Local resident pledges national service with FEMA Corps

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Cyan Manuel is well traveled and loves it. The Hanover, Maryland, resident was raised by her military mom who served in the Army for more than 25 years. She attended high school in Germany and went to the University of Texas at Austin before taking a job as an associate with the Casualty Actuarial Society, whose mission is to advance actuarial science through a singular focus on research and education.

Now, Manuel, 29, has signed on as one of 10 Team Leaders pledging to perform 11 months of national service as part of the Atlantic Region’s FEMA Corps Class 23. FEMA Corps is a track of the National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), an AmeriCorps program.

Manuel and her team will work on a variety of projects focusing on disaster response and recovery efforts. She may also be asked to work with FEMA regional and joint field offices, as well as the Red Cross and other emergency management organizations.

“I had a few friends who either joined AmeriCorps after college, or who I met through volunteering with other organizations,” Manuel said, when asked how she heard about the program. “I decided to pledge to serve with FEMA Corps earlier this year. I took a sabbatical from my career because I wanted to travel and spend a long period of time volunteering which is something that brings me personal satisfaction.”

When asked about her motivation to serve, Manuel said, “My mom was in the U.S. Army while I was growing up. I always felt that being an active part of a community was key to feeling like a new city was my home. As I share what I have with others, I always learn something new. It’s a wonderful gift, the exchange of things that can’t be bought.”

Since the program was founded in 1994, almost one million AmeriCorps members have contributed more than 1.2 billion hours in service across America while tackling pressing problems and mobilizing millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve.

AmeriCorps initiatives focus on specific needs throughout the country and it strengthens communities and develops 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 and state parks, Indian tribes, and schools— members complete service projects throughout the region they are assigned.

The program is a full-time, team-based residential program for men and women between 18 and 24, with one of its five locations in Baltimore.

Manuel says she discovered FEMA Corps after looking into both the Peace Corps and AmeriCorps program and decided that FEMA Corps was the direction she wanted to take.

“National service has been a part of my family as my mother and grandfather have served in the armed forces,” Manuel said. “I was always inspired to do more for our country and be an active part of the solution to our country’s toughest problems.”

Manuel’s goal is to prepare team members for what she expects to be a tough but incredibly rewarding experience.

“While working with FEMA, I hope to gain better insight into an organization faced with lots of criticism in the past,” Manuel said. “The best way to improve and support an organization is to be a part of it. I never wish for disasters to happen to our people, but when they do happen, I am excited to be part of the organization that is tasked to help our citizens get back on their feet.”

After her tenure, Manuel will graduate from FEMA Corps in May 2017 with an education award of $5,775, which can be used to continue education or pay back student loans.

“I’m most excited to spend time volunteering for almost a year,” she said. “After spending seven years in corporate, I am seriously ecstatic that I had enough cou-rage to quit my job to pursue my passion of volunteering and travel. I have zero regrets. This is a great way to share your skills if you are a seasoned professional.

“For those young people looking for something to do during gap year, this is a great program. By joining FEMA Corps, you gain professional experience, earn an educational grant, and most importantly help to those who need it most.”