Student Learning Academy at United Way Day of Caring

A few months ago, I decided to join Austin AmeriCorps Alums despite the fact that I am currently serving as a crew leader with the Environmental Corps. Prior to this position, I worked with AmeriCorps VISTA in Ithaca, NY and AmeriCorps NCCC at the Perry Point, MD campus. I was disheartened to find the Austin AmeriCorps Alums chapter floundering. I decided to become a chapter leader and infuse the group with my AmeriCorps passion. Our first big event was going to be the United Way Day of Caring on September 14th. However, the event fell on a Friday and our members were unable to attend. I saw a local event that needed volunteers and immediately thought of our SLA crews.

When I contacted Hands on Central Texas about the event, Nikki Krueger, Director of Volunteer Engagement- Hands on Central Texas, was ecstatic. She knew all about E-Corps and was excited to get us going. Later on, when it had rained heavily on the workday, she said that E-Corps was the one group of volunteers she could count on to not complain.

On the day of the event, our students attended a luncheon at The Long Center for the Performing Arts. Our members ate amazing catered food on tables with pristine white table clothes, which blew their minds, and networked with many influential community members. One of the speakers , took the time to recognize E-Corps’ work in Bastrop. She is a Bastrop resident and praised our organizations efforts.

While on site at J.J. Pickle Elementary School, members were divided into several groups. We weeded vegetable and butterfly gardens, transplanted plants, mulched trees and shrubs, built benches, weeded a Peace Garden, improved their compost system, and set up time-lapse cameras.

Our site sponsor, Judith Hutchinson, teacher at J.J. Pickle Elementary School, was welcoming and appreciative of our work. She also has received several grants for garden beds, decks, permaculture, and rain gardens. She invited us to come assist her with the rain garden and we, in turn, invited her to come to American YouthWorks.

We learned a lot while volunteering for the United Way Day of Caring but we gave even more.

Nicki Dunne, SLA Crew Leader

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Service Learning Academy works with Habitat with Humanity

As an Environmental Corps Crew Leader, I am accustomed to working hard and getting sweaty, but its usually in the context of a park, woodland, or forest. On June 6th, the SLA Crew Leaders and Members got a taste of a different kind of hard work, when we volunteered for the day with Habitat for Humanity (H4H).
The first and most noticeable difference was the start time. We usually get to school at 7:45-8am, but we needed to get to school at 7am for an early start with H4H. When we arrived at the jobsite, we were greeted by a longtime volunteer named Bill who had been volunteering with H4H for over 10 years. We received a brief orientation from Bree and Billy, the project managers, and they talked about safety, gave us some vocabulary for the tools and building materials, and emphasized that we would be working in controlled chaos, but it would all work out wonderfully.
We then started the first step of building the house- raising the first exterior frame. This is a special moment, and Yosef, the man whose house we were building, had a huge smile on his face as we lifted the frame high and set it in with the nail guns and bracing. Yosef had contributed over 400 hours of sweat equity in order to qualify for getting his own house, and had volunteered with H4H during the daytime, then went to his job as a night cab driver in the evening. This was a happy day for him, and he was beaming.
Then the real work began. We all had different jobs, and we worked under the supervision of the longtime volunteers and a few AmeriCorps members with H4H. They were really fun to work with, and we swapped stories and talked about our various AmeriCorps positions. We raised framing for the house, secured it with bracing and with nail guns, we raised the roof framing, and we wrapped the house in insulation. Everything had to be done in a special order so it would all fit together, and everything had to be precise and level.
It was very hot working hard in the sun. There was no shade to speak of, and the concrete slab of the foundation radiated heat. I found myself chugging water even more furiously than I usually do on the trail. The repetitive motion of the nailing and holding things steady made my muscles ache. It was physically demanding work, that also required mental focus. At the end of the day, we said our goodbyes to Yosef and the other volunteers. It was a good feeling to have put in a hard days work for a good cause, and we learned many carpentry skills which can help us be more technically proficient with our regular ECorps work. All in all, it was  good to take a step back from our regular job, and I think we all gained a fresh  perspective that will aid us in our future work.
 Madeline Enos, SLA E-Corps crew Leader

This slideshow requires JavaScript.