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Ogdensburg native travels West to help teens and families

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Growing up, Ogdensburg resident Alecia L. Brabant, 23, dreamed of helping others and traveling the country, but she had never traveled out west before.

Then, after graduating with a bachelor of science in business and hotel restaurant tourism management from SUNY Plattsburgh in 2013, friends and family suggested she apply to serve in the AmeriCorps.

Ms. Brabant arrived at her regional campus in Denver, Colo. in October to begin a month of training. On Nov. 9, she began a 10-month term of service in the National Civilian Community Corps, a residential national service program that supports disaster relief, the environment, infrastructure improvement, energy conservation and urban and rural development.

As part of the program, she will complete a series of six to eight week-long service projects as a member of a 10 to 12 person team. Their first service project, working on a 2,400-acre 4-H camp in Little Rock, Ark., ended mid-December.

Working more than 70 hours a week outside, Ms. Brabant and her AmeriCorps team cleared more than 300 tons of brush, dug through miles of dirt and rock, chopped trees and built rope courses and trails.

The work was exhausting, but also rewarding, Ms. Brabant said.

“We’re working day in and day out with people that need your help,” she said. “It’s so great to be around them and look at their faces and to hear them say thanks for being here and doing what you’re doing. I just like being in the area, being aware of what’s going on, and actually doing something to make a difference.”

Ms. Brabant admits she did not know fully what to expect when she first signed up to serve in AmeriCorps.

“My expectation was I was going to work really hard for really long hours,” Ms. Brabant said. “I was a little afraid of working, sleeping and traveling to different states with 10 other people from all over the country. It was completely different from what I was used to — to constantly be accounted for and accounting for other people. It’s a whole different lifestyle.”

As part of her second service project in Kansas City, Mo., Ms. Brabant is providing tax services to low-income families.

“None of us plan on or knew we would be doing this when we started, but all of a sudden we were told we would be certified by the IRS to prepare taxes,” Ms. Brabant said. “They provide you with the skills and training and apply it. And they are also really great skills to have once you leave the program.”

Ms. Brabant said she and her team have already helped return more than $200,000 to taxpayers in five days.

“Kansas City is different from Ogdensburg and any other place I have ever been,” she said. “I have never seen a place with so much character and with people from all different walks of life. For many people here, they need a refund check to survive. Just the perspective you gain on the country and life in general while serving is amazing.”

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