Monday, December 1, 2008

It felt strangely familiar, traveling to Gallup for a conference and preparing to meet with AmeriCorps members from across the state of New Mexico. I was hoping it would be exciting and educational, but if not, at least it would be an experience. After a brief car ride of four hours (!) we arrived in Gallup to find it dryer than it had been in the central part of the state. We were in a border town of New Mexico checking into a conference in a known haunted hotel! The team was buzzing about the opportunity to enjoy this networking, but no one seemed too excited about any of the courses offered or the opportunity to work at the Red Rocks State Park conducting maintenance of the facilities. I couldn’t help remembering our disappointment last year on Make a Difference Day in Gallup when we found out that we would not actually be building a house for Habitat for Humanity, but digging trenches instead. It all seemed strangely familiar.
Most of us found the conference boring, the classes uninteresting and the celebratory dinner underwhelming. It felt as if the facilitators were not expecting as many of us. We networked with the other teams across the state. Most of the AmeriCorps members there were Teach for America members and I felt we made a difference in exposing them to HIV issues. We all shared the goal of “getting things done.” The major topic of conversation was “Where were you placed and what are you doing there?” Some members were placed in a deforestation program in Ruidoso to prevent forest fires in small New Mexico towns. Unfortunately, we did not truly bond with most of the attendees and felt they didn’t really acknowledge our contribution to AmeriCorps.
When it came to the AmeriCorps members working on the Red Rocks grounds or helping the children find their perfect pumpkins for Halloween, some of us thought it worthwhile and had a lot of fun. Others felt it a waste of time.
Overall, it was not all it could have been and as a team we agreed that the AmeriCorps National AIDS Fund Pre-Service was a blockbuster smash hit while the New Mexico AmeriCorps kick-off was a straight to DVD movie!
Ben and the rest of us homies!

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