By Alex Cruz | AmeriCorps
A year ago as a senior in high school, I never would have imagined myself being where I am today. I wouldn’t have seen myself traveling all the way across the country, living with complete strangers, and learning skills far outside my comfort zone to do hands-on service work.
Yet this is exactly what I undertook as a member of AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), and I couldn’t be happier with my decision. AmeriCorps NCCC is a service program run by the federal government. Members are ages 18-26, and they spend 10 months serving nonprofits across the country.
I am on a team of nine who have completed three service projects. We cleaned up after a wildfire in California, built affordable housing in Montana, and now we are here serving this community.
Our project entails working primarily with Sabin Community Development Corporation (CDC), a nonprofit that provides low-income housing in northeast Portland. We are beautifying Sabin CDC’s properties by painting and landscaping their exteriors.
We are also assisting with maintenance on the interiors of the properties. This work advances the CDC’s mission of social equity and livability, particularly for the disenfranchised Black population.
We also work with The City Repair Project, a nonprofit that fosters thriving communities in the Portland metro area through placemaking. City Repair facilitates a variety of projects to bring communities together, including street paintings and landscaping.
Through our connections with City Repair, we have had the opportunity to create street paintings, assist houseless villages and learn more about the diverse communities here in northeast Portland.
Additionally, we have helped Portland artist Bobby Fouther – known as “Mr. Bobby” – display his artwork. Born and raised in Portland, Mr. Bobby has an extensive legacy closely intertwined with local history, and he tells this legacy through his artwork.
We greatly appreciated the opportunity to help him with an exhibit that was displayed in the former Albina Arts Center.
I decided to join NCCC to take myself outside my comfort zone by living outside my hometown for the first time. It has developed my independence and, as a result, I feel more prepared for college. It also gave me opportunities to learn more about other cultures while providing valuable service to the national community.
My work with Sabin CDC and City Repair has been nothing but rewarding. It’s always very fulfilling to interact with the residents of the properties the team is working on, and to hear people’s gratitude or comments on our work.
Alex Cruz, from Exton, Pennsylvania, continues his passion for community service with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps.