “AmeriCorps was not a short-term commitment but a lifetime commitment to service,” George says. While serving in the inner city of Chicago for two years, he was awarded the Teacher of the Year award in recognition of his dedication to education and to each of his students' academic success. George is now the Director of Operations at Teach For America Chicago. George has also started Education in Sight, a nonprofit aiming to give all low-income communities access to quality eye-care services. Today, Education in Sight has served more than 20,000 students. George was awarded Teach For America's social innovation award and the Yale School of Management's education business plan competition. 
Deenie Espinoza
Deenie Espinoza
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Deenie Espinoza, Online Academic Advisor and Success Coach for The Learning House

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Deenie began her chapter with Pima Family Literacy in Arizona as a GED student, and then became their first AmeriCorps member in 1994. After one year as a member, she joined their staff and led advocacy efforts for Arizona adult education and family literacy programs. She obtained her Bachelor of Science in Education and is currently pursuing her master’s degree. In her current position as an Online Academic Advisor and Success Coach for The Learning House, she is mentoring and guiding students to help them reach their goals. “As an AmeriCorps member, I learned as much as I needed to know about servant leadership,” she says. “As an AmeriCorps alum, I carry that spirit of volunteering still with me today. I know I’m connecting with a community in a meaningful way when I’m planting trees, providing financial literacy coaching or working side by side with others in a neighborhood cleanup.”
Image of Tom Ferraro
Tom Ferraro
AmeriCorps VISTA 2016

A Senior Adventure: Joining the War on Poverty

By: Tom Ferraro

DAVIDSONVILLE, Md. – Starting to feel old and bored, I needed a new adventure. So at 67, I enlisted in the “war on poverty” by joining AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), whose ranks are dominated by recent college graduates.
 
I graduated from college in the 1970s, long before laptops, iPhones or the formalization of “a gap year” for young adults to find themselves. After a 45-year career as a news reporter, I suddenly found myself retired. I played tennis three times a week, went to senior-discounted movies and took daily walks with my dog, Milo.
 
Wanting a more rewarding activity, and figuring it was time to give back, I remembered VISTA, the “domestic Peace Corps,” created a half century ago by President Lyndon Johnson as part of his “War on Poverty.”
 
I applied, was accepted, and went to a week of training. On the final day, I stood with my young classmates, raised my right hand and was sworn in.
 
I got assigned to do my year of service at Building Families for Children, a century-old nonprofit headquartered in Columbia, Md., and dedicated to giving at risk-children and parents a fresh start.
 
From the first week, I’ve been asked, “How do you like your job?” It’s a difficult question to answer.
 
My job, as Johnson explained in the 1960s, is to be among the “front line volunteers in our war against poverty.” And as I and other trainees were told, “Fighting poverty isn’t rocket science. It’s tougher.” So much tougher that I find it uncomfortable to say, “I enjoy my job.”
 
The work is frustrating, often agonizing. More people are hurting than we are helping. They include single moms, homeless children and foster kids who have been abused, traumatized and discarded. Their sin is that they lost life’s biggest lottery by being born into poverty.
 
Like the newborn baby whose unemployed parents lived in a tent, the homeless girl found digging through trash for food and the boy sold for drugs by his addicted mother. Despite such suffering, I don’t dislike my job. How could I?
 
That’s because we do make progress. At least for some folks, on some days. Like the teenage boy who bounced in and out of a dozen foster homes and institutions before we placed him with a “tough-love” couple, one who he could finally embrace as “Mom and Dad.” Still, he was suspended from high school eight times before he buckled down and graduated with honors.
 
Like the homeless mom who planned to put her two children up for adoption. We came to the rescue by having one of our volunteer “host families” temporarily care for her kids. This gave mom time to find a job and a place to live. Now reunited with her children, she says, “We’re happy.”
 
These were victories worth celebrating. But other times, it’s hard to tell whether what we do is helping.
 
On a Friday night, I got a call from a single mother evicted from her apartment with her three children. “Please help,” she said. I made a few calls, and they ended up spending the weekend at a motel free of charge. On Monday, she was again looking for a place to live and refusing to let go of her children - even for a day or so.
 
“I can’t give up my kids,” she said when I suggested that she let one of our trained volunteers briefly house them. “No.”
 
 “Okay,” I said. “But call me back if needed.”
 
I never heard back from her, and still wonder what happened.
 
At Building Families, I work to increase our profile and clout by writing stories about those we help, collaborating with churches, businesses and community leaders, raising money and recruiting volunteers. But much more must be done.
 
In the meantime, I have an answer when asked, “How do you like your job?” I say, “It’s a challenge, a worthy one.”
 
I’m glad I’m here. It beats playing tennis or going to the movies, which I now rarely do. But I still walk my dog each day. It’s nice to have something in life that’s easy.
 
Thomas Ferraro lives in Davidsonville, Md. 
 
For more information on AmeriCorps VISTA opportunities throughout the country, go to www.nationalservice.gov/VISTA

 

John Fetterman - profile picture
John Fetterman
AmeriCorps 1995 to 1997

John Fetterman was attracted to Braddock, PA, by the town's tragic arc of history and malignant beauty. Founded around the site of Andrew Carnegie's first steel mill, Braddock's fortunes declined in lockstep with the American steel industry. As the town's population fell from a peak of more than 20,000 to just 2,300, its buildings, infrastructure, and economy unraveled. With 90 percent of everything lost – population, buildings, homes, and businesses – the challenges seemed insurmountable. John, an AmeriCorps alumnus and Harvard graduate with a Master's Degree in Public Policy, moved to Braddock in 2001.

Four years later John became the town's mayor – winning the election by a single vote  –  and has been at the forefront of a massive effort to revitalize the once- prosperous town ever since. In 2009, John won a second term by nearly a 3-to-1 margin. A relentless advocate for reimagining and redesigning Braddock, Mayor Fetterman's focus on creating safer a safer, most just Braddock, youth-oriented programs, attracting artists and other “creatives" to his community and to pursuing green urban renewal and economic development have been recognized in The New York Times, The Atlantic and The Guardian, and on CNBC, CNN, CBS News, “The Colbert Report” and “Real Time with Bill Maher.” In 2012, John was honored as a Champion of Change during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House.

Ely Flores - profile picture
Ely Flores
AmeriCorps

My story is common for a child raised in a single-parent household in an under-resourced and disenfranchised community. My father abandoned my family when I was young and, in my neighborhood, young offenders were more often sent to prison than to rehabilitation programs. I grew up in south Hollywood and South Central Los Angeles. Lacking a steady home life, I took to the streets and found violence as the only way to face my daily problems. My gang lifestyle eventually led to incarceration. I was in and out of prison for four years, until I realized that staying out of the penal system for good meant making profound changes in my life.

It is deeply important for youth who are in the challenging situation I once faced – being out of school and out of work – to know that there are organizations and individuals in every community that care about providing support needed to lead a life of success and integrity.  For me, this support came through two AmeriCorps programs: LA CAUSA YouthBuild and Public Allies.

LA CAUSA YouthBuild came into my life at age 17 when I was still in prison and about to become a father. The people at YouthBuild introduced me to self-accountability as I struggled to experience a positive transformation. They didn’t define me according to past crimes, but rather, embraced me with acceptance and trust. 

My development was by no means a quick process. I needed a safe space in which to grow and make mistakes. I needed time to develop confidence and self-awareness. Without the support of a role model and mentor, I could not have taken the steps necessary to improve my life. My YouthBuild program director, Alejandro Covarrubias, spoke to us on our level—he knew how to gain our trust and respect. Alejandro became a friend and a mentor to all of the young people in my cohort. He was never the “director” or the decision-maker – he was just another human being connecting with us.

My time with Public Allies allowed me to see others who looked like me and were taking on the challenge of getting an education and developing leadership skills. They inspired me to do the same. AmeriCorps members helped me to understand that I had a voice that could be used to engage public leaders and pursue change.  It was the positive influence of my peers that helped me turn my ideas into transformative social action including providing affordable housing for homeless and low-income people in my community.

Today, I am an activist. I have a passion for community organizing and providing youth with leadership development opportunities. I believe in solution-based social justice.  One of my contributions has been founding Leadership through Empowerment, Action and Dialogue (LEAD) in Los Angeles, California, which has trained more than 200 underresourced youth in legal education, social justice, and community activism.

There are many people who tell youth, “You are the future.” While I believe in empowering youth, I don’t believe this is the right message.  I believe that we are the now—not just the future. We need only one person to believe in us and show us the way. There are others like me who want to be a part of the community and contribute to it in positive ways.

I once heard that “Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are – precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way.” I live my life encouraging others to learn from their mistakes and to approach situations with the solution-oriented spirit that helped me get off the track of violence and crime, and into a life of public service.

My path is a testament to the notion that it’s possible to turn your life around if you’re given the chance.  I live to make sure that others have the same opportunity.

Ely Flores is President of Leadership Through Empowerment Action And Dialogue Inc. in Commerce, CA.

Anuj Gupta
Anuj Gupta
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Anuj Gupta, Executive Director, Mt. Airy USA

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Anuj's service (service began in 1996, City Year Boston) shaped the arc of his career as a lawyer, city government manager and community leader to affect social change for Philadelphia and its diverse populations. Anuj says, "Our impact as AmeriCorps volunteers should be measured by how well we meet the imperative of a lifetime of service that we face, not just the year(s) of service we gave in AmeriCorps.” As Executive Director of Mt. Airy USA, a comprehensive non-profit community development corporation, Anuj establishes community partnerships and aligns resources—real estate development, commercial corridor revitalization and housing counseling—to strengthen one of Northwest Philadelphia’s most diverse neighborhoods. Last fall, his leadership led to the organization's most transformative project to date: Reclaiming a 20-year, blighted land plot and re-imagining this 4-acre site as a second campus for the successful K-8 Wissahickon Charter School which will serve as a national model for environmentally centered public education in the heart of the city.
Yamani Hernandez
Yamani Hernandez
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Yamani’s AmeriCorps experience (service began in 1997, Public Allies Chicago) began her journey from youth leadership to executive leadership as a staunch advocate for youth-adult partnerships in the pursuit of healthy communities. She believes all youth deserve to be safe, affirmed and healthy. Yamani is a visionary and strategic leader who has worked across disciplines for more than 15 years to amplify the rights and realities of young people. Throughout her interdisciplinary career, she has worked with diverse populations of people ranging from girls and women who are homeless to men who are incarcerated in maximum-security prisons on topics ranging from art and culture to personal and community development, social change, workforce development, civic participation and philanthropy. She firmly believes in the interrelated nature of social justice issues and uses both a creative and analytical skill set to tackle the most critical challenges of our time in creating equal opportunity and access to education, health and economic security.
 
Noelle Ito - profile picture
Noelle Ito
AmeriCorps 2001 to 2002

Noelle Ito served as an AmeriCorps National Youth Project Fellow from 2001-2002. She completed 900 hours of service at New Community After School and Advocacy Program and participated in weekly leadership trainings through the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice & Human Rights.

Noelle currently serves as the Director of Community Philanthropy at Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP), a national membership and philanthropic advocacy organization dedicated to advancing philanthropy and Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. In her role at AAPIP, Noelle is shepherding AAPIP’s five-year Giving Circle Campaign to develop 50 giving circles and launch a national giving circle movement to build democratic philanthropy. In 2012, she was honored as a Champion of Change during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House.

Kyle Kimball
Kyle Kimball
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Kyle Kimball, President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Kyle served in 1994 at AIDS Outreach in Birmingham, Alabama, at a time when there was still a lot of mystery surrounding HIV and AIDS.   Kyle recalls, “I wasn’t making very much money and spent my days traveling by bike to reach patients. Most days were painfully sad.”  Kyle is now President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) under Mayor Bill de Blasio. As President, Kyle leads NYCEDC’s continued efforts to position New York City as the global center for innovation and to increase economic empowerment and mobility for all New Yorkers. He served in the same role under Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He was also previously the Executive Director of NYCEDC and the Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer after overseeing the Real Estate Transaction Services Group. Kyle previously worked at Goldman, Sachs & Co. as a Vice President, and at J.P. Morgan, also as a Vice President.  
 
