Last week, five AmeriCorps alumni received the Congressional Gold Medal Award in Washington, DC. In our post last week, we talked a little bit about their work with the program, but we thought it would be fun to get to know them a bit better.
Amidst all the celebration, we stole them away for some quick interviews and will be sharing their thoughts on service, inspiration, and volunteering with you this week.
Next up, Cassie Holtz.
Holtz began her 1800 service hour with stint AmeriCorps NCCC in October 2008, traveling across the country to work on service projects – including to Biloxi, MS where her team worked with Hurricane Katrina victims alongside Habitat for Humanity. In the last five months of her NCCC term, she served as a team leader and managed the logistics and community relationships of each project her team was deployed on.
In your time as a member, what moment has stayed with you the most? Did you learn any important lessons?
Volunteering with NCCC opened my eyes to the needs of communities throughout America. Our first days "on the job" with Habitat for Humanity in Mississippi were extremely challenging. We were assigned the task of disassembling walls.
I thought this was rather counterproductive, considering I had arrived with the notion that we would be building houses, rather than destroying them. However, it turned out that the walls were pre-made and they did not fit into the blueprints. Rather than waste the wood, we salvaged it. We were able to use the wood in building the homes we worked on later in the month.
I learned that not all volunteering can be "glamour" volunteering. There are plenty of jobs to be done that may seem unimportant or petty, but realistically, it is these jobs that help make the rest of the organization run smoothly. After the wall deconstruction experience, I was able to view future projects from a more holistic standpoint.
What would you tell individuals thinking about applying for AmeriCorps?
Stop considering it, just do it. My year in AmeriCorps was not easy, but it was rewarding. I wouldn't trade my experience for anything. Not only does AmeriCorps create an amazing year, it opens the doors for continued development and opportunity seeking.
During AmeriCorps, I learned about Bike & Build, and subsequently spent a summer cycling cross country to benefit affordable housing. I met incredible lifelong friends whom I keep up with on a regular basis. I have also continued my service through pursuing further opportunities.
What would you say to encourage Americans to make service a part of their everyday lives?
Service is not something you do, it is something you are. If you love America, if you love your community, you do something to make it better. Find ways to get involved. Make another person smile. Apply your talents. Not only will you make a difference in the lives of others, but your life will be better for it. Live to be more, give more, love more, live more – complacency will get us nowhere.