Friday, January 24, 2014

What is AmeriCorps? Trevor's Experience


This year marks the 20th year of the federal AmeriCorps program. AmeriCorps is the network of local, state, and national service programs that connects over 80,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet community needs in education, the environment, public safety, health, and homeland security. AmeriCorps’ members serve with more than 2,000 non-profits, public agencies, and community organizations. Today, I am interviewing AmeriCorps member Trevor Sikes about his experience in AmeriCorps.

1.      You’ve been an AmeriCorps member for how long now? Tell us a little bit about yourself, how you learned about AmeriCorps, and why you applied to the program.  

My name is Trevor Sikes and I’m originally from Saratoga, Wyoming.  I went to college in Olympia, Washington at the Evergreen State College and majored in foreign affairs and cultural studies.  I have been an AmeriCorps NPRC member for about a year and a half. I am currently half way through my second term in Pensacola, Florida.  (The NPRC is the national AmeriCorps grant-funded disaster preparedness and response program that partners with the American Red Cross).  Truthfully, before I applied to AmeriCorps, I didn’t know anything about the program.  At the time I applied, I was fresh out of college trying to get my foot in the door to my dream job, but sadly I lacked the experience. I applied to the AmeriCorps program for a few different reasons but mainly I signed up to gain experience to help me reach my future goals and to make a difference. 

2.     AmeriCorps is a national program. Tell us about the application process and the financial benefits you get from the program. 

            When I signed up for the AmeriCorps NPRC program, it worked just like how you would apply for any other job. I had to submit a resume online on the AmeriCorps webpage and do a phone interview. Once I got the offer, I had to accept the offer and was really happy and thrilled. The NPRC Program offers a $5500 reward that can be used towards a higher education or to help pay off your student loans after you complete your term. When you serve in AmeriCorps, you can defer your student loans if you have any and the AmeriCorps program will pay the interest rate during your term, which is a huge help.  The program provides a living stipend, which teaches you to make a budget and live off of it. 

3.     Where have you served and what have you been doing since you’ve been in AmeriCorps?

Since I started with AmeriCorps NPRC, I have served in Baltimore and New York when Hurricane Sandy hit. On that disaster, I drove the American Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV) to drop off supplies to shelters all over Maryland. Then my team moved up to New York and I delivered hot meals and supplies to people all over Station Island. 

The next place I served was in Quincy, Illinois where I worked and helped on the Red Cross Public Relations team, explaining to media what Red Cross was doing and where people could volunteer or get assistance. I also wrote stories about volunteers and affected people and how people could help. Finally I took pictures for the National Red Cross Blog and local Red Cross Facebook page.

             The rest of the time I have helped the local chapter where I work with small local disasters such as fires, floods, deep freezes, etc.  I also help disseminate information on how people of all ages can prepare for disasters.

4.     What have been some of the challenges of volunteering through AmeriCorps?  

The main challenge with volunteering with the AmeriCorps program in my opinion is mainly making the commitment. NPRC members commit to a total of 1,700+ service hours and 11 months of full-time service to the Red Cross.  That kind of commitment can be challenging and living off the stipend can be difficult at times.   
5.      What have been some things you’ve experienced that you will take with you wherever you go after you leave AmeriCorps? 

The things I have learned from the AmeriCorps NPRC program that I will take with me wherever I go are mainly to be flexible. I have learned that things don’t always go your way, and you need to be flexible and adjust to change.  I also have learned to encourage others to make a difference in their community and give back to others.

6.     What do you personally get out of doing community service?

            When I do community service for AmeriCorps, I personally get the satisfaction of knowing that I’m making a difference in my community or in someone’s life. That satisfaction is just a great feeling that I can’t describe.

7.     What are your plans following your time in AmeriCorps?

            After my AmeriCorps term, it is my hope to work for an international humanitarian relief organization or find a job with the government and work with international relations programs.

8.    Is there anything you would like to add?

            This is a great program that has taught me a lot and has allowed me to give back to different communities. The program has also allowed me to make a difference in people’s lives for the better when they’re facing difficult times. Over the past year and a half, I have grown for the better, I hope.  I recommend it to anyone that wants to make a difference in their communities or in other communities or would just like to help people.

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