Leroy "JR" LaPlante
Leroy "JR" LaPlante
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Leroy "JR" LaPlante

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
JR, an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, has been passionate about improving government and tribal relations all his life. JR served as an AmeriCorps Legal Fellow with South Dakota Access to Justice in 2009. After that, he opened a private law practice serving the needs of tribes in the state and served as Chief Justice for the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe. Thanks to the knowledge and confidence JR gained as an AmeriCorps member, he’s now the first Secretary of Tribal Relations in his home state of South Dakota, appointed by the governor.  In his daily life, JR says, “I carry the AmeriCorps values – lead, serve others and get things done – every day, and I foster those values among my staff and the people I work with in state and tribal government. Living these values daily has put my career on a lifelong trajectory of public service.”
Matthew Little
Matthew Little
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner

Matthew Little, First-Year Experience Director at University of North Alabama

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner

Matthew is from the mountains of east Tennessee, the son of teenage parents. He spent most of his young life growing up in a trailer park with no way to fund his dream of going to college. In the face of hardship came City Year (service began in 1994 in Boston). Matthew shares that “through it all, I was given inspiration, inspiration from my students, students who came to me with Fs and left my homework club with As.” Since that time he has gotten his master's degree and is now working on his doctorate. He has spent the last 20 years working with students at elementary schools, high schools, community colleges, and universities, and trying to encourage service. Matthew says, “AmeriCorps provided me with confidence and opportunities I never thought I would have, and it did the same for my brother who served with NCCC  11 years after my first service year. Serving others became as much a part of my life as breathing, and my daughter benefits every day from my experience in AmeriCorps.”

Dr. Dayna Long
Dr. Dayna Long
AmeriCorps VISTA AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Dr. Dayna Long, Attending Physician at USCF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, California

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Dayna (AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer service began in 1994) served as a peer health educator at the L.A. Free Clinic with Project Able. Twenty years later, Dayna is a pediatrician at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland working in the Primary Care Clinic and the Emergency Department. As a result of witnessing the ramifications of poverty and trauma on children, she founded and serves as the Co-Medical Director of the Family Information and Navigation Desk (FIND). FIND addresses the social and environmental factors that profoundly impact health. In addition, Dayna is her hospital’s spokeswoman for the Too Small to Fail: Talk, Read, Sing Initiative sponsored by the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. Dayna is also Medical Director of ATTACK Asthma Clinic which provides asthma education and management to children and families following a visit to an emergency room. During the summer, she is the Medical Director of Camp Breathe Easy, a sleep-away camp for underrepresented children who have asthma. 
Stefanie Mach
Stefanie Mach
AmeriCorps NCCC AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Stefanie Mach, Representative, Arizona State House of Representatives (Legislative District 10 in Tucson, AZ) 

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Stefanie (service began in 2002, AmeriCorps NCCC) dedicated a year of service to our country with AmeriCorps NCCC after the September 11 attacks. In that year, she responded to a flood disaster with the American Red Cross, taught elementary school children, built hiking trails, helped construct five houses with Habitat for Humanity and maintained a wildlife preserve. As a military kid, she grew up believing in the value of service and a strong work ethic. After surviving a traumatic injury when she was young, Stefanie became the first in her family to go to college, eventually earning a master's in public policy from Brown University and starting her own small business consulting with non-profit organizations. Elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2012, Stefanie proudly continues her work to make communities safer, smarter and healthier
Seth Marbin - profile picture
Seth Marbin
AmeriCorps 1996 to 1999

As a Program Manager on Google’s Social Responsibility Team, Seth Marbin helps encourage and enable employees to use their skills, talents, and resources to have an extraordinary impact on the world through service and philanthropy. He joined Google after five years in the social sector – first as a three-time AmeriCorps member, then as a founder of City Year New Hampshire. 

Seth was selected as a First Movers Fellow with the Aspen Institute’s Business and Society Program and served on the steering committee of CaliforniaVolunteers Business Partner Program. He founded and maintains Teampedia.net, a free, collaborative encyclopedia of team-building activities and ice breakers. Seth also sits on the National Advisory Council of AmeriCorps Alums, and was honored as a White House Champion of Change in 2012 during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House. He graduated from Brown University, where he studied the intersection of public and private sector organizations and social entrepreneurship. Seth lives in Alameda, CA, with his wife Jyothi, daughter Kaia, and son Jahan.

Marissa Mikoy - profile picture
Marissa Mikoy
AmeriCorps VISTA

Marissa Castro Mikoy began her post-college career as an AmeriCorps VISTA member for the nonprofit University Settlement in the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  After her time in New York, she returned to her home state of Texas and led an Even Start Family Literacy Program for under-resourced families in West Dallas. The program focused on arming parents with the skills and knowledge to not only to be their child’s first and most important teacher in life, but to also propel their own education by way of attaining their GED and gaining access to college or a trade.

Marissa then went to work with United Way of Metropolitan Dallas and raised more than $1 million on behalf of hundreds of different local, state, and national nonprofits through the State Employee Charitable Campaign and the Dallas City Charitable Campaign. She then moved to Washington, DC, and went to work for First Book, a national literacy nonprofit that provides free books to schools and nonprofits throughout the United States.

Wanting to return to making more of a “direct impact,” Marissa went to work for the DC community organization CentroNia where she was the founding Director of a bilingual early childhood satellite location for more than 100 under-resourced families. After leading that program for four years, she went to work for the DC Public Charter School Board and served as an early childhood specialist and oversight officer for DC Public Charter Schools.

Marissa has returned to Texas and serves as the Director of Operations and Evaluation for the Teaching Trust, an education reform, principal preparation nonprofit. She lives in Richardson, Texas, with her husband Chris and 2-year-old son, Xavier. In 2012, Marissa was honored as a Champion of Change during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House.

Earl Millett Jr. - profile picture
Earl Millett Jr.
AmeriCorps 2000 to 2001

Earl Millet Jr. began his career in service in 2000 when he joined AmeriCorps as a full-time member serving with Volunteer Maryland. He worked to establish a formal volunteer program at Garden Harvest, a Maryland organic farm that donates its produce to soup kitchens and homeless shelters. Earl began a second full-time term with Volunteer Maryland in 2001, mentoring 12 new AmeriCorps members and helping them establish volunteer programs at small nonprofit organizations.

He served as an Environment/Forestry Volunteer in Ecuador from 2003-2005 and as a Crisis Corps (now Peace Corps Response) volunteer in New Orleans in response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Early in 2006, Earl joined Civic Works as a Volunteer Coordinator, helping others benefit from the opportunities he enjoyed serving in AmeriCorps. Since then, he has worked to develop new programs and acquire new funding, expanding Civic Works’ capacity in volunteers and clients served. Earl currently directs several programs, handling management of supervisors and administration of budgets. He stays involved on a day-to day-basis talking to prospective AmeriCorps members to determine their best fit, and as a resource for all Civic Works members during and after service.

Tim Morehouse - profile picture
Tim Morehouse
AmeriCorps 2000 to 2002

Tim Morehouse is a New York City native and AmeriCorps Teach for America alum who served as a 7th-grade teacher at Intermediate School 90 in Washington Heights, Manhattan, from 2000-2003. He worked at the organization in New York City from 2004-2008, where he trained and mentored teachers working in the East Bronx.

Tim is an Olympic silver medalist in fencing two-time individual U.S. National Champion, seven-time world cup medalist, and was the No.1-ranked U.S. men's saber fencer from 2008-2011. He is a three-time Olympic team member and most recently finished 8th at the London Olympic Games. Tim is unique in that he worked full-time while pursuing his Olympic dream.

After the 2008 Olympics, Tim worked to promote the sport of fencing and established programs to attract new participants to the sport. As a motivational speaker, he has spoken to more than  30,000 children and young people in urban schools about his Olympic story. He has also given presentations to Fortune 100 and 500 organizations. He was the youngest recipient of Brandeis University's Alumni Achievement Award in 2010 for his achievements as an athlete and his work with Teach For America, and he was named by Fast Company as one of the most influential alumni of Teach For America.

In 2011, Tim founded the Fencing-in-the-Schools foundation – a non-profit program dedicated to bringing the sport of fencing to under-served communities throughout the country. He is the author of the book, "American Fencer: Modern Lessons from an Ancient Sport" (2012), in which he shares experiences as an Olympic athlete and teacher. In 2012, Tim was honored as a Champion of Change during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House.

Delores Morton - profile picture
Delores Morton
AmeriCorps 1995

Delores Morton began her career in the voluntary sector in 1995 as an AmeriCorps member in her home community of St. Mary Parish, LA. She currently serves as the president of Points of Light’s Programs Division where she is responsible for developing program initiatives and models to address the organizations core impact areas – education, economy, environment, emergency response and preparedness, and veterans and military families.

Prior to joining to Points of Light, Delores served as the Director of the Center for Nonprofit Resources at Volunteer Baton Rouge, Executive Director of the Louisiana Association for Community Economic Development, and the Chair of the Mid South Collaborative for Nonprofit Development. In 2012, Delores was honored as a Champion of Change during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House.

Mona Mowafi
Mona Mowafi
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Mona Mowafi, Co-Founder & President, RISE Egypt 

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Mona (service began in 1999, Latin American Youth Center, Health Educator in Washington D.C.) is Co-Founder and President of RISE Egypt, an organization mobilizing the global Egyptian diaspora and its networks to invest in social entrepreneurship for development in Egypt. Mona was also Co-Founder and President of Egypt NEGMA from 2011-2013, and was Chair of its 1st Annual NEGMA Conference and Impact Egypt! Social Innovation Competition. She was awarded a global health research award for emerging leaders by the Global Health Council in 2011, and was recently awarded the Judith O’Connor Award for emerging nonprofit leaders from BoardSource. Mona holds a doctorate in social epidemiology from Harvard University where she also worked as a research fellow for two years planning her current work in global development practice, research, policy and service. Mona says “it is through service that we gain a deeper understanding not only of the communities around us but also of ourselves.” 
Xavier Munoz - profile picture
Xavier Munoz
AmeriCorps 2012 to 2014

As an AmeriCorps member with the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia, Xavier Munoz has been teaching English to adult immigrants and refugees in family literacy and beginning-level ESOL classes since September 2012. In addition to teaching full-time, he leads a staff task force to compile and design an online collection of instructional resources suitable for use by learners with low levels of English language proficiency.

Raised in Tampa, FL, and the younger son of two naturalized immigrants, Xavier has a B.A. in Human Biology from Stanford University and plans to pursue an M.A. in TESOL in the near future. He started in adult education as a volunteer literacy tutor with I CAN Community Education Coalition in Tampa and came to Northern Virginia to foster that budding interest. He credits the adults in his classes and his experience serving with AmeriCorps for giving direction to his future and takes to heart the mission of the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia to empower adults through English language instruction to “participate more fully and confidently in their communities.” Although advancing from point A to point B comes from the students themselves, being a part of their journey convinces him of a teacher’s potential to be a catalyst for change.

Monica Owens - profile picture
Monica Owens
AmeriCorps NCCC 2005 to 2006

Monica Owens was serving in AmeriCorps NCCC when Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005. After her AmeriCorps service ended, she wanted to continue to serve—so she moved to South Mississippi to work with the Red Cross in hurricane recovery, starting as a case manager who worked to help families get back into their homes.

Now the Warner Robins, GA, native is a Community Resilience Coordinator for the Red Cross in South Mississippi, pilot testing a new strategy for the Red Cross to build resilience at the community level by leveraging and connecting community networks. Monica has brought together diverse community stakeholders and leaders to take action around significant risks and vulnerabilities: for example, Monica helped bridge cultural barriers between first responders and non-English speaking populations, resulting in better communication when home fires and other emergencies strike.

Dwight Owens - profile picture
Dwight Owens
AmeriCorps 2008 to 2010

Nine years ago, Dwight Owens was cruising down the road to success. He was a teacher and a football coach and was only 23 years old. Dwight's plans came to a screeching halt on Highway 84 in Collins, Mississippi, when he was hit by a drunk driver. After going into cardiac arrest as a result of suffering several life-threatening injuries, he was on life support for 48 hours. When Dwight woke up, he was permanently paralyzed and expected to die. Dwight did not die.

Instead, he fought through months of rehabilitation and gained back basic functions and independence. Then, Dwight dedicated the life he had almost lost to serving others. He served for two year as an AmeriCorps members with Project LINC (Linking Individuals Into Neighborhoods and Communities) in Mississippi.

As an AmeriCorps member, Dwight provided peer support to more than 1,200 individuals with disabilities. He completed 48 site surveys to ensure accessibility for persons with disabilities and provided more than 300 life skills training sessions to increase independence for Mississippians with disabilities. He also helped many individuals transition from public institutions to their own homes, and started a “Men with Disabilities” support group encouraging independence and leadership. As a result of Dwight's AmeriCorps service, many Mississippians with disabilities are active, productive members of their communities.

