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Care Force Alumni Spotlight: Carlos Corona

On Thursday October 22, 2020 my fellow teammates Karli Swensen, Avery Brick and I interviewed City Year Sacramento (’12-13′) and Team Care Force (’13-14) alum Carlos Corona. Below is our conversation:

Avery: Where did you serve and what is your favorite memory from your first AmeriCorps year?
Carlos: I served with Sacramento, at Rosa Parks Middle school which is now K-8. My favorite memory was that our school only had 7th and 8th grade but for whatever reason there was this 1st or 2nd grade student would come every day to come visit me. It’s not that he had any family there, but more so he hung out with some of the students on campus. So, I kind of started talking to him and hanging out with him. And like I said, every day after school he would show up, and everyone would laugh because the days I didn’t show up to service he would show up, ask for me and if he found I wasn’t there he would get really sad. I mean there were other things that happened at that site, but that was the one thing that really caught on because, you know, we didn’t have elementary school students. Every day he came.

Karli: What was your favorite Care Force trip and why?
Carlos: ” I think if you ask the majority of my team, they would agree on the same one. We did a trip with CSX with, I forget what the name of the group was, but it was in the city of Birmingham in Alabama. They were commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights movement. They were creating these huge murals made of these 6” x 6”  tiles that people were painting and were going to put altogether to create a mural. I think, not just the focus of the mural and the Civil Rights movement, but getting to go around the city and see some of the historical points really struck me because you hear about things in text books about the challenges with where you lived and what you looked like especially around that time. It was powerful, especially from someone who isn’t from the south, coming from someone who isn’t familiar with those challenges and they came to be. And of course, I asked you guys about food, but it was my first time to experience real barbecue and sweet tea. It was one of those trips where everything goes according to plan and it’s a new city that I had the chance to experience so much from.

Baltimore event with CSX at a community center. Miguel Adames on the left and Patrick In on the right.


Eric: What is your current position and what are your job responsibilities?
Carlos: So, currently I teach middle school grade science so I’m mainly teaching 7th grade science. It’s different now if you can imagine. Just like at the end of last year doing everything digitally, I’m sure no one knew what to do. This year we had an idea of what to do but we’re not really sure if it’s going to work, so were just going to go for it and make adjustments later. And that’s really what it was, the spring was just you kind of stumbling through it and failed all along the way. Then, lets re-analyze everything and focus on what we can do better.  The goal is to teach students, but you know there’s a big emphasis on social emotional learning, not just supporting them in learning but actually seeing how they are. For a lot of them at least, where I teach, it’s a rural area so a lot of students are essentially secluded. “ “It is my first year here, but I have been teaching for three years. It’s mainly been science but before it was more a manufacturing class. When I say that, people think more machinery but it is more robotics and that kind of stuff”

Avery: What skills did you develop with TCF that you think are most relevant to your current work?
Carlos:” I would say the idea of PLANNING PLANNING PLANNING, and then changing your plans because things never go according to plan. That’s one of the things I enjoy most about teaching, is that I can come up with this plan and then I bring it to students and it falls flat, it makes me think alright what can I do better. Even with planning events on Care Force, you had this plan, you would show up to the site and you come up with all these different things that can go wrong. Whether it’s the measurements were off, the site wasn’t exactly the way you planned it to be, or if you’re some of my teammates, your container wouldn’t show up. So, you kind of had to scramble to Home Depot just to get all the tools you needed. Just being able to think on your feet especially in those stressful situations. Of course, having the proper communication as well being able to say “hey I need help with this” or “I can’t do this” or “I’m having trouble communicating with my volunteers.” Also asking yourself “how can I be more high speed, low drive? Meaning how can you work quickly and not out do yourself, I even say that to my students sometimes.

