This month, we were fortunate enough to have caught up with former National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps member Megan Riggs. She served during the 2011-2012 program year at the Sulzbacher Center where she would later become an AmeriCorps Site Mentor and now holds a position managing the veteran’s outreach team. In the interview, she shared with us some the ups and downs of her service experience and gave some valuable advice to current and future AmeriCorps members.
Where are you from and what brought you to AmeriCorps?
I am originally from Torrance, California, but I was in Spain teaching English when I applied to AmeriCorps. While I wanted to be part of a service-oriented organization, I also wanted to return to the US. and AmeriCorps presented the perfect opportunity to do both.
Could you describe your former service site and duties there?
I actually completed two service terms with AmeriCorps. The first year was in Watsonville, CA as a Nutrition Outreach Assistant with Second Harvest Food Bank through Notre Dame Mission Volunteers. Working primarily with Mexican migrant farm workers, I provided education on healthy eating. Immediately following that year, I started my second term here in Jacksonville, FL as a Life Skills Educator at the Sulzbacher Center through the National Health Corps - Florida. In this role, I helped the residents of the center, generally homeless, to sign up for food stamps and state benefits. I also facilitated classes on health, employment, and computer skills. My favorite part of the position was facilitating a community garden for residents because I personally love gardening.
What was the best part about your year of service?
The best part of the experience in California was discovering both Mexican and Californian culture. Also, by serving a population that was innately tied to the food supply chain, I gained unique insight into how food supply and distribution works out and local movements to try and improve food quality. In Florida, the best part of the experience was interacting with an incredibly poor and destitute population, similar to what I would expect from a Peace Corps experience but in the US. It felt like I was having an international experience locally, a piece of the third world in the first world.
If you could change one thing about your AmeriCorps experience, what would it be?
I wish I would have had more resources, time, and personnel to try and make a bigger difference. To some degree, I think I have done this by staying on at the Sulzbacher Center as an employee for the five years now following my service term.
What is your current position and what are your future hopes and plans?
Currently, I am the Human Services Compliance Manager for the veterans program and shelter services. In short, I make sure our homeless veterans are housed and and cared for. Concerning the future, I am about to complete my Masters in Education and Educational Leadership. I am interested in either teaching or becoming a college administrator. I would also love to move back to Europe and maybe do something in international development since my Bachelors is in business. So overall I am still a bit up in the air about what I want to do in the future.
How did your year in AmeriCorps shape you and your careers goals?
Well, I am working at my former service site! The experience helped me organize myself as a professional and gave me time to reflect on what I really want to do with my life, all the while also exposing me to various ideas and professional options I was previously unaware of.
Are there any thoughts or advice you would like to share with current or future AmeriCorps members?
This blog post was written by NHC Florida member, Alec Kinczewski.
Alec serves as a Health Educator at I.M. Sulzbacher center.