By Blair Jackson
When Chloe Reese graduated from high school, she wanted to apply for the Peace Corps, but the organization suggested that she beef up her resume before applying. She entered the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps instead, an organization that provides leadership training to young adults (ages 18-24). After a month of training, Reese and her team members traveled across the country to complete service missions. On Nov. 8, Reese will graduate the NCCC and will have 1,700 hours of community service under her belt.
Reese compares her first interaction with her teammates to meeting fellow cast members on the Real World. “I sat with them at the table, trying to analyze the people I would be spending the next ten months with. Little did I know…these were going to be nine new members of my family.” Unlike the MTV show, which features seven strangers in a ginormous house, often drinking copious amounts of alcohol, Reese and her team, Maple 3, spent 10 months living in cabins and tents with the sole focus to give back to their country. “To me this was the real world,” she said.
Maple 3′s first task was at Sherman Lake, Mich., in August, where the group served as camp counselors for eight weeks. “We arrived … just in time for dinner, and there were fifth and sixth grade students serving us our food. I was instantly taken aback and offered continually to help, but I soon learned it was part of the fundamentals of the camp.”
After each dodgeball game, during all meals, at the end of every day — camp counselors strengthened core values of HCRR (honesty, caring, respect, and responsibility). Collectively, Maple 3 mentored 1,271 students, which demanded a significant amount of teamwork and individual strength from the fresh Corp members. “This was the project my team needed,” says Reese. “We all came out of our shells and realized from that point forward, we were in this together. We were going to succeed together.”
When summer was over, Reese and Maple 3 traveled to the small (Population 803) town of Pawnee City, Neb., hometown of Larry the Cable Guy. “This town taught me what community was. We were always greeted with smiling faces, conversations, and invites to their events,” says Reese. While cleaning a log cabin as part of the service regimen, Reese ran into less friendly mud daubers.
Reese says she learned the most from her time living on Isle Royale National Park, an island in Lake Superior. She and her team camped for six weeks, so isolated that they bathed in the lake and had groceries delivered via ferry. Having been neglected for fifteen years, brush hogging the trails and cleaning the park was a challenge. “I learned…what is important and how intense it is to see a moose in person,” Reese says of her time on the island.
Next, the team was called on disaster relief in Minot, N.D., where they mucked (removed all debris
from homes, often mildewed from water damage) and gutted 36 homes that had been flooded. “This was my favorite project,” says Reese, “getting to see the direct impact our work had on the community … and most importantly getting to see the actual damage a disaster can do.”
Reese is currently working in Noblesville, Idaho, with Hamilton County Parks and Recreation in various parks to preserve green space and areas of natural beauty. She will be back in Fayetteville in November, but the homecoming will be bittersweet. “This has been the best experience of my life thus far. The skills I learned, the relationships I made, and the memories I created are ones I will always remember,” she said.
For more information on AmeriCorps NCCC, visit www.americorps.gov.