Karli: What piece of advice do you have for future TCF members?
Carlos: “One of the things I heard often in my corps year was to be a sponge, which is to just absorb anything and everything that’s around you, thrown at you, or said to you. I think that’s even a good quality to have with Care Force. No matter where you are, no matter who you’re serving with, or who the corporate partner is just always absorb that information and of course try to remember as much of it as you can. Even now a lot of those hard and soft skills, I’m constantly using. Whether it’s taking measurements to help my dad build a fence, or knowing how to speak to a student who gets a message from their friend saying they want to commit suicide. Those skills have become really essential. I think initially the thought was Care Force is just labor, but there’s soft skills as well. You might get that team member or volunteer who gets stuck up on scaffolding and realizes their scared of heights and you have to talk them down. It’s about being a sponge and being as open as you can, and the year ends up going by really quickly and then it’s gone.

Eric:What was a major learning moment you had while serving on TCF?
Carlos: I feel like the one thing that sticks with me so much is, it’s not so much about service, but when I introduce myself I would say I’m from Sacramento. You’ll hear a lot of people do this when they say they’re from a larger city, they won’t say their small town. Someone will ask where exactly are you from, and you say “oh no I’m not actually from that city it’s an hour away from it” because no one actually know where that small city was. Are you all familiar with Hugh Harlow? One day he got mad at me because I said I was from Sacramento. He was like you’re not from Sacramento you’re from Arbuckle, don’t tell people you’re from Sacramento. To this day that’s one of the things I always did because I was from a small town that was, at the time, only 2000 people. It was an indirect way of saying be proud of where you’re from even if people don’t know where it is, they can still learn it from you. It was one of those weird lessons I wasn’t planning on learning. It’s not like how to cut wood or order paint or anything like that it was just one of those things that popped up and stayed with me to this day.”

Avery: In what ways have you engaged with Care Force or City Year as an alumni?
I show up and just say “hey, I’m here tell me where you need me” and that’s usually what happens. I think the first time as an alumni I showed up and Ted said “Hey! It’s good to see you, get to work” and he gave me a task right away. I also had the chance to do other trips as well. I believe there was one in West Virginia and in DC as well. When I get that email I check my work schedule and see if it works and if it does, I’m there. In terms of locally I’ve now moved closer to Sacramento which is where I served. I’m trying to get more involved in terms of the first year corps there as well. Sometimes I wish that I worked at a school with a corps member because I remember what that experience is like and for me, that was something that led me to working in education.

Carlos and fellow Alum Jackson Young volunteer at a Care Force event in East Palo Alto
Carlos volunteering with fellow alum Jackson Young at the Microsoft event in East Palo Alto in 2017.

Karli: How has COVID-19 altered your current role and how are you adapting?
Carlos: It changed everything. I can’t imagine someone saying that they have not been affected by COVID-19. Of course, first and foremost, it’s the fact that I don’t see my students anymore. In the spring zoom wasn’t really a thing, it was more you assigned things through google classroom the students would check it once a week. But now it’s on an everyday basis, I see a few students every other day. It’s difficult to be in front of a computer when you’re used to walking around and talking to kids, laughing, so it’s a little more difficult now. Personally, now anywhere you go you see the hand sanitizing stations, you see the signs saying you need to wear a mask, travelling as well. I used to, if I had the chance, book a flight to a city I’ve never been to just to hang out for a couple days. I can’t do that anymore. There’s so much that has changed. I don’t know if things will go back to normal, more or less once we adapt to what’s happened maybe slowly some of that will start to come back.

Eric: What are some activities that you have started during the pandemic or skills you think you have improved on since working from home?

Carlos: I actually got a lot more into cooking. One of things that my manager in Care Force, Taylor Ferguson, was really big on eating at different restaurants, no matter where we went, so I did that for a while too. I would visit a new city. I would look for authentic food or things that were rated highly, but during the pandemic I wasn’t able to do that so then I went to “I like food so why not try making it?” My wife finds it funny because she’ll buy me different things just so that I can continue cooking. It’s a good activity she likes to encourage because she benefits from it as well. That’s really been the biggest one I would say. I mean I like to run but that hasn’t really changed too much during the pandemic. If anything, it’s actually helped because I can’t imagine depending on going to a gym since all the gyms are closed.

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