Through a program for first-generation college students during my undergraduate experience at Florida State University and the beginnings of my professional career, mentors have played a critical role in my personal growth. Their belief in me and support has paid dividends both professionally and personally. Because of this mentorship, being able to dedicate a year of service was a commitment I wanted to ensure I made to others. And after my Public Allies AmeriCorps experience, this commitment to service and being anally would be a continuous journey.
When asked to speak about my AmeriCorps experience with Public Allies AmeriCorps at a White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics (WHIEEH) meeting, I leaped at the opportunity. Prior to this, I was familiar with the important work WHIEEH was doing for the Latin@ community, and as a member of this group, being able to share my experience working in a predominantly Latino@ community through my year with AmeriCorps was an honor. I was able to highlight my work with the Montgomery County YMCA Youth & Family Services and the Latin American Youth Center.
Through this program, I worked with the Montgomery County YMCA Youth & Family Services and with the Latin American Youth Center to help implement the Full Circle Brotherhood. This program uses a strengths based peer group mentoring approach to community development by utilizing current and former participants of the Montgomery County Conservation Corps to serve as mentors for local mentees. MCCC mentors have overcome many challenges in their life and are in the process of working towards their GEDs while servicing the many public green spaces in the region. Together these two groups learn about themselves and one another, bringing them closer to their families and in touch with their local community. The program focuses on the development of emotional intelligence and leadership for both mentors and mentees, and witnessing this cohesion was truly a special experience to be a part of.
Coupled with this direct service, the support that Public Allies staff provided for our cohort, and the constant learning we soaked up at our weekly Trainings & Learnings enriched my experience so much more. At these sessions, we were challenged intellectually, gained professional development, and had a safe space where we could discuss issues facing our communities. Speaking with WHIEEH and being able to share with them just an iota of the work that thousands of AmeriCorps members nationwide are doing in our communities was a wonderful privilege.
As the event came to a close, I reflected on the conversation with WHIEEH staff and how they plan to better their efforts to reach more Latin@s with the educational resources and opportunities of the Federal government, I felt a deep pride to see individuals who are dedicating their professional careers to our population group. Their efforts in ensuring that more Latin@s have access to civic engagement and educational opportunities is critical to the growth and development of our community.
Ivan Marchena is a Public Allies AmeriCorps Alum