EL CENTRO — The AmeriCorps Borderlands Imperial Valley Program held an opening day event at Imperial County Office of Education (ICOE) for new recruits enlisting in the start of the new program year on Monday, August 23.
“We're a group of 56 members who dedicate our time and skills to help get things done across the Imperial Valley. Our services include tutoring students in the Imperial Valley from K-12th grade in the English language and working with Special Education,” said AmeriCorps member Kimberly Maya.
Maya said the program helps out at many community events including food and material distribution, cleaning up the parks, and vaccination clinics.
“This is the perfect program for anyone wanting to have a career in education or just to see if a career in education is right for them. Since we do a lot of community service work, our members are able to make connections with other members in the community which help open doors for them too,” said Maya.
Members must be at least 17 years or older with a high school diploma and make a commitment to complete 1,700 hours or 900 hours of service.
New member Claudia Murrieta recently graduated from San Diego State University with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice and joined the program because she wants to be a juvenile probation officer and wanted to gain experience working with children.
“I want to help kids get out of crime, so I feel education is a big part of that. So, if I get experience with education, I can try to help them go back to school,” said Murrieta.
Murrieta heard a lot of good things about the program and while she is excited, she has told herself to expect the unexpected.
Lizeth Orlelas is a current student at Imperial Valley College and joined because she has always wanted to work with kids.
“Here, there is so much more. You put work into your community, it’s just not working only with kids,” said Orlelas.
Both Murrieta and Orlelas are first time members and were so taken with the orientation presentations, they both expressed interest in doing another year of the program just on their very first day.
Pablo Torres is returning as team leader that acts as a mentor role to new members. He said he was never a good student and had no idea what to do with his life before joining AmeriCorps.
“Before I joined AmeriCorps, I didn’t really have a purpose. COVID hit and I was just wallowing away, not knowing what to do with myself,” said Torres.
Torres said he loves to tell the story of his unusual discovery of AmeriCorps when he was stopping by the Donut Shop in Calexico and saw a flyer that caught his interest.
“So, I applied and sure enough, here I am,” said Torres, calling his experience an “incredible ride.”
“I mean literal ride because I was stationed at Calipatria, and I live in Calexico. So, I had (to) literally ride down Highway 111, Monday through Friday,” said Torres.
Torres said AmeriCorps changed his life, and he is determined to ensure all of the new recruits have a great experience as well.
Maya is starting her third and final year with AmeriCorps and returns this time as a new hire rather than a volunteer. She said she had the opportunity to teach in the classroom as well as online during this past year, when everyone transitioned to online instruction.
“I went into AmeriCorps not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life, but this program showed me that I have a huge love and passion for education and want to pursue a career in education,” said Maya.
“I remember the moment I fell in love with education, it happened my first year. I was working with a particular student and at first, I thought I wasn't really making progress with the student during our tutoring time but one day the student was able to recite the first half of the alphabet to me with their sounds and I felt so proud for said student. It reminded me that this is why we are here, to help students do and be their best, and I want to be a part of that journey in their life so that was the moment I realized my love for education,” said Maya.
Maya said it feels bittersweet that this is her final year and declared that no one ever walks away from AmeriCorps, even after they finish the program.
“Since this is my last year, I am trying to take everything in and enjoy every moment possible. It's a bittersweet feeling but because of this program, I know I will be ready to take on the next part of my journey. No one really walks away from AmeriCorps. Once you're in AmeriCorps, it's with you for life. There is a part in our pledge that says, ‘I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond.’ The knowledge and skills we gain in the program carries with us even after AmeriCorps,” said Maya.
According to their site, AmeriCorps is a national service organization that works locally with ICOE to enlist young adults as volunteers in at least 600 hours of community service. Their members receive a comprehensive program of training and opportunity to apply learned skills for the goal of making them leaders in the community.
Members are trained to provide educational services like tutoring in the English language development on a daily basis to underperforming and special education students in kindergarten through 12th grade.