135 to graduate from AmeriCorps next week

Published 11:15 am Friday, December 7, 2012

A month ago, Christy Conceison was bouncing between shelters in Long Island and Staten Island, N.Y., just days after Hurricane Sandy landed.

Conceison, 24, of Burlington, Mass., is one of about 300 volunteers from the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps Southern Region campus in Vicksburg deployed to the storm-ravaged Northeast. On Thursday, Conceison and the rest of the NCCC Class 18 Winter Group — about 135 team leaders and Corps members — will graduate.

After graduating in 2011 from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts with a bachelor’s in health education, Conceison said she wanted to leave her home state to enjoy new experiences while giving back to communities in need.

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Conceison said providing relief with her team, Delta 10, during Sandy was one of the most difficult experiences of her life, spending weeks in shelters, distributing food and working at call centers.

“It was the most emotionally draining project that we’ve had,” she said. “When you’re not working, you’ll go talk to people because that’s all there is to do. It was really hard for our whole team.”

While her time in New York was challenging, Conceison said the experience was life-changing.

“I got to know so many people, and so many stories have changed my life because of what they went through.”

After weeks in a shelter, a local woman offered her team warm showers and tea, bringing Conceison to tears.

“It just showed me the little things in life are the most important,” she said. “The sense of community the whole place had was amazing.”

The winter 2012 graduates were not limited to areas hit by Sandy.

Alicia Anderson, 24, of Jackson, joined AmeriCorps after graduating from Jackson State University with a degree in political science. Anderson provided logistical support in the days following Hurricane Isaac with her team, River 9.

“I actually chose to come to Vicksburg because there’s a lot of places I haven’t seen in my own region,” Anderson said. “I’m glad that we got to do the Isaac recovery because I learned a lot more with that than I did with some stuff in school.”

While Conceison and Anderson worked in storm relief, Giorgi Sprow, 22, of Frederick, Md., spent about a month in central Florida at the Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve.

“My aspiration is to become a wildlife firefighter,” Sprow said. “My experience in Florida should come in handy down the road when I’m looking for a job.”

Sprow, who learned how to preserve and protect land from wildfires, said his time in the marshes was eye-opening.

“I did know the gist of what I was going to do, however, most of the stuff we did, I did not expect,” Sprow said. “The one job I didn’t expect to do was walk in a marsh area of 4 feet in water that rises up to your chest.”

When asked what they will miss most, all three were quick to respond exactly the same: “My team members.”

Graduation will be Thursday at 10:30 a.m. in the gym at the Americorps NCCC Vicksburg campus, the former All Saints’ Episcopal School on Confederate Avenue.