2002-06-08 / Community

AmeriCorps*NCCC Reaches Out To Ocean Village Community

By Gary G. Toms
AmeriCorps*NCCC Reaches Out

AmeriCorps*NCCC Reaches Out
To Ocean Village Community

Marc Nierman and Reagan Nelson, team member and leader in the AmeriCorps*NCCC program, have been working with residents of Ocean Village over the last several weeks.Marc Nierman and Reagan Nelson, team member and leader in the AmeriCorps*NCCC program, have been working with residents of Ocean Village over the last several weeks.

Over the years, there have been many outside organizations that worked within the Rockaway peninsula for various reasons. Some engaged in beach clean ups, other had a major interest in working with children in low-income areas. AmeriCorps*NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps), a 10-month residential national service program for young men and women of all social, economic and educational backgrounds, has joined the ranks of those wanting to make a difference in the Rockaway community.

The program takes its inspiration from the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, which put thousands of young people to work restoring the natural environment. AmeriCorps*NCCC recognizes the importance of the environment, but it also recognizes that as the challenges our nation faces become more diverse, so must the solutions.

The organization encourages citizens to engage in activities within their community, and the country, by mobilizing local community members to work alongside AmeriCorps*NCCC members. The goal of the program is to combine leadership and team building skills with the public service.

Marc Nierman, team member, and Reagan Nelson, team leader for the organization, have been working in the Ocean Village area for the last three months as part of an ongoing effort to inform the public about AmeriCorps*NCCC and the benefits of community involvement. They came to Rockaway after Ocean Village officials, Kevin Rafferty and Clara Vasquez, offered to serve as sponsors for the program.

"As part of AmeriCorps*NCCC Ocean Village project, we have been working with residents to establish a seniors activity center and an education center," said Nierman. "With the seniors center, we are trying to get seniors more involved in activities so that they will have something to do on a regular basis. It's also offers them the opportunity to get out and socialize with others in their community."

Nelson beamed about her experience working with the children at the education center that was set up in Ocean Village. The center offers a safe haven for kids in grades three to six.

"It's such a great program for the kids, and the entire Ocean Village community has been very receptive to it. Everyone, from the residents, managerial staff to maintenance has been wonderful to us. The kids come up to us and give us hugs. It feels good," stated Nelson.

The AmeriCorp*NCCC team leader explained that the education center has served as a safe haven for many young people in the area, who come to the center for mentoring, tutoring, and arts and crafts programs.

"These are great people who really want to learn how they can make a difference in their community. We basically gave them the tools to make it happen, and they did the rest. This has truly been a great experience for me," Nelson stated.

AmeriCorps*NCCC's regional campuses are located on downsizing or closed military bases. Some areas include Charleston, South Carolina, Aurora, Colorado, and San Diego, California. The fourth campus is located on the grounds of the VA Medical Center in Perry Point, Maryland. Members share rooms in residence halls equipped with lounges and other shared areas. Once training is completed, members work on a variety of projects lasting one day to six weeks. Members may be temporarily relocated from their campuses to projects in communities throughout their region of the country.

In addition to maintaining and protecting the environment, team members are trained in areas such as public safety and disaster relief. Several AmeriCorps*NCCC teams have been trained by the U.S. Forest Service in fire suppression, and all members receive disaster relief training.

The benefits of becoming an AmeriCorps*NCCC member include $4,725 to help pay for college, a living allowance and healthcare benefits, deferment of qualified student loans, and an opportunity to have new and exciting experiences.

"AmeriCorps*NCCC has changed my life in so many ways. I have gained experience on many levels, and I have met some wonderful people at the same time. I would encourage young people to get involved," said Nierman.

For more information on the organization, you can visit their website at www.americorps.org.

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