#AmeriCorps Week

Over the last year and a half, ESP has been lucky enough to host five and now six full-time AmeriCorps members. These hardworking individuals have helped us to grow and sustain our programs from bringing in new families to expanding Java Joy. We’re so grateful for their impact and are excited to share a little bit more about them on this #AmeriCorpsWeek!

John Andrade

Family Experience Leader

I’ve always been interested in helping other people out and volunteering. I went through the Peace Corps process and ended up declining the position I was offered. I then turned to AmeriCorps since they are similar programs. I was looking for an option in Georgia, and ESP was one of the ones that stood out to me.

From ESP, I’ve definitely gained more perspective and empathy. I feel like I’ve gained problem-solving skills as well as a chance to improve my communication skills. I’ve also gained a better understanding of working with people with disabilities, specifically on ways to help the family and siblings.

My favorite ESP memory so far would probably be the ESP cruise that we took in December. It was so fun being a buddy to a family for a week and giving them the opportunity to get some rest and relaxation. We really took over the boat and made it our own. It was such a fun experience going through that with the families and getting closer to your buddy for the week. I think we all left the cruise with a super strong relationship with our buddies and their families and so many great memories to take with us.


Katherine Chatmon

Java Joy Leader

I was interested in AmeriCorps since it gave me the opportunity to give back, but also receive incentives. Through AmeriCorps, I’ve had the opportunity to link with awesome people, organizations, and businesses I wouldn’t have otherwise met. I am also glad I found ESP through the AmeriCorps portal. I’ve gained so much from my time here at ESP that it would take a five paragraph essay so I’m not gonna put it all here. But I am amazed at my emotional and awareness growth over the past few months.

I would have to say my favorite Non-Big 3 event so far was the silent disco and laser tag NKA/Club event. I had never been to a silent disco, but it was great seeing it and the participants’ faces when his/her favorite song popped up next in the shuffle. My favorite Big 3 event was Big Hearts of course. It was great to watch the participants do a talent on stage in front of thousands of people. I could never!

For the rest of my service term, I am looking forward to Summer Camp and CTL. I think it will be a great way to wrap up the service term.


Mallory Foy

Family Experience Leader

I was interested in ESP’s AmeriCorps program because it encompassed two of my favorite things – the special needs population and camp! I also knew AmeriCorps would give me the opportunity to be purposeful with my time off after undergrad to decide what my next step would be in the professional world while serving and leading others.

Through my service with ESP, I have learned to be a better community member, friend, and family member. I have gained an ESP Family to call my own, and I have lived out and learned the value of servant leadership. I have learned to communicate effectively, listen actively, plan efficiently, and love fiercely in every part of my day. I have lived out the mission to provide opportunities for people with disabilities to engage, connect, and thrive — and I have also engaged, connected, and thrived in my own way that could only be found through being a Family Experience Leader at ESP.

My favorite memory of ESP over the past year and a half is getting to see our own participants experience the Miracle League Sneak Peek in Covington GA after visiting the Miracle League All-Star Games in Findlay OH. During the All-Star weekend, we were able to network with different Miracle Leagues all over the nation. We even got to meet a player from the Covington GA league, and he was able to participate in our Miracle League Sneak Peek event! It was a full circle moment that was fulfilled over the month of September, and I am so happy to see our participants play ball in the future at ESP’s own Miracle League Field!


Jonah Guinn

Java Joy Leader

I was introduced to ESP through Bulldogs and Buddies, in the Mark Richt era. I was interested in joining the AmeriCorps program because I knew it would allow me to stay involved with ESP! I love being an AmeriCorps member because it provides a unique opportunity to serve in an underserved community.

While working at ESP I have gained experiential knowledge about the disabled population. That knowledge has allowed me to truly serve in an effective way.

My favorite ESP memory so far was seeing Mark Pizza perform his Power Ranger ritual at Big Hearts, I have honestly never seen him move that fast. I am so excited for summer camp I can’t wait for flag, vocational field trips, and overnight camp!


Caroline Trexler

Family Experience Leader

I discovered ESP my freshman year of college when I was scrolling through Facebook and saw pictures of summer camp. I knew instantly that ESP was something I wanted to get involved with. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to get involved until my senior year. When the school year eventually came to an end, I wasn’t ready to leave ESP. My friend and study buddy, an ESP AmeriCorps member, suggested that I look into applying for ESP’s AmeriCorps program. It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

In the seven months I’ve been serving at ESP so far, I’ve gained so much, including a better perspective on the struggles unique to families with special needs as well as leadership experience, something I’ve had to omit from every application I’ve ever filled out. My greatest personal gain has probably been an improvement in my public speaking skills. Speaking in front of the class was something I had shied away from throughout my academic career, but in my position as a family experience leader I can’t shy away from giving presentations about ESP to groups of new families. With each presentation I’ve given, I’ve become more comfortable in front of a crowd. Public speaking skills will be valuable to me for the rest of my working life, and I’m grateful my stint in AmeriCorps has refined them.


Hannah Zwart

Java Joy Leader

After starting in the social work world right out of college, I didn’t have the opportunity to explore my passions. Becoming an AmeriCorps member gave me the option to try something new. I had some friends who had done a service year and loved it. When the opportunity to become a Java Joy Leader arose, I took it.

This year, I have gained so much knowledge about how healthy non-profits work and grow. Not all non-profits work the same way, but ESP is an open space where ideas are heard and molded to create something special. I have also gained an understanding for myself that I need to continue working with this population.

My favorite ESP memory so far has been working with the Joyristas. I have loved working with the Java Joy team to grow the program and work to hire more Joyristas. It has been magical to see the original crew begin to teach the newer Joyristas. The relationships and connections that are made at Java Joy events are so important to the growth of Java Joy and the business we serve.

I can’t wait to finish out my service term with SUMMER CAMP! The environment around ESP changes for the better and the campers make the 8 weeks the best of the year.


Want to learn more about the AmeriCorps program and becoming a member yourself?

Katarina Christmann
About The Author

Katarina Christmann

COORDINATOR OF COMMUNICATIONS Katarina Christmann studied Advertising and Art History at the University of Georgia and just graduated in May 2015. Katarina began as a Public Relations and Special Events Intern at ESP. The fast pace and variety of the work at ESP are what drew her to the position, but the kids are what kept her here. Katarina is from St. Simons Island. When she’s not spending time at ESP, Katarina loves baking, reading, and hiking. Katarina is beyond excited to continue her time here at ESP and to put her own touch on things!

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