Recent Park Graduates Give Back through AmeriCorps

Two recent Park alumni, Mary Charles Hale ‘13 and Alyson Harding ’13, have spent the past several months participating in AmeriCorps, a federal government-run program which provides services in nonprofit organizations, schools, public agencies, and community and faith-based groups across the country. We caught up with them to find out about their experiences as AmeriCorps members working with two very different program communities.

Mary Charles Hale

As a student at NC State, Hale majored in English. She believes this major helped her get a sense of what motivates people, what frustrates them, and how we grow as a society.

Hale is working with College Forward, a college access and completion program that works with low-income, first generation college students. She currently works at Lee High School in Baytown, Texas – just east of Houston – with fifteen seniors and ten juniors.

“Working through the college application process with these students, I’ve definitely become more aware of my own privilege,” said Hale. “For most of my students, taking the ACT, applying to college and filling out scholarship applications are totally foreign processes, so it’s been challenging and fun to work through these tasks with them.”

After AmeriCorps, Hale would like to work in some kind of creative capacity, whether in communications, journalism or marketing. She also hopes to continue working for organizations that seek to make a positive difference.

When asked what advice she would give to current NC State students, Hale said, “You’ve been given the gift of a world-class education. Don’t be afraid to take a few years to give back, to challenge yourself to move somewhere entirely new and meet and work alongside people with diverse backgrounds and interests. It is definitely a challenge but also extremely rewarding.”

Alyson Harding

As a student, Harding spent all of her spring breaks volunteering with Habitat for Humanity. After her initial trip with NC State’s Collegiate Challenge, Harding became an officer for the campus chapter of Habitat. She went on to become president of the organization during her senior year.

Harding knew after graduation that AmeriCorps would provide her with the perfect opportunity to continue to serve with this organization. She currently works as an assistant construction site supervisor for Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, Colo. She spends her days working on the construction site, managing and leading volunteers.

“My time as a Park led me to seek out new experiences, which helped me decide to attend the first Habitat for Humanity spring break trip as a freshman,” said Harding. “The Park Scholarships program encouraged me to pursue leadership and service, and helped motivate me to stay involved in the campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity. The program taught me the value of giving back and serving others, through financial contributions and using my own skills and talents to do hands-on service, as I am doing now.”

Now that she has experience working for a nonprofit and doing service for a living, Harding says it is difficult to imagine anything else. For her, a fulfilling career and life will involve having a positive impact on others.

When asked what advice she would give to students interested in pursuing service-based work experiences, Harding said, “I would recommend beginning right after graduation. This was the perfect opportunity for me to move to a new place and have this new experience. Additionally, I was used to living on a tight budget from college! For me, it would be difficult to get back into service work after being in a career or in graduate school. Jimmy Carter once stated, ‘Life’s most persistent and nagging question is – what are you doing for others?’ I will never stop asking myself this question, and I encourage others to do the same.”

Story by Laura Turner