Mi­ami's Esper­anzita Castillo nets na­tional award for self­less ser­vice

South Florida Times - - METRO - Staff Re­port Esper­anzita Castillo

Esper­anzita Castillo, a re­cent grad­u­ate of the Greater Mi­ami Ser­vice Corps (GMSC) YouthBuild pro­gram, was hon­ored on Feb. 14 as a 2018 Corpsmem­ber of the Year.

She be­came an Amer­iCorps mem­ber with the YouthBuild pro­gram at GMSC with her brother in 2016. Her goal was to earn her high school diploma and gain job skills.

Castillo was rec­og­nized at the na­tional con­fer­ence of The Corps Net­work, the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Ser­vice and Con­ser­va­tion Corps, con­fer­ence, at the Fair­mont Ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Ev­ery year, at the Corps’ na­tional con­fer­ence, a group of Corpsmem­bers who have ex­ceeded the expectations of their Corps by ex­hibit­ing out­stand­ing lead­er­ship skills and demon­strat­ing an earnest com­mit­ment to ser­vice and civic en­gage­ment is hon­ored.

Hon­orees are se­lected from nom­i­na­tions from the mem­ber Corps. The nom­i­na­tion form con­sists of two parts: one in which Corps staff ex­plain how the nom­i­nee ex­ceeds expectations and acts as a pos­i­tive in­flu­ence; and one in which the Corpsmem­ber writes about his or her Corps ex­pe­ri­ence. A panel con­sist­ing of mem­bers of the Corps Coun­cil, and staff from The Corps Net­work and mem­ber Corps re­views nom­i­na­tions. “All of our mem­ber Corps and Corpsmem­bers make sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try,” said Mary Ellen Sprenkel, pres­i­dent and CEO of The Corps Net­work. “With the Corpsmem­ber of the Year Award, we have the op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate ex­tra­or­di­nary in­di­vid­u­als and pro­grams from our net­work and shed light on the vast ca­pa­bil­i­ties of Corps; our awardees are sym­bols of the im­pact of na­tional ser­vice. The Corps Net­work is hum­bled to rep­re­sent such in­spir­ing peo­ple as Esper­anzita and pro­grams like Greater Mi­ami Ser­vice Corps.”

GMSC is one of more than 130 mem­ber or­ga­ni­za­tions of The Corps Net­work. Corps are lo­cal, state or na­tional pro­grams that pro­vide young adults and re­cent vet­er­ans the op­por­tu­nity to serve their com­mu­nity, ad­vance their ed­u­ca­tion and ob­tain in-de­mand skills. Serv­ing in crews or in­di­vid­ual po­si­tions, Corpsmem­bers spend up to a year per­form­ing mean­ing­ful projects that ad­dress con­ser­va­tion and in­fras­truc­ture con­cerns, wild­fires and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters, out­door-recrea­tion ac­cess, and a range of other is­sues. Corpsmem­bers gain work ex­pe­ri­ence through build­ing trails, con­duct­ing pre­scribed burns, manag­ing habi­tats, help­ing dis­as­ter-stricken com­mu­ni­ties, and per­form­ing var­i­ous other ser­vice-ori­ented tasks.

Castillo has in­deed been ac­tive as a youth voice in her Corps and in her com­mu­nity. She is cur­rently serv­ing as an Amer­iCorps VISTA un­der the Points of Light Ser­viceWorks pro­gram at GMSC.

She re­mains com­mit­ted to giv­ing back and takes great pride in neigh­bor­hood clean ups and land­scap­ing projects that help re­store beauty in lo­cal neigh­bor­hoods. “I was ex­cited for the op­por­tu­nity to do com­mu­nity work. I’ve al­ways loved help­ing oth­ers and beau­ti­fi­ca­tion projects,” Castillo said.

Castillo used to put in ex­tra ser­vice hours at the Corps.When­ever there were week­end vol­un­teer projects, she was there, in­clud­ing Global Youth Ser­vice Day and Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Ser­vice.

“Us­ing ser­vice to con­nect young peo­ple in Mi­ami-Dade County to ed­u­ca­tion and mean­ing­ful work ex­pe­ri­ence op­por­tu­ni­ties, al­lows them to trans­form their lives while con­tribut­ing to the com­mu­ni­ties and neigh­bor­hoods they live in,” said Deb­o­rah Dorsett, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Greater Mi­ami Ser­vice Corps.

In ad­di­tion to gen­eral Corps re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, Castillo was in­stru­men­tal in par­tic­i­pat­ing in a con­ven­ing of youth from through­out the county to con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ment of the lo­cal work­force board’s strate­gic plan. She has also vis­ited Con­gres­sional lead­ers to share her story and dis­cuss the im­por­tance of con­tin­u­ing fed­eral fund­ing for GMSC and other work­force de­vel­op­ment pro­grams for young adults. Ad­di­tion­ally, Castillo has at­tended meet­ings of the Mi­amiDade County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers to ed­u­cate of­fi­cials on the need for op­por­tu­ni­ties and re­sources for young peo­ple in the county. She was rec­og­nized in April 2017 by Mi­ami-Dade County Mayor Car­los Gimenez as part of the Mayor's Day of Ser­vice.

Castillo has also been ac­tive with Op­por­tu­nity Youth United – a group of young adults from across the coun­try who ad­vo­cate on a na­tional level for poli­cies and pro­grams to help young adults who face bar­ri­ers to jobs and ed­u­ca­tion. Castillo com­pleted the fi­nal re­quire­ments for her high school diploma and grad­u­ated in Novem­ber with a spe­cialty in Vet­eri­nary As­sis­tance. She is close to com­plet­ing the Na­tional Cen­ter for Con­struc­tion Ed­u­ca­tion and Re­search (NCCER) cre­den­tial and has ac­quired her OSHA 10-hour cer­ti­fi­ca­tion and CPR/First Aid cer­ti­fi­ca­tion. Her story re­cently ap­peared in a video by Amer­ica’s Prom­ise:“A Se­cu­rity Guard, a Flyer, and a Sec­ond Chance.”

Castillo, who is 21 years old, at­tends South­ern New Hamp­shire Uni­ver­sity Col­lege for Amer­ica.

“I wanted to be­come a Corpsmem­ber to change my life,” said Castillo.“I dropped out of school in the sixth grade and knew I would need a diploma to get a bet­ter job or at­tend col­lege. GMSC means so much more to me than just help­ing me achieve my goals. The staff is like my fam­ily.They as­sist and en­cour­age us to strive for our goals. I have also gained a lot of ex­po­sure to the com­mu­nity. We par­tic­i­pate in hous­ing projects, land­scap­ing, paint­ing, com­mu­nity out­reach and so much more. As a Corpsmem­ber of the Year I would ex­pand my out­reach to other Corps around the coun­try.”



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