With a mission of uniting America through service, AmeriCorps has been inviting individuals to work alongside each other for the betterment of every community since the early 1960’s.  First 5 San Bernardino became an AmeriCorps site partner in 2010, and 12 years later its members continue to carry the torch of service, making significant contributions to San Bernardino County communities on behalf of the organization.

In fiscal year 2021, for example, four AmeriCorps members gave 4,347 hours, served 3,460 families and interacted with 2,081 children throughout San Bernardino County. Even with the pandemic-challenged year, they continued to provide much-needed assistance and services to local food banks, virtual learning support and participation at First 5’s drive-thru community events.  This year, Jessica Pinto and Ashley Rodriguez are serving via First 5 San Bernardino.  “We are so happy to have them as part of our team,” stated Wendy Lee, Psy.D., AmeriCorps site supervisor and senior staff analyst.

Rodriguez, in her fourth year serving as an AmeriCorps member, shared this training has provided her with a better understanding of children ages 0-5 in addition to a better understanding of herself.  “I am excited to expand my knowledge into higher education and career goals,” Rodriguez explained.  She obtained an associate degree in psychology from Crafton Hills College and is currently at California State University San Bernardino working towards a bachelor’s degree in psychology.  “Now that I’m getting an education, I want so much more,” Rodriguez concluded. 

For decades, AmeriCorps members across the country have worked to make service to others an indispensable part of the American experience, explained First 5 San Bernardino Executive Director Karen Scott. “Through our nation’s most trying times, AmeriCorps has come together to help those in need.  Which is precisely why the alignment of First 5 San Bernardino and AmeriCorps is such a good fit,” Scott concluded. 

Another avenue of service stems from a partnership First 5 San Bernardino has with Prevent Child Abuse California (PCA CA), an affiliate of the national organization Prevent Child Abuse America.  In this program, AmeriCorps members provide 35 hours of one-on-one school readiness activities to economically-disadvantaged children focusing on social, emotional, literacy and numerical competence which are the areas shown to be critical for school success.

“AmeriCorps service members not only give back to the community of San Bernardino, but they also gain professional experiences and realize personal growth,” explained Lee.  “First 5 San Bernardino invests in the future workforce who is passionate about providing quality services to children 0-5, families and communities,” Lee concluded. 

In reflecting about the program, Pinto who is in her fourth and final year said, “I think AmeriCorps is also good for people who want to figure out what to do from a career perspective.”  She believes she is leaving with a greater skill set not only with young children, but in various areas of community service.  “It sure feels good to give back,” Pinto concluded.