Jill Ament put thermal clothes, toiletries, a journal and photos of family and friends into her green duffel bag provided by AmeriCorps before embarking on her 10-month “intensive community service work” across the Midwest, Ament said she was forced to leave her acoustic guitar behind, which she played at various local venues as an undergraduate at Texas State. Ament is one of thousands of volunteers recruited to take part in AmeriCorps, a full-time, team-based residential program for people ages 18 to 24.
AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) provides a unique opportunity for students and alumni to perform intensive community service work in various states across the country.
The U.S. federal government sponsors AmeriCorps NCCC, which is known as “N-triple-C” to some members. AmeriCorps serves communities in every state in partnership with nonprofit organizations, state and federal governments, national and state parks, Native American tribes and schools.
“This program (AmeriCorps) is one where you get a taste of a lot of different focus areas,” Ament said.
There was surprise snow on the ground when Ament arrived in February at the Vinton, Iowa, headquarters of the AmeriCorps North Central Region, she said. Ament, who recently completed her last day of AmeriCorps service planting trees in a Milwaukee county park, spent time at Texas State working toward a career in media.
After graduation, Ament was hired at a television station and began seeing a pattern in topics she covered, like the environment and poverty. She sought opportunities that would help her gain a better perspective on the lives these issues touched.
Corps members complete service projects they are assigned throughout the region and are provided with food, housing, transportation, a biweekly stipend and an academic award at their contract’s end. Ament said she completed various tasks for three weeks beginning in August with the nonprofit Earth Tipi on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Manderson, South Dakota.
Ament said she and her team helped build a gray water filtration system and homes made from sustainable materials, like clay, in an effort to improve the reservation’s “extremely impoverished” housing infrastructure.
“I’ve done stuff that I would never have imagined myself to be doing a year ago,” Ament said, who helped make bricks in South Dakota with a descendent of Red Cloud, a former chief of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe.
Michael Kostek, Texas State communication studies junior, said he quit undergraduate work at age 21 and joined AmeriCorps NCCC for almost two years.
Employment uncertainty and AmeriCorps’ academic scholarships were reasons Kostek said he joined and stayed in the program.
“I’m pretty malleable to this half-hazard job market,” Kostek said, attributing this to his untraditional life experiences.
While Ament served in the Midwest, Kostek worked both on the West and East coasts during his two program terms, performing tasks that ranged from in- and after-school tutoring, tearing down and weather proofing buildings to removing invasive plants and planting native ones.
Kostek said AmeriCorps provided a “fresh perspective” on understanding the world around him, describing the program as a life “shake up.”
As a media representative for AmeriCorps, Ament said she was responsible for writing articles and implementing photography and video to be disseminated to the public. She performed this job despite not always having Internet access or cell phone reception, like when she and her team were living in an old lodge on Michigan county parkland.
“It’s not all despair,” Ament said, even when she and her team were living in tents in South Dakota, some of which flooded because of heavy rainfall the first week they were there. “There’s a lot of positive moments.”