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AmeriCorps helps local man find his path

Nick Shepherd • Jun 27, 2014 at 5:15 PM

Sometimes when you're enrolled in college, a break might be needed to figure out what you actually would like to do for the rest of your life.

Cameron Perkins decided to do just that. Figuring out what he wanted to do led him on a journey around the country, helping his fellow citizens in three different cities.

It was a journey that started with the simple act of volunteering.

"Originally, I accidentally got involved in the local VISTA program that the state runs," Perkins said. "I was volunteering at the Second Harvest Food Bank up in Gray and my very first day, the manager came up to me and asked if I wanted a job."

VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America. Perkins thought it sounded like a good opportunity and signed up for the 10-week program. He enjoyed the program, but still wanted time to figure out what he wanted to do with his life before he received his degree.

Perkins studied at East Tennessee State University and was approaching his third year, but still had not declared a major. He said he needed to take some time off because it was pointless to keep going if he didn't know what to do.

When he took the time off, he was working but still had free time and didn't want to simply sit around. He decided to volunteer, searching for interesting career choices. After the 10 weeks with VISTA was up, he did some research and came across AmeriCorps.

AmeriCorps was started in 1994, and since that time more than 800,000 AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1 billion volunteer hours in their communities.

It sounded like an opportunity Perkins wanted to pursue. He signed up in September of 2013 and was put in a new division of AmeriCorps called FEMACorps. Perkins said that program is similar to AmeriCorps but the volunteers help in disaster areas or areas where disasters had happened.

Perkins was sent to Boston on his first trip. The team he was with worked at the Federal Emergency Management Agency regional headquarters and helped make sure everything was running smoothly.

His second trip sent him out to Denver to help clean up after a flooding disaster struck the city. The third trip took him to Winchester, Virginia. He worked at a call center in that town helping people get registered for disaster aid.

Winchester may have helped Perkins decide what degree he wants to pursue.

"I think I'll probably just end up doing a history degree," he said. "Winchester had a lot of history I found really interesting and history is the thing I've usually found the most interesting. It helped me work through that, I guess."

Perkins enjoyed his time in AmeriCorps. It also helped him to open up. He said he was always a shy person, but his experience forced him to interact with strangers. He was put with people from all over the country and the only option he had was to get to know them.

He said AmeriCorps isn't for everybody and his group lost a couple of people along the way. But he had a fulfilling experience during his time with the organization. He would encourage other people to try it out.

"Be open," he said. "It's not like the normal experience living at home...It was a very different experience. It was interesting and I'm glad I did it...I really liked it and it was an enjoyable experience that I think will help me for the rest of my life."

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