AmeriCorps volunteers wrap up 10 months of service with summer in Vail Valley
EDWARDS — If you do everything you can every day, then you can go home with no regrets.
OK, maybe a few, but for the group of AmeriCorps volunteers wrapped up 10 months of service around Colorado, the good goes onward. They spent the summer in the Vail Valley, after spending the winter and spring in Denver and Pueblo, helping local kids improve their reading, working summer lunch programs with InteGreat, worked in community gardens, coached soccer and nearly anything else that needs to be done.
In all, they worked with 10 local organizations.
“It’s less about teaching than just being there and spending time with (the kids),” said Andrew Myers, from Virginia.
This particular group ranges from 18 to 24 years old. Some are in college, some are taking a gap year, some are out of college.
They worked with thousands of kids this summer, and remember them all.
They were reading teachers, tutors, cooks, bottle washers and soccer coaches.
Bloom where you are planted
They’re put where there’s a need. Nonprofit organizations apply, explain what they want, take a solemn vow to provide housing, and put them to work.
Myers’ older sister was an AmeriCorps volunteer, so he knew pretty much what to expect — the unexpected.
“Community service, that’s about all I knew. I’ve been prepared to expect the unexpected,” Myers said.
Frank Carraturo said he had some idea about what to do and what to avoid. He said he was nervous about it until he got a call from the AmeriCorps management team. Then he settled down and it was smooth sailing, or smooth-ish.
They’ve been living together 10 months, working, sleeping, eating. Several places have communal showers. They know who snores, who leaves the cap off their toothpaste tube and leaves it by the sink … all the stuff you learn when togetherness is the order of the day — every day.
In the valley, they lived in River Edge, Vail Resorts seasonal employee housing, provided through one of the ski company’s Epic Promise grants.
Doing well by doing good
Everywhere they went, not only did they do their best, they did good.
“At Baca Elementary in Pueblo, we worked one-on-one with these kids every single day, and we really got to see some growth in each of them. It was awesome to see that first hand,” Quinn Reynolds, of Buffalo, New York.
They taught a mini course in business and money, said Rosa Bangura, of London and Wisconsin. Teenage dreamers learned how to start a business, about budgeting, about profit and loss. Smaller kids learn what a job is.
Like everyone else, Pablo Gonzalez, of Salinas, California, worked with lots of kids. One young man had grown up too quickly.
“He was not enjoying his youth,” Gonzalez said.
When they were done weeks later, the kid’s eyes had been opened enough to tell Gonzalez that he was going to go to college, have a mansion, and was going to fly Pablo to his mansion in his private jet.
Bangura was a Copa soccer coach. The kids are small, 3 to 5 years old, so there’s not much ordering them to take a lap.
“Even if they ran, we ran with them,” she said.
There’s the first-grader Reynolds was working with. Angel was a “handful,” who couldn’t do addition problems with more than one column of numbers. One day, the first-grader’s lights went on and she learned to carry numbers from one column to the next.
“That was a good day,” Reynolds said.
At the other end of that spectrum, at a Boys and Girls Club in Pueblo, a girl was being placed in foster care. You do what you can, but don’t always see results.
“We don’t know what happened to her,” Bangura said.
They’re done Tuesday, and they’ll go their separate ways, but that’s the thing about doing good. You can leave, but the good goes onward.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.