A philanthropist, a Kean University alumna and an outright leader, Katie DiCarlo has had the interest of changing the world around her for the better since she was a freshman at Kean.
DiCarlo is a former member of the Jumpstart program, an organization dedicated to training college students in teaching literacy skills to preschool children in low-income neighborhoods. During her time at Kean, she also joined another community service organization known as AmeriCorps, a civil society program funded by the U.S. Government devoted to public service across the globe.
"When I was a freshman at Kean University I was a student athlete playing field hockey. I received an email about some new program starting at Kean called Jumpstart and it looked like an opportunity to work with kids. I went in for an interview, and that is when I discovered Jumpstart, and AmeriCorps for the first time," DiCarlo said. "AmeriCorps is the national umbrella organization that has a lot of other organizations fall under it. Jumpstart is one of them."
DiCarlo became a Jumpstart and AmeriCorps Corps member her freshman year, and did that for three years. However in her fourth year, Jumpstart was dropped as an AmeriCorps program and for that year she became a Jumpstart member, but in a different role as volunteers coordinator.
"Currently, I am a full-time AmeriCorps Corps member in a different program called the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) serving a 10-month term of service in the North Central Region of the U.S. We travel on teams around the United States and work on projects with a variety of non profit organizations," DiCarlo said.
DiCarlo is currently serving in Omaha, Nebraska for six weeks, building houses with the Habitat for Humanity organization. Since the Corps requires her to travel to different places to serve, she and her team usually pack up and travel to new states to work with different organizations.
For someone who majored in elementary education, DiCarlo's plans of teaching and giving back were set in stone the minute she walked onto the Kean campus. Her major, as she proclaimed, prepared her for the road ahead.
"As an elementary education major, it's simple, my goal is to become a teacher! The majority of my training at Kean was to prepare me for that role. Upon graduating college this past May, I knew I wanted to do something bigger than myself, and totally different from becoming a teacher. I decided to take a year to give back in service, as well as experience personal growth in ways I never thought possible. Now, I am traveling to parts of the country I never thought I would see, building skills I never thought I would learn such as working in construction, automotive repairs, CPR and First Aid."
DiCarlo also says that AmeriCorps has instilled values in her that she will have for a lifetime. The experience that she had in her four years of being a philanthropist continues to motivate her, even when she is serving in this 10-month program in the northernmost regions of the country.
"I believe, and will continue to follow, the AmeriCorps pledge, which says 'I will get things done for America -- to make our people safer, smarter, and healthier. I will bring Americans together to strengthen our communities. Faced with apathy, I will take action. Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground. Faced with adversity, I will persevere. I will carry this commitment with me this year and beyond. I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done,'" DiCarlo said. "I take the pledge seriously, and take action to uphold the standards on a daily basis."
DiCarlo's mentioned the skills acquired from working as a member of the NCCC. During her time as a student, she was also the team captain of the Lady Cougars field hockey team, and was captain and starting goalkeeper for four years. Being in another role of leadership, being a captain was tough, but it taught her accountability, dedication, mental toughness and the reasons why it is important to fight for a person's beliefs.
"The sport, the position, my coaches and teammates all pushed me to grow in ways that shaped a lot of who I am today. I will always be grateful for having the opportunity to represent Kean University field hockey.
Through Jumpstart, field hockey and AmeriCorps, the leadership roles she took on throughout her time as a student and currently as an alumni have helped her discover her passion for service and volunteer work.
"Being a part of the Jumpstart and AmeriCorps programs have opened so many doors for me, and has shaped a new path for me in the future. In many ways, it's helped me uncover the person I really want to be, and the things that set my heart on fire," DiCarlo said. "Being an AmeriCorps NCCC member, I hope to experience personal growth as well as gain perspective. Our country is so diverse with its many little corners of the world. I hope that by having this opportunity to live along side some of these tucked away communities I gain skills and knowledge about the world around me, that will in turn teach me more about myself."
For anyone genuinely interested in giving back to the community, working with children, working with a team or being a part of something big, DiCarlo highly recommends giving Jumpstart a search.
"It's not a great fit for everyone, but it may help you uncover hidden potential in yourself that you never knew was there before."