Erin Ramirez: Next Generation of Service Guide Profile

Erin RamirezIn 2011 I did a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. I am originally from California and got my undergraduate and graduate degrees in California also. I was placed on a rural island in Hawaii called Molokai for my year of service. I was in charge of the Senior Projects at Molokai High School. As part of my year of service I was in charge of recruiting volunteers for the high school, updating and having people register for, provide training to new volunteers, help mentor students on their Senior Projects, and put together training manuals and do data analysis.

Doing a year of service was really fulfilling because I got to assist students with a project that would help prepare them for college and careers. I also learned a lot of new skills like management experience, event organization, and public speaking skills. Doing community service not only helps a community in need but helps give you a different perspective on life. All the staff and people I met in Molokai were really kind and treated me like part of their ‘ohana. It was definitely a one of a kind experience.

I encourage any student in college to do community service in their local communities, but I also encourage students to try and serve in a less privileged community in another state or country. Being exposed to different cultures, and ways of living really opened my eyes to how lucky I am to have had the opportunity to pursue higher education.


Megan Quigley, Mission: St. Louis

MeganGuideName: Megan Q

University: Saint Louis University

Major: Psychology and Public Health

Service Type: AmeriCoprs VISTA

Service Dates: November 2013- November 2015

Region:St. Louis, MO


Tell us about the nonprofit/social business you work for:

Mission: St. Louis is a nonprofit focused on empowering people to transform their neighborhoods. We have four core programs: Job & Leadership Training, Youth Development, Home Repair, and Senior Services.


Our flagship program is the Job & Leadership Training program. This is designed to empower at-risk young men ages 17-35 with skills to become leaders in their workplace, community, and families. The program aims to give men that may lack professional experience the skills they need to maintain a job. We’ve come to find that many of these men grew up in homes without a father or male role model, so we aim to teach and empower them to be strong role models for their own children and leaders in their families. Many of the men in our program have a criminal record or no job experience in the past. All are welcome.


Youth Development works to bring kids from the local public school up to reading at age level. Our volunteers work with the students before, during, and after school. Some of our participants are up to 4 years behind grade level when they start but several advanced 2.5 years within the nine months of working with us in the 2013-2014 school year. Home Repair hosts groups of mission trips from across the country and helps to partner these groups with homes in the area in need of repair. This summer they completed over 520 projects in the neighborhood and served over 80 residents of the neighborhood. Senior Services aims to help seniors age successfully and safely in their own homes and provides them resources to keep them out of nursing homes and living independently. All of our programs are offered free of charge to all participants ( for more).


How did you find your position with AmeriCorps?

I was getting ready to graduate from college and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. While attending a panel discussion on the role of community service in the undergraduate experience, one of the panel members at SLU recommended I look at AmeriCorps VISTA. I knew I wanted to stay in the St. Louis area and work for the city I had come to love over the previous four years. Once on the website, I was able to find positions listed for the VISTA umbrella project that I am a part of today.


What’s your typical day like?

My days are all different from each other. Because I work at such a dynamic organization, there is always something different going on. My job specifically works with our senior services program. We offer several different services and a good portion of my day is spent taking requests and coordinating volunteers for these tasks. Because I work with an older population, most of my communication is done on the phone. Members will call our office with ride requests for when they need to go to the doctor’s, dentist, etc. and I will call people on our volunteer list until I find someone that is available.  In addition to transportation, we also offer educational programs once a month known as “Lunch & Learns. ” Over the summer, I got to work with youth groups coming to St. Louis on mission trips to help do yard work for our older adults who are no longer able to do these things themselves.  Another aspect of my job is answering calls and questions from people outside of our ministry. In these cases, we do our best to refer the caller to an agency that will be able to help them.


What are your living accommodations?

Fortunately, I was already familiar with the city before I started my service term. I had a good idea of where I would like to live and how far it would be from the office. As AmeriCorps VISTAs, we are provided with a living stipend intended to cover expenses we may have in our day-to-day life during our year of service but for the most part we are responsible for finding our own apartments/living situations.


What do you do in your free time?

