On Monday, August 29, 2011, the new group of HealthCorps members starting at CHC was summoned by Charise DiPierro to ION for the first day of orientation. I was completely on track to arriving on time, right at 9am but it was my first time being in Middletown in about 5 years and I quickly got lost. If you can understand the confusion of multiple buildings making up the one Middletown site of the Community Health Center, you can understand that I found myself in the Behavioral Health building thinking I was right on schedule. I was quickly ushered down the street by a nice employee to the It’s Only Natural Building where I realized that I was the last one to arrive and late for day one of AmeriCorps. I took my seat, looked around at twelve unfamiliar faces and definitely had no clue what the next eleven months would entail.
AmeriCorps is a U.S. Federal Government Program that was created under President Bill Clinton by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. The work done by different AmeriCorps groups ranges from public education, environmental clean-up and my personal favorite, community health. Here at CHC, we are a part of the AmeriCorps State and National program where members engage in direct service activities, such as working with local schools, homebuilding, volunteering at various events and hosting our own events to benefit communities. After successfully completing a service term of 1700 hours, members receive an Education Award.
As of the last week in July, all 13 members here at CHC had successfully completed their 2011-2012 terms and it was time to move forward, letting a new group experience a whirlwind of service. On my first day of orientation, I could have never predicted the year to come and all of the life, career and service experience that I was able to gain as an AmeriCorps member.
Aside from being a member of this national program, we were also extra lucky to be placed within the Community Health Center where opportunities to serve the community are constantly created on a daily basis. Opportunities to experience career building and personal growth are also huge components of an AmeriCorps’s member’s term at CHC. After the first week of getting to know my fellow members, I could tell that all of these new acquaintances were bright, confident, kind and just the group of people I wanted to be surrounded by. In 10 short months, we accomplished the following:
-Became an extremely close-knit AmeriCorps family for life
-Served a combined 22,000+ hours within the state of CT
-Provided outreach services throughout the state
-Each maintained our own full time position within CHC
- Access to Care
- WYA (Healthcare for homeless)
- Mobile Dental
- Quality Improvement (Project ECHO)
- Wellness Programs (New Britain, Middletown)
- Prenatal Care
- Mobile Retinopathy
- Recess Rocks (fighting childhood obesity)
- Communications/Outreach Coordination
- Early Detection program
-Created and organized an entire week of service in Waterbury, CT
-Served as volunteers for events such as:
- Stand Down (provide service for Veterans)
- Mission of Mercy
- Give Kids a Smile Day
- Recess Rocks Music Video filming/various outreach events
- Middnight on Main
- World AIDS day/HIV testing day
- Habitat for Humanity
- New Horizons Cell Phone Drive
- Various Awareness Walks
- Keep the Sun Fun event
- St. Vincent’s Food Pantry service and food drive
- Special Olympics
- Peter’s Retreat
- Memorial Day Parade
- AmeriCorps week
- Garden Club
- Wellness Fairs & Multiple CHC events
-Established professional and personal relationships with supervisors and staff
-Made a difference in at least 1 person’s life
I could go on and on about this past year and all the incredible things we have been a part of. Although it was very sad when we had to say goodbye to our fellow members as they moved on, whether it be Medical School, Graduate School, a new job or anything else…we will always have the memories (plenty of tee shirts) and the knowledge gained from this year that no one can ever take away. We definitely had times where we hit a roadblock or lost steam but the fact that there were people constantly around you, pushing you to exceed your own limits made even the worst days worth it. I have never had so many people care about my future on such a personal level and because of that, I know choosing AmeriCorps as my next step after college was the perfect fit.
If someone is considering a year a national service, career experience or you enjoy helping people and constantly doing something different and out of the ordinary, I would recommend AmeriCorps. At the end of the day, the main requirement is an eagerness to learn, help and work hard to make a difference somewhere or to someone. I would like to thank Tasha Germain, Brianna Martinez, Khushbu Khatri, Callie Moore, Asya Tsarkova, Corazon Irizarry, Lisa Rozo, Carla Jacobs, Rachel Schumacher, Diana Desmornes, Liz Radl and the one and only Roberto Henry, for your compassion, support and friendship during our time as AmeriCorps members…and also never forgetting that I was late on the first day!