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AmeriCorps Alums Welcomes a Communications Coordinator

May 14, 2014
Maria Caruso Headshot

Maria Caruso, AmeriCorps Alums’ Communications Coordinator

“Tell me about yourself” is often a dreaded question in job interviews. I used to be tempted to dodge the question and answer the way I did at seventeen with, “Um, what do you want to know?” Before serving in AmeriCorps, I could tell you about the schools I went to and the work I’d done, but not why or what I was working toward.

After graduating with my Masters in English, I spent a year teaching college.  I enjoyed working with students who were often the first in their family to attend college.  When I was young, Jumpstart’s reading program initially gave me the skills and confidence to catch up to my peers. Jumpstart’s role in my early education greatly influenced my decision to study and teach English. While teaching, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much my community contributed to my life. AmeriCorps service offered a way to express my thanks.

Like many who apply to AmeriCorps, I crossed my fingers for an exciting placement in Hawaii, Alaska, or California. I ended up living in a cabin in the woods of Douglasville, GA. For ten months, I served with my team at Youth Villages Inner Harbour Campus, a residential psychiatric facility. I taught independent living skills to high school youth, led service days, and collaborated with team members on a student service learning project.

My first term showed me that not only does AmeriCorps “get things done,” but we are project managers, volunteer coordinators, team builders, conflict mediators, teachers, and innovators.  One of the best examples of my team’s resourcefulness was the art wall we learned to design and build with our students within months to promote healthy coping skills as the culmination of a service project.

A student painting on the art wall

A student painting on the art wall

I completed a second service year with AmeriCorps VISTA and Year Up, a workforce development nonprofit for urban youth interested in Information Technology and Business careers. I designed and implemented an online learning program for Year Up that increased the number of participants graduating with Information Technology, Customer Service, or Business certifications. Living on a VISTA stipend and working with students searching not only for a career but often a way out of poverty, challenged me to re-evaluate where we recruit talent and what living with poverty looks like.

Serving at Atlanta's Community Food Bank with Year Up's Alumni Board

Serving at Atlanta’s Community Food Bank with Year Up’s Alumni Board

Like AmeriCorps Alums seeks to do for its members, Year Up connects driven individuals in need of additional training to opportunities with leading corporations searching for emerging professionals. Year Up also empowers their alumni to uplift their communities with their newly gained skills. I worked with the emerging Year Up Alumni Board on their first service project with Atlanta Community Food Bank.

Now, when I’m asked to “tell me about yourself,” I say that I am dedicated to connecting individuals to the resources they need to succeed. As AmeriCorps Alums’ new Communications Coordinator, I look forward to hearing your stories and showcasing one of America’s least recognized, highly qualified pipelines of talent.

If you’d like to share your AmeriCorps Moment, how you were “Made in AmeriCorps,” or what alumni experiences we should be highlighting and aren’t yet, email me at You can also follow AmeriCorps Alums on Twitter or like us on Facebook. I look forward to hearing your story!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 20, 2014 1:24 am

    Welcome Maria.

  2. May 29, 2014 2:24 pm

    “…showcasing one of America’s least recognized, highly qualified pipelines of talent”

    LOVE it!

    Welcome Maria!

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