Friday, April 4, 2014

AmeriCorps NCCC and FEMA Corps: Two years, eight projects, and one life changing experience - Part 2

Wondering what program is right for you? Today is part two of our series with Brittany, who served as an NCCC corps member out of the Southern Region, and a FEMA Corps team leader with the Southwest Region.

How different was it to serve as a corps member vs. a team leader?

There's no way you can compare the two. I always tell people that my corps member year was for self-discovery and adventure, and my team leader year was for professional development and growth.
 
FEMA Corps Alpine 2 team leader Brittany
The actual service was different. As a corps member, my service was pretty mission oriented, and as a team leader, my service was more team oriented. I was there to support my team first and the mission second. Coming straight from a corps member position, where I took so much pride in aiding the mission, it was sometimes difficult that I couldn’t be as involved in the mission as my members.
 
Support during both years also came in different forms and from different people. As a corps member, your team and team leader primarily provide that main level of support. As a team leader, you look to your fellow team leaders and campus staff for support.

I also had much more free time as a corps member than as a team leader. As a team leader, I was accountable for my entire team, and I had to be on my A-game all the time. You're not able to check out mentally when you're responsible for an entire team.
 
Overall, they are two totally different experiences, with different expectations and outcomes. One constant in both roles and programs is that they were both two of the absolute best years of my life.

What were some of your favorite things you did with your teams?

During NCCC, the most fun my team ever had together was sitting around a table and playing board and card games. We called ourselves grandmas, because most of us preferred to stay in rather than go out anywhere. We also had a Nintendo 64 and Nintendo Wii one of my teammates brought from home!
 
Some of our best times were had secluded from society in the middle of nowhere, just hanging out and decompressing after work. During our first round we were miles away from anywhere, in a camp in the woods. We grew incredibly close as a team because all we had to do was hang out, bond, and watch a ton of Seinfeld! Those are the times I will always remember most.
 


River 9 at Graduation in 2012


During Round 1 in FEMA Corps, one of my corps members found the whole team $8.00 tickets to the elite eight March Madness game between Michigan State and the Univ. of Florida, at Dallas Cowboys Stadium. We also went to Six Flags in Texas. Both were so much fun!
 
We always found really fun things to do or see in every place we were serving. We tried to see as much of the areas we were in as possible, such as an service learning trip to an Osteology museum in Oklahoma, and hiking trips in Colorado. We liked to see touristy things, so we would often take small stops on road trips. We made pit stops in Nashville, TN, Central High School in Little Rock, AK and the University of Notre Dame in IN, just to name a few. We also had a ton of foodies on our team, so we often ate very ethnic diverse foods, even when we cooked for ourselves. We got creative!

How did your service help you grow?

This program changed my life and its direction. I left home in 2012, and after two years of service, ended up a completely different person with a totally new outlook on life. I was pretty clueless as to what I wanted to do with my future before NCCC. Now I know that I want to be in a position where I can effect change and happiness in people’s lives. I have no expectations or limitations on what that could mean in terms of a career. I am open to many different opportunities, which I definitely credit to remaining AmeriCorps and “FEMA flexible.” As long as I stick to that, I will be happy.

I have seen so much of this country and its vastly diverse communities, many that I never knew about. I experienced new people and different cultures every day, and saw vast amounts and different types of disaster and destruction with my own eyes. I have been broken down and built back up in many ways. I have become noticeably stronger emotionally, and have gained confidence in the person I have grown to be. I have gained mediation skills and conflict resolution skills.



Meeting former Secretary of Homeland Securty Janet Nepolitano and former FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino


Professionally, I have gained so many office skills, including professional demeanor. Thinking about me in an office setting before the program makes me cringe. I had no idea how to act professionally! It gave me my first real work experience outside of college, and a real sense of work ethic. I learned to be proud of my work, and wanted to make it the best I could. I had no idea how to use Microsoft Excel or Visio before FEMA Corps, and now I use them both every day.
 
I hold NCCC and FEMA Corps so incredibly close to my heart. I would recommend it to anyone looking for some direction, change, or just an adventure in their lives. This program provided me with direction in my own life, while also giving me a sense of freedom and adventure.

How has your service affected the path of your life?

I currently work for FEMA as a local hire in the recovery division for the Colorado Flooding of September 2013. I am part of the Mission Support team that supports the entire division in which I work. I am working in the same FEMA Joint Field Office I spent my last two months serving out of in FEMA Corps, and directly supervise a FEMA Corps team. Basically, it’s a dream job. I absolutely love what I do, and I am so happy that NCCC and FEMA Corps led me here.
 
My service has totally changed the path of my life. If I hadn’t joined, I guarantee I would still be waiting tables back home on Long Island, with no plans for the future. I would never have found the world of non-profits or FEMA. I have direction and purpose in my life. I am so happy I found and served in this program. College just wasn’t enough for me, and NCCC helped me to complete my journey from just-graduated kid, to adult with direction. I am so grateful for the invaluable effect the program has had on my life, the lives of others, and on this country.

Thank you Brittany for this week's blog series! If you have any questions about AmeriCorps NCCC or FEMA Corps, please visit www.americorps.gov, shoot us an email at anccc@cns.gov, or visit our Facebook page -http://on.fb.me/1mQ5xpN.
 
Brought to you by AmeriCorps NCCC, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service.
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