Dwight says that AmeriCorps increased his self-confidence and taught him he could inspire others through his own struggle for independence. Since his accident, Dwight has used his teaching experience to conduct many presentations in schools, churches, and prisons to discourage drinking and driving.  Reflecting on his national service experience, Dwight says, “You can’t help but feel good when you are helping other people smile.” Dwight was named a 2010 Spirit of Service Award winner by the Corporation for National and Community Service. 

Shonak Patel - profile picture
Shonak Patel
AmeriCorps 2009 to 2010

Shonak Patel served with AmeriCorps in 2009 with the Louisiana Delta Service Corps as the Finance and Development Fellow with the New Orleans Neighborhood Development Collaborative (NONDC) in New Orleans, LA. He currently works as the co-founder of Gather Education, a virtual classroom platform that makes teaching and learning on-line simple, natural, and more accessible to all.

Prior to Gather Education, Shonak was CEO and Co-Founder of Swellr, a finalist in the 2011 MassChallenge start-up competition and accelerator. He graduated with honors from Babson College in 2006 with a concentration in Finance. In 2012, Shonak was honored as a Champion of Change during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House.

Macon Phillips - profile picture
Macon Phillips
AmeriCorps VISTA 2001 to 2002

Macon Phillips is a proud AmeriCorps VISTA alumnus who currently serves as the Coordinator of International Information Programs at the U.S. Department of State. He formerly served as Special Assistant to the President and Director of Digital Strategy at the White House, where he developed and managed the Obama Administration's online program, including WhiteHouse.gov.

Prior to the White House, Macon ran the new media program for the Presidential Transition Team (Change.gov) and served as the Deputy Director of the Obama campaign's new media department (BarackObama.com). Before the campaign, Macon led Blue State Digital's strategy practice, working with clients like the Democratic National Committee and Sen. Ted Kennedy. The Huntsville, AL, native is a graduate of Duke University.

Lisa Ranee Tatum
Lisa Ranee Tatum
AmeriCorps NCCC AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Lisa Ranee Tatum, Senior Manager, Disaster Preparedness at the Volunteer Center of North Texas 

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Lisa (service began in 1997, AmeriCorps NCCC, Texas) is the Senior Manager, Disaster Preparedness at the Volunteer Center of North Texas. She coordinates volunteer recruitment and management for a local high-impact collaboration called the Mass Care Task Force. Her exposure to this began when she did logistics for an American Red Cross disaster response during her AmeriCorps term. She currently liaises with local VOAD, COAD, Citizen Corps, and Regional Emergency Managers to ensure that collaboration extends across all networks. Additionally, she has maintained her standing as a Red Cross volunteer for 16 years and serves in a leadership role with the American Red Cross North Texas Region's Diversity Leadership Council. She has responded to major disasters including Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy and provided professional consulting and support to communities nationally. Lisa is wholly committed to service, and she helps others continue their lifetime of service as a chapter leader for the AmeriCorps Alums of North Texas and as a key member of the North Texas AmeriCorps Alliance.
Christine Riley - profile picture
Christine Riley
AmeriCorps 1995 to 1996

Christine Riley joined national service in 1995 as a member of the AmeriCorps Victim Assistance Program, working with survivors of domestic and sexual violence. She was then selected to participate in AmeriCorps Leaders Program in Baton Rouge, LA.

Christine has 18 years of experience in nonprofit fundraising, cause branding, community relations, strategic philanthropy, and corporate social responsibility. As the Director of Corporate Social Responsibility at Dunkin’ Brands, she leads The Dunkin’ Donuts & Baskin-Robbins Community Foundation as well as sustainable business practices company-wide. Prior to joining Dunkin’ Brands, Christine was the Director of Business Development at Cone, a brand strategy and communications consultancy where she worked with clients to develop integrated marketing campaigns that benefit businesses, nonprofits and communities. Christine has previously worked at the Corporate Social Responsibility Initiative, JFK School of Government, Harvard University, and with Jumpstart for Young Children. She currently serves on the Jimmy Fund Visiting Committee for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. In 2012, Christine was honored as a Champion of Change during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House.

Sondra Samuels
Sondra Samuels
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Sondra Samuels, President and CEO of Northside Achievement Zone, NAZ

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Sondra (service began in 1994, Justice Department's Weed and Seed Initiative) learned two big takeaways from her time in AmeriCorps. First: Place matters. She believes living where you serve is the ultimate in connection to any struggle. She now lives and works in North Minneapolis, a community where disparities abound, and where families and children are isolated by race and income. It is a place where African Americans and people of color are disproportionately impacted by failing schools, community violence,  poor housing and diminished access to employment, healthy foods and transportation. Her second takeaway is the understanding that we are each born into a universal mission to do our part to make our country and world better. Sondra says, “I believe, as Frantz Fanon, the African philosopher, so eloquently stated, ‘Each generation, out of relative obscurity, must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it.’"   Sondra also served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Botswana, Africa through the Small Enterprise Development Program from April 1992 to May 1994.
Morgan Tracey - profile picture
Morgan Tracey
AmeriCorps NCCC 2003 to 2004

Morgan Tracey is a Champion, Ohio, native who served in AmeriCorps NCCC after graduating from Mercyhurst College in Erie, PA.  As a corps member, Morgan built homes for low-income families in Blythe, CA. She also worked within the community on fire safety with the United States Forest Service in Pollock Pines, CA. While in Astoria, OR, Morgan and her team worked with Clatsop Community Action to restore a historic building for community use and with the local food bank. Morgan also prepared taxes for the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program in Phoenix, AZ, and with the Boys and Girls Club in Pasadena, CA.

After AmeriCorps Morgan spent summers working with the Forest Service as a wildland firefighter and a senior firefighter on the Eldorado Interagency Hotshot Crew. In the winters, Morgan went to law school and in 2010 passed the bar exam. Currently, Morgan is part of the United States National Skeleton Program training at the Lake Placid Olympic Training Center in Lake Placid with her sights on 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In 2012, Morgan was honored as a Champion of Change during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House.

Nicole Trimble - profile picture
Nicole Trimble
AmeriCorps

Nicole Trimble is the Director of Corporate Responsibility at Coinstar Inc. She is responsible for developing and supporting the company’s community engagement, philanthropy and environmental sustainability initiatives while working to encourage “innovation for good.” Nicole is a visionary leader with diverse experiences in the national service, nonprofit and philanthropy arenas including working for Casey Family Programs and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She is a Social Venture Partner and the Chair of the Washington State Commission for National and Community Service.

Nicole lives in Seattle, WA, and is the mother of two young sons who she hopes will serve their country someday. In 2012, she was honored as a Champion of Change during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House.

Kelly Tsai
Kelly Tsai
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Kelly Tsai, Spoken Word Poet / Filmmaker / Interdisciplinary Artist 

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Kelly's AmeriCorps experience (service began in 2000 with Public Allies Chicago) was spent at a youth entrepreneurship start-up nonprofit in the North Lawndale neighborhood on the West Side of Chicago. Kelly worked with youth and adults to use their talents and creativity to create economic sustainability for themselves and their communities. This formative experience manifested itself in unexpected ways as Kelly moved to Brooklyn, New York, and became an entrepreneur herself, taking her lifelong love of spoken word poetry as her career, performing over 600 shows for audiences worldwide including venues such as the White House, three seasons of Russell Simmons Presents HBO Def Poetry, and Tyra Banks' Flawsome Ball. Kelly's tenure with Public Allies Chicago taught her that we all benefit when diverse communities and leaders come together to solve society's toughest problems. Kelly's work as an artist seeks to create the emotional, visceral, and interpersonal connection between disempowerment and empowerment. 
 
Rhonda Ulmer - profile picture
Rhonda Ulmer
AmeriCorps 2004 to 2007

Rhonda Ulmer served in AmeriCorps from 2004-2007 at Volunteer Maryland, where she helped launch the Van Bokkelen Family Network, a program that provides local community resources such as GED, health, and housing education to children’s parents. After her term of service, Ulmer was awarded the 2008 Eli J. Segal AmeriCorps Alums Entrepreneurship Award -- AmeriCorps Alums' highest honor.

With the award, she founded University for Parents (UfP), where she is currently the Founding Director. UfP is a community organization that provides parents with the tools and resources to help their children succeed in school. In 2012, Rhonda was honored as a Champion of Change during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House.

Sharon Wagner - profile picture
Sharon Wagner
AmeriCorps NCCC 1999 to 2000

Sharon Wagner was an AmeriCorps NCCC member stationed in Charleston, SC, from 1999-2000 where her team completed seven projects in the areas of education, the environment, and unmet human needs throughout the southeastern United States. She also worked as an environmental technician and middle school Science teacher in San Diego, CA, and a high school Environmental Systems teacher in Quito, Ecuador.

Dr. Wagner is currently an Assistant Professor in the School of Economics at the University of Maine. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, a California Single Subject Teaching Credential for Chemistry from National University, and a Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University. Her research focuses on the environmental, social, and economic implications of energy decisions, with a main focus on solar energy solutions, and she teaches courses in sustainable energy economics and policy. In 2012, Sharon was honored as a Champion of Change during AmeriCorps Alums Day at the White House.

Amanda Washington - profile picture
Amanda Washington
AmeriCorps 2009 to 2011

Armed with a degree from Spelman College and the institution’s motto “a choice to change the world,” Amanda Washington set out to do just that by serving as an AmeriCorps member with Teach for America. With doctors and lawyers in her family line, Amanda —the great-great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington—yearned to chart her own course in the field of education.

After being accepted as an AmeriCorps member in 2009, she embarked on her first teaching experience at a public high school in Philadelphia. This experience prepared Washington for her next teaching role in Washington, DC. While teaching English as a second language at DC Prep charter school, she helped many students overcome their language barriers.

Now Amanda uses the lessons she learned in AmeriCorps in her current endeavor as a graduate student at Columbia University’s Teachers College.  And this summer, she is serving as a graduate student intern with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans.

“My experience as an AmeriCorps member helped me realize that education is not just about lesson plans,” Amanda said.

Roger Wong
Roger Wong
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Roger Wong, Global Philanthropy Manager, Social Innovation at eBay Inc. in California

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Roger's (service began in 2003, Massachusetts Promise Fellowship) personal experiences as an immigrant to the U.S. and witnessing the death of a friend in the September 11 attacks inspired him to serve in AmeriCorps. His lifetime of service has continued over the years as he's created safe spaces for young people at the Seeds of Peace Camp, collaborated with the community to reduce youth violence in Boston,  worked as a Philanthropy Manager at Charles Schwab and eBay, and worked to drive change in the U.S. and abroad at the intersection of business, government, and social sectors. Roger reveals, “the confidence, skills, and sense of accomplishment I gained in my first year of service opened my eyes and heart,” and was the key to “empowering me to overcome a traumatic past and changing the trajectory of my career and life.”
Joyce Yamaato
Joyce Yamaato
AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Joyce Yamaato, Vice President with Wells Fargo’s Strategic Philanthropy and Partnerships group 

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Joyce moved to the United States when she was 11 years old. After college, she was accepted into the Literacy AmeriCorps New Orleans to teach English as a second language to adult immigrants and refugees (service began in 1995). Her transformational experience with AmeriCorps has influenced her to pursue a philanthropic career spanning 20 years. Joyce is currently a Vice President with Wells Fargo’s Strategic Philanthropy and Partnerships group in Atlanta. In this role, she crafts and supports strategies aligned with Wells Fargo’s long history of making significant impact in communities through corporate giving. In 2013, Wells Fargo donated $275.5 million to 18,500 nonprofits. This is the fifth consecutive year that total corporate giving has exceeded $200 million.
Tiffany Zapico - profile picture
Tiffany Zapico
AmeriCorps NCCC 2006 to 2008

Tiffany Zapico is a native of New Jersey and graduate of Montclair State University. She started her national service journey in 2006 when she served as a Corps Member and then Team Leader for the AmeriCorps NCCC at the Pacific Region Campus. Tiffany followed that with another AmeriCorps term of service as a teacher with Teach For America in New Orleans, LA.

In 2011, Tiffany became a part of the inaugural team that launched Reading Partners New York.  In her current role as Senior Program Manager she recruits, hires, and manages AmeriCorps members and oversees Reading Partners reading centers at school sites throughout New York City.  She also engages volunteers and works closely with teachers and school leaders to ensure students receive the absolute best service from Reading Partners.

