‘I Can Do This’
This past summer, a group of teenagers arrived at the downtown Houston convention center that housed thousands of residents after Hurricane Harvey struck. They had a simple request: They wanted to style girls’ hair in advance of their first day of school.
“They said, ‘We’ll do it for free. We’ll bring all the supplies. We just want to help,’” recalls Kadijiha Jones ’16, who met the teens while working at the convention center’s registration desk. It was one of many positive moments that Jones, who deployed to Houston with AmeriCorps, observed in the days and weeks following the devastating hurricane.
“Everyone’s coming out to help,” she says.
The 23-year-old joined AmeriCorps’ National Civilian Community Corps, an immersive volunteer program for young adults, shortly after graduating from Alverno with a Marketing and Communications degree in December 2016. “Giving back to people is something I’ve always been passionate about,” she says.
Based in Baltimore, Jones serves as a support team leader, placing her in charge of more than 100 corps members. She coordinated the logistics of the team’s deployments, received training in fighting forest fires and picked up field experience on projects throughout the East Coast.
Her team was entering the home stretch of the 10-month program when Hurricane Harvey began making its way over the Gulf of Mexico to the shores of east Texas in late August.
As the hurricane made landfall, Jones feverishly worked to respond to the Red Cross’ call for help, getting her team to Austin where they could then drive to Houston.
She found herself at the head of a caravan of about a dozen cars, navigating flooded roads, passing gas stations that had run out of fuel and facing the knowledge that they were driving into a situation others were fleeing.
“At one point, I called my mom and said ‘I don’t know if I want to do this,’” she says. “But I told myself, ‘I can do this.’”
Jones and her team kept going and eventually made it to Houston. Within days of the storm hitting, they reported for duty at the George R. Brown Convention Center, where as many as 10,000 people had taken shelter.
Jones and her team helped as needed, from spending time with shell-shocked residents to walking pets to providing language-interpretation services.
In the following weeks, Jones traveled to nearby communities to deliver food, bottled water and other supplies. She met residents and was struck by the generosity she witnessed, such as seeing strangers who helped a woman tow her car out of a giant pothole.
“It was so amazing to see how many people banded together,” she says. “Even though something really tragic happened, people are still smiling and trying to help each other out.”
Jones, who graduates from AmeriCorps in November, says Alverno helped equip her for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. The skills and confidence she gained here empowered her to meet challenges with bravery.
“I’m not shying away from things,” she says. “At Alverno, I had these different experiences where I stepped up to do something. I had so many people who were rooting for me, so I wasn’t afraid.”
This article originally appeared in the fall 2017 issue of Alverno Magazine.