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The Beauty of AmeriCorps: Empowering Citizens & Redefining Dreams

July 1, 2015

HeadshotToday’s guest blog comes from Cassandra Argo. Cassandra currently serves as the AmeriCorps Program Officer at Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s commission on national & community service. Prior to becoming an AmeriCorps Program Officer, she served as an AmeriCorps State and VISTA member at Perry County Department of Job & Family Services through a partnership with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. She is also a quarterly columnist for the PA Times, the online publication for the American Society for Public Administration.

I first heard about AmeriCorps in the fall of 1999 while on a disaster relief trip to Grifton, NC with my Asbury University weekend ministry team. An AmeriCorps NCCC team was also deployed to Grifton, and my desire to continue serving after graduation was born. I was determined to become an AmeriCorps NCCC team member with the Denver campus until I found myself in Eastern KY.

Asbury Disaster Relief Trip Work PhotoDuring a spring break volunteer trip during my junior year, I stayed with an AmeriCorps team of the Christian Appalachian Project. They lived together and worked on housing initiatives in the Eastern Kentucky region. And a new idea formed: direct service.

Ten years later, my AmeriCorps dream became a reality. I signed up to serve as an AmeriCorps State member serving at Perry County Department of Job & Family Services (PCDJFS) through a partnership with the Ohio Association of Foodbanks. For the two years I served as a HarvestCorps team member and leader, I created the PCDJFS website and Facebook presence, wrote a bi-weekly column for the Perry County Tribune, and assisted hundreds of Perry County residents with their state and federal taxes through the Ohio Benefit Bank (OBB).

AmeriCorps-Service-Annual-Back-to-School-Bash-Event-I loved what I was doing so much that I then signed up to continue at PCDJFS and the Association as an AmeriCorps VISTA. During these final two years, I expanded the Perry County – OBB Tax Clinic Program to become a mobile unit with 11 trained volunteers who served 468 clients with $558,569 in total refunds. After four years with AmeriCorps, I knew that I wanted to continue strengthening communities through National Service.

I soon found an opportunity to do so when I saw an opening as an AmeriCorps Program Officer with Volunteer West Virginia, the state’s commission for national and community service. I quickly updated my resume and cover letter, sent up a silent prayer, and responded to the call for applicants. After a phone interview and a face-to-face meeting, I was offered the position. And what a ride it has been! The AmeriCorps Symposium in D.C., site visits, and Notice of Funding Opportunities (NOFO), oh my!

Cassandra (left) at the AmeriCorps Program Officer Year-End Celebration

Cassandra (left) at the AmeriCorps Program Officer Year-End Celebration

All kidding aside, the transition from AmeriCorps member to AmeriCorps administrator was made easier thanks to the strength of the professional development and hands-on jobs skills that I acquired as an AmeriCorps member for PCDJFS and the Association. The training and opportunities provided to me gave me the confidence and ability to meet all of the demands that AmeriCorps program and grant management presents me with on a daily basis. My time as an AmeriCorps member also gave me the courage to continue seeking new opportunities and to never stop learning new skills.

In addition to continually taking on new projects at Volunteer West Virginia, I have been accepted as a quarterly columnist for the PA Times, the online publication of the American Society for Public Administration. My column is called “Strengthening Communities through National Service,” and I’m excited to share all of the skills, knowledge, and experience that I gained as an AmeriCorps member with the world of public administrators.

Cassandra at the Disaster Corps Signing with Governor Earl Ray Tomblin

Cassandra at the Disaster Corps Signing with Governor Earl Ray Tomblin

And that is the beauty of AmeriCorps: redefining dreams, igniting passions, and empowering citizens to get things done for themselves, for their neighbors, for their communities, for their nation, and for the world at large.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 2, 2015 6:05 pm

    Way to go Cassandra!! Inspiring story :).

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