Ceremony held for new AmeriCorps members

Noel Lyn Smith

NENAHNEZAD — For many years, Shiprock resident Jackiephine Saltwater has been volunteering to help others in the community.

On Friday, Saltwater took the next step to enhance her service by becoming one of 23 new AmeriCorps members during a swearing-in ceremony at the Nenahnezad Chapter house.

AmeriCorps is a national service program whose members serve rural and urban communities across the United States. Among the areas of focus are mentoring young people, helping veterans access services, responding to disasters and building affordable housing.

“I may not be rich, I may not be somebody important, but at least I can tell a person that I care and I can help,” Saltwater said after the swearing-in ceremony for San Juan County AmeriCorps.

Saltwater, 34, will be a full-time member in the environmental stewardship program under the San Juan County Partnership. She decided to join AmeriCorps after hearing about the program’s focus and benefits from her daughter, Kristaphine Begaye, 18, also an AmeriCorps member.

New members listen to introductions on Friday during an AmeriCorps ceremony at the Nenahnezad Chapter House.

“This is a good way for me and my daughter to bond, too. I’m happy she gets to be here with me,” Saltwater said.

There are three AmeriCorps programs in the county. They are offered by Capacity Builders Inc., the San Juan County Partnership and DNA People’s Legal Services, according to Cindy Charley, a project specialist at Capacity Builders.

Capacity Builders has the community health educator program at the Nenahnezad Chapter and a tutor/mentor program at the Central Consolidated School District.

Emily Hunt, left, Rashaun Nez and Lisajann Begay stand for the AmeriCorps Pledge on Friday during a ceremony at the Nenahnezad Chapter House.

The San Juan County Partnership offers service programs on environmental stewardship, and veterans and families support assistance.

The program at DNA People’s Legal Services centers on law and individuals who are interested in pursuing a career in law.

There are full-time and part-time volunteers. Full-time service requires the individual to complete 1,700 hours in a year, and part-time service has a requirement of 900 hours a year.

Members earn the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, which can be applied toward college tuition after full completion of service.

AmeriCorps alum Miranda Bekis talks about her experience on Friday during a ceremony at the Nenahnezad Chapter House.

During the event, Miranda Bekis, an AmeriCorps alum from Kirtland, shared her reason for joining the program in 2010. Bekis was a full-time member and completed projects such as community cleanups, assisting at DWI checkpoints and organizing fitness activities.

“As I was raising my kids, I wanted to instill an attitude of volunteerism in them, but in order for me to do that, I had to show them. I wanted to be the example,” she said.

San Juan County Magistrate Judge Rena Scott administered the AmeriCorps pledge as the volunteers, wearing gray T-shirts, stood in front of the audience.

Among those standing in the front row was Kermit Yonnie, who is starting his second year of service.

Yonnie is a full-time member with Capacity Builders and is helping build a walking trail at the Nenahnezad Chapter house.

“It puts you to where you can challenge yourself,” Yonnie said about program.

Renae Begay, prevention specialist for the San Juan County Partnership, speaks on Frida during an AmeriCorps ceremony at the Nenahnezad Chapter House.

Rachel Nawrocki, executive director for Capacity Builders, said the event was part of statewide and national swearing-in ceremonies.

Six regional ceremonies were scheduled in the state on Friday, and this was the only one on the New Mexico side of the Navajo Nation, Nawrocki said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-3646.

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