On Oct. 30, a panel of speakers from various national and international service programs spoke with Eastern Connecticut State University students in the President’s Dining Room. The lunchtime event was organized by the Center for Community Engagement (CCE) and featured Eastern alumni and current and former participants of Public Allies, Peace Corps, AmeriCorps VISTA, Teach for America and AmeriCorps NCCC.
Each of the programs vary in project/service type, qualification and commitment, but all focus on positively impacting the communities in which they serve.
Eastern alumna Kimberly Sanchez ’09, a representative of Public Allies, spoke of how the program engages students and young leaders in work with nonprofit organizations. During her two terms with Public Allies, Sanchez has worked with Connecticut College to develop innovative teaching and learning techniques that foster active citizenship in greater New London communities.
The Peace Corps, a two-year service program that places volunteers in developing countries throughout the world, was represented by Kathryn Fidler and Eastern alumna Olivia Grajeda ’78. From 2002–04, Fidler served as a youth development volunteer in the Philippines and as a nonprofit program director in South Korea. Grajeda spent two years serving in a hospital as a community health organizer in Albania.
AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), which focuses on expanding community programs that alleviate issues related to poverty, was represented by Eastern alumni Max Goto ’13 and Christopher Brechlin ’09. Amid his second VISTA term, Goto currently works at Eastern’s CCE as an event and volunteer coordinator. Brechlin, a data specialist, spent his VISTA term managing the measurement initiative of the Nonprofit Alliance of Northeast Connecticut.
Teach for America, a program that assigns participants to education-focused projects within underperforming school districts, was represented by Allyson Iannicelli. During her term, she served in Tulsa, OK, as an early childhood educator from 2012–14.
AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), a hands-on, team-based service program that assigns teams to different projects within a designated area, was represented by Eastern alumnus Michael Rouleau ’11. During his term, Rouleau performed trail work and forest fire mitigation in Arizona; IRS certified tax preparation in Denver, CO; prototype disaster relief shelter construction in Austin, TX; and watershed restoration in southwest Colorado.
While making money is not a primary draw for these programs, many do offer modest salaries or living allowances, as well as assistance with student loans and other financial perks. Their primary draw is the opportunity to give back to communities while enabling participants to travel, grow, develop professional networks and work in a number of job and service areas.