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Celebrating IRC AmeriCorps service members

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March 7 - 13 was AmeriCorps Week and to celebrate we spotlighted some of our incredible service members across our social media platforms. The IRC in Atlanta's AmeriCorps members are essential, full-time staff that provide invaluable support to our clients and programs—hear what they have to say about their work, passions and motivations below!

Shannon McGuffey is our NDMV AmeriCorps Financial Empowerment Associate, working within our Economic Empowerment team.⁠

What’s been your favorite moment serving at the IRC in Atlanta?

Once while trying to help a client set up online banking (back when we could still meet with clients in person), his two-year-old son stole his phone and somehow started watching YouTube videos. The client just looked at me and said, “How does he know how to do that? He is two!” It was just a very funny and relatable moment. We’re all being surpassed by two-year-olds!⁠

What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about the people we serve?

It’s hard to choose because there’s so much misinformation, but I’d probably say that I wish people knew how diverse our clients are, both in terms of where they are coming from, and what life experiences they’ve had. There is no standard refugee or asylee!⁠

Katie Hibner is our NDMV AmeriCorps Adult Education Associate, working within our Adult Education team.⁠

What’s been your favorite moment serving at the IRC in Atlanta?

My favorite moments have been getting to know clients and their families, since teaching English remotely has provided me a glimpse into their home lives. I also love it when students crack jokes in my class!⁠

What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about the people we serve?

I wish everyone knew that refugees are just like “the rest of us.” They have hobbies, interests, pet peeves, hopes, and dreams. They have so many skills, too, particularly when it comes to languages!⁠

Elena Tothazan is our NDMV AmeriCorps Adult Education Associate, working within our Adult Education team.⁠

What made you decide to apply for your AmeriCorps position?

Ever since I immigrated to America in 2010, it has been my dream to make the transition process to the U.S. easier for others. Oftentimes, the language barrier is the first obstacle that individuals need to overcome in order to start a new life and be self-sufficient in the U.S. When I saw there was an AmeriCorps position to teach English to refugees at the IRC, I knew it was where I was meant to be!⁠

What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about the people we serve?

One thing I wish everyone knew about refugees is that they are so much more than the label of refugee. They are mothers, brothers, doctors, teachers, and most of all, they are fellow human beings. Once you interact with refugees, you will see that they are not that different from you and me. People are still people no matter where they are from in the world—we all have the same needs, hopes, and dreams. Refugees are seeking shelter from danger and I am so glad they get to come into a safe and positive environment at IRC.⁠

Ijeoma Orianwo is our NDMV AmeriCorps Youth Futures Associate, working within our Youth team.⁠

What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about the people we serve?

One thing I wish everyone knew about the IRC's clients is that the students are very perseverant. Youth Futures surveyed the afterschool tutors and most tutors agreed that the students showed perseverance with answering problems in tutoring. I have first-hand watched students answer problems without giving up and the students do this in their daily lives outside of tutoring also.⁠

What’s been your favorite moment serving at the IRC in Atlanta?

My favorite moment is more of a continuous event—leading and watching Facebook Lives in our Youth Facebook Group. I love to be creative, and I get to share that with the students when I lead one, while also getting to know the students better (and vice versa). I also get to know the students when I watch other staff and guest lead Facebook Lives about topics that are important to the students.

Danielle St. Amand is our NDMV AmeriCorps Workforce Training Associate, working within our Economic Empowerment team.

What’s one thing you wish everyone knew about the people we serve?

IRC clients are the hardest working people I know. They want to work to provide for themselves and their families and to further their education. Refugees deserve an equal chance at these opportunities. That being said, I wish our society valued them for more than just the dollar signs that their labor contributes to the economy. Refugees come to this country bringing unique lived experiences and incredibly useful perspectives on creativity and innovation; they deserve a seat at every table and I hope we can continue to work to eliminate barriers to help them achieve that.⁠

What’s something a client has taught you?

The power of advocacy. It is common for my clients to be viewed as incapable by employers because their prior job experiences took place mainly overseas and/or their English level is not fluent. I try to fight these stigmas, oftentimes by contacting employers to introduce them to both the IRC and to my clients. That initial introduction can do a lot of good for everyone involved, including an added boost for the clients’ confidence if they are selected for a job interview with the employer. My takeaway is that sometimes our refugee clients need something as simple as having someone in their corner—someone to remind them that they “can” even when it seems like the system is repeatedly telling them that they “can’t.”

Anna Schendl is our Extended Case Management Associate AmeriCorps, working within our Resettlement team.⁠

What’s been your favorite moment serving at the IRC in Atlanta?

My favorite moment so far was working on distributing the DeKalb County CARES Act funds with the Resettlement Department! Although it was hectic at times, it was so rewarding and such a great way to bond with my coworkers.⁠

What do you have planned for after AmeriCorps?

I plan on attending law school in the fall!

 

To learn more about the work of the IRC in Atlanta and for information on how you can get involved with the IRC as a donor or volunteer, please contact Development Director, Marian Dickson, at Marian.Dickson [at] Rescue.org or 601-310-3174.

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