How AmeriCorps helped Jeff Giddings chart a career in the nonprofit sector

Jeff Giddings headshot.
Now a unit director for the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Great Lakes Bay Region, former AmeriCorps member Jeff Giddings is also pursuing a master’s degree in nonprofit management. Photo: Cristina Wright

Three days after his service term ended, AmeriCorps member Jeff Giddings got a full-time job with the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Great Lakes Bay Region. It’s the job he’s been working towards since he interned with a nonprofit in Tanzania.

“That experience put me on a path to working with kids,” he said. “When I got back, I started looking for a job with an organization that provided direct service to youth.”

AmeriCorps offered that opportunity. He signed on with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Flint as a summer Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) member and subsequently, was asked to stay on for a full year of service.

“I became part of a really awesome community, just as I did in Tanzania,” he said. “I was able to help kids learn and grow and — through AmeriCorps — make a real difference for them and the community.”

AmeriCorps gave me a much more solid foundation for what I do today.” Jeff Giddings

Initially, Giddings managed a literacy program for younger children at the Boys & Girls Clubs, but quickly became involved in developing activities for older members.

“We serve kids through age 18, but sometimes it can be a struggle to engage the teenagers,” he said. Recruiting them to clean up a local park was an early success.

“They did an unbelievable amount of work, and once the neighbors saw how nice the park looked, they started to use it. And they started helping our kids keep it nice.”

With the help of an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) team, the Boys & Girls Clubs also prepared a hoop house, peace garden and playground for the 2017 Summer program — moving an impressive 50 wheelbarrows of mulch in one evening.

“That activity really stood out for me,” said Giddings. “Like the park, it showed a visible, measurable difference to the local community. It really helped people understand the power of service.”

But of all the activities he helped create, Giddings says the college field trips he put together for high school students were most meaningful for him.

“We took groups to Saginaw Valley, Central Michigan and Wayne State,” he said. “It meant a lot to see the kids start to see themselves as college students — it opened their eyes to a different way of looking at the future.”

At the end of his service year, the connections and contacts he made through the program helped him find permanent employment, says Giddings.

Now pursuing a master’s degree in nonprofit management at the University of Michigan-Flint, Giddings credits his service year as life-changing.

“It’s a program that attracts people who want to serve and puts them to work where they’re needed. AmeriCorps gave me a much more solid foundation for what I do today.”