Why AmeriCorps Matters to Communities and Anthropology

By Mallory Bader

When I received my undergraduate degree from Hendrix College, I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had dabbled in archaeology at various field schools. I volunteered at museums and nature centers. I applied for fellowships and scholarships to do research, but honestly, I did not have a clear view of what I wanted to do. With a double major in Anthropology and Environmental Studies, I was not sure which path interested me the most.  Luckily, I found one that allowed me to use all the skills I learned with my degree and build a new interest in public service.  A chance encounter with the director of the Winthrop Rockefeller AmeriCorps State/National Environmental Program led me to a job that changed my perspective on work and the careers that I had considered. This program, facilitated by AmeriCorps, placed team members at state parks and archeology research stations throughout Arkansas to work towards greater community engagement in natural resources, cultural heritage, and environmental education.

Mallory Bader and Johnathan Boswell, two years ago during their AmeriCorps Team at Toltec Mounds State Park in Little Rock, Arkansas

If you have never heard of AmeriCorps before, then you are missing out. Run by the Corporation for National and Community Service, AmeriCorps is a multi-faceted program. Although I worked for an AmeriCorps State/National Program, below I’m going to explain the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) model. The NCCC program is most relevant to the C.H. Nash Museum because we recently received notice that we will host a team this fall. AmeriCorps NCCC is:

a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women age 18–24. Members are assigned to one of five campuses, located in Denver, Colorado; Sacramento, California; Perry Point, Maryland; Vicksburg, Mississippi; and Vinton, Iowa.

The NCCC mission is a broad one, but certainly very worthwhile and necessary. The AmeriCorps website states that their mission is:

to strengthen communities and develop leaders through direct, team-based national and community service. In partnership with non-profits—secular and faith based, local municipalities, state governments, federal government, national or state parks, Indian Tribes and schools, members complete service projects throughout the region they are assigned.

One of the most interesting things about the NCCC is that it is drawn from the model of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) of the 1930’s. For more on the link between the CCC and Chucalissa, check out this post from Emily Schwimmer who wrote her thesis on this topic.

As an AmeriCorps member with the Arkansas Archaeological Survey, I was involved in many projects to promote cultural heritage preservation and environmental education. Projects such as collections management work and digitizing reports from CRM projects allowed me to explore my interests in archaeology while providing a necessary service to an organization with limited funding.

Since this position was located at a state park, I discovered a part of archeology that I had never even thought about– education and public archeology. I discovered that my true interest in archeology was sharing it with other people.  Without AmeriCorps, I would have never had the opportunity to explore my various interests and build new ones.

AmeriCorps NCCC offers its corps members the chance of a lifetime to be able to travel around a region of the country, offering assistance to local communities in projects such as infrastructure improvement, environmental conservation, energy conservation and more. Team members engage in projects like constructing low-income housing, conducting clean ups, responding to natural disasters like fires and hurricanes, while learning teamwork and leaderships skills. The AmeriCorps network engages more than 75,000 individuals in service every year, working in areas such as education, public health, and environment

The team hosted by the C.H. Nash Museum beginning this August will work on three main projects—the construction of a replica prehistoric house at the C.H. Nash Museum, work on houses that are in code violation within the Westwood Neighborhood near the museum, and excavations of the 1930s era CCC camp, located within T.O. Fuller State Park.  This is the CCC team camp  that discovered the Chucalissa site in the modern era reported in Emily’s blog post.  We are so excited to have another AmeriCorps team on site with us and for all the wonderful service they will perform. I’m excited because this team will be a part of my 300-hour practicum project for the Masters program in the Anthropology Department. I will help coordinate the AmeriCorps Team’s work between the three agencies – T.O. Fuller State Park, the Westwood Neighborhood Association, and the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa – as well as develop a template for use in future community-service and community service learning projects.

As this project develops, be sure to look for another blog post about the team’s progress. Also, be sure to sign up for our e-newsletter Chucalissa Anoachi and join our Facebook group to receive updates on the project and how you can be involved.

Mallory Bader is a former AmeriCorps Team member.  She currently is a graduate assistant at the C.H. Nash Museum and a graduate student in the Department of Anthropology and the Museum Studies Graduate Certificate Program at the University of Memphis.

About C.H. Nash Museum

The mission of the C.H. Nash Museum at Chucalissa, a division of the University of Memphis, is to protect and interpret the Chucalissa archaeological site’s cultural and natural environments, and to provide the University Community and the Public with exceptional educational, participatory, and research opportunities on the landscape’s past and present Native American and traditional cultures.
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