The International Rescue Committee in Charlottesville is excited to introduce our new AmeriCorps members, Leah Hoffman, Madeline Nichols, Eli Ratzlaff, and Aran Teeling! The AmeriCorps program is supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations, and other donors to engage adults in public service with a goal of helping others and meeting critical needs in the community. Our AmeriCorps members commit to a full-time position through August 2021 serving in focus areas that include education, healthy futures, and economic empowerment.
Leah Hoffman graduated from Cornell University last year with a degree in Middle Eastern Studies. Originally from New Hampshire, Leah studied abroad in Tajikistan and wanted to find a role that made her feel like she was making an impact, despite COVID-19 complicating her plans. Leah is serving as our Healthy Futures AmeriCorps member, where she is making the health orientation for newly arrived clients more accessible. She also assists with community outreach and calling health providers. Leah mentions that her work can be intense, as she often is helping clients with complicated problems. “Managing that emotionally has been a challenge, but it’s been really great because I have so much support from my supervisors,” Leah says.
Madeline Nichols graduated this past year with a major in political science and a refugee studies focus from Christopher Newport University. She volunteered with the IRC in the past and previously served as a Casework Intern. Madeline felt the AmeriCorps role at the IRC would be a great fit to continue service for an organization about whose mission she was already passionate. She serves as our Education AmeriCorps Member in youth programming., With the impact of COVID-19 on youth engagement in school and the unique challenges it poses, Madeline says that her service feels like it’s making a real difference: “It has so much potential to make an impact on these kids’ lives,” Madeline says. “I’m thrilled.” Her main responsibilities include assisting with school registration and helping to obtain school materials for clients, as well as facilitating youth enrichment programs. For example, Madeline is coordinating the MYVA mentor program, which supports educational and vocational advancement for youth between the ages of 15 and 24 years old. Participants are matched with a trained mentor to assist in college and career preparedness as well as leadership development. Madeline also loves serving with the Youth Futures program at Charlottesville High School, which facilitates youth engagement projects and events throughout the year.
Eli Ratzliff was interested in applying for the Peace Corps but serving as an AmeriCorps member for the IRC was always at the back of his mind. Eli grew up in Charlottesville and graduated from UVA last year with a degree in political philosophy, policy, and law. He previously interned with IRC’s immigration services and volunteered with the IRC after the pandemic hit. When he found the opportunity to be an AmeriCorps member, it was a perfect fit. “I’ve always been drawn to a position the non-profit world,” says Eli. “Trying to do some kind of good in my professional life,” is a priority. Eli is serving as an AmeriCorps member in economic empowerment, meeting with clients once they arrive to address many of the initial barriers to employment they face and helping them find jobs. Eli most enjoys the client-facing side of his role. “I’d say the client interaction is probably one of my favorite parts. I do really enjoy the diversity of the work.”
Aran Teeling received his master’s degree in Public Policy from UVA’s Frank Batten School of Public Policy and was serving with the Peace Corps in Costa Rica when he was evacuated in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Once home, he sought opportunities that would allow him to continue public service using the skills he’d learned through the Peace Corps, like employability skills training. Aran is delivering job readiness training including redesigning the training to work in a remote delivery format. He also supports a credit-building micro-loan program recently introduced in Charlottesville. Aran mentions that so far, he has loved talking with clients and hearing how job readiness training helped prepare them for their jobs. When asked if transitioning from the Peace Corps to AmeriCorps in Charlottesville has been difficult, Aran says there’s a surprising number of similarities between both the IRC and the Peace Corps program in terms of making an impact on families in challenging situations. “I was really lucky because when I was at Batten I tried to focus most of my classes on local level economic development,” he mentions, saying that serving with the IRC allows him to interact with both international and U.S. economic contexts.
We are so grateful to have four new AmeriCorps members joining our team, and look forward to seeing how they impact the IRC in Charlottesville!
This story was written by IRC Intern, Leah Erwin, a fourth-year student at the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.