By Courtney Westlake
A group of sixteen UIS students joined dozens of people from around the state at the Prairie Capital Convention Center in downtown Springfield to participate in the Illinois AmeriCorps Opening Day Ceremonies at the Capitol and celebrate the opportunity to make a difference.
"Today has been really amazing," said UIS sophomore Josephine Marquez, an AmeriCorps member. "I have seen people from all the way back home in the Chicago area."
The 2008-2009 Midwest Campus Compact Citizen-Scholar Fellows AmeriCorps Program is an initiative that creates opportunities for students to work together as agents of civic change in their local communities and on their campuses. UIS is one of only seven universities in the state that participates in this AmeriCorps Education Award program.
"I love volunteering; I started in high school," said Jackson Kern, a freshman. "When I got to UIS, I found out I could get a grant for $1,000 for being in AmeriCorps and doing 300 hours of service. It's well worth it; you get to meet a lot of new people."
Marquez said she has been volunteering for years as well and jumped at the chance to live in the Leadership for Life wing in Lincoln Residence Hall and volunteer through AmeriCorps.
"When applying for college, UIS had a service wing, and to me, I thought it was a great idea to be living with people who did service," she said. "This year, Kelly Thompson (director of the Volunteer and Civic Engagement Center) has come in and revamped everything. I figured it'd be great to be with people who love to do service."
The UIS students who participated in Thursday's events were thrilled with the opportunity to meet others in the AmeriCorps program and participate in the Opening Day Ceremonies.
"I find it amazing that you can find so many people who are also interested in service and are doing something to impact their community," Marquez said.