Miami's Esperanzita Castillo nets national award for selfless service
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.”