Tiffany continues to be an active AmeriCorps Alumni.  She serves as the founder and Co-Chair of the AmeriCorps NCCC Alumni Leadership Council, supporting the NYC Alumni Chapter, and is also a former Serve Next Community Organizer.  When she is not busy still "getting things done," Tiffany enjoys road trips, hiking, cooking, and reading.

AmeriStories

Richard Brooks headshot
Richard Brooks
Strong City Baltimore 2015 to 2016

Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Richard served as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate in 2015 at Strong City Baltimore. He is now serving a full-year term at Strong City Baltimore, and is partnering with the Family League of Baltimore City’s My Brother’s Keeper program. Strong City Baltimore builds and strengthens neighborhoods and people. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, Richard is helping to adapt the MBK program to meet the specific needs and goals of Baltimore City. He is building a network of community members, grassroots organizations, volunteers and donors to support the infrastructure of MBK Baltimore. In addition, as part of a broader AmeriCorps VISTA initiative in Baltimore, Richard is working with 16 other AmeriCorps VISTA members to improve collaboration among workforce and youth-service providers in the city. Following his AmeriCorps VISTA term, Richard plans to use his AmeriCorps Education Award to study Human Services and continuing work with youth

Tim Gunn headshot
Tim Gunn
The Sustainability Institute 2013 to 2016 2016 Corps Network Member of the Year

Watch Tim's inspiring story.

In 2009, Tim became the first male in two generations of his family to graduate from high school. Following graduation, he attended college in North Carolina. What started as a positive experience, however, quickly took a turn down the wrong path. Tim began skipping classes and indulging in alcohol and drugs. Tim was eventually arrested for cocaine and a gun charge before he reached the age of 20. During his last couple of months of his incarceration he met an AmeriCorps member, Ladine “JR” Daniels, at bible study.

JR explained how his AmeriCorps experience with The Sustainability Institute changed his life, which inspired Tim and gave him the same sense of hope. Upon his release from prison, Tim contacted JR and enrolled in The Sustainability Institute. Now in his third AmeriCorps term of service, Tim is an Assistant Site Supervisor and leads other AmeriCorps members in home energy retrofitting projects. Tim was identified early in his service as having the potential to be a great leader. He mentors new members as they enter service, while also mentoring youth within the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice. Tim Gunn was recently honored as a 2016 Corps Network Member of the Year.

The Corps Network is part of Youth Opportunity AmeriCorps, which connect young people to mentoring, support networks and job skills to help them reach their full potential. The Sustainability Institute empowers South Carolinians to conserve energy and reduce our environmental impact where we live and work.

Jaleel Holmes headshot
Jaleel Holmes
Youth Empowerment Project 2015 to 2016

Jaleel Holmes is a 2014 graduate of the New Orleans Providing Literacy to All Youth (NOPLAY) program, an initiative of the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP). YEP, operates 10 programs that serve over 1,000 youth annually. To specifically support young people who are not enrolled in the traditional K-12 system, YEP works as a collaborative member of New Orleans Opportunity Works, a demonstration pilot supported by the Opportunity Works grant, to provide high quality adult education instruction, post-secondary application assistance, retention support, employment readiness training, and individualized wrap-around supportive services unique to each youth and their individual circumstances. While working toward earning his high school equivalency, Jaleel also enrolled at YEP's Work & Learn Center where he was trained in building and repairing bikes and received certification in Customer Service. Jaleel was a standout participant in the program and completed his high school equivalency in 2015. After graduating, he was invited to work with YEP as a junior counselor during YEP’s summer camp program, Kids Xpress. Since then, Jaleel has continued to work with YEP and the Work & Learn Center where he is now the full-time manager of the Juice Box, Work & Learn’s newest business venture in Roux Carre, a local food court.

YEP is part of the Social Innovation Fund’s Jobs for the Future/Opportunity Works grant, which seeks to improve education and career outcomes for youth disconnected from school or work. 

Elina Mushimiyimana headshot
Elina Mushimiyimana
Philadelphia Youth Network 2015 to 2016

Elina is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who now call Philadelphia home. Elina participates in a college bridging program that is part of the Philadelphia Youth Network. Elina came to the program from Congreso Community Center in North Philadelphia where she is working towards her GED. Elina demonstrated not only academic potential, but also a powerfully positive attitude and grit in the college preparatory phase of the program and is now on track to successfully complete her first college course at the Community College of Philadelphia. Elina’s ultimate goal is to become a nurse and her participation in this program has provided a means for Elina to embark on her journey towards a college degree while receiving intensive and individualized academic and social support to help her reach her goals.

The Philadelphia Youth Network is part of the Social Innovation Fund’s Jobs for the Future/Opportunity Works grant, which seeks to improve education and career outcomes for youth disconnected from school or work. 

Noraitza Ruiz headshot
Noraitza Ruiz
Boston Opportunity Youth Collaborative 2015 to 2016

Noraitza is a second year Peer Leader with the Boston Opportunity Youth Collaborative (OYC) Youth Voice Project. The Boston OYC reconnects young adults to education and employment pathways and uses innovative solutions to fill gaps and better connect stakeholders in the system that currently serves opportunity youth. The Youth Voice Project is a youth program that leads outreach to opportunity youth to advise the OYC. As a Peer Leader, Noraitza provides research and outreach strategies to find data that may help the OYC engage youth in Boston. Noraitza joined the Youth Voice Project because she wanted to help raise awareness around issues that affect youth and young adults in Boston. Through the Youth Voice Project, she has further developed her love for political engagement and urban education renewal. She has helped the OYC’s Connection Center with outreach to Opportunity Youth, she has testified at state and local advocacy events, and she has polled local youth about what kind of pathways they would like to see in Boston.  In the process, she became a customer of the Connection Center and was accepted into Year Up Boston.  Noraitza’s experience with the Youth Voice Project has helped affirm her dream of pursuing a career in Business and one day holding Political office in the City of Boston.

The Boston Opportunity Youth Collaborative is part of the Social Innovation Fund’s Jobs for the Future/Opportunity Works grant, which seeks to improve education and career outcomes for youth disconnected from school or work.

Mission St. Louis AmeriCorps VISTA members
Mission St. Louis
AmeriCorps VISTA 2016

Watch the inspiring story of Mission St. Louis.

Mission St. Louis partners with nearly 30 local businesses that provide internships, jobs, and mentoring to young men in St. Louis. More than 90% of individuals who come to Mission St. Louis have some type of felony on their record, and Mission St. Louis helps them develop critical life skills to turn their life around. They provide financial literacy classes, job training, and professional development.  AmeriCorps VISTA helps Mission St. Louis implement and expand their programs to help more individuals receive these life-changing services. By the end of an eight week program, 65% of participants have jobs.

New Lens Urban Mentoring Society painted mural
New Lens Urban Mentoring Society
AmeriCorps VISTA 2016

Watch the inspiring story of the New Lens Urban Mentoring Society.

The New Lens Urban Mentoring Society is a multi-generational mentoring organization in St. Paul, Minnesota. Their mission is to improve the quality of life for black males by providing culturally-congruent, multi-generational mentoring to address mental, physical, and social development. They focus on young men in 8th grade, which is a pivotal grade before high school, pairing mentees with elder mentors to give them positive role models. AmeriCorps VISTA helps New Lens Urban Mentoring Society provide instant impact in the community. And, with the help of AmeriCorps VISTA, New Lens Urban Mentoring Society is set to double the number of children they serve within five years.

Jerrell Waters headshot
Jerrell Waters
Boston Youth Service Network 2015 to 2016

Early in life, Jerrell experienced the violence of the streets. He was shot and stabbed on the same day, which almost cost him his life. Jerrell grew up blinded by his environment; he thought that life could be nothing more than what was in front of him.

Through his work with the Boston Youth Service Network (BYSN), Jerrell realized he had the power, potential, and resources to do anything he wanted to do. Jerrell was connected to a mentor, obtained his GED, took college prep classes, and transitioned into college in one year.

Jerrell has stayed focused and followed the guidance of his mentors and advisers, which led to the work that he does today. Jerrell now leads the Youth Council of the Boston Youth Service Network, the same Network he joined as a youth member two years ago.  The BYSN is part of the Social Innovation Fund’s Jobs for the Future/Opportunity Works grant, which seeks to improve education and career outcomes for youth disconnected from school or work.

Jerrell truly believes in youth empowerment and leadership as he has seen the changes they brought in his life. He hopes to make that difference in the lives of young people around him.

 

Grandpa Robert Wood headshot
Robert Wood
Senior Corps Foster Grandparents 2016

Watch Grandpa Wood's inspiring story.

Robert Wood serves as a Senior Corps Foster Grandparent, mentoring youth in Baltimore’s juvenile justice system. Senior Corps Foster Grandparents are tutors, mentors, and friends to children with exceptional needs. The program provides a way for volunteers age 55 and over to stay active by serving children and youth in their communities. For ten years, Grandpa Wood has volunteered his time to inspire kids through his art. Grandpa Wood sees potential in the youth he serves. He has helped mentor young men to help them realize their potential, including graduating from school.

AmeriStories

Image of a Food Corps AmeriCorps member talking to children about vegatables
FoodCorps
FoodCorps 2016
FoodCorps is a nationwide team of 205 AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them grow up healthy. Our corps members serve their communities by teaching hands-on lessons about food and nutrition; building and tending school gardens, and teaching cooking lessons; and helping change what’s on lunch trays—giving kids healthy food from local farms.
 
From the beginning, FoodCorps was focused on the power of AmeriCorps to make change. The FoodCorps founders first came together on Earth Day in 2009, the day President Obama signed the Kennedy Serve America Act into law. This legislation signaled a new opportunity to engage AmeriCorps in building a more sustainable, healthful, equitable food system, and helping our nation’s most vulnerable kids benefit from that system.
 
In the five years since our program launched, it has reached hundreds of thousands of kids in 18 states. We’ve partnered with over 500 schools to give students the skills (and enthusiasm!) to build healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. We measure our impact as we go and have found that in schools with a FoodCorps service member, students are more likely to try new vegetables, and their school food environments become healthier. 
 
FoodCorps is creating a future in which all our nation’s children know what healthy food is, care where it comes from, and have access to it every day. When our work is done, generations that follow will grow up enveloped in a vibrant school food environment––and will go on to lead healthier, more productive and longer lives.
 
We’re also really proud of the fact that the program simultaneously gives our corps members unparalleled job training. The combination of (1) on the job experience, (2) our national, regional and state trainings, and (3) professional development opportunities throughout the year means our service members are building skills and networks for their future careers. As one alum put it:  “My service experience has paved the way for a path into the nonprofit sector, classroom or outdoor education, nutrition and public health, food service, and, of course, agriculture." 
 
We’re thrilled to celebrate AmeriCorps Week, but the truth is, we celebrate AmeriCorps every day!
 
Image of Amanda Adams
Amanda Adams
Habitat for Humanity 2015
Why AmeriCorps is important?
 
Editor’s note: March 5-12 is AmeriCorps Week, a week designated by the Corporation for National and Community Service to salute AmeriCorps members and alumni for their service. Since Habitat for Humanity began partnering with CNCS in 1994, more than 9,025 AmeriCorps members like Amanda Adams have served with us. They’ve helped Habitat serve more than 24,000 families, contributed more than 15 million hours of service, raised tens of millions of dollars and engaged more than 3.3 million volunteers.
 
By middle school, I had moved seven times. A few were simple across-town moves, but the majority were major cross-county moves that required me to switch schools, make new friends and acclimate to a whole new community. Unsurprisingly, I never felt very connected to any of those communities.
 
After multiple stints in California and time in Texas and in Alabama, I landed in Oregon. That final move with my family seemed like it was bound to be just the next city, but we ended up staying. I finished high school there, went off to college and still live in the Pacific Northwest.
 
After getting my degree in human services from Oregon State University, I was headed for the nonprofit world, and Portland seemed like the perfect place. When I learned about an open AmeriCorps service position with Habitat Portland/Metro East, I jumped at the opportunity and applied for the volunteer engagement position.
 
After watching my parents — and so many others — struggle to afford their homes, I knew I wanted to make a difference in the housing sector. I was thrilled to be selected for the position and dropped everything to move to Portland and begin my year of service. I was one of about 15 AmeriCorps members at Habitat Portland/Metro East, and I got right to work scheduling volunteer groups, researching affordable housing and putting together presentations. My goal was to teach volunteers and community members about the far-reaching impacts of affordable housing.
 
