Top left: Cory (center), with her AmeriCorps NCCC team, River 3 and their site supervisor with Habitat Humanity. Top right: Working hard at her Habitat for Humanity project site. Lower left: Her AmeriCorps NCCC team at graduation in 2007. Lower right: Serving as a Corps Member at the AmeriCorps NCCC Charleston campus in 2006-07.
People always ask, “What is AmeriCorps NCCC?” That question to me is much more than the basic answer we are trained to give. It is learning that having hot water is a privilege, that privacy no longer exists, and that the people you meet daily have the ability to change your life.
I first stumbled upon the AmeriCorps NCCC program when I was 17, and my mom, so desperate for me to have some direction in my life, encouraged me to go. At that point there were very few things I actually cared about, so I agreed. I came into the program resistant to change. I always thought that I knew exactly where my life was going, and even though it wasn’t in a positive and healthy direction, I didn’t care. What I failed to realize was that in this program, change is inescapable.
I remember the moment I felt changed. I was lying on my bunk in Lake Charles, LA, about to go to sleep when I realized, “I am different. I see the world differently, and I now know more than ever, I have the power to make a difference.”
That’s the beauty of a program such as this one. You are thrown into situations you never imagined you would be in. You meet amazing people who change your life and challenge you to think differently about the world. You grow and change into the person you were always meant to be. You realize that it is possible for you to change the world. You have the opportunity to see it every day.
Learning to Lead
It was because of that first experience that I knew I was going to come back to serve as a team leader. There was nothing I wanted to do more than to give back to a program that made such an incredible and lasting impact on my life.
My experience as a team leader was one of the most challenging and rewarding 11 months of my life. I will never forget the craziness of team leader training when Nate asked if we could purchase a live chicken on our debit cards, to my birthday weekend in New Orleans where we first started our wonderful Birthday Appreciations. My team has taught me that it’s okay if I make mistakes or don’t always know all the answers. They have worked with me to solve team issues when I had no idea how to handle them, and each member has taught me more than I could ever imagine.
I came into this program wanting to change the minds of these young adults, and instead they changed mine. I want to thank them for accepting me as their team leader in the beginning with nothing but open arms, for laughing when my double chin came out to play, for putting up with my “thank you” note obsession, and for listening to my constant rants about taking bags at the grocery store. I will never forget the impact they have made on my life, and there is no doubt in my mind that we have changed one another for the better.
All this said, AmeriCorps NCCC can be very challenging. Not every day was easy and rewarding. Sometimes I felt helpless and frustrated at the program, the team and myself. Those days came and went though, and in the end we all made it through. As difficult as this year has been in many ways, including the loss of someone very special to us, we have all survived it together.
‘A Part of Who I Am’
I don’t think I will ever fully be able to explain to someone what the AmeriCorps NCCC program really is, and what it means to me. But if one looks closely, they will see it. It’s a part of who I am.
AmeriCorps NCCC is the people I have impacted and who have impacted me, the trails I have worked on, the challenges I overcame, the hardy board I installed, and it’s the growth I have made throughout these past 11 months. It’s who I am, and I wouldn’t change any moment of this year.
Thank you to everyone who has been a part of my journey with AmeriCorps NCCC, both past and present. My experience wouldn’t have been the same without you, I wouldn’t be the same without you.
Cory finished her second term of service with AmeriCorps NCCC in December 2013, as a team leader for River 3. She is currently pursuing a job in the social services field in Portland, Oregon and will be applying to Portland State University next year to obtain her Master’s in Social Work.