AmeriCorps: The Experience of a Lifetime

     The cool winter air left a chill on Kale Knot’s face as he looked out across Fort Gibson Lake. In his hands he held a small mouse, wiggling before its predator, a barred owl named Pretty Girl. In Sequoyah State Park, Oklahoma, staff members and volunteers care for injured animals until they are ready to return to the wild. Knot, and others like him, have played an important role in this process.

Kale Knot, 23, feeds a horse at the animal sanctuary at Sequoyah State Park.

     While Knot spent many of his days in AmeriCorps feeding animals, others built homes, tutored children and helped hurricane survivors. The program offers many unique projects in communities all over the country. Corps members learn new skills, build meaningful relationships and make a difference in the lives of others. With travel and food included, AmeriCorps National Civilian Conservation Corps is available to everyone ages 18 to 24. 

     Each project offers a rewarding opportunity that is sure to leave participants with fond memories. “I loved connecting with nonprofit organizations and making long-term, genuine friendships,” Knot said. 

     These friendships are the result of living and working with teammates from diverse backgrounds. After a long day of hard work, AmeriCorps members return to campsites, cabins and crowded dorms. They cook meals together and spend their free time playing board games or exploring nature. Francesca Sadler, another AmeriCorps member, said, “You’re put on a team and you have to work and live with these people. It’s a unique circumstance and it helped me meet friends I will have for a lifetime.”

     The program also teaches participants more about themselves. “I discovered new interests and passions through experiences I had never even dreamt about before,” Knot said. Following his service year, Knot became more invested in hiking, bird-watching and volunteering. 

Pretty Girl, an injured barred owl, perches on a branch in Sequoyah State Park where she will stay until fully rehabilitated.

     An added benefit for Corps members is the education award. This attracts new members and prepares alums for the next step in life. The $6,000 reward can be used at most colleges, universities and trade schools. 

Above all else, AmeriCorps is a maker of memories and a source of endless stories. “The project in Sequoyah State Park holds a special place in my heart,” Knot said. “I am filled with elation when I think about this experience.” 

     Regardless of the place or the project, AmeriCorps is sure to change the lives of many.