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Leah Fugere '12

Regional Coordinator for Impact Alabama

Political Science Major, Resources in the American West Minor

"I work for an AmeriCorps nonprofit organization called Impact Alabama, based in Birmingham, Ala. We have four initiatives that are all really awesome: Save First, which is a free tax-preparation program for low-income families; Focus First, which is a free vision screening program for preschoolers; College First, which is a free tutoring program for high school AP students; and although I'm working with all of them, my priority is a program called Speak First, which is a debate team for high-achieving high schoolers from inner-city Birmingham. If they debate for four years, regardless of their record, they are guaranteed a full-ride scholarship to the University of Alabama, UA-Birmingham, or Birmingham Southern College. It's an incredible opportunity for these kids, and I get to coach them!"

Key milestones since graduation?

"Networking through contacts at CC was a great tool for me. I found out about this program from my CC debate coach, who put me in contact with the founder/director of Impact Alabama. "

"I conducted a vision screening for our FocusFirst program, and I screened 23 children. Of those, three (!) had significant vision problems that can now be fixed because we caught them early enough. Three lives, changed forever! What do my plans and aspirations mean in the face of such real change?"
Future aspirations?

"Though I am absolutely loving the challenge (sometimes downright struggle) of social work, I would eventually love to go into land management/ecology. Throughout the next year, I'm planning on researching and applying for grad schools that have natural resources programs. However, ask me again in a month. I can feel the pull of social work/nonprofit work already, because I have changed some lives. Literally. I conducted a vision screening for our FocusFirst program, and I screened 23 children. Of those, three (!) had significant vision problems that can now be fixed because we caught them early enough. Three lives, changed forever! What do my plans and aspirations mean in the face of such real change?"

Benefits of the CC experience?

"The first one that comes to mind is the adventuresome spirit that CC fostered in me. If you had told me eight months ago that I would now be living in Alabama, coaching debate, screening kids' vision, learning basic tax accounting, I wouldn't have believed it. CC gives us that moxie to say ‘sure’ instead of ‘are you crazy?!’ Maybe this is sappy, but after a month of working here, in a place that I never thought I'd be, with people I never thought I'd meet, that bravery is a quality of which I am proud and for which I am increasingly grateful to CC. 

The other is maybe more abstract. I think my CC experience gave me the ability to believe in a world that ought to be rather than simply accepting the world that is. In an ever-more cynical and tangled world, I think it's easy to believe that none of us can really make a difference and that ‘changing the world’ is just a slogan for the naive. After just days of working with my debate students, I don't just believe that I can, I know it. CC gave me the tools for making a difference, yes. But more importantly, it gave me the opportunity to believe that I can. And that, I think, is where change begins."