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From Queens to Americorps

As a member of an 11-person Americorps NCCC team, I perform full-time service for different non-profits and government organizations in the central/south United States.  For my first project, I worked for Houston Parks and Recreation in Texas, doing trail maintenance.  My focus was on widening two wooden bridges along a trail.  I learned a lot about bridge construction and how to handle different types of power tools.  On weekends and evenings, we have team reflections about the community we live in and the work we are doing.  We also complete individual service hours within each community we serve. Up next, I'll be working with the Community Action Plan in Tulsa, Okla., helping lower-income and immigrant families fill out their taxes and figure out where they can get rebates.  Tulsa has a large Spanish-speaking community, so I'll get to help those people that don't speak very much English or none at all. 

Late in the summer of 2010, after I graduated, I received the e-mail I had been waiting for:  I was officially accepted to Americorps NCCC, a national service organization.  I had known for a long time that this program was the one for me.  It combined my interest in meeting new people and exploring new places with my passion for service.  As a student at Queens, the motto, "Non ministrare, sed ministrare" transformed from a couple of unknown words into an integral part of my life.  Through the frames of my International Studies and Foreign Languages majors, I studied what service could mean on a global scale, and how individuals are the most important actors in that.  And equally as important, I learned that I am happiest when serving others.

Americorps NCCC offered me a great opportunity to do that.  The impetus for joining NCCC was my passion for service that Queens instilled in me, but little did I know my education there would serve me in more ways than one during my tenure.  My program, which began in October 2010, has taken me to several places throughout the south-central U.S. with my ten teammates.  I've slept in a college dorm, a one-room cabin, a minimum security prison (no inmates in sight), and a recreation center.  I've been trained on every trail maintenance tool imaginable, know how to handle a 15-passenger van in inches and inches of snow, am a certified Wildland Firefighter, and know all the American Red Cross standards for a proper disaster shelter.  In short, NCCC has provided me with a variety of experiences that I would certainly not enjoy anywhere else.  One common theme of it all is that I am encountering new ideas and challenges everyday. 

My education at Queens is with me as I make it a point to critically assess why I am doing what I am doing, how it can be better and what impact it has on the community. 

My current project places me in Tulsa, OK where my team and I are working with an organization that provides childcare and financial services to low-income families in the area.  Our work focuses on identifying tax credits and maximizing returns for these families.  My job is to complete intake surveys with each client prior to them meeting the tax preparer.  This federally-mandated questionnaire has me asking questions about the details of people's spending and saving habits.  While I occasionally welcome a client who does not want to answer, most people are thankful for the service we provide and forthcoming with any information we ask of them, allowing me to get to know Tulsa and its people in a unique way.  If you'd asked me a year ago what I'd be doing at this time, I definitely would not have answered correctly.  However, being in Tulsa and giving back to their community is a perfect fit for me.

NCCC is an amazing program with opportunities to learn more about the U.S. and yourself, and because of my education at Queens, I have been able to make it as meaningful and enriching an adventure as possible.

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