I served two terms (1999–2001) as an AmeriCorps ACCESS member placed at Centro La Comunidad in Burlington. Centro La Comunidad is a program of Catholic Charities that serves the Latinx community in Alamance County through direct services and collaborations with other nonprofit organizations. During those two years, I became fluent in Spanish at a time when international immigration to North Carolina was skyrocketing.
Soon after my AmeriCorps terms ended, I graduated from UNCG. I then moved out of state for graduate school. After earning a master’s degree at the University of Chicago, I worked in the field of immigration law and policy there for nearly two years. In 2006, while working in Chicago, I received a call from Catholic Charities in North Carolina. The director’s position at Centro La Comunidad (my former service site) became available and the agency asked me to return to North Carolina to fill the position.
The rest is history, as they say! Many years after entering this organization as an AmeriCorps member, I am still here, having been promoted and serving in various roles along the way. During all my years working here, we have – without exception – always hosted AmeriCorps ACCESS members. I have had the pleasure of supervising and working alongside dozens of ACCESS members at Centro La Comunidad over the years. Those former members are now spread throughout the country and beyond, but I keep in touch with them. They all agree that their AmeriCorps service was an invaluable experience that informed their future educational and professional paths.
I can relate. Serving as an AmeriCorps member was my gateway into a field of study and work that I was previously unfamiliar with. I went into AmeriCorps unsure of the career path I wanted to pursue, but I ended it with clarity and hands-on experience. I have yet to meet a single AmeriCorps ACCESS alumnus who regrets making the commitment.