My name is Gena Brookes, and I have been a VIP AmeriCorps volunteer at Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation since Sept.21, 2016. My AmeriCorps project is the “Volunteer Infrastructure Project,” which will take place within an 11-month period and result in the fulfillment of about 1,700 service hours at Cabrillo.
As an AmeriCorps member, this position requires me to bolster Cabrillo’s volunteer outreach in the following areas: recruiting, fundraising, training and building infrastructure/capacity.
I received a bachelor’s degree in English Literature last spring from the University of California, Berkeley. After deciding to take a year off to prepare for law school, I researched volunteer opportunities within nonprofit organizations, having had positive experiences with volunteer work throughout high school and college, including time with CAPS TV, Ventura County’s regional television station. During college, I worked with several on-campus volunteer initiatives, such as FeelGood, which strives to eliminate hunger and poverty by the year 2030.
After interning with the United Way of Ventura County for several months, I learned of an opportunity to work as an AmeriCorps VIP Volunteer. I was hesitant to apply at first because the lengthy commitment would require my plans for law school be put on hold. However, after researching the program, I applied because of AmeriCorps’ influential history and dedication to “getting things done” throughout the country. I was motivated by AmeriCorps legacy of strengthening and improving communities through the nonprofit sector, and in a diverse mix of fields, including education, public safety, housing and the environment. By bolstering nonprofits and the volunteer climate, AmeriCorps members help strengthen the organizational, administrative and financial capacity of an organization.
Founded under the Clinton Administration in 1993, AmeriCorps is a national service program supported by the U.S. federal government, formed as an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). AmeriCorps was designed to “foster the ethics of service, and address the most critical problems within the nation.” AmeriCorps programs also shed light on the various programs, organizations and institutions the volunteers work with during their service. AmeriCorps often has been described as the “domestic Peace Corps,” offering a wide-range of challenging and enriching full-time and part-time nonprofit public service opportunities throughout the country. The different branches of AmeriCorps programs include the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), state and national programs, and the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC). Since its inception, AmeriCorps has contributed an estimated 1.4 billion hours in service across the country, and as of 2016, has recruited more than 1 million AmeriCorps members. Besides gaining professional skill development and work experience, AmeriCorps members benefit from additional services, such as receiving financial compensation in the form of cost-of-living allowances, student loan deferment, public service loan forgiveness, and the AmeriCorps Education Award. AmeriCorps also has made efforts in the advancement of social innovation across the country, investing in organizations recognized for their citizen problem-solving achievements, such as Teach for America, City Year, YouthBuild, JumpStart and Experience Corps.
Although I’ve only been at Cabrillo for four months, I have greatly enjoyed my time working and developing my professional skills as an AmeriCorps volunteer alongside the wonderful staff. At Cabrillo, I primarily work with the Resident and Community Services Department (RCS), helping track various services, document volunteer involvement, obtain donated books and library supplies for CEDC properties, and assist with Cabrillo’s upcoming 35th anniversary gala. Along with volunteering at the corporate office, I occasionally assist the RCS team with residential activities, such as Senior FOOD Share events at the Santa Paulan Apartments in Santa Paula, the Kid’s Farmers Market and Dia de Los Muertos events at Villa Victoria Apartments in Oxnard, and the CSU Channel Islands student volunteer homework club orientations at various Cabrillo sites.
The RCS department also has a diverse mix of community-building programs that focus on improving education, income, homeownership, financial support, health and wellness, and civic participation. Some of these programs could use additional volunteer assistance, including the homework clubs, tutoring and English as a second language classes, kid’s farmers markets, nutrition programs, clean-up days, community gardens, movie nights, arts and crafts events, and seasonal festivals.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time working at Cabrillo Economic Development Corporation as an AmeriCorps volunteer, and look forward to growing both personally and professionally while working here in the coming months. For more information about the Resident and Community Services department, or questions about volunteering with RCS, please contact: (805) 672-2588 Ext. 185