Because I spend most of my day sitting down, I try to be as active in my free time as possible. This past spring I trained for and ran my first half marathon. It was a wonderful experience full of hard work and getting to know the city. I ran the race with my best friend from college and it was a great way for us to stay connected after graduation. I love working out with other people and think it is a great way to spend time with friends.  In addition to staying active, I love to explore and experience the amazing city that I live in. Even though I have been here for nearly six years, I am still constantly discovering new places to go and restaurants to try.


Share a favorite memory or story from your experience?

My favorite memory from my experience was the December Lunch & Learn holiday party that we had for the seniors. It was the first big event I got to attend during my service year and it was a great way to start. A local singing group performed Christmas songs and everyone shared a meal together afterward. Many of the ladies brought in various types of cookies for everyone to try and there were desserts everywhere. It was great to see this community come together once last time before the holidays.


What have you learned about the nonprofit and social business world in your experience?

One of the biggest things I have learned from working at a nonprofit is that you have to be ready to help with anything. Unlike big businesses, nonprofits rely on their smaller staffs to fill many different roles. Some of the best advice I received when I started at Mission: St. Louis was to not be tied to what I thought I was here to do. There is so much more that needs to get done to make a nonprofit run that it just doesn’t work if anyone were to say, “That’s not in my job description.”  We all work hard every day to make sure our individual programs are successful, but overall we are really just one big team and are expected to help everyone else out when we can.  


What is one thing you wish you knew before you come to your position?

I wish I had known how fast a year can go by! When I was first considering applying to be an AmeriCorps VISTA, I was intimidated by the year-long commitment. I wasn’t sure I would be able to make the living-stipend last for an entire year and I was worried I would run out of things to do at my site. I WAS WRONG!! This year has absolutely flown by. I have made more connections with the people I serve than I ever expected to.  I have accomplished several projects and volunteer days for these individuals. I have seen our agency have great success in our overall goals for the neighborhood. And I have made some wonderful VISTA friends that I am not ready to see leave in two months. Eight weeks sounds like a long time from the perspective of a college student looking at an internship, but it feels much shorter in terms of finishing up a year-long project!


The Spirit of a Speech: Peter Marotto

PeterWhat you are about to read is taken form a speech I was asked to give after my first year of service in the spring of 2006. Though there are some edits, the bulk of the speech – and the spirit of the speech – has remained.

~Peter F. Marotto, M.Ed.



“When I volunteered to speak at this luncheon I began to think about many things: My service experience, what and more importantly why we serve, and my own past that lead me to joining AmeriCorps. I am speaking as a new member, though I am one of the older members as well.

In May of 2005 I applied to Springfield College, I was 31 and thought many experiences, including AmeriCorps were long past. I saw flyers posted, however, and by the middle of the fall I applied to AmeriCorps.

My service experience has been in Capacity Building for Step Up Springfield, my sight placement site is listed as WGBY, however, I divide my time between WGBY and my 2005 Chevy Aveo — it’s the little red roller skate people see me driving all over Springfield, many times up and down the same three or four roads while lost.

I’ve learned a lot during my first service experience. I went in a bit arrogant, thinking I could accomplish the task at hand with little to no help. In the end I would not have had the experience I did, or the success I did without the support of my sight supervisor, Russ Peotter who years later I finally was able to thank properly, as his lessons I use daily in my professional life.

That is the “What” of my service; the “Why” is more important. Why I chose to serve was two-fold: First, because I had wanted to join an organization like AmeriCorps, and I had the chance; second, the living stipend afforded me the opportunity to go part time at my job.

The Why, especially the non-altruistic motives for service are out there; what we as AmeriCorps members need to remember is that we all have a multitude of reasons for joining…and not all of them have to be altruistic. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get something out of your service experience, and we need to be mindful of that.

AmeriCorps service is a fine line between wanting to serve and to wanting to have done something that sets you apart from the crowd.

My second year will be more altruistic, and maybe a little less rocky. My car might even be retired as a placement sight.

Having an undergraduate background in history I remember a documentary on the history of WestPoint Military Academy. One part that came to mind, one that I will never forget regards the cadets that were accepted in the 1960′s, during the Vietnam era. The cadets were compared to people that joined the Peace Corps. Both groups had an innate drive to serve a cause bigger than them; to achieve something great. AmeriCorps members are part of this driven group.


