Monday, June 30, 2014

Why Do You Serve?

AmeriCorps NCCC members from the Pacific Region share their service stories. 

NCCC Destiny Kathleen

Gold 6 teammates pose for a photo while
doing habitat restoration work at the
Presidio of San Francisco. 
The first time I heard about AmeriCorps NCCC I was in middle school.  As a 14 year old trying to complete an assignment on college searches, I had no idea what I was looking for.  Maybe it was fate, but that day I learned about an organization whose sole purpose it was to help people in need. I remember the feeling I had at the time as I skimmed the webpage – pure adrenaline and unbridled optimism.  This is it, I thought, this is what I need to do with my life…as soon as I’m old enough, that is.

By the time I was old enough, 18 years old, graduating at the top of my high school class, and college bound, AmeriCorps had completely dropped off my radar.  I was off to do great things.  I was going to study hard and become the greatest psychologist, or maybe neuroscientist, or maybe engineer, or maybe social worker.  After four years, I graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science in Neuroscience, with honors, Magna Cum Laude, etc.  I was very proud of myself, but as I looked toward graduate school, I realized that even though I had a degree, I still had no idea what I wanted to do.  I knew that I wanted to make a difference, but I didn’t know how.  The last 16 years of education had shown me that I was a phenomenal student, but I wanted to know if there was anything else I could be good at.  Also, I was kind of tired of thinking about myself.  Planning every aspect of my life and constantly judging my worth based on test scores was getting really old.  I wanted to learn to see myself as an extension of the effect I had on others.

So, while I halfheartedly searched for graduate school programs, somehow, miraculously, AmeriCorps NCCC reappeared in my search results.  As I browsed the recruitment materials, the same feelings of excitement and purpose that I had experienced in middle school all came rushing back.  The time wasn’t right when I was 14, but at 22 just finishing college and unsure what my next step should be, the timing was perfect.  I was always passionate about helping people. I thought that if service was everyone’s ultimate goal in life, then the world would be a much better place. 

Being a corps member in AmeriCorps NCCC has been an immensely valuable experience for me because it has expanded my perspective on what it means to serve.  Sometimes service is distributing food to the homeless, and sometimes service is helping an understaffed non-profit accomplish their mission and goals – whether that’s feeding or housing people in need, repairing a hiking trail, or planting grass.  Regardless of the form of service, one thing that is consistently true is that it always matters to the people who need it most. 

I applied for AmeriCorps NCCC because I wanted to make a connection to the people around me and in doing so, maybe learn a thing or two about the world beyond my classroom walls and textbooks.  NCCC has not let me down.  I know that service is something I can continue throughout my life, no matter where I am, as long as I am paying attention to the needs of those around me.  I look forward to carrying my commitment to service with me, this year and beyond because I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done!

Summer of ServiceCymone

Left - Cymone in AmeriCorps NCCC 
Summer of Service 2007
Right- in AmeriCorps NCCC Class XX
The first time I heard about NCCC was at the age of fifteen. My mom came home one day and told me about this program recruiting teenagers to do community service during the summer in my hometown of New Orleans. She told me that it was called AmeriCorps NCCC Summer of Service, and that I'd receive a small stipend for my work if I decided to join. I had never been to a summer camp before so I thought it would be something like that. I'd get to live in a college dorm and work with others my age for a month; "Why not?" I thought. Little did I know that summer would change my life and introduce me to people and concepts that I'd never experienced before.

I was assigned to a group of 7 others my age to team Jazz 2. We wore bright yellow AmeriCorps shirts, khaki BDUs, and what I remember thinking as really hard core work boots. We had two team leaders (NCCC corps members) and my team and I did a variety of projects ranging from park clean ups, to painting over graffiti, to landscape work at a local nonprofit. It was the hardest I'd ever worked in my life doing something that wasn't household chores. My team leaders told us about NCCC and the work that they did as adults in the Corps. I admired how dedicated they were to service and their genuine interest in helping communities. At the end of our term we all received the president’s community service award and said our goodbyes at graduation.

Although the program was only a few short weeks I had learned how to work with others and the importance of having a positive attitude no matter what job we were assigned to do. I remember promising myself that I would continue to be a community servant wherever I went and that I would join NCCC again when I was of age.

Six years later, I am now a corps member at the AmeriCorps NCCC Pacific Region. I decided to join this program not only because of my history with NCCC, but because I knew that I wanted to dedicate myself fully to service after my college graduation. I wanted to experience working on service projects for longer than a weekend here or there and seeing the fruits of my labor that would continue for years to follow. NCCC has definitely been all that I hoped it would be and more. It has challenged me more than anything ever has and the growth that I've experienced this year has already given me the courage to be the community leader I have always wanted to be. I will always be thankful to AmeriCorps NCCC for introducing me to service all those years ago and teaching me more about service than I could ever learn in a classroom.

My NCCC StoryKeshia

Keshia at the Fresno River Trail
Gandhi once said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” While applying for AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), I knew I wanted to make a difference through volunteering and community service. I have always had the motivation to help those who are less fortunate than me or to do service on a project that could bring out a positive light to the community and continue them to grow as one. I knew this program would be a good opportunity for me to immerse myself into the community service world, to gain new skills and abilities that I thought I could never achieve and to develop new relationships within the program. During this journey, I have experienced a lot of new things and seen many new places. There are definitely going to be some fond memories that I will have for the rest of my life.

Silver 4 (awesome team members) 
at Yosemite! 
It was my very first time traveling to California and experiencing my first airplane ride, which wasn't too bad; I just had a little earache for a week. In California, I served on two projects in Santa Clara and Auberry. I had the chance to work at different parks with the Santa Clara County Parks and Recreation during round one, and worked on about four trails with the San Joaquin River Gorge-Bureau of Land Management in Auberry during round two. I learned how to use new tools while working on the trails, such as the Pulaski and a McLeod.

With the Mono Tribe, finish construction 
of the Nobi (tepee)
At the San Joaquin River Gorge, there was also a chance for my team to learn about the history of the Native Americans there, especially the Mono Tribe. We had the chance to meet Keith Turner and other members of the tribe during a construction of a Nobi. That was the best experience I had throughout my time of service. It was interesting to learn more about the Mono people and to actually build a Nobi from scratch. Round two was a personal growth experience for me and a challenge, but I persevered. Through my specialty roles, Life after AmeriCorps Representative and lead Media Representative, I have accomplished my goals and developed new skills in journalism and mentoring. I am so proud of myself and happy that I can use these skills for my life after AmeriCorps.

Keshia using the skill saw,
sawing wood for the
boat house to stack canoes
AmeriCorps NCCC has provided me with so many new opportunities and new experiences that I am able to carry on with me for the rest of my life. This program has made me want to continue my service in helping others. I might consider serving another year of AmeriCorps or join the Peace Corps, a program that I always wanted to join along with AmeriCorps NCCC. My mission in life is to help others, travel the world, and continue to experience different ethnic backgrounds and cultures in the world. I also want to Witness how the other half lives and continue to be open-minded about everything. Volunteerism and service work are important to do; you really do find yourself while serving others, and you can take what you learn to other places or organizations. I want to thank AmeriCorps NCCC for giving me the chance and opportunity to be part of this growing organization.

Are you interested in serving with NCCC, but haven't yet applied? Apply for NCCC and FEMA Corps at! Let us know if you 
                                                     have any questions by emailing 

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