Celebrating Students ’13: Caitlin Palmer

The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps is not what the website says it is. It’s not what alumni say it is. It’s not even what they tell you it is in member orientation. This government-run community service program is so widespread and so diverse that no two teams in the program will ever have the same experience. For ten months, I IMG_1606traveled from Sacramento to New Orleans, from the Grand Canyon to Lake Tahoe, from El Dorado National Forest to Reno. I drove cross-country twice. One AmeriCorps team went to Hawaii to work on an organic farm. Other teams worked at a children’s camp in Seattle, assisted at the Special Olympics, and were even on MTV’s Inaugural Ball. My team and I finished fixing up over twenty houses damaged by Hurricane Katrina in Port Sulphur and Lake Charles, Louisiana. We served over two thousand meals to volunteers in New Orleans. We cleared brush from five football fields of high fire-risk land, and fought a two-acre forest fire. I’m now certified by the Forest Service as a Type-B chainsaw faller and have my Red Card, a license to fight forest fires. I can use miter saws, pack pumps, and a deep-fat fryer. At the end of all this, I graduated with over 2,000 hours of community service and more life experiences than I thought possible. My time in AmeriCorps had high highs and low lows, and I’m still trying to make sense of it. So when I try to tell people what AmeriCorps NCCC will be like for them, I can’t, because I don’t know. It can literally be anything.

If you want to look into the program, a good place to start is http://www.americorps.gov/