At some point in your life you will meet someone; whether a new co-worker, someone at a party, or while traveling; and as you get to talking, your past experience with AmeriCorps will come up — and then you find out that they were in AmeriCorps also. Your conversation from that point on will revolve around words and phrases like service experience, placement, sight supervisor, capacity building, youth development, counseling, academic coaching. And anyone that has not served with AmeriCorps is going to be out of the loop, because they didn’t serve.

Service shouldn’t end with your AmeriCorps experience. Volunteer with community programs like Step Up Springfield. Start your own program. Get Involved.

The AmeriCorps slogan is “Getting Things Done”; if you join you’ll have already done this. The rest of your professional lives will be the marathon to stay involved, to remember that the world is run by those who show up. Prove you can show up. Serve in AmeriCorps.

Thank you.”

Find The Pony! By Katie Bench

”Finding my Pony” while running a city-wide scavenger hunt for St. Louis Public Radio, where I volunteer on their Jr. Board.

”Finding my Pony” while running a city-wide scavenger hunt for St. Louis Public Radio, where I volunteer on their Jr. Board.

Name: Katie Bench
Profession: VISTA Services Manager (I coordinate all of the VISTA Projects across the St. Louis metro area)

University: Georgian Court University (undergrad) / University of Missouri St. Louis (grad school)
Major: B.A in Art and Holistic Health and a M.A in Nonprofit Management
Service Type: AmeriCorps VISTA

Service Dates: July 2007 – July 2014

Service Location: South Grand Senior Ministry in St. Louis, Missouri


Find the Pony!

That was my personal mantra during my 3 terms of service as a VISTA for the South Grand Senior Ministry in St. Louis. I heard the story below at my first event as a VISTA and it stuck with me.

There once was a good little boy in the Old Country. He was friendly to all that he saw, did his chores and was a pleasure to be around. This little boy’s one Christmas wish was to have a pony (mind you this was a country that ponies were a plenty, and wanting a pony did not make you snobbish).  On Christmas morning the young lad sprang out of his bed and sprinted to his family’s barn. Upon entering the barn the boy squealed with delight when he saw an empty pen with a big PILE of Crap! He got a shovel and started scooping it up. The young boy’s parents found him whistling a toon while cleaning the pen. Puzzled the parents asked the boy why he was so happy. The boy replied if there is a pile of dung then a pony can’t be far behind!

Moral of the Story: Sometimes you have to go through a bunch of “Mississippi Mud” before you make it to your goal. The main thing to keep in mind is to focus on Finding the Pony instead of dwelling in the unpleasantness at hand.

Sharing information about National Service before a Bon Jovi concert with my fellow VISTAs.

Sharing information about National Service before a Bon Jovi concert with my fellow VISTAs.

I had a lot of ponies during my time in service and a lot of compost!  I had presenters cancel on me the day of an event, bus drivers who got lost, lived without heat, had my car broken into twice and then  lose it completely in a hit-and-run, canceled countless events that took days to plan and even disappointed a nun! That compost helped me grow so much since I first started out. I learned that what I may think is a good thing might not be what an older adult wants and the client is always right. I learned to take things in stride. I learned how to be a team leader. And I saw the powerful impact a year of service can have not only on yourself, but with your community!

My years of service led me on my life path of inspiring others to GIVE (in any way they can) and for that I am incredibly grateful!

See the silver lining with everything you do and Find Your Own Pony!

Carolina Giraldo’s Journey to AmeriCorps

CarolinaMy 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.

Guide Profile Anna Swearingen, AmeriCorps VISTA

Profile Pic 1-1Name: Anna B. Swearingen

Profession: Research Contractor (on the way to becoming an I/O Psychologist) / Student

College: MIZZOU (undergrad) / UNC Charlotte (grad school)

Service Type: AmeriCorps VISTA

Service Dates: August 2012 – August 2013

Service Location: Metro St. Louis, Missouri

Tell us about the nonprofit / social business you worked for during your term of service:

I worked for a small nonprofit in Downtown St. Louis called SGSM (South Grand Senior Ministry) Network. The organization’s mission was to help low-income older adults live safely, healthily, happily, in their homes for as long as possible, as opposed to having to live in a senior care facility. We assisted older adults through partnering with local church’s Senior Ministries. We provided a variety of programs including transportation to doctor appointments and other necessities, minor home repair and seasonal yard work, social events like trips to other cities, health-promotional events called “Lunch & Learns,” and communications in the form of a bi-monthly newsletter. Like any nonprofit, we also held fundraisers including flower sales and dinner-and-dancing events. This organization has since merged with another St. Louis nonprofit and now offers these services with them, under the name Mission St. Louis.

