The end of the year of service is approaching for the Parasol AmeriCorps Class of 2013. With 17 full time members it is the largest full-time team for Parasol in its 13-year AmeriCorps program. Coordinating a large group can sometimes be difficult but not with the Class of 2013. Every member has been committed from day one and the team is definitely a group of energetic individuals who work well together.
On May 16 and May 17 at Incline Elementary School, the team transformed areas into outdoor classrooms and gardens that will be remembered by the young students who participated long into the future. It also will provide many new learning opportunities at the school.
Under the direction of the AmeriCorps team, students painted rocks and bird houses while older students moved rocks and dirt to build a trail. At the end of the two days, the tired, exhausted team members looked around at the beds of native plants, trail, mural and signage in awe – mission accomplished!
The project definitely was a favorite part of the year of service for many of the members. Many had special comments about the project.
"The feeling that came over me all throughout the IES Rocks service project is unparalleled. The AmeriCorps team accomplished such a unique, sustainable, and downright amazing endeavor during those two days; I feel as though together we can do anything when we put our minds and wills to it,” said Tara Buffington, AmeriCorps member at IVGID youth programs.
AmeriCorps member at Tahoe Institute for Natural Science, Carinne Deeds, was excited about the longevity of the team project. “My favorite part of my AmeriCorps year was easily our team’s service project. It was incredible to collaborate on such a huge project with 16 other people and ultimately come together to create something that will benefit the community and its children for years to come,” she said.
“The AmeriCorps service project at Incline Elementary School was definitely my favorite part of the year," added Deidre Ledford ,team member at Project MANA. “It was great to see our whole team working together to beautify the school from the inside out by showing the kids what community service is all about!”
A lot of the members will always remember how thrilled the students were to have the entire team at the school and how students called the team “A Company.”
“The most memorable moment from this AmeriCorps year was being at IES for the service project and having all the students be so excited. We would walk around the school and all the kids would want to give us high fives and asked us to come play with them at recess. It was really great knowing that they had such a great time,” said Ben Tweed, member with Tahoe Institute for Natural Science.
For many of the 2013 members the best experience was just working together with the other members of the team and learning more about each other.
“A big highlight of the year for me has been collaborating with my fellow AmeriCorps members. I have learned so much from all of them and their creativity and dedication to the service project was truly inspiring,” said Laurel Frederick, AmeriCorps member at Incline Elementary School.
For Lindsey Schultz, team member with the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, the experience of working with the AmeriCorps team was definitely a positive experience and watching the community project become a reality a real plus. “AmeriCorps places a group of different people with different skills and personalities together and says, ‘Now do something good.’ We conquered. We took our different skills and personalities and said, ‘Here you go, here we are, we can do anything.’ Seeing this magic that 17 volunteers can do is my favorite part of this year as an AmeriCorps.”
A few members of the team reflected on some favorite projects to benefit other areas they felt made a difference.
Katharine Henry, a team member at Tahoe Safe Alliance, found her experiences during the year at Tahoe Safe Alliance very rewarding. “My favorite part of my AmeriCorps year was providing fun, educational groups for children who have experienced violence and abuse in their lives. Seeing them develop new skills and discover different interests was incredibly rewarding and made me feel like I made an impact in their lives,” she said.
For Caitlin Jackson, a member at Project MANA, teaching cooking skills to members of the community are one of her favorite memories. “I think my favorite thing I did this year was putting on community cooking classes here in the kitchen at the DWR Center. They were a lot of fun and I think everyone really learned from them and enjoyed them! “
Two AmeriCorps members had unique experiences during the year. Both Kelly Phillips and Kevin Masters were deployed to New Jersey to help the American Red Cross during the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Kelly is a member serving at the Tahoe Rim Trail and Kevin is a member with the American Red Cross of Northern Nevada.
“My favorite part of my AmeriCorps year was the opportunity to travel to New Jersey and assist people recovering from Hurricane Sandy. From feeding people to loading our vehicles with life sustaining goods, I enjoyed participating in multiple aspects of a large scale disaster recovery. The most fulfilling part, however, was interacting with our clients. They were always grateful for our assistance, and was I humbled by their strength to move on from the devastation,” said Kevin.
And Jonathan Jansen, AmeriCorps member with IVGID’s Recreation Program for Seniors, probably could put his experience of riding on a donkey in a community donkey basketball game up for most unusual experience. “Had I never joined AmeriCorps I’d have one more life goal to attain,” he said. Note to readers – you can ask if he is talking about his service or volunteering to ride a donkey.
Sharon Silva is the AmeriCorps at Tahoe Family Solutions working with young students at Incline Elementary School doing daily tutoring in the Homework Help Club during the school year and in the summer directs the Camp Explore program.
“My favorite part of my service year as an AmeriCorps has been giving back to the community,” she said.” But my absolute favorite part of my service year is getting the opportunity to educate, inspire and empower our local youth through exploring the outdoors. I wait all year long, just for these short four weeks of camp!”
Another team member also enjoyed working with the local area students. Hayley Walker, team member at the Tahoe Rim Trail Association said, “One of my favorite parts of being a Parasol AmeriCorps this year has been coordinating, creating and running youth programs with elementary schools in the Carson Valley. My favorite program was with a 4th grade class at Seeliger Elementary School where Kevin Masters (the Parasol AmeriCorps with the American Red Cross) and I did a Wilderness Skills and Survival program. It was incredibly rewarding seeing how excited the kids were to work together in setting up tents and learning about the essentials you should bring on any hike or outdoor adventure.”
Each year the Parasol AmeriCorps program recruits young people from all over the U.S. Many of the team members will long remember the time they spend in our community and feel that is the best part of the year.
“Being welcomed into Incline Village as one of the AmeriCorps members has been a pleasure. The sense of community in this town reminds me every day why I’m serving, and I couldn’t ask for a better place to be!” said Shannon Dillard, AmeriCorps member at IVGID Waste Not.
Megan Heatwole, member at Tahoe Safe Alliance, felt a strong bond with the local community. “Being an AmeriCorps member in Tahoe has provided me with the opportunity to connect and engage in the community that I otherwise would never have achieved. I am so grateful for all of the diverse experiences I have gained, the wonderful people I have met and to be giving back to the people of this community. I am a proud member of AmeriCorps, it is a truly a rewarding experience.”
Also finding the community and beauty of Tahoe a favorite part of the AmeriCorps year were Sabrina Szymanski, AmeriCorps Member at Tahoe’s Connection for Families and Kylee Wilkins serving at UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center.
“My favorite part of the year was getting to know my fellow AmeriCorps and working with really great kids and families! It also didn't hurt that I got to spend a year in beautiful Lake Tahoe,” said Sabrina.
Kylee added, “As an AmeriCorps member here in Tahoe I have loved working with the local students, helping them learn about the science of their own backyard. They all love Tahoe but I am able to help them appreciate the ecosystems they live in and observe every day and help instill a sense of ownership and stewardship to protect Lake Tahoe”.
At the end of July the team will be honored at a luncheon and then it will be time to say goodbye for many as they leave Tahoe while some will remain. And some might just call Tahoe home.