My name is Diane Russick-Rodriguez and I am serving my AmeriCorps year with Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness AmeriCorps Program. I am an Income Generation and Management Specialist for Community enCompass in Muskegon.
My typical day starts with opening the computer lab. We open our doors to provide access to the homeless and others for vocational training. Some of my responsibilities include training folks on the computers with the very basics, or how to create an email using a username and password for the very first time. I spend much of my time helping individuals writing cover letters, resumes, and reference pages to assist in their quest to find employment. I will begin teaching how to use search engines, and job sites, then find out that they have not used more than two fingers to type their names. The unemployed may be college educated or be a veteran of the U.S. military or a veteran of survival of the streets. Many of our neighbors, as our Executive Director states, have barriers to work caused by neglect, abuse, or mental illness. There is a variety of levels of education, some with higher education to adults with barely a fifth-grade education and very few skills.
Sometimes, my days are filled with creating partnerships with area agencies for presentations to teach life classes in our little agency. Some of our presenters are Fifth Third Bank, Social Security, and Stewards in Action, who will present the topics like America Saves, Slashing Your Debt, Protecting Your Identity, Boosting Your Credit Score, and Why the Poor Pay More. We currently have classes scheduled once a week through May. All of our “Self Sufficiency Planners” are gearing their life classes to household earnings of $1,000 or less.
I have also scheduled monthly job fairs with Staffing Inc., where we supply a place and the help to the individuals applying for various jobs online. The applicant gets help even if they have very few computer skills, then we invite them to continue their job search, housing search, and further help developing their computer skills during open lab hours.
I am happy to dedicate my time and energy to the neighbors of Community enCompass who have benefited from my education and the opportunity I have had to help someone learn how to write a cover letter, or write a resume that enables them to become employed.
One such person is a young volunteer from MI Works. She has now become a success story. In January, learning how to write a business letter started a new journey. She excelled in her dedication and commitment to her work. The agency was quite impressed with her newfound self-esteem. I continued to work with her and we spent weeks going over office procedures, language usage, proper resume and cover letters, and creating her reference page. Then we worked together with diction, more word usage, office and interview attire, and practice.
A few weeks ago she left Community enCompass and was hired for direct resident care (while she earns her CNA certificate) and was also hired part time at a hospital. You see, she now has an opportunity to get her CNA certificate from her employer as she works. She will also be able to continue to get her education in nursing through a local program. Her goals have changed from getting a good factory job to becoming a registered nurse someday. Now that she has the vehicle to get her education through her work, the sky is her limit – or maybe it is the emergency surgery room.