Life of Service

Jorge has always been drawn to service. He has always valued giving back to his community. So when looking at attending the University of North Carolina Greensboro he happened upon the webpage for the Center for New North Carolinians. He saw that they had an AmeriCorps program, a network of national service programs, and was intrigued. Maybe one day he would be interested in being an AmeriCorps member, but not for a few years.

As Jorge began his studies at UNCG, he found himself in a service learning class, where he would need to spend time volunteering with an organization. A representative from the Center for New North Carolinians came to talk to his class and he signed up to be a volunteer tutor at the Oakwood Forest Community Center.

Jorge’s desire to impact his community was still strong, and he was still thinking about AmeriCorps. So after he completed his volunteer hours through tutoring he decided to apply for the AmeriCorps ACCESS Project.

Through the AmeriCorps ACCESS Project, Jorge was placed at Oakwood Forest, the same community center he had been volunteering at. Now Jorge has been serving with AmeriCorps for three years.

His day to day as a member involves a lot of things, but mainly working with clients at the center. He spends a lot of time meeting with residents in the neighborhood, providing case management services, doing paperwork, connecting clients with resources, and helping run teen time. Teen time is a program meant to offer socially and educationally enriching activities for teens.

Another aspect of Jorge’s service with AmeriCorps is working with volunteers at the center. This part of AmeriCorps has been really significant for Jorge, because he loves seeing the change in volunteers and the way their service impacts them. In particular, he loves to see the transformation in volunteers. Many volunteers go from a state of mind where they believe they are responsible for saving or changing the children they are tutoring or clients they are serving, to volunteers realizing that the people they are serving are actually changing and impacting the volunteers for the better.

Personally, Jorge has also been changed and impacted by his time at Oakwood Forest. His first year with AmeriCorps was not what he expected nor wanted. Through this tough year, he learned what he didn’t like to do and realized he needed a change. Jorge began doing more of what he is called to do, what he is good at, and what the community needs.

This helped Jorge to understand how to pursue these things professionally and personally. Professionally, Jorge has learned from this experience that he is interested in pursuing further education in mental health care. He has learned about the need for mental health care in immigrant and refugee populations and he has especially seen the need in young adults through his time working with the teen program at Oakwood Forest. He is still deciding between clinical social work or psychology, but his work has made him passionate about mental health.

Jorge speaks highly of his time with AmeriCorps and suggests that other people interested in AmeriCorps should realize that it is a worthwhile experience but it is also hard work. For Jorge, the challenges have included learning how to invest in people and their lives on an emotional level, while also setting boundaries and not bringing his work home. He says serving through AmeriCorps will teach others how to work in a professional environment, how to balance emotionally hard work, how to ask for help, how to accept failure, and how to be empathetic. Ultimately, Jorge has found his three years with AmeriCorps to be beneficial both professionally and personally.

Written by Nicole Plante, Elon University, International and Global Studies, Intern, spring 2019

Jorge served one year as an AmeriCorps ACCESS member and is currently in his second year serving in the AmeriCorps Partnership to End Homelessness