I gave lunchtime talks to volunteer groups about Habitat’s mission, told homeowner stories and addressed the negative impacts of poverty housing. Often speaking from my own experiences, I educated and thanked volunteers for the time and energy they spent ensuring more families would have a safe, affordable place to call home. By the end of my AmeriCorps service, I had spoken to nearly 1,000 volunteers and community members.
 
In Portland, which is still in the midst of a housing crisis, the community is very aware of the lack of affordable homeownership opportunities, and many people seek out community service to help change this — including myself. Through the Habitat AmeriCorps program, I was able to spend two years helping to expand these opportunities in the Portland area and across the country during Habitat’s AmeriCorps Build-a-Thon events. I worked on construction sites in Portland, Iowa and New Orleans, alongside hundreds of volunteers, future Habitat homeowners and fellow AmeriCorps members.
 
Those two years were some of the most rewarding and impactful years I’ve ever had. As someone who has experienced housing instability, I got to see dozens of families achieve something that will forever change their lives and the lives of their children. I worked with thousands of volunteers and gave them realistic ways to make a difference in their community, one that I had quickly become a part of.
 
Having just finished my time with Habitat AmeriCorps, I can really appreciate how much I learned, personally and professionally. I’m stepping into a role with a new organization as a leadership programs coordinator with vast work experience, invaluable training, and a stellar network of friends and professional contacts. I walked away having made a tremendous difference and with education awards to help pay off student loans and a resume that is hard to ignore. It is an experience that will be with me forever, and I will always be a Habitat supporter and an advocate for national service.
 
I did. You can.
 
If you’re a current member or alumni of Habitat AmeriCorps, share your story on social media using the hashtag #ididyoucan. Be sure to tag @HFHAmeriCorps.
image of Teach for America AmeriCorps member helping a student
Teach For America
2016 to 2017
During AmeriCorps Week, Teach For America celebrates our commitment to service and our partnership with AmeriCorps! This passion for service is alive and well in all 52 of our regions, but especially in the Rio Grande Valley. 
 
Christian Sascha Brown is a teacher at IDEA Alamo College Prep, located in Alamo, Texas.  This week his students are learning new skills for constructing persuasive essays.   He is thrilled to showcase his classroom because his students have been working relentlessly, not only towards their academic goals, but also towards their personal goals for success in college and beyond.  Students have been operating as a community to support each other’s learning in preparation for their upcoming STAAR exam.  This communal effort has extended beyond the classroom as students are working to support each other outside of school.  His students worked as a family to plan their travel from Texas to Chicago for their college visit. During AmeriCorps Week, he can’t wait to show off his students’ collective grit, determination, and joy for learning and service.
 
Also at IDEA College Prep, Evelyn Hunter is a math teacher currently teaching her students how to read and create representations of data.  She’s excited for AmeriCorps to see her students using their understanding of math as a tool to examine the world around them and question inequalities that are in place. In this way she is emphasizing a commitment that she and her students have made to positively impact their community.
 
Kevin Magana is a math teacher at PSJA Southwest High School, home of the mighty Javelines, in South Texas.  This week in his classroom students are learning about Compound Area and Perimeter and training for the mathematics portion of college entrance exams. For AmeriCorps Week, his students are completing unique and engaging projects focusing specifically on the impact of college entrance exams on their lives and how this will enable them to make a difference in the world. 
 
photo of Shauntia Dyson
Shauntia Dyson
AmeriCorps VISTA 2016 to 2017
My name is Shauntia Dyson and I am originally from Augusta, Ga. I currently serve in Savannah, Ga, in which I have been a resident since 2011. Not only am I an AmeriCorps VISTA, but I am also completing the coursework to receive a Master’s degree in Public Health at Armstrong State University. 
 
The biggest joy of my life comes from serving and helping others. I realized at a young age that there are a lot of people who are not as fortunate as I am to have clothes, food, and a chance at bettering their education. By having that value instilled in me early on, I have learned to not take anything for granted. I first discovered the AmeriCorps VISTA program in 2015 while exploring potential next steps after graduating college. After learning more about the history and mission of the program, I was convinced that it was the right decision for me. In January of this year, I was given the opportunity to interview for a VISTA position, and was offered the position in less than a week. Without hesitation, I accepted. I knew that my values were very similar to those of the VISTA program, and I would be able to make a difference in my community.
 
I am currently serving as a Program and Development Associate at the Forsyth Farmers’ Market, a local nonprofit organization. Over the course of my service year I will be predominately working on building capacity for two of the organization’s projects: Farm Truck 912 and Mixed Greens. Farm Truck 912 is one the organization’s latest projects. It is a mobile market that travel to neighborhoods in the Savannah area that are considered “food deserts”, communities that do not have proper access to healthy food options. Mixed Greens is a diverse group comprised of community members with and without disabilities that strives to build a welcoming community around the Forsyth Farmers’ Market for all people. My role will consist of increasing the use of organization’s volunteers, increasing and diversifying financial and in-kind resources, enhancing the organization’s reach and visibility, and enhancing the program’s processes and procedures. Working on these specific projects will make healthy foods more accessible in the surrounding neighborhoods and allow residents of these communities to have more of an understanding of how healthy foods can help lead better and healthier lives. 
 
 I have only been a VISTA for two weeks and already I am learning so much. In my service year, I expect to learn more about low-income environments in my community and how I as a VISTA and community member can help decrease both health and food disparities, which are very prevalent, in the Savannah area. I am looking forward to growing personally as well as professionally and am excited for what is to come!
 
To learn more about me and so many others serving across the country with AmeriCorps, follow us Instagram and Snapchat account, nationalservice. #AmeriCorpsWorks
 
Image of a Teach for America AmeriCorps member teaching a class
Teach For America
2016
AmeriCorps Works: Providing Opportunities for Native Students
By Robert Cook
  
Robert Cook is an enrolled member of the Oglala Sioux Tribe of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and senior managing director of Teach For America’s Native Alliance Initiative. In 2009 Teach For America launched its Native Alliance Initiative to work in partnership with tribal communities to provide an additional source of effective teachers and help improve outcomes for students.
 
Native Alaskan, Native Hawaiian, and American Indian students face some startling educational realities. Only 49 percent of Native students graduate from high school, compared to the national average of 86 percent. On average, 29 percent of all American students earn a college degree, while just 11 percent of Native students do the same. Native children experience some of the highest levels of poverty in our country, which greatly affects their academic and life options. It’s clear that as a country and a society, we haven’t lived up to our obligations to Native communities. But, there are also programs and individuals committed to service who strive to ensure these statistics are no longer the reality for Native students.
 
This week, as we recognize AmeriCorps Week and honor the impact AmeriCorps makes across our nation every day, it is important to highlight impacts occurring in Native communities. AmeriCorps investment is part of the Administration’s larger commitment to create lasting change in Indian Country by strengthening tribal communities through education and economic development. 
 
As a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation, from the Pine Ridge Reservation in the heartland of South Dakota and a veteran educator and school leader, I’ve taught many years on the reservation and faced many of the obstacles Native students encounter today. I witnessed firsthand how urban and rural schools serving Native students face unique challenges that, in large part, stem from historical relationships of distrust between tribes and government.
AmeriCorps members are working to address a range of challenges, including tutoring and mentoring Native youth, teaching nutrition and physical activity, preserving language and cultural heritage, protecting the environment, connecting veterans and their families to workforce resources, preparing for disasters, and tackling substance abuse issues.
 
And AmeriCorps programs like Teach For America are committed to preparing more educators to work in partnership with tribes and communities to help ensure all students have great education outcomes. In 2009 we launched the Native Alliance Initiative (NAI), and for the past 6 years we’ve worked hand-in-hand with Native communities to expand educational opportunities for their students. Building trust and relationships with local and regional partners is essential to this work. We’re giving our corps members more strategies for incorporating tribal and community culture into the classroom, focusing on recruiting more Native leaders to the teaching profession, and in our alumni, developing a critical pipeline of leadership committed to advocating for and building with Native communities and children.
 
This school year, Teach For America welcomed its 25thcorps into our country’s highest-need classrooms. Our 4,100 new teachers joined an overall leadership force of over 50,000 corps members and Teach For America alumni. The 2015 corps includes 790 teachers working across six regions with significant Native student populations—communities with some of our country’s most pressing needs.
 
Over the past five years our NAI corps members, alumni, staff, and their communities have taken the initiative from a mere idea to a successful partnership. In 2013, our South Dakota region received formal Resolutions of Support from the Oglala and Rosebud Tribal Councils of South Dakota. In 2014, Teach For America partnered with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) to leverage the strengths of both of our organizations to increase the STEM success of Native students, as well as Native representation among STEM teachers. And in 2015 AISES named us a Top 50 Workplace for Native American STEM Professionals for the second consecutive year.  In 2010, through a competitive process, the Bureau of Indian Education recognized Teach For America as an approved additional teacher pipeline in all Bureau operated schools across the country. As an organization, we are grateful for these partnerships as they further solidify our connection to Native communities as we work to permanently close the opportunity gap for Native students.
 
To date, over 300 America Indian, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian teachers  have entered the field of education through Teach For America, and in the 2015-16 school year corps members across our NAI regions of Hawai‘i, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, the Twin Cities, and Washington state will impact nearly 38,000  students, representing more than 100 Federally Recognized Tribes. 
 
We’re proud of the all that AmeriCorps and its programs have accomplished in partnership with communities, and we know there’s so much more to be done. We’re working alongside others to ensure that federal and state education policies support the needs of Native students and teachers, and build new partnerships to take on issues facing the communities where we work: bullying, suicide intervention, inappropriate use of Native mascots and negative imagery  in schools,  through cradle to career advocacy for Native students.
 
In the years to come, we have a real opportunity to make a profound impact on the lives of Native children through our committed network of corps members, alumni and many partners in Native Communities. Our efforts today are grounded in the spirit and fearless leadership of generations of Native leaders who continuously fought for the basic right of education.
 
Native communities are resilient in the face of historical and present-day injustice, buoyed by strong, vibrant and diverse cultures that deserve to be celebrated. Students in Native communities deserve an education to match that spirit, and AmeriCorps programs and corps members are proud to play a part in that.
 
Image of Johnson Ho
Johnson Ho
City Year 2016 to 2017
JaHow AmeriCorps Helps Students in the Classroom
 
By Johnson Ho, City Year Jacksonville AmeriCorps member
 
In 90 of the largest 95 U.S. cities, students of color are more likely to attend schools with mostly poor or low-income peers than their white counterparts, according to a recent story from The Atlantic. This inspires me to serve as a City Year Jacksonville AmeriCorps member. I believe that every child and community deserves to be successful, regardless of their socio-economic status or their ZIP code.
 
City Year brings talented young adults, like myself, together and prepares us to serve in teams across the country, at high-need schools. My teammates and I provide academic support and mentorship to students through one-on-one and small group interventions. 
 
On a day-to-day basis, it sometimes can be difficult to tell if I am making a difference through the interactions with my students. Improvement doesn’t happen over night. Success comes in little wins, like it did with one student whom I will refer to as Z. During my first week of service in a 3rd-grade English Language Arts classroom, I didn’t really notice Z because he was very quiet and well-behaved. But the second week Z started to become the center of attention in the classroom by talking loudly and disrupting others. I started noticing that Z acted out when he felt frustrated or uninterested in academic work. As a result, his grades were dropping. 
 
Quickly, I supported him with one-on-one behavior interventions during class time and during lunch time. We talked about modeling positive leadership, how to manage his feelings of frustration and disappointment, and how to express his feelings verbally rather than by acting out in class. 
 
When Z and I worked one-on-one, he could focus on his work without any distractions. Despite some “bad days” Z started making progress. Through this persistence (both his and mine!), the little goals started to add up and I began to recognize patterns of success. The day that report cards were given to students, Z ran up to me and showed me his grades; he made the A/B honor roll list for the first quarter! At that moment, I knew that I was making a difference in his life, helping build his literacy skills, giving him more challenging work even after we’re done with the homework my partner teacher assigned and helping Z stay accountable for holding respectful values throughout the day with others. As my service year continues, I am thrilled to continuously build a stronger relationship with Z and other students like him. 
 
One day, while I was strolling through Treaty Oak Park in Jacksonville, I noticed the quote, “Never doubt that a small of group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” This quote by Margaret Mead resonated with me because of the amazing experience I am having on my City Year team. We embody the diversity, unity, collaboration, and idealism needed to achieve our goals for our school, students and City Year as a whole – and it’s inspiring to know my teammates are supporting their own students and AmeriCorps members across the country are making an impact every day. Even through the difficult moments, such as the challenges I faced connecting with Z and other students at first, my team constantly uplifts me to strive for more and bring me back into perspective of why I serve. 
 
