Last week, Project Advance joined hundreds of volunteers across Ohio to celebrate AmeriCorps Week (March 7-13, 2021) and the valuable contributions of the AmeriCorps members who pledged to “get things done” in their communities.
“We are proud to be part of AmeriCorps and grateful for the AmeriCorps members who are getting things done for Ohio,” said Hunter Lang, Director of Santa Maria’s Project Advance AmeriCorps program. “AmeriCorps members have made a significant impact on Ohio’s ability to meet so many local needs in education, employment, health and housing, and AmeriCorps Week is a perfect opportunity to recognize their great work,” Lang said.
AmeriCorps Week also honors the contributions and support of local organizations that make AmeriCorps programs possible by hosting AmeriCorps members. In Cincinnati, AmeriCorps members are serving in the community by providing direct service to individuals in need of housing, education, health and employment assistance at local community service and nonprofit agencies. Santa Maria currently has 14 AmeriCorps members serving at various sites in the community.
“I like that I serve in a community I live in,” said Mary Pickett, two-term Santa Maria AmeriCorps member. “I remember my first few months of service, I was sitting at the bus stop and a woman waiting for the bus with me started talking to me and in the midst of our conversation, she said how Santa Maria had helped her,” Mary said. “It influenced me to want to do another term to see how Santa Maria impacts my community.”
Last year, more than 900 AmeriCorps members served at nearly 500 schools, nonprofits, community and faith-based organizations across Ohio dedicating more than 1.2 million hours of service. These members were awarded more than $4.2 million in education awards to use toward continued education or student loan repayment.
Santa Maria AmeriCorps member, Rachel Smith, said, “Serving has helped strengthen my own skills and taught me new ones, all while building up the relationships I have with my community.”
AmeriCorps members have played a critical role in the recovery of local communities. They also tutor and mentor young people, connect veterans to jobs, care for seniors, reduce crime, fight the opioid epidemic, and meet other critical needs.
Jessica Gries, an AmeriCorps member also serving at Santa Maria said, “I have gained a much deeper understanding of my community, and what it means to be an advocate. Additionally, I have found incredible mentors that are teaching me how to make a difference in my community on both small and large scales.”
A growing body of research shows that service has an effect on more than just the communities served, but also on the members themselves. AmeriCorps alumni credit their year of service for developing leadership skills that bridges divides, solves problems and opens doors to opportunities that advance their careers and education. In addition, research shows that alumni gain skills and are exposed to experiences that communities and employers find valuable.
Santa Maria AmeriCorps member, Dumariyea Ballew, said, “I really like the program and what it does for people in the community. Looking back, I think this something I have always wanted to do, and getting the opportunity to give back feels great!”
AmeriCorps programming is administered locally by ServeOhio, the state’s Commission on Service and Volunteerism. To learn more about AmeriCorps, visit ServeOhio.org/AmeriCorps. To apply to Santa Maria’s AmeriCorps program, go to santamaria-cincy.org/americorps-program/.