Though their journeys will be different, Kelly Halkyard ’13 and Leslie Skeffington ’13 will soon embark on similar paths of service as two of the newest members of AmeriCorps, a national network of programs committed to engaging thousands of people each year to serve in communities across the country.
As a member of AmeriCorps, Halkyard will serve in Hartford, Conn., as part of the Connecticut Food Justice Youth Corps at Hartford Food System, a program where she will work to empower young people as leaders of food justice initiatives. Skeffington will work with College Forward, an organization that serves economically disadvantaged young people as they prepare for college. Skeffington, who will serve in Texas, will be responsible for helping high school students prepare for college entrance examinations and assist with the application process.
“AmeriCorps is a great way for me to gain job experience and an understanding of the nonprofit world, while also making a difference in my home state of Connecticut,” says Halkyard of North Haven. “I’m looking forward to getting to know the other VISTAs and the youth I will be working with because I think this initiative has the potential to make a significant impact on food justice issues in Connecticut.”
Halkyard, who says she aspires to work for a national nonprofit organization, says she not only will help high school students advocate for access to healthy, affordable food, but also will work with other Connecticut Food Justice Youth Corps VISTA members to organize a cumulative leadership conference where students from each site across Connecticut can share their successes and learn from their peers who are working towards similar goals. AmeriCorps VISTA programs focus on helping bring individuals out of poverty.
A sociology major with a social justice studies minor, Halkyard says her HWS education has had a tremendous impact on providing her the kind of knowledge and experience necessary for her upcoming term with AmeriCorps. At HWS, she took courses that gave her an understanding of government programs, inequalities, and urban environments. Halkyard also mentored students as an HWS Teaching Fellow and through an internship at Columbus House, Inc., in Connecticut, which provides services for the homeless.
“Ultimately, I think HWS gave me the tools I need to succeed in a challenging, yet rewarding AmeriCorps VISTA position,” Halkyard says.
As she readies herself for serving through AmeriCorps in Austin, Texas, Skeffington says she is looking forward to using her abilities of tutoring and mentoring teenagers as they get ready for applying to colleges.
“I am passionate about College Forward because I know for certain that I would not be the person I am today if it were not for my college education,” says Skeffington, of Retsof, N.Y. “I thrived in my college experience at HWS, not only academically, but personally as well. Being in an environment where you constantly interact with students and professors from diverse backgrounds in small settings, is as rewarding as the material you learn in the classroom and helps you grow as an individual.”
Skeffington says her academic and extracurricular activities also helped give her the edge needed to be prepared to serve in Texas, far from her home in upstate New York.
At HWS, Skeffington was a public policy major with minors in Spanish and Hispanic studies as well as American studies. As an undergraduate, she studied abroad in Costa Rica for a semester where she taught a third-grade English language class. Skeffington also credits Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Sociology James Sutton for helping her learn that sometimes children need a little extra help; just one extra person in their lives who cares about their future to succeed in life.
Each year, AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 people in intensive service at more than 15,000 locations across the country, including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups. Members help communities tackle problems while mobilizing volunteers for the organizations they serve.
AmeriCorps members gain valuable professional, educational, and life benefits, and the experience has a lasting impact on the members and the communities they serve. AmeriCorps consists of three main programs: AmeriCorps State and National, AmeriCorps VISTA, and AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps).
The image above features Kelly Halkyard ’13 (left) and Leslie Skeffington ’13.