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Cal Poly Alumni Serve AmeriCorps to Support Volunteer Work in the SLO Community (Q+A)

While some Cal Poly alumni move away to start their careers after they graduate, others choose to stay in San Luis Obispo and serve the community that shaped them. 

Meet two alumni who graduated from Cal Poly in 2019 and joined AmeriCorps, a civil society program that engages adults in public service work. Although their work is different, both graduates serve AmeriCorps to support volunteer work in the San Luis Obispo community.

Oscar Velasco (History ’19), Boys and Girls Club

What do you do for AmeriCorps?

I work for the Boys and Girls Club in San Luis Obispo County, helping pair mentors with youth in the community.

How have you and your organization adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter at home mandates?

My role with AmeriCorps has been impacted by the shelter in place. I am still working remotely but will be moved to work on the field and have a direct response with local communities that are affected by the pandemic. Right now, I have mobilized a group of volunteers to help me create a temporary food distribution in South SLO County to provide food items and essential supplies to families and our youth. 

Why did you want to get involved with AmeriCorps?

It started with my experience here as a Cal Poly student. I was a history major, and that shaped me into wanting to work in education and become a mentor myself. I wanted to work with young people and help them as much as possible.

Why is mentorship important to you?

I think it really started when I was a youth myself. Growing up, I saw other people who might not have had the same opportunities as I did. And I realized I had those opportunities because of mentors I had. My coaches, my teachers, people in my community really invested in me and guided me to the right path. Because of those mentors who advocated to me, I had the opportunity to go to an institution like Cal Poly. But I realized that not a lot of young people have those mentors who can advocate and guide them to make good choices. I want young people to have the same opportunity I had.

How did your education at Cal Poly prepare you for the job?

I think being a student here, I got introduced to people who were involved in civil service and social justice work. It inspired me to pursue social activism. My senior project looked at the school to prison pipeline. I studied policies that treated young people unfairly and pushed them out of education and made them vulnerable to incarceration. That inspired me to do the type of prevention and interventional work that I do for the Boys and Girls Club — advocating and fighting for young people in low income and marginalized communities. Now, I’ve been given a platform for social justice, providing young people access to education and mentors and resources that will help them become healthy adults.

Christian Laubacher (Journalism ’19), Cal Poly Alumni Association

What do you do for AmeriCorps?

I serve at the Cal Poly Alumni Association, so I work to create sustainable volunteer infrastructure for the various alumni chapters all across the country.

How have you and your organization adjusted to the COVID-19 pandemic and shelter at home mandates?

I’m still able to help out at the Alumni office! The nature of alumni engagement has been pretty reliant on in-person interaction. Since that’s not able to happen right now, we’re shifting to find ways to engage and support our alumni virtually. We’re also taking this time to reflect and strengthen internal structures and procedures.

Why did you want to get involved?

I love Cal Poly and knew that four years just wasn’t enough for me, so I saw this as a super cool way to get involved with a different side of the university. (I was pretty involved within different student affairs departments on campus, so I wanted to try something new!) Starting just three months after graduation, I thought I could offer a really valuable perspective as a fresh alumni.

How did your education at Cal Poly prepare you for the job?

I had no experience working with alumni or in the development field prior to this. I’ve really had to “Learn by Doing” in this role and just hit the ground running. Being a student in CLA at Cal Poly affords you so many transferrable skills that you could apply to such a broad range of fields. In the journalism curriculum, you dip your toes into every aspect of the journalism world. This includes reporting and writing, but also includes video production, public relations, graphic design, public speaking, communication to diverse audiences, and many more skills. It requires you to be adaptable and well rounded. I think this ability to adapt, when coupled with the skills I learned to think critically, problem solve and work collaboratively have prepared me tremendously for this role and beyond.

What’s your favorite part about the job?

I love when I get to interact with alumni. It seems that wherever you go, Cal Poly alumni can’t wait to connect with you and share stories of their time as a Mustang. All of the volunteers are involved with their chapters because they want to meet other alumni, better their local community, and/or give back to Cal Poly. This passion that bonds Cal Poly alumni is something that’s really special to be a part of. For me, the heart of the Cal Poly Alumni Association’s mission is to help make Cal Poly a place where all alumni and students feel welcome and connected with one another. Any role I can play towards making that a reality is why I’m so happy and proud to do this work.

What are some of your career goals moving forward?

I’m going to grad school next year to get a master’s degree in higher education and student affairs! I love working on a college campus, specifically with students, so I’m excited to take what I’ve learned throughout my time with AmeriCorps and apply it to future endeavors.

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