Johnson’s Bio:
Johnson Ho is a native of Jacksonville, Florida. He graduated from Terry Parker High School and the University of North Florida, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in psychology with a concentration in child development. Johnson also interned at Head Start and a local afterschool program, which led him to pursue the field of education and become a City Year AmeriCorps member. Johnson’s favorite thing about Jacksonville is the Riverside area, where he frequents the amazing restaurants and socializes with the friendly locals. Johnson’s goal this school year is to help students by instilling confidence, encouraging hard work, and bringing smiles to faces! After City Year, Johnson will serve as an Urban Teacher in Washington D.C. for the next four years, continuing his passion for educational equity.
 
Image of an AmeriCorps member helping a child out.
The Crisis of Sports in Inner-City America
2016 to 2017
Today, a child waking up in a low income urban community is four times less likely to play sports after school than a child waking up in a more affluent community a mile down the road. Today, kids who should be kicking soccer balls and swinging baseball bats after school, instead, will spend part of today hanging out on the street or getting locked in their apartment by a parent who has no other option for ensuring their safety.
 
The reason?
 
Youth sports have become de-prioritized in a public education system that is measuring itself exclusively by whether or not a child can pass a standardized test. The result of this "all-hands-on-test" philosophy is budget cuts aimed increasingly at "non-essential" programs like sports. This is a crisis. Not because we are failing to cultivate a future Olympic gold medalist or NBA star, but because it hurts our public schools and our communities. We know from numerous studies that youth who play sports have more positive outcomes than those who do not. Youth athletes are less likely to join gangs. They are less likely to get in fights at school, and they are less likely to carry weapons. Student athletes also exhibit stronger executive function skills that are associated with greater academic performance and they experience less anxiety and depression, which are linked to substance abuse and teen suicide.
 
Solving the crisis of sports in inner-city America requires that we raise public awareness of the problem and its consequences for the well-being of America's youth. Sports are essential to academic success, community safety, public health and even our economy. After all, the cost of hiring a coach in the south side of Chicago can save taxpayers as much as twenty-nine times that amount in dollars saved from kids being incarcerated or dropping out of school.
 
Revitalizing youth sports will also necessitate more public-private partnerships to invest in sports in just the same way that these investments impact education, the environment, and our public infrastructure. This kind of investment is largely a human capital one because sports programs require coaches. That's where AmeriCorps comes in. AmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service that engages 75,000 Americans each year in intensive service in nonprofits, schools, public agencies and faith-based institutions. This federally funded agency has been the catalyst for addressing many societal needs, and now it can be credited with one more: the formidable task of saving youth sports. Through AmeriCorps, Up2Us Sports launched a program called Coach Across America, which hires and trains young adults to be coaches for at-risk youth in underserved communities. Nearly 2,000 coaches have been trained in major cities across the U.S. and have helped launch and expand sports programs in more than 240 urban communities. Private companies play a major role in the effort. Health corporations match AmeriCorps funding to provide coaches to address childhood obesity. Professional sports teams match AmeriCorps funding to hire coaches to reduce community violence. Defense corporations match AmeriCorps funding to hire returning veterans as coaches. Each of these public-private partnerships also provides jobs to the thousands of young adults who use their coaching roles to launch careers in health, recreation and nonprofit management.
 
The work to address the crisis of youth sports has just begun, but the foundation laid by AmeriCorps to leverage corporate investment is making a tangible difference. Today, nearly fifty thousand youth are waking up excited to go school because they know they have a team they belong to and a coach who cares about their future. That's the unique power of service and the impact of those corporations that invest in it.
 
View the blog here
Image of Katy Martin and Julia Wcislo
Katy Martin and Julia Wcislo
Rebuilding Together Nashville 2016
The experience of a Nashville Native and a New York Newcomer” 
 
Katy Martin and Julia Wcislo  are both serving as AmeriCorps members with Rebuilding Together Nashville. They have different perspectives on service at their affiliate considering Julia is a Nashville native and Katy comes from western New York. 
 
Julia: 
After graduating from college this past spring with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies, I knew I wanted to do something that was going to be impactful. Service has always been an important part of my life which is why serving as an AmeriCorps member with Rebuilding Together was so appealing to me. Throughout high school I was involved with a program called “Room In the Inn” here in Nashville. During the winter months, the program gives homeless men, women and families shelter at various congregations around the city. This was meaningful to me because I was able to support a group of people who are unfairly neglected and stigmatized. I had the opportunity to connect with these individuals, learn their stories and make sure they received the help they needed. This experience led me to put service forward as a priority in my life. 
 
Serving with Rebuilding Together Nashville has given me the opportunity to return home and serve my community. The great thing about serving with Rebuilding Together is the hands-on experience and versatility of the work. I have been able to acquire new skills and expand on those, in addition to exploring new avenues that will be essential and unique to my career. This year so far, I was a project leader, interacted with and helped homeowners and learned how to provide home repairs like installing flooring. I also had the opportunity to process applications and oversee home inspections, in addition to  implementing home safety projects that helped 2-4 homeowners each week. I can’t express to people how much this program has impacted my life. All I can say is: take a chance, get ready to serve a community – wherever that may be – and don’t doubt that you will make a difference.
 
Katy:
The opportunity to serve low-income homeowners, learn about home repair, explore a new area of the country and visit with family are all factors in my transition to middle Tennessee from western New York. I am so glad I chose to take on a year of service between graduation and pursuing a career. I graduated from Roberts Wesleyan College with a bachelor’s degree in Communication, and have been able to apply my education to my service term. I serve as the AmeriCorps Outreach Coordinator here at Rebuilding Together Nashville, and this experience has turned out to be much more than what I anticipated.
 
Not only have I built on skills I brought to this role, but I have also learned about what hazards to look for in a home that cause significant health and safety issues. I continue to learn from our skilled volunteers and house captains. In the first week of service, Julia and I were installing insulation and laminate flooring. Fast forward to MLK Week in Louisiana, and I repaired a tiled bathroom floor on my own. In the same home, I also used a sledgehammer to take down an unsafe set of stairs (to be replaced, of course!). There are so many tools and tricks to master when it comes to home repair. So far, the nail gun has been my favorite. Now, I can’t imagine building a deck (or anything for that matter) without one!
 
What’s amazing about this experience is how valuable and applicable the knowledge I’m acquiring is and how applicable it is to the rest of my life. I am being equipped to serve others beyond the end of my service term. I am making an impact on the homeowners who need our help. I am also learning and growing myself, so that I can continue to offer skilled help in the future. Since I started in August 2015, I had the opportunity to act as a house captain and lead my own project. I also had the opportunity to play a role in scheduling and planning repair projects, to organize and host a training meeting for our house captain team, and make some great connections with homeowners in this community. 
 
Whether I stay in the area or not, I know this experience has better equipped me in the areas of home repair, communication and teamwork. I love helping homeowners live in safe and healthy homes, and this is why #IAmAmeriCorps. 
 
photo of Stacia Kingsbury
Stacia Kingsbury
AmeriCorps VISTA 2015 to 2017
My AmeriCorps VISTA service story at Mano en Mano is just one of many across the state of Maine. Mano en Mano falls under the auspices of the Goodwill VISTA Partnership sponsored by Goodwill Northern New England (Goodwill NNE), an intermediary between many of the sites scattered across Maine and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). I have been fortunate to be part of Goodwill NNE's VISTA50 cohort in Maine, which is made up of roughly 30 individuals. 
 
People 'from away' think of Maine as having a rugged coastline dotted with quaint towns, lobster perpetually steaming in pots, and L.L. Bean booted, flannel-donned folks with funny accents out on boats. While this image is partially true, the 'Real Maine', as Mainers call it, paints quite a different picture. 
 
Maine is a rural, welfare state with a poverty rate of 14.1%; annual per capita income is $27,332; food insecurity peaks at 16.2%; finally, oil dependency coupled with some of the oldest housing in the nation makes it expensive for people in Maine to stay warm during long, cold winters. On the bright side, wonderful pockets of diversity are sprinkled throughout Maine: Somali refugees now call Lewiston home, Mexican and Central Americans harvest the ocean and land of the great Washington County, and the Vietnamese have laid down roots in Portland. 
 
AmeriCorps VISTAs are vital to Maine because the issues here are multifaceted and require a varied skill set. My VISTA colleagues at Goodwill NNE offer a myriad of talents and experiences that empower them to address each social issue with compassion and savvy.
 
View the rest of the blog here.
Image of Britani Lee-Carmichael
Britani Lee-Carmichael
AmeriCorps VISTA in New Jersey 2015
Hi my name is Britani Lee-Carmichael. I am a peer navigator with for AmeriCorps. You may ask what that is. My sole purpose is to connect veterans who have selflessly served our country. These veterans need not only need an ear to listen, but also resources to help maintain their daily lives.
 
As a veteran myself coming from the Air Force I had my own troubles. It was then that I was informed about AmeriCorps. I jumped at the opportunity to help give back to my fellow comrades. It is not very often that a military person will expose their struggles to someone else. We are taught to hold our heads up high and fix the issues ourselves. This however is not always the best way to handle tough situations. 
 
For the past six months I have had  wonderful opportunities to get to know several Vets. I  can honestly call some my friends. These veterans have not only overcome emotional stress but they have overcome countless setbacks. There is no more rewarding feeling than to know you had a direct effect on someone else’s happiness.
 
Image of an AmeriCorps member with two students
Reading Partners
Reading Partners 2016

How AmeriCorps members activate communities to make a difference

At the core of service is a shared goal – to make a difference. AmeriCorps members serving in local communities across the nation set out to address some of our nation’s greatest challenges, like poverty and access to quality education. They realize that change and growth isn’t the work of one, but the shared strength of many.
 
By providing skilled leadership and modeling a commitment to service, AmeriCorps members activate and inspire communities to create lasting, positive change.

 

Mobilizing communities to give back
 
You won’t find an individual much more passionate about spending time serving in the community than an AmeriCorps member. And that’s why they are the “best of the best” when it comes to mobilizing communities to volunteer. In fact, this year 21 AmeriCorps members serving as volunteer coordinators at Reading Partners will recruit and facilitate 14,000 volunteers working one-on-one tutoring kids in reading.
 
AmeriCorps members are also creative thinkers, and find new ways to get people involved. Volunteer coordinators like Nick Hamrol in Silicon Valley and Alexis Acciani in Baltimore have helped enlist corporate and community partners like Crystal Springs, College of San Mateo, Amazon, UPS, and more to contribute hundreds of volunteer hours to helping kids learn to read. They’ve also found innovative new ways to get volunteers involved; executing the collection and distribution of more than 30,000 books, launching a tutor ambassador programs, and engaging high school students via text messaging.
 
Training volunteers for impact
 
AmeriCorps members are inspiring teachers and leaders. Through programs like Reading Partners and Habitat for Humanity, AmeriCorps members equip community volunteers with the tools and resources they need to accomplish extraordinary things, like jumping two grade levels in reading or building a house for a family.
 
This year alone, AmeriCorps members serving with Reading Partners will spend hundreds of hours training and coaching volunteers to provide effective reading support to kids in need.
 
In the Twin Cities, one site coordinator is going above and beyond to ensure Reading Partners is engrained in the school culture. In addition to spending her working hours training and supporting volunteer reading partners in the reading center, Grace Herndon spends her lunch hour serving food to students in the cafeteria at Hamline Elementary. Her passion a commitment to ensure the wellbeing of students at Hamline encourages volunteers to bring the same commitment to helping students learn to read.
 
Demonstrating a commitment to service
 
Everyday AmeriCorps members are doing work to make a tangible difference in the  communities they serve. They work hard, get things done for the betterment of humanity, and do it all on a budget. Their stories of service are awe-inspiring and motivate others to #serveAyear.
 
Tom Martin’s story of service is particularly inspiring. Having learned about Reading Partners through a local church, Tom started volunteering. When he heard the Texas Reading Partners team was looking for individuals to serve as AmeriCorps members, Tom decided to come out of retirement and transition into a school classroom. After a career in sales, the former Air Force officer found a new passion for education and service as a Reading Partners site coordinator.
 
Making long term impact
 
For AmeriCorps alumni, their commitment to making a difference lasts well beyond their year of service. More often than not, AmeriCorps members continue their mission-driven work, entering service-minded career paths and turning their passions into careers.
 
