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Two-term AmeriCorps Alum Shares How AmeriCorps Is Shaping Her Career Aspirations

September 18, 2013

Today’s post originally appeared on the Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan website.  The original post can be viewed here.


Two-term AmeriCorps Alum, Leah Kurtzal

For the past year, Leah Kurtzal volunteered at Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan through the AmeriCorps VISTA project “The Grand Vision to Grand Action.”  Leah launched into a 6 month project completing an extensive 19-county Community Needs Assessment that has been invaluable to Goodwill’s strategic planning process. She also worked on developing a Food Service Training curriculum, community resources guides for our retail locations, and served as an important member in developing our Workforce Development program.

Leah shares her experience:

Why did you become an AmeriCorps volunteer? In 2005, I was an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps volunteer in Denver, doing community service work in groups of ten people. Because my first experience with AmeriCorps was such a positive one, I knew I wanted to serve a second term in another AmeriCorps program.  I was given that opportunity when I was placed with Goodwill.

What inspired you about the work you were doing? My experience with AmeriCorps VISTA and Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan has been amazing. It has allowed me to help low-income families, while creating partnerships with Goodwill and service agencies throughout 19 Northern Michigan counties.

How has the experience impacted you? I have come to realize the needs of low-income individuals throughout Northern Michigan and in my hometown, Traverse City.  The experience has helped me expand my knowledge and learn new ways to better help our communities presently and in the future.

The support that I have received from VISTA members and Goodwill staff has allowed me to reach all of my volunteer goals, plus many more.  It has also made me want to focus on a career in the non-profit sector or with the federal government.

make-a-difference-by-john-f-kennedyWhat have you most enjoyed most about the experience?   I have most enjoyed working with some wonderful people, including VISTA members and the Goodwill staff, who have been so kind and helpful throughout my year of service.  This also includes all the staff members at different agencies throughout Northern Michigan who were so helpful in helping me gather information for Goodwill‘s Community Needs Assessment.

I enjoy knowing that I was making a difference in the community and that if through my work that I helped just one person, it was more than worth it!

As your AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer assignment ends – what’s next for you? This opportunity has made me want to focus on a career in the non-profit sector or with the federal government.  I am looking for a position in Northern Michigan where I can utilize my education (graduate of Western Michigan University with a Bachelors of Science Degree with an emphasis in English and Anthropology) and experience in Disaster Relief and Unmet Human Needs. Ideally, I would really like to focus on community service.

What benefits do VISTA members receive?  AmeriCorps VISTA provides their members with a living stipend of about $10,500 for the year and an education award of $5,500 that can be used to go back to school or help pay off student loans.

We hope to see Leah doing more good work in the community and wish her the best of luck in her future endeavors!

Find out more about AmeriCorps VISTA Opportunities

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