A few short years ago, when LeAundrea Robinson found herself “broke, broken and homeless,” she made a promise that when she found her way back, she would bring others with her. In doing so, she discovered her voice, and acquired the skills to embark on a rewarding career.
Robinson found the allies she needed to lift herself and her family out of poverty—volunteers in the local chapter of the Circles program, sponsored by Buncombe Street United Methodist Church and SHARE. Honoring her commitment to give back, she signed up for two years in United Way’s AmeriCorps national service program. Her job was to work at Greenville Tech’s Financial Education Center, assisting low-income students with budgeting and financial literacy.
“It was a chance to give back to the community that had poured into me,” Robinson said. “My first student in crisis was a single mother with five kids and one on the way who was struggling to stay in a nursing program. Because I had been through a struggle, I have connections in the community. I connected her with resources and we were able to get her the help she needed. That was like a light going on for me.”
Robinson surpassed her contractual hours with AmeriCorps, performing case-management duties and helping students get emergency services like housing and food. GTC’s Care Corner provided essential needs like diapers and car seats. Her own experience with poverty opened her eyes to the needs of the students she was helping.
“Crisis doesn’t have a nine-to-five timetable,” she said. “You see students who look like you and me, but they are sleeping in their cars. You have to reconsider what you think poverty is.”
Robinson worked to create innovative solutions and partnerships to remove barriers that could have prevented students from staying in school. Her efforts paid off in increased retention and over $500,000 in contributions. She was recognized as the 2019 AmeriCorps Member of the Year and presented with the 2019 South Carolina Governor’s Volunteer Award.
Crisis doesn’t have a nine-to-five timetable. You see students who look like you and me, but they are sleeping in their cars. You have to reconsider what you think poverty is.” – LeAundrea Robinson, volunteer, United Way’s AmeriCorps
The skills she developed in her AmeriCorps job led to a staff position at Greenville Tech, where she has the opportunity to guide and inspire students every day. In August, she was hired to be one of two academic coordinators for GTC’s newly launched African American Male Scholars Initiative.
“I’m grateful for what my service was able to do to help others, and the greatest reward is to be part of this work for the long term,” she said. “It has opened up doors for me, so we all win.”
National Service Opportunities like United Way’s AmeriCorps, VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) are a life-changing way to serve your community and gain skills and knowledge. Members serve for one year and receive a small stipend. During their year of service, they work to strengthen nonprofits through direct or indirect service. These programs are a great opportunity for a recent college graduate or someone looking to change their career. Those interested can contact Alex Haymond, at [email protected] or Abby Blakely at [email protected].