Kate Brown is one of the many AmeriCorps members whose work with Reading Partners has blossomed into a career pathway. After two years serving as a development coordinator*VISTA in Charleston, Kate joined the team as a full-time development coordinator. Kate now spends 40 hours a week securing vital funding and community support for Reading Partners Charleston.
 
Each member serving a year with AmeriCorps has a unique and inspiring story of service. Share your #IamAmericorps story with us online. Don’t have an AmeriCorps story yet? Find out how you can join the movement.
 
View the blog here

 

photo of Yadira Salinas
Yadira Salinas
College Possible 2015 to 2016
Name: Yadira Salinas
Age: 24
Hometown: Saint Paul, MN
Program/Time Served: College Possible, 1 year 7 months
 
What led you to serve in AmeriCorps? 
I wanted to serve as an AmeriCorps member because I wanted to give back to the community that once gave me the opportunity to work towards a Bachelor’s degree. With the guidance and support of College Possible, I was the first in my entire family to enroll into and graduate from a 4 year University. I wanted to take the opportunity and work with students to achieve the same as I did.
 
What’s the most surprising thing you have learned during your term of service? 
Coming back as a coach after being a student in the program, the thing that was most surprising to me was how much time and energy you can put into your day in order to work with all 40 of your students and accomplish all that you need to. I love what I do and I love working with my students. It takes a lot more than you can imagine, but it is worth it in the end!
 
If you could pick anyone to serve with you in AmeriCorps, who would it be? 
If I had to choose someone to serve with me, I would choose one of my cousins because she went through a tough time in junior and high school. But she turned things around, was the first one in her family (youngest of 4) to graduate from high school and is now in her third year of college. She now wants to work with students as well to help get them into higher education and this would be the perfect opportunity to do so.
 
Who inspires you? 
There are many people who inspire me in this world to become a better person, but I definitely have to give credit to my parents! They came to the United States before I was born and created a wonderful family. They did not have much when they arrived but have continuously worked to give their children the chance for better education and a better life. When things get tough, I can always look to them for inspiration of how far they have come and remember how far I can still go in life.
 
What one word would your team members use to describe you when serving? 
If I had to choose one word one word that my co-workers would use, I would use Enthusiastic. I am passionate for the service that I do and I use my energy to motivate my co-workers and students in any way that I can. No matter what needs to be done, it always helps to have a little bit of energy and positive attitude! I feel that this trait of mine has helped my team out this year when serving our students.
 
What do you plan to do after AmeriCorps? 
After serving with AmeriCorps, I want to do similar work that I do now and continue to work with more students and guide them to get into higher education.  Ever since I was deciding on what career path to take, I have wanted to work with helping get students into higher education and helping their transition once they are there. Now after working with students on the other end of things, I have not changed my mind at all! I love working with students and this is definitely that path that I want to continue.
 
Image of Lee Scandinaro
Lee Scandinaro
AmeriCorps VISTA 2016 to 2017
I joined AmeriCorps VISTA to help serve a program I care deeply about. Without the support of AmeriCorps VISTA, my site wouldn’t be as successful as it is today. Because of this, I truly see the value in service and feel more committed to being a positive change maker in my local community. Local is ever more important to me as I see that commitment on a local scale can really make the difference. 
 
Coming from a background of critical media studies, I'm a big thinker and very much an academic. I love wrestling with issues on a national scale and contemplating humanities biggest struggles. This year, AmeriCorps gave me the opportunity to gain the real hands on experience I was missing as a scholar yet apply the lessons I learned to my every day work. I'm constantly rooted in my education as I sort through ideas on the page to implement them in real life. 
 
Though I still contemplate tough issues, those issues are now grounded in reality. A reality based in relationships with people going through the day to day struggles of living in such a reality. AmeriCorps VISTA allows me to deepen relationships with individuals in order to deepen my understanding of my town and my service. 
 
To learn more about me and so many others serving across the country with AmeriCorps, follow us us Instagram and Snapchat account, nationalservice. #AmeriCorpsWorks
United Way group photo
AmeriCorps VISTAs serving w/ United Way
2016 to 2017
When many people think of the Seattle area, they picture a vibrant economy driven by the booming tech industry and a geographic bounty of lush forests and deep blue water. While it’s true that Seattle’s economy is recovering well from the recession, many of our neighbors have been left behind. Today, 12% of people in Seattle and King County live in poverty, and the 2016 One Night Count found over 4,500 unsheltered people living in our community. United Way of King County finds these realities unacceptable and is working to help 50,000 people rise out of poverty, reduce the number of unsheltered people by 50%, and ensure 80% of kids are ready for kindergarten and 50% of disconnected youth are on the path to success. 
 
AmeriCorps VISTA is a critical tool to accelerate our impact in solving our community’s toughest challenges. Since 2013, our VISTA team has grown from 10 members to 44, enabling us to place members with partner agencies around King County that are also working to help achieve our ambitious goals. The impact has been swift, broad, and meaningful. In 2015, our AmeriCorps VISTAs helped agencies reach nearly 55,000 low-income people in King County by engaging over 175 agencies in capacity building and recruiting and managing over 2,000 volunteers. The 2016 team is on its way to serving a goal of 240 agencies and over 35,000 clients. With the support of our outstanding AmeriCorps VISTAs:
 

- Youth will graduate from high school, attain high school equivalency or will be connected to and complete post-secondary education.

- People experiencing homelessness will receive housing loss prevention services, rapid re-housing and housing-first support.

- People will rise out of poverty with increased income supports and public benefits, including access to SNAP, EITC and Child Nutrition Programs.

- Families will have the tools to maximize food budgets and increase access to healthy foods. 

United Way’s AmeriCorps VISTA project portfolio highlights the community change possible when a federal program like AmeriCorps VISTA combines forces with a local capacity-building agency like United Way and valuable partner agencies working to make specific impact in the community. Among many achievements of the 2015 AmeriCorps VISTA cohort, Nat Neville’s service at Horn of Africa Services stands out. Nat spent the year strengthening and developing programming for East African immigrant and refugee students. Nat developed curriculum to strengthen student success and life skills programming and revamped the tutor training process to ensure services were more effective for youth. Nat also submitted a grant proposal and was awarded a $3,000 grant to fund new summer programming for 20 youth. In enhancing both the content and delivery of youth programming at Horn of Africa Services, Nat engaged in fighting poverty from multiple angles and impacted the quality of education and supportive services for some of our community’s most vulnerable populations—immigrant and refugee youth.
 
One of the most exciting aspects of the United Way of King County AmeriCorps VISTA team is that members are working on such complex and varied projects that the team’s impact is truly widespread. For example, Adam Schmid, a United Way VISTA placed at the City of Seattle, is working on streamlining and managing a complex coordinated entry system for veterans accessing social services across Seattle and King County. Because of his contributions, 1,000 homeless veterans were housed in the last 6 months and this pilot program is planned to expand county-wide for all people experiencing homelessness. 
 
These are just two stories of how United Way of King County AmeriCorps VISTAs are getting things done. Together, we are building a community where people have homes, students graduate, and families are financially stable. Together, we are fighting poverty!
 
To learn more about us and so many others serving across the country with AmeriCorps, follow us us Instagram and Snapchat account, nationalservice. #AmeriCorpsWorks
 
Image of Connor Smalling
Connor Smalling
AmeriCorps VISTA Campus Compact 2015 to 2016

Everyone has a story to tell. What matters the most, is how that story is being told. AmeriCorps offers the chance for people to live out their story and tell it through service to others. I’ve been so lucky to meet people from all over the country who are passionate about serving others and making a difference. During my year of service, I’ve met VISTA’s serving in Ohio, Florida, California, Alaska, Texas, Hawaii and of course my home state of Oregon.  I want to tell the story of an awesome team of VISTA members who are making a huge difference at their various sites throughout Oregon and are working on issues ranging from literacy to sustainable mentorship programs to making education more accessible so people can break the cycle of poverty. 

I am a member of the Oregon Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA team. We have 23 members throughout the state serving in cities from Portland to Eugene to Newport where I am currently serving. One thing that I have noticed about our team is how we all come from different places but we all share the common thread of service in our stories. We have members who are from St. Louis, San Diego, San Antonio, Portland, Hawaii, Ohio and Wisconsin.

All of us have our different reasons for serving. I chose to serve because it was a natural fit since I was involved with the service learning team in college and it's a great way to pay for my future grad school. Other members of the team serve for other reasons. One of our members, Denzel, joined AmeriCorps because he served a lot in the mid-west where he's from but wanted to explore and serve in a new place. Regardless of why they chose to serve, every member of the Oregon Campus Compact VISTA team has decided to dedicate a year of their life to serving those who face poverty on a daily basis.

Not only have all the Oregon Campus Compact members chosen to dedicate a year to service but they are making a difference and building capacity at each of their sites to break the cycle of poverty. One of the members of the team, Alicia, is serving to develop and implement a College and Career Center at an alternative high school for youth who have struggled to succeed in conventional public schools. There's also Suzy who is motivating and building a sustainable volunteer program with college students from the University of Oregon to serve at local agencies and improve the civic vitality of Eugene. There's Jake from the Shadow Project who is serving with Portland Public Schools and their special education program to improve childhood literacy. I could go on and on about every member on this team and the impact they are having at their sites. It just so inspiring and encouraging to interact with all of these individuals and to hear stories of what they are accomplishing at their various sites. 

This team has had an overwhelming year. There have been great times, and times where things have been a little hectic. We have stuck together through it all and learned what it means to lean on and support each other. I'm reminded of the South African phrase of Ubuntu. Ubuntu means my wellbeing is tied to the wellbeing of others. I can't think of better way to describe this amazing team of VISTA's I am a part of. This isn't true for just the team of Oregon Campus Compact VISTA's but for every AmeriCorps member and the populations they are serving all over the country. We are all tied together through this story of service being written; from the snow covered mountains in Alaska to the sandy shores of the Gulf, from the Redwoods of California to the offices of Washington D.C., from the Cities of Ohio to the Stormy Oregon Coast. Together we can add chapters to the story that is AmeriCorps and one day truly make poverty history. 

Image of Lyndsey Sturkey
Lyndsey Sturkey
Habitat for Humanity 2014 to 2016
My Habitat AmeriCorps experience. 
 
I didn’t realize how serious the lack of affordable housing was until I came to Habitat for Humanity. I grew up in a house where I had my own room, with a yard to play in. I didn’t have to worry about lights not working. I didn’t have to worry about my safety if I went outside. It took me a long time to realize that not everyone was as lucky as I was. 
 
My responsibilities during my years of service with Habitat AmeriCorps included doing outreach and guiding families through the homeownership application process. While this mostly resulted in fielding phone calls and people dropping by the office, I was also there to listen to families when they needed someone to talk to, even if it was only 10 minutes. 
 
Those of us in family services know that it’s common to bring our work home with us. We all have a story that stays with us forever, a story that reminds us why we do this even when it seems too hard. For me, it’s the family of seven living in a two-bedroom apartment. Their living room was so small you could touch the walls on either side if you held out your arms; the back door was locked with duct tape; mold was making them sick. 
Experiencing firsthand the conditions so many families endure before becoming Habitat homeowners is both shocking and galvanizing. My fellow Habitat AmeriCorps alums will agree that it doesn’t take long before our attitudes toward community development go from “what can we do?“ to “what can’t we do?“ We immediately recognize the need to enact change, and we’re ready and willing to do whatever it takes. 
 
My time at Habitat has taught me so much about housing inequality and situational poverty that it’s hard not to see it everywhere. I learned how easy it is for families to get stuck in a cycle of low-income housing, how working two or sometimes even three jobs doesn’t necessarily lead to financial sustainability. Many families dream of homeownership, but the possibility is always just out of reach. At Habitat, we make safe, decent, affordable housing attainable. 
 
Our work, however, goes beyond construction sites. I’m empowering families when I help them realize that they can own a Habitat home. When I talk to applicants and partner families about budgeting, I’m helping them grow their wealth. When I facilitate a workshop on home maintenance, I’m creating a situation where families can have pride in their home and neighborhood. Serving with Habitat, I’m making my community safer, stronger and healthier. 
 
As the number of Habitat AmeriCorps’ national alums grows, I know that we will continue to advocate for affordable housing. But to succeed, we need AmeriCorps members to carry the torch for us in communities where Habitat works across the U.S. If you’re still reading this blog post, it’s because you also have the spirit, dedication and drive to make affordable housing attainable for all. Working together in partnership with our communities, we can make our voices heard. I did. You can. 
 
