Local AmeriCorps members ‘make a difference'

October 27, 2001|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

In recognition of "Make A Difference Day," more than 100 AmeriCorps members fanned out across the Imperial Valley on Saturday morning to help with a host of fund-raising activities, community celebrations and food drives.

"Make a Difference Day" is a nationwide day of service for AmeriCorps members and thousands of other volunteers to find a way to make a difference in their communities.

Throughout California, 7,000 AmeriCorps members provided service to local areas.

For five AmeriCorps members, the day began at 5 a.m. in El Centro, where they helped organize a "Walk for Life" for the March of Dimes.

At 8 a.m., 10 others assisted students at Calexico's William Moreno Junior High School with a track meet.

At the same time across town, members were helping paint over graffiti with volunteers from Calexico's Neighborhood House and Calexico's Mayor Victor Carrillo and Mayor Pro Tem John Renison.


Over at the vacated lot at the corner of Highway 111 and Highway 98 in Calexico, yet other volunteers were helping clear debris with the aid of Calexico City Councilman Javier Alatorre.

At Neighborhood House, 30 members lent a hand with a canned food drive while 30 more members pitched in with a similar canned food drive at El Centro's Bucklin Park.

At 9 a.m., 20 people clad in gray AmeriCorps shirts helped set up and run the games at Calexico's Halloween carnival in the Jose B. Rodriquez Community Center on Dool Avenue.

AmeriCorps member Rosario Vizcaino said he loves helping at events like the carnival because of the reactions he gets from the kids.

Vizcaino, a 20-year-old from El Centro, said he joined AmeriCorps for the $5,000 stipend that would help him pay for his education. But lately, he said, he has come to appreciate the camaraderie of the children more and more.

Fellow member Maricruz Navarro leaned on his shoulder after his comments and dramatically dabbed her eyes.

They both laughed.

For Navarro, 25, of Calexico, working with the kids is one of the reasons she enjoys working in the AmeriCorps program.

"I love kids — I even have two of my own," she said.

She hopes to become a teacher someday and said the experience she has gained interacting and tutoring children should help her reach that goal.

"I hope that we make a big difference. We like to help them learn," she said.

Some of her proudest moments during her two years with the AmeriCorps program have come when the former students of her tutoring lessons make honor roll or are named students of the month.

Rosita Torres said the AmeriCorps tutoring program is a great way for kids to get more out of school.

"They need help and sometimes they don't have anyone in their family that can help them. Sometimes, parents just don't have the time or they might not know much English," she said.

Torres, a 26-year-old from El Centro is in her second year with AmeriCorps. She found out about the Corps from a Web site.

In addition to her work Saturday, she helped with a fund raiser for the Enrique "Kiki" Camarena Memorial Library on Friday night.

At 10 a.m., the carnival started and Torres and Navarro helped pass out black and orange balloons to appreciative youngsters.

Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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