How did you find your position with AmeriCorps?

I decided I wanted to volunteer for AmeriCorps during my senior year of college. I had applied for several positions through the My AmeriCorps portal ( and was actually offered another position to work with kids in California before the position I took was even on my radar. What happened was I got an email one day directly from SGSM Network, and it sounded interesting to me. (Organizations do that sometimes when they are recruiting for new positions—they may just randomly email people they see looking for positions on My AmeriCorps). The bonus was that the organization was located in my hometown. After interviewing with them a few days later, I felt comfortable and excited and decided to take the job!

What inspired you to do this kind of work? If you were taking a gap year, what influenced you to do so?

Like many (perhaps most) college grads, I had no idea what I wanted to do with the rest of my life yet. I had graduated with a degree in Psychology and a minor in Business, and was leaning strongly toward going into Social Work, but wasn’t positive at that point. I wanted to do something constructive and semi-related to social work while I figured it all out, so I looked into service. I had heard about AmeriCorps from a friend (who ended up doing two terms with AmeriCorps NCCC after graduation) and started applying.

After getting the email from SGSM Network, I realized that working with older adults might be perfect for me. From the job description, the position sounded very much related to social work, so I thought it might give me good experience.

What was your typical day like?

Busy! Every day was different, but for the most part they would start the same way: Checking my email (like any job) and the office messages on the answering machine. Some days there would be no messages, and some days there would be lots! The messages were always older adults needing assistance in a myriad of ways: A ride to the doctor, their yard cleaned up, a referral for someone to help sign them up for Medicare, etc. The first few hours of my day, I would either relay the messages to the appropriate people or respond to these messages to the best of my ability.

Some days, depending on the demand, I would spend most of my time finding seniors rides to doctor appointments from our pool of volunteer drivers. Some days, I would set up volunteer groups to do a day or two of yard work for several seniors. Some days, I would coordinate or attend a Lunch & Learn at one of our partner churches. Some days, I would plan a day trip for a group of 30-55 seniors. It truly depended on what events were near, but it was never boring.

What were your living accommodations?

I was lucky to volunteer so close to my home, because my wonderful parents let me kick it at their house for the year. This worked out great because, even though we were paid so little as volunteers, I actually managed to save (a very small sum) over the course of the year. I also had the best time living at home one last time before moving out…probably for the rest of my life (if all goes the way I hope, that is!). It was just my mom, dad, little sister and me, before my sister and I both left home around the same time the summer of 2013, suddenly making my parents empty-nesters:(

Share a favorite memory or story from your experience.

During the last week of my term, I was attending all of the social and health promotional events going on so I could say goodbye to as many people as possible in-person. At a Lunch & Learn, I was very happy to run into one of my favorite clients, Helen. I had talked to her over the phone dozens of times, because she utilized our transportation and yard work services frequently. She was very involved in the programs in general and I saw her at many events. I even drove her to a doctor appointment or two over the course of my term. At the Lunch & Learn, I was taken aback that she had a gift for me (she knew it was the last time she would be seeing me). She had written me a sweet card and knitted me a beautiful oven mitt. It touched me so much that she felt so fondly about our relationship, and it made me really sad that I was soon leaving! I’ll always remember that moment, and I’ll always remember Helen.

What have you learned about the nonprofit and social business world in your experience?

I learned that working for a nonprofit is hard work. It is difficult to work for something you care so deeply about, but have so little to give besides physical labor. It is frustrating when you know a particular service or event would be so beneficial to the client, but your funds are not adequate to provide it. This established paradigm made me really admire the long-term employees of the organization. The fact that they care so much about the clients and the cause that they are willing to give so much more than can be given back is honorable.

