AmeriCorps Stories: A Q&A With Current Member Monique Blockman
AmeriCorps is a national program that connects individuals and organizations to help communities tackle their toughest challenges. At United Way of King County, AmeriCorps members work up to 12-month terms on projects that include ending homelessness, increasing food security and helping students graduate in King County. Members gain an expanded network of connections and learn valuable experience that often leads to employment after the project end—all while earning trust and gratitude from the communities they serve.
We urge you to apply to AmeriCorps to join our awesome team of people working to make a difference. This year, we are also excited to offer the highest possible living stipend for our county, a monthly $250 housing stipend, an additional $1,000 completion bonus for members who complete a full term of service, and access to an emergency financial assistance program to mitigate any unforeseen financial hardships that might happen during the service term.
Want to know more? We’ve asked Monique Blockman, a current AmeriCorps member, to share her insights about the program.
United Way of King County: Tell me a little bit about you.
Monique Blockman: I’m 27 years old. I’m a mother of three, and I’m currently enrolled at North Seattle College for my associate degree in small business. In the future, I want to work with at-risk youth. This is my second VISTA year, and I’m just really excited about the opportunities that I’ve had here. I also took the Project LEAD class offered at United Way—it’s basically a training for members in the community who want to be a part of a board for an organization or a business.
United Way of King County: When was the first time you heard about AmeriCorps?
Monique Blockman: The first time I heard about AmeriCorps was in 2020, and it was through YWCA’s domestic violence program. We would basically meet once a week and we would just discuss different barriers and resources. Actually, the person I worked with there is here at United Way now, and she gave me the reference.
United Way of King County: What drew you to your VISTA position?
Monique Blockman: At first, I had applied to the Bridge to Finish position, and after the interview and hearing my 5-year plan, they thought it would be best to refer me to the ParentChild+ Data Coordinator position. And I was actually already involved in ParentChild+ as a parent, so it was really good for me. I thought: Yeah, I’m ready to do this. Really, the best job experience is having been a part of the program. I felt like I had important questions that people, who hadn’t been a part of the program, hadn’t really thought of.
United Way of King County: What does your position entail?
Monique Blockman: I provide support hours for 16 organizations and their staff, to help them get support services with the main database, DAISY. That’s where all ParentChild+ organizations put their information, as far as scheduling, intakes with the families and children, referrals, and funding requirements. There’s been a lot of issues with the database lately, so I basically act as the expert on it. I support them by advising how to fix it, and I also advocate for the organizations to ParentChild+ National. I’ve advocated for them to have more communication and easier support processes, because they used to just send emails and wait two to three weeks to get a response.
Now, they have a support button on the website, and they get back to people in 24 hours. That was all done through the Washington coordinators like me. We’ve also created this working group, which has different representatives from each state, and we talk about ways to improve DAISY, get feedback and fix overall issues. So that’s really good, because when I first entered this role, the VISTA before me had written a list of the core things that coordinators wanted. And I feel like we’ve marked off at least five of the seven. I do feel like a couple things can be added this year, which is the last year of the VISTA project. So, it’s crunch time.
United Way of King County: What are some of the impacts that you see your work making in the community that you’re serving?
Monique Blockman: I believe it creates a tighter connection between United Way and the organizations. They feel heard, they feel like they can trust me, I feel like I can trust them, and I try to be authentic and relatable. So, I feel like that creates a huge connection, and that I’m really building capacity. I also feel like the work I do helps with the actual program itself. Of course, the coordinators are doing great, but how can they do better with time management, data management, enrollment services. I also believe I was the first person to connect the tax team with ParentChild+, for them to share resources. That way, an organization can go to the tax sites and share what they do and enroll families into the program. So, I really feel like I’m making a difference.
United Way of King County: For those thinking about joining AmeriCorps, what would you say to them?
Monique Blockman: I would tell them that it’s a great opportunity as far as learning professionally and networking. The living allowance also helps out, of course. With the benefits that you get, the experience is just really great all around. I think a lot of people are confused about what it is if they haven’t already done it themselves. I feel like if more people knew more about it, then they would want to join.