by Amy Singer
Staff, Mitzvah Corps of the American South 2018
Participant, Mitzvah Corps New Orleans 2012
Amy Singer, Mitzvah Corps participant and staff member, is taking the next step of her journey with AmeriCorps NCCC. We’re so proud of Amy, and are grateful that she’s sharing her experience on her blog. We’ve posted the first entry here, and encourage you to follow along!
Tomorrow, on Wednesday, September 5, 2018, I fly out to Sacramento, CA to begin my year of service as a Team Leader for the AmeriCorps NCCC program in the Pacific Region. I will be using this blog to keep you all updated on my adventures. Thank you for following along!
What actually is AmeriCorps NCCC?
Since this program is uncommon and confusing, I will explain below what I know about the project already.
AmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, one of the Federal Government agencies. It is like the Peace Corps, except that all work occurs domestically within the United States. National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) specifically is a residential, team-based, direct service work program for young adults ages 18-24. NCCC has four regions across the USA: Pacific, Southwest, North Central, and Southern.
For the next 11 months, I will be serving as a Team Leader in the Pacific region, which includes California, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Alaska, Hawaii, and the Pacific Territories. I will spend the first two months of the program in Sacramento, CA at the McClellan Park Air Force Base, the main campus and headquarters for the region. The first month, I will be partaking in Team Leader Training, where the 25 or so Team Leaders and I will be gaining the skills needed to effectively manage and support our groups (such as becoming certified to drive a 15-person van). At the start of the second month, all of the other Corps Member will come and together we will prepare for our upcoming service.
After training, we begin our hands-on service work. We could be partnered with any organizations that do not make a profit, with projects ranging from disaster relief and recovery, housing, environmental, working with youth, or in wherever else help is needed. Over the course of the year, my team will complete three or four projects. While we do not have much say over what type of service work we are doing or where our programs will be located, the staff strives for each group to have as diverse of an experience as possible. We will be notified what our projects are and where they will be a few weeks before departure. As the Team Leader on a team of 8-12 other individuals, some of my responsibilities include managing our food budget, overseeing use of the van, and coordinating our schedule when we are not volunteering.
Some other fun facts about the program:
- I will be wearing a uniform at all times while on duty – cargo work pants or shorts, steel-toed work boots, t-shirts, polos, and more.
- Travel, transportation, housing, and food are all provided.
- Physical training as a group is required three or four times per week.
- We receive a stipend which I will use during free time on the weekends.
- We each receive an Education Award as well, which I plan to use for graduate school.
- We do have a ten-day winter break, plus five vacation days for the whole year.
Why I Chose This Program
I met AmeriCorps members for the first time when I travelled to New Orleans on a URJ Mitzvah Corps trip after my sophomore year of high school in 2012. While rebuilding a house with the St. Bernard Project, the volunteer coordinator and our site supervisors were all AmeriCorps members. Funnily enough, I found a journal entry I wrote after spending the day working and learning from them, where I wrote “I instantly felt connected to them and was mildly obsessed.”
Since my first introduction to immersive service learning experiences and AmeriCorps in 2012, I have participated or led five more trips through my high school, the University of Virginia’s Alternative Spring Break program, and Mitzvah Corps again (three more to New Orleans, one to Pensacola, and one to the US Virgin Islands) and loved exploring new communities, learning from the residents themselves, helping others, and always taking back what I learned into my own life. Along the way, I met many more passionate, skilled, and empathetic AmeriCorps members. Because of my many positive experiences with them, the thought of becoming an AmeriCorps member myself has always been stored in the back of my head.
I spent my junior year fall semester studying abroad in Barcelona, Spain. In class, I would learn about different areas of Spain and then travel and see them for myself on the weekends. Concurrently, the 2016 Presidential election was occurring in the United States, making me realize that I knew less about my own country than I had assumed; I decided while abroad that I wanted to learn about and explore various communities within the United States just like I had done with different Spanish cultures. During Summer 2017, I had my first taste of public service work as a Congressional Intern for Senator Ben Cardin, and thoroughly enjoyed attending hearings and briefings, diving deeply into legislative work and constituent services, and learning from the talented individuals around me.
Upon reflection after the summer, I realized that completing more boots-on-the-ground, direct service work would be the perfect complement to my internship with Senator Cardin and my other non-profit and programmatic experiences. I quickly decided that AmeriCorps NCCC would be the best choice for me, as it enables me to do hands-on volunteering, travel and explore the US, and develop my leadership skills as I lead and work with a team. Many people encouraged me that now, right after college graduation, before I have too many financial commitments, is the perfect time to have this sort of experience – so here I am and I am excited!