From Youth Corps to Peace Corps

As much as we miss our Corpsmembers when they complete their service, it is always exciting to see where life will take them next. Johnny Fuenzalida, an AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation (ACLC) Corpsmember, is an example of a Corpsmember planning to take big steps after his term ends. He recently applied for the Peace Corps using an essay about his experience at Mile High Youth Corps. Read about how his experience here has been a stepping stone towards serving a community abroad!

“About two miles into the trail, we realized we ran out of water. The temperature was 91 degrees Fahrenheit and every movement made by my eight-person sawyer crew was weighed down by the mass of our chainsaws, our protective chainsaw chaps and the cans of fuel we carried around as we cleared any vegetation growing within five feet of the trail. Near the end of this ten-hour work day, the weather drastically shifted from 91 degree heat to a hail storm—typical Colorado weather. We executed our emergency action plans, hiking through brush and meadows with all of our heavy equipment back to the van where we disassembled our saws in skin-pelting hail and returned to camp.

Part of my duties as an assistant crew leader for Mile High Youth Corps (MHYC) is to facilitate a daily, hour-long Educational Activity where we promote growth, leadership and ecological awareness. These activities can be anything from lectures, team building exercises, group readings or informative games. So, after this long day of sawing, I facilitated a creative writing workshop with a very small amount of preparation time. After the Educational Activity, my crew and I made dinner on a portable camping stove, stored the food in the trailer so we wouldn’t attract bears, returned to our tents and slept. The next day we woke up at sunrise, made breakfast, gathered our supplies, packed the van and set back out to the trail to do it all again.

This day was unique in the specific challenges our crew faced, but was not unique in its level of difficulty. Sometimes our chainsaws malfunction and we have a shortage of equipment; other times, crew members could battle heat exhaustion. My position makes me partly responsible for recognizing these challenges and overcoming them, while still keeping morale high. The work isn’t easy, but nobody ever said it would be. These challenges, when approached properly, are opportunities for growth—and halfway through my MHYC term of service, I realize that I have been waiting for these opportunities all my life.

Being an integral part of a project that is improving the community as well as the other individuals involved is invigorating. Once my term of service for MHYC ends in December, I wish nothing more than to continue serving on an international basis. Like my work with MHYC, I envision myself building meaningful relationships with the people I serve in order to positively influence a culture that is much different from mine. I understand that the challenges I will face in the Peace Corps will be of a higher magnitude than the challenges I face now, but this is exactly what I find appealing. Service means sacrificing the comforts I’ve known in order to feel more attuned to the needs of those around me. Service means getting dirty, feeling frustrated and alone, and still being resilient and faithful enough to know with certainty that my experience and perspective will provide a solution to the problem.”

– Johnny Fuenzalida, ACLC 2016

Johnny cropped Jonathan Fuenzalida

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