Wouldn’t Be Who I Am Without AmeriCorps
Today’s guest post comes from Diane Hoskins, who is currently the Director of Government Relations with Restore America’s Estuaries and served in AmeriCorps*NCCC in 2007. While with AmeriCorps, Diane completed projects in New Orleans, LA; Biloxi, MS; Charleston, SC; and St. Lucie, FL. These experiences have ignited a commitment to environmental leadership and today, she continues as an AmeriCorps Alums leader, inspiring others to look towards national service as a pathway to a career in the environmental field. Follow Diane on Twitter @KDianeHoskins.
“What do want to be when you grow up?” Many young Americans struggle to answer this question before, during, and after college in order to land their perfect or ideal job. And for me, AmeriCorps gave me the opportunity to consider this question, gain needed training, and develop leadership skills needed to excel in the workforce.
But, the AmeriCorps program – funded by the federal government – receives far more applicants than available positions. Every year, the program must turn away motivated and dedicated applicants due to funding constraints. Given difficult budget decisions and our nation’s declining discretionary spending; this is not likely to change.
In fact some proposals have suggested eliminating the AmeriCorps program altogether – failing to realize the impact that members have on our economy both during their term or service and years beyond.
I served with the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). AmeriCorps*NCCC members are deployed to complete projects with approved community organizations throughout the country and also help to respond to natural disasters in teams of about 10.
I spent much of my AmeriCorps year helping respond to the devastating impacts of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita on the Gulf Coast. My first service project, which truly made an indelible imprint, was just outside New Orleans in St. Bernard Parish at Camp Hope. Hurricane Katrina left St. Bernard Parish devastated. Houses were smashed or washed off their foundations; and cars, which floated with the storm surge, sat on top of roofs after the water retreated.
During my service, I learned real-life leadership lessons that I now draw upon on a daily basis. In New Orleans, my team was responsible for ensuring thousands of meals were prepared and served each day at Camp Hope to feed the volunteers and community members helping to respond and rebuild. We lived in a school that was closed due to damage and converted to recovery volunteer housing. Think: cots, exposed studs, tarps for walls, and outdoor showers. (Of course I missed amenities like privacy, a real bed, functioning indoor plumbing, and central heat/air.)
The devastation was heart wrenching. I met people who lost everything and they put my sacrifice into perspective. My experience was powerful.
Looking back, I wouldn’t be who I am or where I am without AmeriCorps.
Our challenging economy and unemployment rate make investments in programs like AmeriCorps more important than ever because it provides necessary training and experience that employers require. The need for capable leaders is greater than ever. After their service, AmeriCorps alumni become civic, business, and government leaders – in no short part because of AmeriCorps training and experiences.
Former AmeriCorps members are better prepared for the workforce and responsible for driving ethical innovation which spurs positive economic growth and reinforces an ethic of service.
Ensuring the future, through strong federal funding, of AmeriCorps for all Americans because it provides necessary training and the experience that employers require has never been more important. As the political campaigns heat up and conversations about spending continue – I urge Congress to take a balanced approach which ensures a strong future for the AmeriCorps program.
Visit http://www.onemillionnewjobs.org/ to support AmeriCorps and National Service.
Since 1994, more than 775,000 Americans have served in AmeriCorps, a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service. More than 80,000 will serve this year.