Getting Things Done for America

McGinley_americorps.jpgIn our spring issue of The Trident, we focus on service. In keeping with that theme, we wanted to highlight an organization dedicated to addressing the critical needs in America's communities and utilizing volunteers to help those communities. The AmeriCorps program began in 1993, and since then, more than 500,000 people have volunteered across the country— including many Tri Deltas.      

Brittany McGinley, Colorado State, served 10 months in the National Civilian Community Corps branch of AmeriCorps. As a member of a 10-12 person team, she traveled to different parts of the country in a 15-passenger van, taking on various service projects. She likens the experience to "living like a roaming gypsy" but says that was all part of the appeal.

"I liked the idea of traveling and seeing more of the country," she says. Ultimately, she chose service in AmeriCorps over service in the Peace Corps because "There was so much that could be done here in America."

One major project her team undertook was the rebuilding of the parts of the South affected by Hurricane Katrina. But the project that had the most impact on Brittany was organizing an environmental conference back East. She had the opportunity to help arrange speakers and meet big thinkers in the green movement, leading her to the realization of what career path she wanted to take.

"I decided I wanted to get into the environmental sustainability field," she says. "Without AmeriCorps, I never would have figured that out or have been exposed to all those things."

She believes her experience in AmeriCorps helped her not only learn new skill sets, but also taught her a lot about herself.

"You get so much more out of the experience than you put into it," she says. "AmeriCorps really helps you spread your wings."

Ashley Crockett Lohr, Franklin, has experience on the other side of the AmeriCorps operation. Though she has never directly been an AmeriCorps volunteer herself, she was an AmeriCorps VISTA supervisor while working for the nonprofit Girls Inc. According to Ashley, one benefit of AmeriCorps for nonprofits is capacity-building.

"We were a really small staff of less than 10," she says. "VISTA helped us build the capacity we needed to grow and serve more girls in a year."

AshleyCrockett_VISTAs.jpgVISTA volunteers are typically responsible for developing projects within organizations. For Girls Inc, the volunteers took on such projects as developing a speakers' bureau, sponsorship programs and building an online presence with social media. Ultimately, the purpose is for these projects to continue even after the volunteers' service term is completed.   

Ashley is a strong believer in the AmeriCorps program and the experience it provides college graduates. "VISTA is a great way to develop as a professional, get substantive experience in your field and give you a leg up over other graduates coming right out of school."

And when it comes to service and nonprofit work, Ashley says, "It's not something where you're doing the most glamorous work, and you may not make a ton of money, but at the end of the day when you come home, you know you've made a difference."

Photos: Top - Brittany McGinley, Colorado State. Bottom: Ashley Crockett Lohr, Franklin with VISTA volunteers.

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