City Welcomes 5 New Americorps Members for 2013-14

Communications Director

Kristin Farley
(865) 215-2589

400 Main St., Room 691
Knoxville, TN 37902

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City Welcomes 5 New Americorps Members for 2013-14

Posted: 09/05/2013
Maintaining greenways, helping neighborhoods, developing urban agriculture and blogging about trees - these are just some of the things that the City of Knoxville's new AmeriCorps members will be doing for the program's 2013-14 year.

The City has five new AmeriCorps members serving in four departments: Community Development, Parks and Recreation, Public Service and the Office of Sustainability. The quintet of recent college graduates hail from across the United States, but they share a dedication to community service. Four are with the Knoxville-Knox County CAC AmeriCorps program, and one is an AmeriCorps VISTA member.

"It is always a pleasure to welcome new AmeriCorps members to the City of Knoxville and to East Tennessee," said Mayor Madeline Rogero. "Every year, they bring energy, enthusiasm and fresh ideas to our efforts to maintain and improve the quality of life for all of our residents."

The CAC AmeriCorps program places 40 members each year with local partner agencies, all with a focus on environmental issues. AmeriCorps VISTA members carry on the anti-poverty work of the VISTA program first established by President John F. Kennedy. This year's CAC AmeriCorps members working with the City of Knoxville are: Tina Belge, Community Development/Office of Neighborhoods; Natalie Crone, Community Development/Office of Neighborhoods; Amanda Opolski, Parks and Recreation; and Maximilian Spielmann, Public Service/Solid Waste. In addition, Sarah Guy is an AmeriCorps VISTA member working jointly for the City's Office of Sustainability and the University of Tennessee's Service-Learning Program.

The federal AmeriCorps program started in 1993, and Knoxville-Knox County CAC organized the local program in 1994. It is financed through a combination of federal grants, CAC funds and payments from partner agencies including the City of Knoxville. AmeriCorps members are selected from a nationwide pool of applicants and matched to local programs around the country based on their interests and skills. After completing a year of service, AmeriCorps members receive an education award of $5,550 that they can use to pay for college or to pay off student loans.

Biographical Information

Tina Belge
, 22, grew up in Georgia and graduated from Georgia Southern University with a degree in public relations and a double minor in political science and international studies. "I've always wanted to work in government, from a young age," she says. "I really wanted to get a taste of city government, and so far it feels like a really good fit." Belge is working with the Office of Neighborhoods in the Department of Community Development, with a focus on identifying and finding solutions to blighted and abandoned properties.

Natalie Crone
, 23, was born in Detroit and grew up across the Northeast and lived for a while in Kentucky. "Where the horse is, that's home," she says. Her horse, Emma, is a thoroughbred and will be joining Crone here in Knoxville in coming weeks. Crone graduated from Berea College, where she focused on political science, public policy and Appalachian studies. "Berea College is a work college, so they have a big focus on giving back to the community," Crone says. She will also be working with the Office of Neighborhoods, continuing a project on neighborhood emergency preparedness begun by a 2012-13 AmeriCorps member.

Sarah Guy
, 23, knows Tennessee well. She was born in Baltimore but grew up in Nashville, and she graduated from the University of Tennessee-Knoxvillle this spring with degrees in psychology and Africana studies. She is actually a shared AmeriCorps VISTA member, dividing her time between the City's Office of Sustainability and UT's Service-Learning Program. Guy is working on pilot implementation of the Urban Food Corridor concept that the City submitted for the Bloomberg Mayors Challenge last year. "I would really love to be able to create a network of people who each have resources, that together can meet a need within the urban Knoxville community," Guy says.

Amanda Opolski
, 22, graduated from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island with a degree in civil engineering. "I wanted to give back," she says of her decision to join AmeriCorps. She is working with Greenways Coordinator Lori Goerlich in the Parks and Recreation Department to help inspect and maintain City greenways. "I'm happy to be out on the greenways," Opolski says. "I love running, hiking and biking."

Maximilian Spielmann, 23, grew up on Long Island and graduated from Cornell University with degrees in environmental policy and oceanography. "I wanted to do some kind of public service," he says. "The Peace Corps is nice, but I wanted to help here in the U.S." He's working with both the City's Solid Waste Office and Urban Forester Kasey Krouse in the Public Service Department. Among other things, Spielmann will be maintaining an urban forestry blog with news and notes about the City's tree inventory.