As part of the celebration of 25 years of AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service, Voices for National Service is highlighting two perspectives from those who have served over the past quarter century. First we heard from Kanna Kunchala, who served in the first class of AmeriCorps in 1994-1995 with City Year. The second profile is from Imari Prout, a current AmeriCorps member with Civic Works based in Baltimore, MD, which can be found below:
I have always loved working with my hands. As far back as I can remember, I liked to build things, sometimes from scratch, but more often I would take things apart and put them back together to figure out how they worked. As a boy, I watched the construction workers in our Baltimore neighborhood hoping that someday that would be me. I lost that dream for a while, but now, with the help of AmeriCorps and Civic Works, I’m proud to be back on track.
After high school, I enrolled in Baltimore City Community College but the classroom setting just wasn’t for me anymore. I dropped out and started dealing with depression, stress, anxiety, and for a while, homelessness. I had grown apart from my high school friends and my family wasn’t involved in my life. Even though I was working in retail and seeing people every day, I felt pretty alone. I knew I wanted to be a better person, but I didn’t know where to go and I didn’t have anyone to turn to – until I found AmeriCorps.
It was totally random how it happened. I saw an ad on Facebook for Civic Works and the construction training program instantly caught my attention. I felt like it was the blessing that I was asking for so that I could grow as a person. The process of getting into Civic Works was hard. I had a lot going on in my life, but I was determined to make a change and I knew this was the way to do it.
One of my first assignments was to help demolish a three-story single-family house in Baltimore City. Several of us from Civic Works worked side-by-side with the construction company to help take the house down to the ground. I was assigned to the basement. It was the middle of summer and incredibly hot. I went home exhausted and covered in dirt every day. But I loved it. I loved working with actual contractors. I loved learning the proper way to do take down walls and dig out cement. And I loved seeing the project through from start to finish.
Over the last four months, I also became a Sherwin-Williams Certified Painter and earned my OSHA 10-hour Construction certification and Home Builders Institute (HBI) Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) Certification. I know these skills will be extremely valuable as I pursue my career.
Civic Works has been a lifeline to me in other ways as well. They helped me find a place to live, which went a long way to getting me back on my feet. The mentorship program has enabled me grow into an adult mindset, shown me that I can be a role model for younger students, and even spurred me to find role models outside of Civic Works. And I’ve made great friends. They’ve become my family. We have similar interests and I know we’ll stay close even when we’re no longer working together.
At 23 years old, I can now look back on the dream I had of working construction and know that it will happen. I plan to use my AmeriCorps education award to get a commercial driver license, so that one day when I own my own construction company, I can transport materials to job sites. In the meantime, I’m not ready for my AmeriCorps experience to end. I’m coming back to Civic Works for a second term so that I can gain more experience and continue to grow as a person. I know the road ahead won’t always be easy, but for the first time in a long time, I’m excited to see where it takes me.
Join us in celebrating the 25th Anniversary of AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service! Share your fondest memories of service using the hashtag #AmeriCorps25 or #NationalService25.