I learned that nonprofits are important. I don’t know what many of the older adults we assisted would have done without our services. It makes me sad and frustrated to even think about that, because not many people are looking out for low-income older adults. Organizations need to exist to help these people, along with many other groups that do not get nearly as much attention and assistance as they should. That’s why nonprofits are so important.

Finally, learned that nonprofits will forever be near and dear to my heart. As the long-term employees that I mentioned are passionate about the causes they work for, I remain passionate about those long-term employees. This is what has led me to the career I am working toward (hint: it isn’t Social Work).

Do you think you made a unique contribution to your organization as a young person? Is your perspective or approach different from others?

It was interesting working, as a young person, for an organization focused on older adults. I definitely think that all of the AmeriCorps VISTAs, being similar in age, made a unique contribution to the organization because we could offer a fresh take on our existing programs, and were able to update some of the service already in place (such as our bi-monthly newsletters).

I think young people these days are much more technology-savvy and collaborative than generations prior to ours. This is only beneficial to organizations because we know how to get messages out there for all to see! We know how to connect and work with others for the greater good of all! These are aspects that all nonprofits could use a little more of.

What is one thing you wish you knew before you came to your position?

I didn’t really come in with any expectations, which I recommend to anyone soon to start a year of service. However, if I had to choose something, I wish I had known how tired I would be every day after work! To this day, including college, I have never consistently come home from work, eaten food, and fallen asleep at, like, 9 every night than during my service year.

How has AmeriCorps VISTA influenced your life after service?

AmeriCorps influenced my life 100%. If I hadn’t been involved in AmeriCorps, I would be doing something completely different with my life at this moment (see the next question for more on this).

AmeriCorps also sparked my service-oriented self, so now I still enjoy volunteering in my free time! After AmeriCorps, I volunteered for a year for the nonprofit organization Girls on the Run as a Coach. Now, I’m volunteering as an NGS Guide!

Maybe most importantly, AmeriCorps introduced me to some of my best friends in the entire world. One I met at the St. Louis airport on our way to VISTA training in Denver, CO (that was a fun trip!), and she is the kind of friend that will be my future bridesmaid and in my life forever. Another I worked with briefly during our service-year overlap and had such an instant connection that we remain in contact and even celebrated Easter together in Chicago this past year. Another, still, is the volunteer I replaced following his year of service, and who now is practically my neighbor in Charlotte, NC.

Has your experience fit into your long-term goals?

My experience led me to my long-term goals. Like I said, I went into my year of service thinking I was going to become a Social Worker. In fact, during my AmeriCorps, term, I took the GRE, applied to Social Work programs, and even got into a few. It wasn’t until toward the end of my service that I was honest with myself about not being passionate about Social Work. I realized I felt much more strongly about the organization as a whole and all of the intricacies that went into making an organization run successfully. That led me to Industrial/Organizational Psychology. After my service year, I moved to North Carolina, got an internship in the field, and am now working toward my Master’s degree in I/O Psychology. I would love to use what I learn in my program to help nonprofits across the country.

What do you do in your free time?

Besides volunteering, I enjoy watching (way too many) movies and TV shows, I love to read and write (I write for a local blog in Charlotte, NC), and I am a healthy-lifestyle enthusiast (running, hiking, dancing, eating healthily…).

Do you have any advice for prospective gap-givers?

If you’re on the fence about giving a year of your life to service, just do it (credit to Nike). I promise, you will not regret it. Quite the opposite actually: You will look back on your experience and smile.

I already mentioned this, but try to go into your service year with no expectations. Just let it take you where it will!

Would you be willing to take questions from potential gap-givers?

Absolutely, ask away!

How can we connect with you?



Twitter: @AnnaSwear

Before AmeriCorps NCCC by Stephen Azuogu

StephenBefore AmeriCorps NCCC, I was a part-time YMCA youth mentor finishing up my last year of college. I went to California State University-Fullerton pursuing my B.A. in Ethnic Studies with an Emphasis in African-American Studies. This major was an interdisciplinary degree that involved philosophy, history, and creative writing but in the simplest form, it was “the study of different cultures.” Whenever I tell people about my major, they give this misconstrued face and most of the times say, “What are you going to do with that? Do you want to be a teacher?” I was truly grateful of my major and knew the value of my education, but the reality set in that there were no concrete working skills or high job demand that I can get from my studies at that time.