Group photo of AmeriCorps NCCC Team Earth 4
AmeriCorps NCCC Team Earth 4
2016 to 2017
We are Earth 4, an AmeriCorps NCCC team from the Southwest Region campus in Denver, Colorado! Our team has been serving in San Marcos, Texas since January 8th and we will remain here through the end of March. The San Marcos area endured three major disasters within five months in 2015; two floods and one tornado. We have been working with the Blanco River Regional Recovery Team clearing debris, rebuilding Section 8 projects and home rehabilitation. Our team has learned a bunch of construction skills including tiling floors, installing doors, trim, molding, insulation and drywall. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time here in Texas and are excited to see our project through over our final weeks here! 
 
Meet the Ten Memebers of the Team!
 
View the rest of the blog here.
photo of Dana-kae Walsh
Dana-kae Walsh
Citizen Schools 2015 to 2017
Dana-kae Walsh, Teaching Fellow at Bronx Writing Academy
 
Citizen Schools’ National Teaching Fellows serve in schools across the nation; creating extraordinary enrichment and academic opportunities that build the skills, access and beliefs children need to thrive as students and succeed as adults. 
 
Teaching Fellows support public school teachers, both during the traditional school day and during extended learning time hours, to bridge bridge the disparity between opportunities available to low income students and their more affluent peers. Fellows also deepen connections between schools and parents, develop social emotional skills by mentoring and coaching students  and facilitate the delivery of hands-on learning opportunities we call apprenticeships.
 
The monthly TF Spotlight shines a light on the AmeriCorps members serving at Citizen Schools and their impact on local communities.  This month features Dana-Kae Walsh, a Teaching Fellow completing her second year of service at Bronx Writing Academy in Bronx, NY.
 
Why did you decide to become an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow? 
 
Giving back to my community has been a major part of who I am and working with students has always given me joy. As an AmeriCorps Teaching Fellow, I am given the chance to not only do a service for others, but also work with inner city youth. In my day-to-day, I get the opportunity to interact and build positive relationships with my students. I get to build a connection/bond by sharing my knowledge and experiences with them. In return, I learn about who they are and how I can support them in the most effective manner. I decided to serve because I am able to make a difference. I first heard about Americorps when I was completing my senior year of college and I have always been attracted to the idea of helping others, especially students who are living out a similar experience as I did. I wasn’t exactly 100% sure of what I wanted to do career-wise, even as a college senior. However, I always knew that I wanted to work in education and even more closely with students. Americorps presented the opportunity and its sole purpose is to making a difference and I gravitated to that purpose. 
 
What has been one of the most impactful moments of your service?
 
One of the most impactful moment was when I was provided the opportunity to start a girls club at the Bronx Writing Academy, which gives an outlet or safe space for my students to learn more about themselves and gain resources to improve their leadership, interpersonal, communication and teamwork skills. Before launching the club, I wrote a proposal outlining my mission, the purpose, a typical meeting agenda, and the outcome(s) or results of having this club. Once the club launched, I had a total of 15 girls, who came with different personalities and goals they wanted to accomplish. My girls were extremely enthusiastic and excited to have a safe space where they could work as a team to discuss the challenges they face in a manner where they are unable to do so on a daily basis. This made me even more passionate and dedicated to making sure that their goals are being accomplished. Today, the club is still up and running. More girls have joined and continue to be enthusiastic about being apart of a team. 
 
How has service changed you and/or your perspective of the world?
 
I believe that I have improved on my own leadership capabilities and self-confidence. Serving with Americorps has motivated me to step outside of my comfort zone and to work with others on several projects that have strengthen my professional and personal skills. Americorps has opened my eyes to a whole new world of opportunities. I’ve always believed in Ghandi’s quote, “Be the change you wish to see in the world”. Serving as an Americorps member gave me the opportunity to meet others who are working towards the same goals. I now know that it is imperative to be more empathetic with others and their experiences. Also, I have more of an open mind to others, how they live and maneuver their day-to-day.
 
Learn more about Citizen Schools and read additional Teaching Fellow Spotlights at citizenschools.org.
 
photo of Antuan Wilson
Antuan Wilson
AmeriCorps VISTA 2016 to 2017
Hello, my name is Antuan Wilson. I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA serving as the Asset Building Coordinator at United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona.
 
Embedded within each of us is an impetus – a force that guides us through life.  It drives us to make decisions; it supports us when we are faced with obstacles.  It is our “reason.” Our reason for being, for feeling, for doing. I’d like to tell you my reason. The reason #AmeriCorpsWorks for me.
 
I could start by telling you how I left my decent salary position with a Fortune 500 company to become a volunteer – a VISTA, a position many of my family and friends had never heard of – all because of a yearning to give back, to make a difference, to impact the world around me. But I’m not the first, and I won’t be the last, to make that leap from career to volunteer… and this is not my reason.
 
Now take a moment and look deep into your mind’s eye. Picture waking up to lofty mountain  ranges and vanilla skies in the Tucson Valley. Breathe in as the crisp desert air greets your face like an old acquaintance. During your morning commute, you indulge in the beauty of the Saguaro cacti sprinkled throughout the landscape. And you think to yourself, “What will today bring?” Will I help a family gain much-needed medical coverage? Or connect a single mother to food assistance services, so she and her family will no longer have to worry about where the next meal is going to come from?  Maybe I’ll connect newlyweds to the Earned Income Tax Credit – the perfect nest-egg for a down payment on a home. Perhaps all of the above. This has been my life since becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA; but, despite the beauty and poetry, this still doesn’t capture the reason why #AmeriCorpsWorks for me.
 
I’m the parent of a beautiful two-year old girl. When I look into her eyes, I see the world. A world that she will one day inherit. A world in which her father can make a difference in.  A world in which #AmeriCorpsWorks to make a difference. She is my impetus, my force, and the reason why #AmeriCorpsWorks for me.
 

AmeriStories

Regina Best - profile picture
Regina Best
Habitat for Humanity AmeriCorps

After serving in the Air Force for seven years, Best took a job as an assistant chef at a catering company. After losing that job, she found herself homeless and living in a Salvation Army shelter. She persevered despite her own living situation, joining Habitat for Humanity to build homes for others who were in need. Eventually, she applied to be an AmeriCorps contruction crew leader, while also juggling four courses to get her bachelor's degree in culinary management. Today, after multiple years in AmeriCorps, she is looking to start a nonprofit restaurant that would serve everyone and be run solely on donations and volunteer labor.

Read Regina's inspiring story.

photo: Mike Bremer
Mike Bremer
Southwest Conservation Corps
Mike, an Army veteran, was having a tough time finding work after returning from Iraq.  He joined AmeriCorps and served on the all-veteran fire team with the Southwest Conservation Corps’ Veterans Fire Corps.  Because of the training, experience, and connections he gained with AmeriCorps, the U.S. Forest Service offered him a job as a full-time firefighter.
 
"When I returned from Iraq with the Army Infantry, I felt like I lost all meaning and purpose in life and I had trouble finding meaningful work.  My AmeriCorps experience gave me new purpose and a valuable new skillset.  I received incredible training and experience alongside other veterans who had similar experiences – we were all looking for a new life after war."
 
Photo: Joseph Clay
Joseph Clay
Teach For America
Joseph, a Marine Corps veteran, serves in AmeriCorps through Teach For America, teaching math in a high-need school in Tulsa, Oklahoma.  Joseph’s two-year commitment to Teach For America has provided him an accelerated pathway toward a career as an educator.  Joseph finds special meaning and value in serving impoverished youth because he grew up under similar conditions, and he views his AmeriCorps service as an opportunity to honor the dedication and sacrifice of 16 Marines from his unit that didn’t make it back home.  He says, “I carry their memory with me every day in the classroom as I fight today to end educational inequity…  I am a proud member of AmeriCorps; I served America, now I teach for America. Semper Fidelis!”
 
"My time in the Marine Corps… molded me into a warrior and into a man of conviction. I wear that pride on my sleeve as I continue to serve as a teacher in one of the highest needs areas in the country – Tulsa, Oklahoma. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue my service in the classroom, where my experience can impact the lives of children who deserve a quality education."
Photo: Loretta Coleman
Loretta Coleman
Jesse Brown VA Food Pantry
Loretta Coleman, a 10-year Army and Air Force veteran, now serves veterans as an AmeriCorps member managing day-to-day operations at one of the nation’s only veterans-focused food pantries located in a VA medical center in Chicago.  After AmeriCorps, she plans to become a certified peer support specialist to continue supporting veterans as they make the transition back to civilian life.
 
"It has been both an honor and a privilege to not only serve as a member of the military, but to continue serving my community through AmeriCorps. It is a great opportunity to be able to help meet the needs of my fellow Veterans and take on the challenge of the AmeriCorps pledge to ‘get things done for America."
Usthana Hargrove - profile picture
Usthana Hargrove
Veterans Serving our Military Community

Usthana Hargrove epitomizes the spirit of veterans serving veterans. He spent 17 and half years in the military – 10 years in the Army, five years in the Navy and two and a half in the Army National Guard. In the Army he specialized in air assault and repelled out of helicopters, and in the Navy he specialized in languages as a human intelligence collector.

He now serves as a program coordinator with AmeriCorps in the Veterans Serving our Military Community program in Vicksburg, Mississippi. His job is to assist veterans and their families in finding services that provide for them in areas like employment, food security, and healthcare.

"It’s incredible to be able to give back to the community," Hargrove says. "What I love about this job is that when we do it right, we see an immediate impact on someone’s life."

Read more about how Usthana is helping other veterans.

Rebecca "BB" Lange
Rebecca Lange
AmeriCorps NCCC AmeriCorps Alum Winner
Rebecca “BB” Lange, Deputy Legislative Assistant at the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary National Leadership Award Winner
 
Rebecca is a proud alumna of the second class of AmeriCorps NCCC Denver Campus (served in 1995). She is currently an active duty Air Force major and serves as a Deputy Legislative Assistant at the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, preceded by a tour as a defense fellow for U.S. Senator Bill Nelson.  During AmeriCorps, she built houses and trails with NCCC and served on the AmeriCorps Team for the Games during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  After her AmeriCorps year, she used her education award at the University of Colorado and enrolled as an Air Force ROTC cadet.  As an intelligence officer, she has deployed to Qatar, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.  She is also a proud military spouse.   Rebecca says, “It's all about service. I could not be more proud to be an Air Force officer and an AmeriCorps alum." She currently sits on the leadership council of the Washington, D.C. chapter of AmeriCorps Alums. 
Kevin Miller
Swords to Plowshares
Kevin Miller, a Marine Corps veteran, suffered from traumatic brain injury and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. These factors complicated Kevin’s transition from military to civilian life. He was unemployed and received multiple DUIs. Kevin found a new direction through an AmeriCorps position with Swords to Plowshares in California. His experience with AmeriCorps reminded Kevin to “redefine what it means to be ‘successful.’ You cannot dwell on what you cannot change, but you can use your ‘failures’ as motivation to drive towards your own definition of success.” After his service, Swords to Plowshares created a full-time job for Kevin to work on veterans policy, where he helped fellow veterans get the services and support they need to prevent homelessness, poverty, and untreated mental and physical health issues.
 
"AmeriCorps VISTA and a nonprofit called Swords to Plowshares gave me an opportunity and a home. Today, because I was given the opportunity to serve post military, I'm actively involved in the mission to end veteran homelessness."
Tyler Wright - profile picture
Tyler Wright
AmeriCorps VISTA 2013 to 2014

As a hospital corpsman who constructed facial prosthetics in the U.S. Navy, Tyler Wright helped wounded, ill, and injured service members reclaim a part of their identities that was lost during their journeys abroad. When he returned to civilian life last year, Tyler looked for something that would aid his own reentrance to his community. Less than 15 days after leaving the Navy, AmeriCorps VISTA offered him the type of opportunity he had imagined.

As an outreach and communications coordinator with Student Veterans of America, Wright connects nearly 1,000 veterans-focused student organizations across the country to grant and funding sources. This effort ultimately helps strengthen these organizations so they can serve more former service members.

Tyler is certain that his commitment to service will not end with AmeriCorps VISTA. With future plans to pursue biomedical research and teaching in higher education, Tyler is currently in a master’s degree program in therapeutic herbalism: the study of the properties of plant medicine.

“As I help out other vets, I learn more about myself,” said Tyler. “It just seems like it was somehow planned out that way for me to be here and I’m very thankful for it.”

Back to Top