Youth Program Adds AmeriCorps Member

posted 10/25/19 -- Charnelle Cannon has always known she wanted to be someone who made a difference. After years of honing that desire as a mother, student and 9-1-1 dispatcher, Charnelle has brought her dedication to Lorain County Community Action Agency’s Youth Services Program.

“Getting to know the youth so far, I am looking forward to helping with noticeable needs like academic success and life after high school,” she said. “My main goal is to really get them to understand that no one has the same path and their success is what they want it to be.”

Charnelle comes to LCCAA via AmeriCorps, a network of national service programs whose members are committed to improving lives and fostering civic engagement. AmeriCorps members throughout the country address critical community needs like increasing academic achievement, mentoring youth, fighting poverty, sustaining national parks, preparing for disasters, and more.

The mission of AmeriCorps meshes easily with the mission of LCCAA, said Frank Prihoda, Planning and Community Services Director, because they train people to serve the community.

“From the interview forward, Charnelle presented herself in a professional manner which I thought would be a great model for the youth,” Prihoda said.

LCCAA’s Youth Services Program serves young men and women ages 16 to 24. Charnelle will be working directly with the youth in providing group and individual mentoring, facilitating community service projects and operating the monthly Care Cupboard and the LCCAA Bike Shop. Youth Services Coordinator Bobby Taylor said the addition of Charnelle provides both example and perspective for the youth in the program.

“Having a young woman they can relate to who has set strong goals and accomplished them is wonderful for our youth to see,” Taylor, a former AmeriCorps member, said. “Our biggest impact is in reminding these young people that they have value and can make a difference. Charnelle does that every day.”

Prior to joining AmeriCorps and LCCAA, Charnelle worked as a 9-1-1 dispatcher for Lorain County while also juggling a toddler and classes at the Firelands branch campus of Bowling Green State University in Sandusky. After graduating from Lorain High School in 2011, she earned two associates degrees through the Firelands campus before taking time off to be a mother. Next spring, she will complete her bachelor’s degree in psychology with an end goal of becoming a clinical psychologist.

“This journey to self-realization has been long and hard but well worth the ups and downs,” Charnelle said. “I am grateful for what I have experienced in that it has allowed me to stand where I am today.”

Charnelle also has a deep personal connection to LCCAA. She is a granddaughter of former LCCAA Executive Director, the late William Locke. Locke was well-known in the community for his commitment to community service made while serving in the Vietnam War. That commitment led to strong values passed down to Charnelle’s generation.

“It is those very values that brought me to my decision to play such an important role in the community,” she said. “I have been fortunate enough to have a life without struggle and hardship compared to those in the community I come from. As a whole, the family I come from stands firm on the principles of being selfless and helping those who truly have a need.”