I was going in to my last semester of college and I started to brainstorm on what to do for job experience and/or career exploration. My experience with the YMCA was great and I loved working there, but I wanted to explore other options. Typical things you should do as a college junior and senior is utilize your Resource Centers as much as possible for job postings and internships. My counselor told me to look into internship opportunities because this is a great way to network and gain relevant work experience. Throughout the school year, I attended various career expos, resume workshops and business affiliations, but it was only when I went online and applied for AmeriCorps NCCC-FEMA Corps, that things were starting to change for the better.

After November 21th 2014, I will have committed my time in AmeriCorps NCCC-FEMA Corps for 2 service terms. FEMA Corps is a partnership with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, bringing in young people aged 18-24 to commit 10 months or 1700 hours of national volunteering service. The program is team-based and members were given benefits like free travel, room and board, and real-world experiences. I was part of the first class of FEMA Corps Class 19 in Vicksburg, Mississippi. During that service year, I responded to Hurricane Sandy doing FEMA related work in New Jersey and New York. The highlight of that year was living on a Coast Guard training ship (Empire State 5) for a month in Bronx, New York.

As I write this piece, I will be finishing up my last months as a FEMA Corps Team Leader. The AmeriCorps program as a whole has been one of the greatest experiences ever in my life. I have done rewarding work for my country, traveled in beautiful US states, and met with remarkable people that I call friends this day and beyond. After AmeriCorps NCCC, I am given much more options to explore and a clearer sense of what my goals are personally and professionally.

Strong Women, Strong Girls by Makissa Lewis

MakissaWhen I was an undergraduate student I wrote a paper titled, Female Delinquents: A Study in Neglect. The paper expressed my notion, which states that, Florida female juvenile delinquents were not trying to be like their male counterparts but rather they were delinquent in their own right. At the time when that paper was written, only few authors had that stance. It was from writing that paper I realized I wanted to further my education and later pursue a profession that dealt with gender issues focusing especially on juvenile justice. To prepare me for that path, I volunteered with the Florida Juvenile Justice, the Non Violence Project, the Community Health Clinic of South Florida and other agencies that work with youth in my community during my undergraduate years. By the time, I did my graduate work I realized one of the best preventive measures against juvenile violence is education. Therefore I decided to work with the organization Strong Women, Strong Girls (SWSG). Through AmeriCorps, mentors of SWSG, like myself, were able to mentor school-aged girls 6 to 10 using a curriculum that promotes strong female role models and relationships. I remember one day in class the girls were assigning themselves roles in a play. The part of judge came up. One girl said that they need a boy to play that part. For me it was a teachable moment. I explained to that a girl that playing a judge could be a girl since a woman can be a judge. I always remember that incident because I feel that girl would less likely turn to violence because she knows she can be anything she wants to be when she grows up even a judge. That is not the only time I worked with youth. I worked with young adults as a graduate assistant for Educational Talent Search. As a graduate student of Educational Talent Search, I provided middle school and high school students help on the college process to include, but not, limited to filling out FASFA forms, requesting recommendation letters from teachers, SMART goals, and so on. From the paper I wrote as an undergraduate to now, my mission has been to help young people find alternatives to delinquency. I feel through service learning, education, and other activities I can help empower youth. They in turn will be able to do the same for the next generation.

Rebecca’s AmeriCorps VISTA Year of Service [Part 2/2]

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1Today’s post is part of a two-part series on AmeriCorps. Rebecca is currently working at the Center for Investigative Reporting as the Business Marketing Coordinator. She found out about GYG through a fellow Model United Nations member, Harrison Gill. You can contact her HERE.

So you’re thinking about AmeriCorps? Let me win you over!

If you’re thinking about doing AmeriCorps, stop thinking and do it.



Transferable skills: Each project will undoubtedly give you different skills and experiences. Depending on what skills you want, you can most likely find a program that will contribute to the strengthening of those. I enhanced my marketing skills, organizational skills, and customer service skills. I also grew more confident in voicing my opinions and sharing ideas, and lastly, learned how to analyze programs, find the inefficiencies, come up with solutions and implement them. A word of advice: talk to your supervisor about your aspirations and goals, they are there to mentor and guide you so you can accomplish them.

