AmeriCorps Week – Team Detroit Looks To Its Roots (Part 2)

By MWally on March 15, 2012 in AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Alumni

Part two of our AmeriCorps Week piece covers three former members of Team Detroit: Melissa McDaniel, Felisia Byrd and Darthanian “Dart” Nichols.

Name of Alum: Melissa McDaniel

Year(s) Served: 2001-2002 & 2002-2003

Placement:

Team Coordinator for two years. First year: Latino Family Services (LFS) Second year: MAPP

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program: Melissa always gravitated toward community service. Prior to AmeriCorps National AIDS Fund (NAF, now AIDS United), she participated in the state program and wanted to give back and have more experience working with the community. Melissa found out about the program from a member through a HIV 101 at an adolescent homeless shelter. She mentioned that the state program didn’t feel much like a team, but the NAF Program felt like a team. She also mentioned that the Detroit team has always been very diverse in many ways.

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

While at LFS, Melissa participated in the Needle Exchange Program (while adhering to program guidelines), was a Counselor and Tester and planned all of her team’s Team Days. While at MAPP Melissa participated in sex education programs for youth, online outreach, event planning, HIV 101’s and Counseling and Testing in bars.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

The people that Mellissa met along the way were her favorite part of her service year. She also had an emotional connection with all the team members.

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

Melissa remembers painting the walls of LFS (beautiful artwork). During her first year of service she also remembers their Team Day at Head Start. Kids were at Head Start, and the time members spent connecting with the children and sorting clothes was very special.

Is your employment related to your year or service?:

Melissa continued to work in the HIV/ AIDS field. She spent some time working at Community Health Awareness Group (CHAG). She is now the Supervisor of Case Management at Health Emergency Life Line Program (HELP). She is also starting the online outreach for MSM’s and early intervention services. She has been working at HELP for 5 years.

Were you able to use the education reward?:

Melissa was able to use both of her awards for her MA program. Her program matched the awards.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

Melissa has not been involved as much as she’d like to be as of late because there is a gap between current members and alum, but when she had members at HELP she was involved.

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

“If you’re gonna be in, be all in. And be open for new experiences.”

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

Melissa realized that who she was was more than good enough. To love her truth was freeing by watching the human struggle of people and the leadership in the HIV lesbian and gay community wasn’t going to change.

Interviewed by: Rachel Spruill (Current Team Detroit Member)



Name of Alum: Felisia Byrd

Year served: 2007-2008

Placement:

AIDS Partnership of Michigan

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

Felisia has always found a strong voice in volunteering. Since 1995 Felisia has been volunteering with Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. In 2005 she joined a pro-literacy program under the AmeriCorps umbrella and further developed her passion for service.  After learning more about the risk of HIV in her community, she served with AIDS United Team Detroit 2007-08.

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

As an AmeriCorps member at AIDS Partnership of Michigan, Felisia was a certified HIV test counselor. She also answered anonymous questions for the agency’s HIV hotline and provided HIV prevention information to clients and the public through community events.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

Felisia always looked forward to team 5th days. She enjoyed the opportunities to learn about other nonprofit agencies in Detroit. In addition to making connections with local agencies, volunteering was also a chance to meet like-mined people.

One 5th Day or Service Project that you will always remember:

Felisia’s favorite service project was working with the Alternatives for Girls Christmas party. This event was put on to celebrate the commitment of the women to enter a safe community and exit sex work. Felisia remembers how rewarding it was to see each woman’s self-value reaffirmed.

Is your employment related to your year or service?

Felisia applied for her current position at CareFirst Community Health Services in 2008 after her AmeriCorps service year. But it was not until 2010 when she received a call offering her employment. During the interim, Felisia attended school at Detroit Business Institute to become a Registered Medical Assistant. She continued volunteering at the Joy-Southfield Free Health Clinic. Now as an employee of CareFirst, Felisia is an Early Intervention Specialist, a position in which she continues the HIV work that she began during her service year, including HIV testing, prevention education, and connecting people to treatment and care.

Were you able to use the education reward?

Felisia used her AmeriCorps education award to pay off education loans from Davenport University where she received her Associates and Bachelors degrees.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service?

Felisia has continued volunteering regularly since her year of service. In addition to her work with the free clinic and Children’s Hospital, she has participated in AIDS Walk Detroit and assisted with Detroit DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) event.

One thing you would tell someone who is considering joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

Felisia says that it is important for new AU members to remember to be yourself and to be true to your experiences. Also she recommends that one approach the service year with an open mind and sincerity, as there is much to learn from the clients that we serve.

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

Felisia says that her year of service helped develop her self-awareness as she faced new challenges. She credits her service as making her more compassionate and helping her realize not to take anything for granted.

Interviewed by: Anthony McClafferty (Current Team Detroit Member)


Dart (Pictured Right) with Terry Ryan (Team Detroit City Supervisor)

Name of Alum: Darthanian “Dart” Nichols

Year(s) Served: 2006-2007 & 2007-2008

Placement:

First year: Affirmations Second year: Community Health Awareness Group (CHAG)

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program: Dart was a part of a population that was at high risk for HIV, and he was a CSW at the time, he knew his risk was great. He found out about National AIDS Fund (Now AIDS United) while he was a client at Ruth Ellis and saw a flyer. A member of the AmeriCorps team that served at Ruth Ellis also told him to apply.

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

While at Affirmations, Dart helped to establish the HIV prevention program from the ground up. He also established the HIV Hotline by providing HIV testing and counseling dates times and answering all HIV related questions. He facilitated “jam sessions” for young men called, “Swallow This” and “jam sessions” for young women called, “Young Women of Change” and “Youth Against AIDS.” In addition he orchestrated several fundraisers to raise money for the AIDS Walk:  “22 Pledge, Sing for a Cause: Karaoke Night, and Sexapalusa.” While at CHAG he was a HIV Test Counselor, worked on the Needle Exchange Program (Life Points, while adhering to program guidelines) and participated in Outreach.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

At the end of his first year during end of service when they have people from each team speak he watched as a member of team DC spoke about the challenges of serving in a convalescent home, where people were in advanced stages of HIV and nearing death. It was then that he realized that, while his task of telling people that they were HIV positive was difficult, it was not as hard as caring for people in their later stages in life with HIV. It was then that he knew he had to be prepared for both the result and the end result.

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

The LTP for the first year-Dart and his team members turned the basement of Ozone House in Ann Arbor into a recreational room.  Also, the LTP for the second year of service, Dart participated in Operation Speak Out with his team members.

Is your employment related to your year or service?:

Dart is now an employee of CHAG. In addition to the programs he participated in while an AmeriCorps member, he facilitates their new program Safety Counts, which is a risk reduction IDU program.

Were you able to use the education reward?:

Dart was able to use some of his education awards toward tuition in higher education.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

Dart has participated every year with the current AmeriCorps Team for the MLK Day of Service, and had gone to all of the team LTP project events, if they had them.

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

“It is not for the faint of heart”

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

AmeriCorps has propelled him in his service as a pastor. He is now able to incorporate HIV into his position as a pastor.

Interviewed by: Rachel Spruill (Current Team Detroit Member)

Want to see what the current team is up to? https://www.facebook.com/TeamDetroit Check out our Facebook page!

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