By Regina Elling
There have been plenty of fresh young faces seen in Ramona at recent events such as the Bluegrass and Old West Fest, the Main Street Parade and the Ramona Rodeo. But they aren’t just out to see and be seen.
These young adults are working hard, gaining experience and learning a lot about America and themselves along the way. The youth are part of a group called AmeriCorps NCCC. Just under 20 members arrived in Julian on April 1. Their final day in the area was May 25.
AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) is “built on the belief that civic responsibility is an inherent duty of all citizens and that national service programs work effectively with local communities to address pressing needs,” according to their website, www.nationalservice.gov. Members serve in the full-time, residential program in teams of men and women aged 18 to 24.
Each member commits to 10 months in the program. The group that came to the backcountry consisted of two teams: the Silver 5 with 10 members, and the Blue 4 with six members. They were on a mission of service to a community that needed their help. They are trained in first aid, public safety, CPR and other skills.
“The teams are from all around the nation,” said Connor Daniels, a polite tall blond man in his early 20s. “It was my second year in school and I was looking for a break. At the end of my term with AmeriCorps, I get a nice scholarship and a lot of great experiences.”
Liz Skiff, an equally friendly and young woman with a spunky ponytail, had a similar story.
“I just completed high school and wanted to take a year off and travel,” she said. “We just got back from helping with Hurricane Sandy.”
While answering questions, Daniels and Skiff were helping provide security at the Ramona Rodeo. AmeriCorps members have been easy to spot through the previous six weeks. They wear matching grey shirts with their logo on the sleeves.
Earlier, Andre Staley, Heather Labbe, Shaya Kellen and Lyndsey Healy were hard at work at the Main Street Parade. Not only were they helping with traffic control, they were doing everything from running errands for parade officials to picking up trash.
Healy is from New York, and said her favorite part of Ramona and Julian has been “the sense of community and the mountains. Beautiful people in a beautiful place.”
“My favorite part of Ramona was the rodeo, hands down,” said Labbe, a Portland, Maine, native. “The energy and atmosphere during the event made me so proud to be a part and makes me look forward to attending events like these back home.”
Previously, many of the team members had helped with parking and other jobs at the Bluegrass and Old West Fest, working for a day with Hearts and Hands Animal Rescue, the San Diego County Parks and Recreation Department at William Heise Park, Jess Martin Park, the Julian Library, Camp Stevens, and the Julian Museum. The members not only helped with park maintenance at the campgrounds, but they also cleared 10 miles of trails during their stay.
Outside of the state, some of their other projects have included helping in Boise, Idaho, with the Salvation Army and Long Island, N.Y., for Hurricane Sandy. All members provide 80 hours of independent service, and 1,700 hours of direct service.
Kellen, of Sioux Falls, S.D, said that the Silver 5 team will be off to Corvallis, Ore. next. “As a part of our program, we have to do outreach to find extra volunteer hours, so myself and team members contacted other nonprofit organizations to complete these hours,” she said.
However, other work is set up and assigned to members.
AmeriCorps NCCC is based in Sacramento. For information, visit www.nationalservice.gov.