Each day, CU graduate Lauren Fluken, an environmental design major, works an eight-hour day as a volunteer helping to drywall, roof and frame a building in New Orleans.
Fluken is one of 250 individuals ages 18 to 24 currently participating in Americorps NCCC.
“I was sick of feeling selfish,” Fluken said. “Everything I had done in my life was just for me, and I wanted to help other people.”
During the 10-month community service program, members travel around the country to serve in the areas of disaster relief, environment and education.
NCCC is divided into teams of 11 people, including 10 core members and one leader.
The team spends the full 10 months together completing about five different projects.
The projects fall under five categories: environment, education, disaster relief, un-met human needs and homeland security, said Elena Velkov, the media support team leader.
Members work five to seven days a week, depending on the project. When the work day is over, members are free to do what they want, Fluken said.
Members learn new things every day, such as firefighting and construction, Fluken said.
“I have learned about many different fields, and I have a new respect for what others do,” Fluken said.
Fluken spent four weeks in training and has worked in Lafayette, La., and Biloxi, Miss., in addition to New Orleans.
Since the storms hit, NCCC members have served more than 800,000 hours in the Gulf, Velkov said.
NCCC is similar to a full-time job. Members typically receive a vacation period and can take limited personal days, Velkov said.
“I would recommend this program for people who are flexible, because the living conditions are not always nice,” Fluken said.
Fluken and her team are currently living in a Salvation Army building in New Orleans.
The drop-out rate is about two members per team, about 60 of the 250 members, Fluken said.
“I am lucky to be in a group that works well together and talks about conflicts so that they don’t cause tension,” Fluken said.
“You don’t make a lot of money, but you learn a lot,” said Fluken, who chose NCCC because “it provides a way for individuals to volunteer for 10 months and not lose anything.”
Basic living expenses are covered in the program, and members receive about $200 every two weeks.
Upon completion of the program, which amounts to 1,700 hours, members receive an education award of $4,725, Velkov said.
“I am really enjoying the experience, and my perspectives have changed,” Fluken said. She is beginning her fifth month in the program.
NCCC is one of four programs within Americorps; the other three are VISTA, State and National. There are four campuses for NCCC. They are located in Denver; Sacramento, Calif.; Perry Point, Md.; and Charleston, S.C.
Each campus covers projects in that particular region of the United States, unless there is a disaster, in which case, members will leave their campus to help where they are most needed, Velkov said.
Fluken plans to attend CU Denver in the fall to obtain a masters degree in architecture.
Individuals interested in Americorps complete an application that includes questions, essays and referrals. For more information, call 1-800-942-2677 or visit www.americorps.com.