BRISTOL — The last thing Angela Ziogas expected after earning a business degree from Central Connecticut State University was was to live in a tent without electricity for nine weeks.
But that was just one of the experiences she had during a nearly 10-month stint with AmeriCorps, which ended earlier this month.
The 24-year-old Bristol resident carved trails for emergency vehicles in the mountains, cleaned river beds near San Diego, Calif., and worked on various other projects with the federal program.
“After I graduated, I wanted to do something different, I didn’t just want to hop into a career,” she said. “My dad [Christopher] mentioned AmeriCorps and I really respect his opinion, so I looked into it.”
Ziogas did research online and sent in her application in hopes of having a new adventure.
“I felt that volunteering would allow me to give back to the community while letting me see other parts of the country,” she said.
AmeriCorps is a U.S. federal government program created under President Bill Clinton by the National and Community Service Trust Act of 1993. The organization helps nonprofits all over the country with services ranging from public education to environmental cleanup, according to the program.
Ziogas was part of the National Civilian Community Corps, which specializes in disaster response, infrastructure improvement, environmental stewardship and conservation, urban and rural development.
“We worked closely with nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Boys and Girls Club,” she said.
The NCCC is one of three main divisions AmeriCorps is split into; the other two include AmeriCorps State and National and Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA).
“It was like a regular job,” Ziogas said. “We worked five days a week, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on most days.”
For her project at Mount El Capitan in San Diego, Ziogas said she lived in a two-bedroom cabin with nine others on top of the mountain.
“It was really hard at first but everyone gets to know each other and you become more like family,” she said.
During her work at El Capitan, Ziogas said the team was required to hike up three miles to get to the trails and then back down to get to the cabin every night, not including the “physical workout” they were required to do after work to keep in shape.
“It was really tough,” she said. “There were times when I wanted to just give up but I didn’t, I stuck it through.”
Another project sent Ziogas and her team to Catalina Island, a 22-mile long rocky island off the coast of California.
“I remember one day waking up in the morning and there was this huge bison right outside my tent,” she said. “We were afraid to go outside.”
Ziogas said the bison are a indigenous to the island and can be seen roaming freely on most days.
She spent nine weeks living in tents with no electricity and outdoor showers while creating trails and clearing dried brush as a fire reduction project with the Catalina Island Conservancy organization.
“It was difficult living in a tent because it got really cold at night and you had wild bison roaming around, but it was one of my favorite experiences because it taught me how little we need to live,” she said.
Ziogas said working for AmeriCorps helped her discover how tough she really was.
“Before I left to AmeriCorps, I was living at home and my dad provided everything that I needed,” she said. “Working with the organization for a year was interesting because it taught me how to live modestly.”
Ziogas helped construct four houses in six days while working with Habitat for Humanity in Portland, Ore.
Working with Habitat inspired her to pursue her love of working with non-profits.
After her stint with AmeriCorps, Ziogas applied and was hired as a crew leader for Habitat for Humanity in Washington D.C., where she is headed next month.
“Right now I’m just focusing on catching up with my family and friends and getting ready for my next adventure,” she said.