Carolina Giraldo’s Journey to AmeriCorps
My passion has always been people and being able to lend a listening ear to a troubled mind was what I believed I was naturally gifted at. In reality, it probably just developed throughout the several years I spent as a crying shoulder to quite a few folks. This may be the dominant reason why I chose to obtain my B.S. in Psychology. But, after participating in an Alternative Spring Break back in 2011, I became enamored with this whole concept of service. I served with a group of 8 lovely ladies in Charlotte, NC with Stop Hunger Now. I will never forget the valuable experience I gained from this trip because it helped me see a different side of non-profit work, not to mention the fact that we provided much needed assistance to this wonderful humanitarian aid organization. It was during this service project that I met a VISTA and learned about AmeriCorps. I decided, while still a junior at UCF (University of Central Florida), I would apply for AmeriCorps once I graduated in 2012. I knew I wanted to serve while traveling so I applied to NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). The new collaboration between FEMA and NCCC came into existence in 2012 so I got to serve in the North Central Region inaugural FEMA Corps class.
Needless to say, this was one of the best choices I’ve made. Throughout the ten months of service, there were many treacherous mountains to climb, but I enjoyed the opportunity of serving on a national level with disaster relief such as 2012’s Hurricane Sandy along with 10 other people. I felt like I grew so much throughout those ten months that it gave me the confidence to apply for a VISTA position I wasn’t sure I was qualified enough for. In 2013, I left my life as a FEMA-NCCC Corps member behind and excitedly took on my role as an AmeriCorps VISTA. For a year, I worked as the (brace yourself for the long title) “AmeriCorps VISTA Veterans Helping Veterans Program Specialist” at a nonprofit organization back home called Impact Broward. I was given the task of updating: programmatic policies & procedures, recruitment literature, training material and lists of community contacts as well as recruiting, training, and assigning Veteran mentors with mentees. I’m assuming my work was well received since I was promoted to Veterans Helping Veterans Program Coordinator (my current occupation) after my VISTA year ended this past July. I am now excited to be able to share my passion for service, whether domestically or internationally, with all of you who come on board with the NGS movement and hope to do my best as a guide.