In 2013, I had an amazing opportunity to serve in AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps). AmeriCorps NCCC is a program for 18-24 year olds who would like to serve their country by giving a year of their life to national community service. The program is team-based, and the team travels together from five to six
different project locations over the course of a year. The projects can range anywhere from trail maintenance and disaster relief to community education or planning and preparedness.
My team and I were based in Perry Point, Md., and traveled anywhere from Maryland to Maine. The things I was able to experience, the people I was able to meet, and the work I was able to do exceeded my wildest dreams. Although there were many nights of uncomfortable wet sleeping bags in tents that leaked, and 5 am physical training will never be my cup of tea, as I look back on my time in AmeriCorps only the amazing experiences seem to stand out.
One of the most impactful experiences was when I had the opportunity to apply for a special project to work with the Appalachian Trail Society. Only after arriving in Maine were we told we were working on the most difficult piece of boundary work on the Appalachian Trail. Our job was to hike a mile into the trail from our campsite and then bushwhack to the boundary. We would cut the line of the boundary using orienteering skills – nothing but a map, a compass, loppers and handsaws. It almost never stopped raining, and it was black fly season. Despite the rain and flies, it was truly an experience I will never forget. Not only was it the most physically challenging experience of my life, but certainly the most rewarding and unique.
As part of my time with AmeriCorps,I also had the opportunity to do Hurricane Sandy relief in Staten Island, N.Y., and Moonachie, N.J. The families I was able to help and the people I was able to meet I will never forget. I was even able to work on my team-leading skills as we lead large groups of volunteers from corporations, churches and distant towns as they came to help rebuild after such a devastating disaster.
I highly recommend any person spend some portion of their life dedicated to service in some way. Not only does it help other people and whole communities thrive, but it is also such an eye-opening personal growth experience that comes with rewards that last a lifetime. ■
Whitney Oakley is a concierge at Anythink Bennett. Learn more about volunteering with AmeriCorps at nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps.
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