by Caroline Watkins, AmeriCorps Member on the Capital Area United Way team at Capitol Middle School
Everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. For many corps members, ten months of service is only the beginning of the impact they plan to make in communities around the country. Corps member Maya Curtis tells us how her service doesn’t end when the school year does, and why spending her summer biking 4,234 miles isn’t as crazy as it sounds.
1. What are you doing this summer after your corps year ends?
I am participating in a summer cycling trip across the country with a nonprofit organization called Bike & Build, aimed at raising money and awareness for affordable housing through cycling trips across the USA. The trip will take me and 31 other young adults from Charleston, South Carolina to Santa Cruz, California. While on the road we will be meeting with members of the communities we pass through, telling them about our trip and the affordable housing issue, and helping them to become involved in efforts to alleviate the problem. There will also be several days where we will trade our bikes for hammers, and help construct affordable homes with local organizations like Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity. I will raise $4,500 for affordable housing, bike 4,234 miles and spend 17 days of the 82-day trip building houses.
2. What inspired you to participate in Bike & Build?
Two years ago I read Wild, a novel by Cheryl Strayed about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. While reading this book, I was moved and inspired to create an adventure of my own- an adventure with purpose and great cause. So, I set a goal for myself to bike across the country. I had two friends that participated in Bike & Build and, after hearing their experiences and stories, I knew this was the trip I wanted to be a part of. I was motivated and eager for the opportunity to continue to make a positive impact on society by working with a group of young leaders from all over the country, as well as complete a personal goal to bike and across the country.
Since moving to Baton Rouge and working with City Year, I’ve found another source of motivation to do this bike trip. Everyday on my way to work, I pass rundown houses that are unsafe and unsuitable for anyone to live in or raise a family. Most of the students I work with are affected by housing inequality. The 22 students in the 3rd grade classroom inspire me everyday to go on this adventure and raise money for affordable housing.
3. Why do you want to continue serving after City Year, and how has it prepared you for this summer?
Service has always been a part of my life. I studied Community Entrepreneurship in college, so service and community involvement is a career path I’ve always seen in my future. This coming summer and year to follow will be full of great people doing great things, and I am excited to be a part of that. City Year has shown me that through dedicated hard work you can create positive change. It’s important to be involved in the community that you are living in, and City Year has instilled in me the desire to be a more active member of society through monthly service, school board meetings and civic engagement talks.
4. What are some challenges you're expecting to face on the trip?
During this 82-day bike trip, days are going to be long, extremely tiring and the weather not always sunny. For me, the best way to face a challenging situation is always staying positive, smiling and laughing. Sometimes it’s easier to see and talk about the negative things in a situation, but trying hard to bring at least one good thing to the surface helps me handle challenging times. Plus, I am excited to tackle those crazy challenging Colorado mountains!
5. What are your plans for next year?
After this three-month adventure I will be returning to Baton Rouge with new ideas and inspiration from across the country to make a difference in my newfound home and community. I will be working at The Walls Project, an organization I volunteer with regularly that is dedicated to stimulating the creative arts by delivering public artworks that inspire urban and rural beautification, dialogue, and unity. I am really excited to come back to Baton Rouge and be part of a great organization that is transforming and bringing communities together around the arts, as well as re-imagining the city artistically and socially.