New friends & mentors: Since we were a pretty small team I definitely bonded with my co-workers as we all embarked on our own financial planning, while developing a program from ground zero that would benefit the larger public. I also made friends with AmeriCorps people stationed in different organizations around my area. The great thing was, we could all go out and be cheap together, because none of us could afford anything too fancy! They also became a great support system outside of service.


Addressing your concerns:

“I won’t get paid enough to live comfortably.” The people at AmeriCorps are pretty smart people, and they make sure you get paid according to the cost of living of the place you’re stationed. You can make it work, but definitely take a good look at your own situation and see what you’ll need to survive.

“I’m not going to like the job and then will be stuck in it for a year.” Before you apply to a certain position, research the organization and read the description thoroughly. Also, know that you will have an extensive interview process, at which time you’ll learn more about the org and the position and will be able to talk to your future supervisor. Lastly, if you really don’t feel comfortable there after you’ve started, you can talk to the agency and AmeriCorps HR to discuss the possibility of transferring or leaving.

“I’ll be lonely and scared in a brand new place.” Make sure you do your research beforehand. You should get a good feeling about the area from finding it on Google maps. Try to be open-minded; brand new places can make you feel lonely, but they can also fill you with excitement and adventure and give you new opportunities to make friends and learn something new.

In conclusion, the most important step in applying for AmeriCorps is doing the research to find a program(s) that you’re really interested in. As you have seen from my previous blog post, interest can quickly turn into a passion and make your job feel more like a calling! Not only did I learn a lot about personal finance at SparkPoint Marin, but I also made great friends, learned how to live on my own for the first time, and came away equipped with great transferable skills and experience.


Rebecca’s AmeriCorps VISTA Year of Service [Part 1/2]

gyg-logo-teal-transparent1Today’s post is part of a two-part series on AmeriCorps. Rebecca is currently working at the Center for Investigative Reporting as the Business Marketing Coordinator. She found out about GYG through a fellow Model United Nations member, Harrison Gill. You can contact her HERE.

After I graduated college and realized getting a permanent job was next to impossible (2010 was not a good year to be searching for a job), I signed up for AmeriCorps VISTA.

The whole team at a Giants game!

When I applied for AmeriCorps I had no idea what to expect. I checked out the project descriptions and the recruiting organizations and chose to apply to projects that both peeked my interest and were outside of my current knowledge base. I also kept location in mind; it can end up being a really important factor in your decision. Anyways, the AmeriCorps VISTA program, unlike other AmeriCorps programs, is designed to help nonprofits get started, to focus on sustainability and program development.

There were quite a few organizations that were looking for someone to help their programs expand their financial services. That sounded interesting, I thought, ‘don’t know too much about financial services!’ I ended up applying to three programs in my state that all were looking into fortifying and growing their VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs and focusing on partnering with fellow nonprofits to help clients get access to many different financial services. These concepts really interested me.

When I first heard about AmeriCorps I thought it was all about mentoring and tutoring children, which is great. But, I was looking for a stepping-stone to a career and I wasn’t looking to become a teacher. Realizing that AmeriCorps offered other projects that I wanted to learn more about and would help expand my knowledge in a specific area such as economic development was great! I knew I had found something I could commit to for the next year.

I accepted a position north of San Francisco 8 hours away from my family in a place I was a stranger to, ready to start something new. SparkPoint Marin’s mission was to help people take control of their own finances. Turns out to help other people, you need to be well versed in these areas yourself. Thus, I was trained in financial coaching and learned how to budget, to save, and to file taxes. Now I volunteer every year during tax season to help people file their taxes and file my own for free as well.

Here are some other resources I learned about that could be useful to you too:

In fact, all this immersion in finance lead me to start my own finance blog.

I finished my year empowered and ready to take on more challenges. I came away with marketing skills, organizational skills, enhanced customer service skills, confidence in voicing my opinions and sharing ideas, and lastly, the ability to analyze programs, find the inefficiencies, come up with solutions and implement them.

I definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.