Carmen Reyes: Presentations of Impact 2020

Carmen Reyes: Presentations of Impact 2020

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be...”

My name is Carmen Reyes and I was accepted into the Public Allies program on October 17, 2019.

I have always been that person who plans and thinks about the future 24/7. I have the need to constantly stay busy and productive in order to stay sane. For those of you who can relate you know how scary it is when your plans for the future change.

I love the beauty industry.

Before Public Allies, right after high school, I was accepted into cosmetology school in order to become a skincare specialist and eventually into the National Laser Institute to become a dual licensed laser technician. I would wake up at 6:30 a.m. every day, go to work for 8 ½ hours, have just enough time to change, head to school, learn, and finally head home at around 10:30 p.m. I worked a lot, I learned a lot, and I spent a lot of money and a lot of the limited time we are all given. I did all of this in order to feel successful and do what I thought would make me happy.

For some time I was excited to start this new career and when I eventually did, you can imagine how disappointed I was when the spark of actually being in the beauty industry wasn't as bright as the spark trying to get there. Don’t get me wrong, if you have a passion for the beauty world and want to pursue it, do it. You’ve only got one life. I was great at what I did, I was making bank, and I was considered successful. But, man did I start to feel empty.

I tried my best to push the feeling aside, hoping that I was just going through a slump but day after day I grew even more tired. I knew what I wanted and what I believed in, so why wasn’t I ecstatic? During this time I began to talk to people around me about how I was feeling and truth began to show itself to me. I was doing exactly what I wanted but I wasn’t contributing to what I believed in.

I love and believe in helping people.

I am very blessed and lucky to have grown up with a loving family who also believes in loving others, no matter who you are. I grew up volunteering, serving through my church, going on mission trips, etc. As long as I can remember, I knew serving others was my reason for being put on this earth. I believed this with all of my heart.

I thought about how I could go back to helping like I used to and I realized that starting a new career and building up my client list, which includes lots and lots of marketing, just wouldn’t allow me to serve hands on for a while. And even when I could start back up to serving, it would be on the side, and I knew that I wouldn’t be satisfied.

I put in my 2 weeks a couple days after realizing this.

Now, this was a bit of a difficult time for me. I had some money saved up to get me through for a couple months, which wouldn’t be a problem if I thought I was qualified for the type of work I was looking to apply for. I say this not because I didn’t think I would do an amazing job but because Indeed soon taught me three things. 1: There is a lot of need for people in the social services field. 2: Unfortunately for me, there is an age requirement for the majority of these social services positions. And 3: Luckily, for me, an AmeriCorps program called Public Allies was in search of someone like me.

I of course applied to Public Allies after learning it was a 10-month leadership development program that placed you to work with a local nonprofit. It was exactly what I was in search of. Change, experience, growth. I believe this was sometime in August.

I received a call a couple weeks later, advanced through multiple interviews and in October I was accepted into the program.

It amazes me when I think of all the opportunities that show themselves when you dedicate yourself to look for them.

I was partnered up with a local nonprofit called AZCEND. AZCEND’s mission statement is “We change lives by nourishing minds and bodies to create a connected, thriving community” along with five core principles: Integrity, Compassion, Hope, Excellence, and Respect. AZCEND provides many resources and services to the community such as rental and utility assistance, homeless services such as emergency lodging & case management, a food bank, senior centers and programs, and family resource centers!

I am the data and systems specialist for both the Chandler and Gilbert family resource centers and let me tell you my experience has been a lot different than I thought I would be. I had never had any experience with entering and organizing data for anyone before and honestly data didn't seem too exciting compared to some other titles my fellow allies received. But, as many people know, working in the social services field is anything but boring, even for a data specialist.

Every day I see families come in needing resources such as diapers, formula, food, parent child classes, and even sometimes just somebody to talk to. Throughout my term I have seen the passion and love one has for people, dedication to serving our families, and making the operation of things work. But in order to keep our doors open I learned good data tracking and reporting is a necessity.

I started off my term making sure to read contracts, past data reports, understand the current data tracking system, attend funder meetings, etc. and I started to make progress right away. I gathered up loose papers, organized binders, transferred data, created data sheets, manuals, IDs for our guests, class sign ins, and more. There is a lot that goes into keeping track and organizing accurate data but I love it.

Making sure to stay on track with the tasks and goals I was assigned I am also able to help out with other things around the family resource centers. Examples include events such as our Fall Event, an amazing Halloween party appropriate for kids, Operation Santa, where we purchased and wrapped Christmas gifts for families, our St Patrick's Day event, family friendly crafts and activities, and so much more.

Being the Data and Systems Specialist allows me to help out with workshops and activities for parents and children more than you would think. Having to figure out how to collect family data more accurately allows me to talk and connect with them too!

I am about 7 months into the program now and yes, I myself have grown, and I am very grateful, but I am also proud to say that what we do makes a difference for others. Building capacity and sustainability is a big part of what we do, especially if we're only at our organization for 10 months and if you’re able to do that for them, it makes all the difference in the world. I am proud to say that since the start of my apprenticeship at AZCEND data reporting has improved greatly. What used to take weeks or days now takes only a couple of hours to look over, input, look over again, and finally submit. I’m not done trying to improve some processes but it’s amazing to see the improvement while being surrounded by people who want to see me succeed.

I love coming into work every day and connecting with my cohort, a group of individuals who are just as passionate about the world and change. I do not regret changing the course of where my life was taking me and I want to finish off with a quote found in "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" that is true for me and every single other person too.

“For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” -- Eric Roth (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)