Local women complete national service program

They responded to Hurricane Sandy, fought fires, provided relief to disaster-devastated communities, mentored disadvantaged youth, coordinated thousands of volunteers and developed into our nation’s future leaders.

AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) graduated 479 members this July who completed over half a million hours of service and over 275 projects, including 78 disaster recovery projects.

Kayla Acosta of La Crescent, Minn., Nathalie Besse of Caledonia, Minn. and Steven McKenzie of La Crosse, Wis. were among those honored for their effort.

Acosta and McKenzie, who arrived at NCCC’s Southwest Region Campus in Denver on Oct. 9, 2012, graduated from the program on July 26, 2013.

Besse arrived on Sept. 4, 2012, and served as a team leader for 11 months. Most corps members departed from their respective campus and began travel to their home of record immediately following the ceremony.

Each member was part of a team of about 10 other members who completed a series of six- to eight-week-long projects in different communities across the country.

NCCC projects support disaster relief, environmental stewardship, energy conservation, infrastructure improvement and urban and rural development.

Among their many projects, some teams in the graduating classes were called upon to respond to Hurricane Sandy, tornadoes in Moore, Okla. and wildfires in Colorado and California. AmeriCorps NCCC certifies 100 percent of its members in disaster relief and has responded to national disasters since the program began in 1994.

There are four other NCCC campuses located in Perry Point, Md., Vicksburg, Miss., Sacramento, Calif. and Vinton, Iowa, each of which is a hub for its respective area of the country, though teams will travel to other regions for disaster relief projects.

Before joining NCCC, Acosta attended La Crescent High School. Her mother is Cathy Grinde. Besse attended Caledonia High School and Winona State University and studied community health. Her parents are Larry and Mary Besse.  McKenzie attended Central High School. His parents are Richard McKenzie and Lisa McKenzie.

AmeriCorps NCCC is a full-time, residential, national service program in which 1,200 young adults serve nationwide each year.  During their 10-month term, Corps Members – all 18- to 24-years-old – work on teams of eight to 12 on projects that address critical needs related to natural and other disasters, infrastructure improvement, environmental stewardship and conservation, energy conservation and urban and rural development. Members work on a series of different projects, typically lasting six to eight weeks each, to mentor students, construct and rehabilitate low-income housing, respond to natural disasters, clean up streams, help communities develop emergency plans and address countless other local needs.

In exchange for their service, Corps Members receive $5,550 to help pay for college, or to pay back existing student loans. Other benefits include a small living stipend, room and board, leadership development, increased self-confidence and the knowledge that, through active citizenship, people can indeed make a difference.

AmeriCorps NCCC is administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service.  The corporation improves lives, strengthens communities and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. For more information, visit www.nationalservice.gov.