MEET OUR AMERICORPS MEMBERS – ISSAC GUZMAN

Why did you apply to be an AmeriCorps Member?

I applied to be an AmeriCorps member because its vision and mission strengthens communities and develop leaders. AmeriCorps propelled me to be a change agent for my community. Prior to AmeriCorps and working with the Marshall Square Resource Network, I worked in luxury retail and could not have felt more disconnected from my community.

Although this year has been a year of transition for me, I have loved every minute of it. I have loved the opportunity to be challenged on a daily basis, face adversity and positively impact my community. My passion for art and my dream of becoming a full-time artist are coming into fruition, thanks to my AmeriCorps experience. I have always wanted to use my artwork to facilitate dialogue and positive change into my community. Through this experience, I have garnered the skills necessary to be able to do this work in the future.

What were you doing prior to the AmeriCorps Program?

Prior to the AmeriCorps Program, I worked in luxury retail. Specifically, I was a Member Experience Associate at Trunk Club’s Headquarters in River North.

What Neighborhood Network community are you placed with?

I was placed with the Little Village Neighborhood Network serving the OPEN Center for the Arts and Latinos Progresando, both part of the Marshall Square Resource Network.

What is your role as an AmeriCorps Member?

My role is to engage and communicate various art mediums with community residents. I have worked primarily with families and young people. One of the ways I engage the community in art is through photography. Photography is a medium through which one can portray and highlight the everyday life of our community. In my role, I help showcase work from community members and encourage others to take part in the world of art. I have also been able to showcase my personal photography, in addition to taking pictures at OPEN and Latinos Progresando events.

What have you learned in your role?

I have learned so much in my experiences as an AmeriCorps member, and for that I am truly grateful. First and foremost, I have garnered the professional skills necessary to be successful in a non-profit environment. For example, I have learned how to organize a community base, network with different organizations, and develop new programs, all of which will be transferable to other places of work in the future.

I have also learned the importance of advocating for oneself and ones community. Specifically, the Little Village neighborhood is one that is often overlooked in state-level and district policy decisions. However, our community deserves advocates. Serving at MSRN has exposed me to a lot of the struggles our community face. It has given me the awareness and experience necessary to continue advocating and working to better our community.

What do you want individuals to know about your Neighborhood Network community?

I want people to know what MSRN is and the phenomenal work they do for the community. It is truly incredible to recognize the collaboration and dedication it takes to keep the MSRN going and doing so many great things for the community! For example, over 30 organizations have come together as partners to create this Neighborhood Network. Each organization has different visions and mission statements; however they unite over a shared agreement and shared promise for a healthier, resilient community. The work of MSRN is inspiring and could serve as a catalyst and model for other neighborhoods around Chicago and in our country.

What do you hope to accomplish during your year of service?

I have many goals for my year of service, however one goal is the most paramount. I hope to foster and create dialogue using art. I want this dialogue to focus on inclusiveness, diversity, and how we can unite for a greater good!

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