Monthly Archives: August 2014

End of AmeriCorps

After leaving Camp Zanika, Silver 7 drove back to Sacramento to join all the other teams as we finished up our ten months in AmeriCorps. This last transition included a debrief of the round, debriefing our specialty roles, campus improvements (gardening and the like), and team reflection. We also had a lot of down time to just hang out with friends, play card games, watch lots of movies, and go to AmeriProm (just as exciting as it sounds).

I came into my second year of AmeriCorps because I was still restless, still wanted to explore the US, and FEMA Corps hadn’t filled my need for some good old manual labor. My year in NCCC definitely got me working hard and traveling. In FEMA Corps, we were rarely separated from the rest of the Corps and our work wasn’t defined yet, so a lot of my time was spent developing friendships and learning how to communicate with a big team. This year, we spent little time as a Corps and my team was constantly changing. So, while I did develop wonderful friendships, I don’t feel that big connection with most of the Corps like I did in FEMA Corps. I also don’t feel as strong an attachment to Silver 7 (don’t get me wrong, I will always be Silver 7, but we went from 11 members, to me being on the composite team with 8 other people, to me coming back to 6 members, to us going down to 4 girls, to us gaining two members we had never met before, it creates an interesting dynamic.) This year in NCCC, I feel like most of my connections and good times came from the sponsors. I feel proud to have worked with all my sponsors, and would love to go back and work again with many of them. They all helped me grow professionally, allowing me to sit in on board meetings and giving me resume and networking advice.

Many people ask me “Which is better, FEMA Corps or NCCC?” I guess what I’m trying to say is, they can’t be compared. I view FEMA Corps as my year where I grew personally, I gained incredible friendships, I learned who I want to be and how to achieve that. NCCC taught me more about myself professionally, what environment I need to be in to be my best, and what I look like at my best. FEMA Corps grew my confidence and taught me how to take chances, try new things. NCCC had me taking those chances, and taught me how to deal with the good and bad that comes from them. Both years taught me how to deal with great and not so great bosses and leadership. Both years had moments where I felt on top or the world, and moments where I was ready to strangle the next person who talked to me. Any AmeriCorps experience challenges you, teaches you what you consider important in life, and hopefully changes you for the better. I view my FEMA Corps and NCCC years as completely different experiences. Would I change some parts about them if I could? Yes, but that’s just life, that’s learning. My AmeriCorps experience was two years well spent, and I’m glad I did it.

What’s next for me? Unfortunately, I don’t have a clear, simple answer for that. I spent the rest of the summer traveling and catching up with family I hadn’t seen in ages (including my 9 month old twin cousins who I hadn’t even met yet.) Now, I’m about to start two online courses so that I can work towards my Certificate in Nonprofit Management. Through AmeriCorps, I can pay for these courses with my Education Award, and I only have to complete three courses total and go to a networking conference in order to get the certificate, so I should be finished by next May. I’m living back home in CT and in the process of getting a part time job while I take classes. I’m also keeping busy by seeing friends in the area, volunteering, and exercising (Apple Harvest 5k, here I come!). I’m hoping to move out of CT sometime after my fall classes finish. Where to? I’m not sure yet. I’m looking into some east coast cities such as Philly, as well as other cities such as Seattle. But, to be honest I’m not picky enough so lots of ideas are still bouncing around when it comes to my next step. I just know that ultimately, I want to work in nonprofits, hopefully an art or science museum, because those are my happy places and I’d love to support and help others enjoy them too.

I hope I was able to answer some questions about my time in AmeriCorps and what my plans are next. As always, feel free to contact me, I love to chat and feel like I have to much catching up to do with friends and family. For a few years, I’ve kept this blog so that friends and family could stay up to date on where I was and what I was doing throughout my adventures. Well, now my adventures are most likely going to turn much more normal. But, I’d still like to post now and again. I’ll be sure to write about what I’m up to, and maybe some things I care about, we’ll see what happens. Anyway, thanks so much to everyone who read this blog, I really appreciate it. 🙂

Hope everyone had a great summer and wishing you all a happy fall. 🙂

– Reptar

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This is How I Buffalo

Well, once again I got slightly distracted and forgot to post for quite a while. Here’s what you missed:

Work at Camp Zanika continued to consist of fuel reduction, controlled burns, and painting. Once the counselors and program staff came, we were invited to take part in some of their training and bonding. Part of their training was called “Super Happy Fun Time” which was when then helped us clean up the camp. This was a huge help, as we had lots of long trips hauling wood from deep in the woods to the controlled burn site. It also helped them understand the work we were doing. When we took part in their training, we learned camp games, fun facts about the counselors, and everybody’s camp names. We also were invited on the overnight camping trip. This was the first time I really camped (as in, there was not a porta-potty waiting nearby). We hiked up to Hidden Lake, set up our tents, cooked dinner, and took part in a lost camper drill.

Since meals were provided, we had always taken them with the staff. Once campers came, this meant that we were eating with the kids as well. This was one of my favorite parts about camp. I would often sit at the “head” or “foot” of the table, meaning I helped staff by serving or cleaning up the food. Then I was able to talk with the campers and staff at the table, learning about what they were doing at camp. At the end of each meal, camp songs would start. These weren’t just repeat after me songs like we sung at Girl Scouts, some were interactive as well. (The Buffalo song passes the song around the room, having each person do a dance move that the camp then copies as they “buffalo.”) Meals were used to bring the camp together, do announcements (which started with a song of course), and other fun activities. Anytime a staff member was caught saying another staff members real name (for example, if they called me Jen instead of my camp name Reptar) they would have to jump in the lake after lunch. One meal even ended with a surprise water fight.

At first when the campers came, we still had our own work to complete. So, we hauled wood and painted during the day, but were encouraged to take part in camp activities after work. This could mean camp wide games, late night board games, kitchen raids (where you sneak into the kitchen to get late night snacks, at the risk of booby traps and having the begeezus scared out of you by staff), and cabin raids (toilet papering other cabins or staff areas, those who did the raid were required to clean up any mess the next day). The first full week that campers were there, we were allowed to put our work aside and shadow the camp staff for the entire week. I spent my first day shadowing the youngest boys cabin. My day consisted of a low ropes course, “quiet time” playing zombie attack, and lots of time trying to hurry up little boys who were too busy singing “Gangnam style.” I had a blast! For the rest of the week, I shadowed an older boys cabin and watched them at the low ropes course, an older girls cabin where I lead them as they planned their skit, and the oldest girls cabin where I helped them navigate the high ropes course. I also shadowed the Arts and Crafts coordinator and made lots of friendship bracelets, as well as the Nature director where we went on bug hunts. The entire week the staff was extremely helpful, opening up opportunities for me to interact and lead activities with the campers. The campers were extremely welcoming too, accepting me as one of the staff and including me in all their fun times. It was amazing to watch campers start the week shy and unsure, and the finish with the confidence to break dance in front of the entire camp.

When it came time to leave Camp Zanika, it was one of the hardest moments in AmeriCorps. The staff included us in final activities, such as serenading the cabins on their last night, and revealing our real names to campers at our last meal. It was sad, but I love that the staff welcomed us into the camp and included us in every tradition they could think of.  As much as I’m working towards and know that I need to get a job soon, I’m kind of hoping my next summer is free so that I can go back and work at camp. 🙂