By Paula Katrina Drago
AmeriCorps NCCC alum and former Eli Segal Fellow, P.K. Drago, recalls her times with AmeriCorps and CNCS.
As an AmeriCorps NCCC member, I had the opportunity to participate in rebuilding efforts in the New Orleans area, serve as a counselor at a camp for kids and adults with special needs, build trails on an island in the Puget Sound, support the Los Angeles Food Bank, and reduce the risk of fire in the San Bernardino Mountains. Like many other NCCC alums, I now have a collection of library cards from across the U.S., have mastered the art of parallel parking a 15-passenger van, and get irrationally excited whenever I spot someone in an NCCC sweatshirt.
I never expected to have a job that entailed working from platforms 40-60 feet in the air at a camp high ropes course, learning the best technique for building stairs into a hiking trail, or wearing a Tyvek suit, but what I expected least was how serving in AmeriCorps would change me. Being a national service member is the most empowering experience I’ve ever had and I became passionate about helping others find the same strength in themselves through service. That’s was first attracted me to the Eli Segal Fellowship.
Serving as the Eli Segal Fellow at the Corporation for National and Community Service allowed me to see what happens at the agency level to make a program like AmeriCorps possible and to give a voice to current members in the development of new programs, initiatives, and policies that impact members and alumni. My work included supporting disaster response efforts in New York and Alaska, recruiting schools to provide scholarships for national service alumni, and even tweeting for AmeriCorps.
In ways, the fellowship was sometimes as surprising as my service terms—while providing support for a CNCS Board Meeting, I briefly found myself face to face with Richard Simmons!
P.K. Drago served as an AmeriCorps NCCC members and team leader with the Pacific Region Campus (Class XVI and XVII) and was the 2013 Eli Segal Fellow. Learn more about the Eli Segal Fellowship and apply by visiting go.usa.gov/kYNe . The application deadline is Friday, May 23.