By Julia Tebben, Assistant Director, Service Delivery & Strategic Initiatives, Career and Professional Development Services
Kay Gardner is a Sun Devil pursuing degrees in Graphic Information Technology and Japanese. She recently served for a year with AmeriCorps NCCC. In this interview she shares what she learned along the way about building skills and making connections through service!
Can you share a bit about your project with AmeriCorps NCCC?
During an AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) experience, a member will become a part of various different projects. For example, the last project I took part in lasted around three months. During that time, I was stationed in Paradise, CA helping to provide relief to the local community after the deadly Camp Fire of 2018. My team and I completed a variety of tasks including working in weed abatement to create fire-safe properties, serving weekly community dinners to the residents of Paradise, engaging at local goods distribution centers, building tiny homes for fire survivors, and so much more.
The second project was part of a collaboration with the non-profit organization, Habitat for Humanity, working to build houses for those in financial need in the areas of Bend and Redmond, OR. So far, we have helped to build five homes!
How did you hear about AmeriCorps NCCC, and what was the application process like?
In the beginning, I was looking into programs that would help fund the rest my education. Additionally, I have always wanted to work in a sector that is in the business of helping people.
I wondered if there were any volunteer programs that would allow me to join without a degree- and that is how I stumbled across the AmeriCorps website. After looking into all of their programs, I found that the National Civilian Community Corps was the best fit for me and decided to apply.
The application process is fairly simple. First, you collect two letters of recommendation and fill out the online application form. If you make it through that screening process, you will be invited to complete an eligibility interview via phone call. When the Corps staff decides you are a good fit for the program, you will receive notice and a welcome packet in the mail within a couple weeks of completing the interview.
In the welcome packet, there are background check (fingerprint card) and medical forms you must fill out and return. After those items are completed, the application process is complete!
What type of applicants would be a good fit for this program?
I would really recommend the NCCC program to people who are looking to add new skills to their toolset, those looking to serve their country's local communities, and even those who are still undecided about their next steps. The program allows a wide age-range of young adults (18-24) to join as corps members, and people of any age 18+ to join as leaders to those members. Becoming a team leader is a good option for those that wish to improve their leadership or social skills.
In addition, members who are currently enrolled in college can earn college credit for completing additional tasks during their service year, so the program is also a good fit for students who are looking to further their studies.
Alongside completing their service, all members earn an education award that is equivalent to the service year's Pell grant. Therefore, applicants that are pursuing their higher education may find that there is a lot to gain from completing the program in regard to their schooling.
How has the experience impacted your career trajectory/professional goals?
I am more likely to get involved with small businesses or communities than I was before. As someone who is aspiring to become a graphic artist one day, I always pictured myself working with larger companies on their visual branding or creative concepts. However, after AmeriCorps NCCC, I feel more connected to smaller communities and companies because I have been working and living amongst the people who help those communities thrive.
What pieces of advice would you give to students considering AmeriCorps or something similar?
If you are on the fence about whether or not to complete a program like this, it's very important to consider the fact that we each only have one life to lead. NCCC is one of the best decisions I have ever made, and I know I have gained a lot of new skills and understanding for others through my experience.
These days, it is also important to make yourself distinguishable from others in the career search. Programs of this calibre can help greatly with that, and a person can learn a lot about the types of communities you might be working within after you graduate with your degree.
If you're interested in NCCC and AmeriCorps, visit their website today to see their program offerings. You can also learn more about ASU's commitment to national service through the Make Your Impact initiative here.