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Locals lend a hand through Americorps

AmeriCorp provides service opportunities to every age, type

With a job market that's still sparse and a stock market that's none too certain, more and more Americans of all walks of life are taking up volunteerism.

And here in the Capital District there are many examples of how people young and old are getting involved through AmeriCorps, the nationwide program that offers an ever-increasing range of options for those willing to lend a hand.

Kyla Philbrook, a Latham resident, took time off from studying at UAlbany to enroll in AmeriCorps's National Civilian Community Corps program. Last October, she undertook a month of training at a NCCC campus in California, and was then sent out to work with nonprofits around the country with a small team of other young people.

It's an experience I don't think you can get anywhere else, she said. "I did it just because I had never been further away from Albany than Delaware...I knew there was a lot about this country that I didn't understand."

Over 540,000 Americans have participated in AmeriCorps since its founding in 1993. From relatively simple roots, the program has grown into a multifaceted effort that has opportunities for many levels of service, from local community building work to traveling groups that go where they're needed.

That brings a diverse spectrum of people to AmeriCorps. The base requirements are that you be over 17 and willing to devote 9-to-12 months to service.

Now, Philbrook is stationed in New Orleans, where she and 10 other volunteers are installing free compact fluorescent lights in homes as part of the Green Light New Orleans program. They've also been going into area schools to teach kids about the environment and living green, which translates well to Philbrook's goal to become a high school counselor.

She'll also receive an educational stipend of $5,000 upon completion of the program to go towards her tuition and student loans.

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