Every year, more than 200 energetic, compassionate Baltimore residents join our team as AmeriCorps members. They make a positive impact in their communities while gaining job skills and an unforgettable experience. Here’s what some of our AmeriCorps members have to say about their time at Civic Works.
What’s the Corps 1-1? Check out our AmeriCorps newsletter: May 2015
Kwamel – AmeriCorps member, 2015
Interviewed by: Colin McNamara, Community Lot Team
Last week I had the chance to sit down and speak to a well-known Corpsmember from East Baltimore that recently finished his term of service with the Community Lot Team. Known to us on the team as “The Hammer,” Kwamel Couther’s genuine smile is infectious and one of the highlights of my day. For this reason, I asked Kwamel to elaborate on his experiences with Civic Works.
So Kwamel, How did you end up at the Community Lot Team?
Before I joined the team, I previously completed another service program of Civic Works: the Baltimore Conservation Leadership Corps. While I was part of BCLC, we took part in a volunteer day with the Community Lot Team. We helped the CLT create a garden that would later become known as the Duncan Community Green Space. I came to appreciate the independence associated with the CLT, especially when it came to bringing your own initiative to the job. One of my mottos is “say less, show more”, and to me, I was really able to live by those words while serving with the CLT.
You already mentioned you were part of the Baltimore Conservation Leadership Corps, but you also attended the REACH! Partnership School. Could you share some of your experiences at these two Civic Works affiliates?
I came to the REACH! School in ninth grade. In fact, the REACH! School was only one year old with just forty students at the time. So in many ways REACH! and I grew up together. At first I was nervous about what high school was going to be like. I was very much in my own shell. I had this ninth grade fear, which I think most people have, of getting beat up by a big football player just for looking at his girlfriend. Luckily, that never happened. Each year I got better and better at being myself, in which I found people that appreciated me for who I am. In fact, I met my girlfriend in the tenth grade and I am more than proud to say that after five years of dating, we are still together to this day. She’s actually the one that got me out of my shell.
My senior year I wanted to show everyone what I could achieve. Along the lines of my motto “ say less, show more”, I worked tirelessly to earn a 4.0 GPA my senior year and I succeeded. This was a huge step for me becoming the best I can be. I set a goal and knocked it out of the park.
BCLC was another great transformative experience. For this summer outdoor learning experience I served at Herring run Park where I assisted in trail maintenance and new trail construction. This was my first job related to environmentalism and would eventually guide me to Civic Works’ Community Lot Team. My greatest experience with BCLC was our trip to New Mexico. I will never forget my first plane ride and the nervous excitement. I honestly thought I was going to break my armrest during takeoff! New Mexico is still the furthest I’ve ever been from home and an experience I wont soon forget.
How did AmeriCorps and the Community Lot Team help you grow as a person?
My service also had a direct impact in my own neighborhood in East Baltimore. Making an impact and setting an example through hard work was very special to me and I plan to continue going to volunteer days with the Community Lot Team. I feel as though I grew tremendously while serving on the CLT. I became more confident in my actions and myself as time went on during my term of service. At first I was nervous but as the weeks turned to months, I soon realized how great an impact this type of work had on my physical and emotion health. I felt myself get stronger, especially at Library Square. I spent two straight weeks there moving giant sandstone slabs with a fellow AmeriCorps member, Lauren; that was our favorite site. You can see the hard work and dedication pay off, which also helped me understand how to best show personal initiative and follow through with a plan.
For more information about the Community Lot Team, visit here
Maya – AmeriCorps member, 2014
“During my time at the Baltimore Energy Challenge, I have been able to service multiple homes and meet a lot of people. My responsibilities include educating residents on how they can make their homes more energy efficient, and installing energy efficient items. I joined AmeriCorps to take advantage of the opportunities to help others reduce paying high utility bills. Another reason I joined the program is because I like to speak to residents and connect them with information and resources that they do not know about. I knew by joining Civic Works’ AmeriCorps program, I can make a change in Baltimore City.
I receive hands-on training and on the job experience, and I really see the difference in the lives of the residents we are servicing. I hope to use the education award I receive to go back into school and continue to do positive work.”
Bill – AmeriCorps member, 2014
“I joined the AVID program because I love math and learning in general. It’s that hard-to-control sort of love that you just want to spread and get others excited about. So the idea of working in a school and having an opportunity to help try and change students’ outlook on math and learning was something that really appealed to me. Before I joined the program I was working a full time job in retail. I enjoyed it but it wasn’t making use of everything I did in college, so I was glad to make the transition.
I spent my time of service working at a middle school, primarily with the 8th grade class. I served alongside their math teachers to really get to know the students and how and where they’re struggling. One of the best experiences of my time there was watching and helping them research colleges. I really tried to get them to start thinking about what they’d enjoy studying and where they might want to go. Many of the students started to realize just how important it was to stay motivated in school and strive for those great grades. This year was a lot of fun and I’m glad to be coming back this fall to do it all over again.”
Kristopher – Project Lightbulb, 2013 and Cities for All Ages, 2014
“I was once told that helping others in need is the most selfless act an individual can do. During my time with Civic Works as an AmeriCorps member, I have come to realize that this statement is absolutely true. After graduating from college, I moved back to Baltimore in hopes of just finding something to do in between my transition to graduate school. Beginning in the summer of 2013, I started my first term with the Project Lightbulb team. Over the course of the term my supervisors introduced daily tasks forcing me to step out of my comfort zone. Trying my best at perfecting the duties put in front of me enabled me to enhance my communication and presentation skills.
After my term ended I used this experience as a spring board to my next opportunity as an AmeriCorps construction apprentice with the Cities for All Ages program. During this second term is where the project really began to change my life. Seeing the conditions under which some elderly individuals were forced to live created a desire in me to come to my program daily to help make a difference. It also made me take a hard look at how my elderly family members were struggling at times with normal day-to-day tasks. I also gained valuable construction experience and mentoring from my supervisors. I learned the correct ways to operate power tools such as a hammer drill, jig saw, circular saw, etc. I also was exposed to possible career fields which I previously didn’t know were available to me.
Understanding how AmeriCorps and Civic Works positively affect the community allows me to see why service is so important to rebuilding our city. I am truly thankful and blessed for the time I spent as an AmeriCorps member and would love to serve again sometime.