Aaron Kirkland Alumni Highlight

February 2016

Tell me a little about yourself.

I’m a Philadelphia native–West Philly all the way.  I’m about 27 years old now.  I’m ambitious, composed, and professional.  I’m always seeking more information and I try not to take life too serious.

When were you in PowerCorpsPHL?

I was in Cohort 4 on Mr. Pat’s Water Inc. crew.

What are you up to now?

Right after I graduated PowerCorpsPHL, I worked for the Office of Emergency Management for two weeks while the Pope was here.  I got the opportunity through PowerCorpsPHL; we did security and traffic control.

I currently have an apprenticeship with the Office of Watersheds within the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD).  I’m on a Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Maintenance team within the PWD Office of Watersheds.  The year long apprenticeship began in October 2015.  Philadelphia Water has talked about extending the apprenticeship for me until a permanent position opens.  This apprenticeship is competitive to get.  I think I stood out from the rest because I implemented the skills PowerCorpsPHL helps you build, like professionalism and computer skills.  Also, I developed a relationship with Philadelphia Water while I was in PowerCorpsPHL.

I’m currently taking night classes at the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP).  I started taking classes at CCP a few years ago, but I dropped out.  I started taking night classes again in the summer of 2015 while I was in PowerCorps.  I’m working toward a degree in Environmental Engineering.  Right now, I’m taking Computer Information Systems and a Renaissance humanities course.  These are pre-requisites with the idea that I’ll transfer to a four-year institution. I’m also taking English and math courses through the PWD apprenticeship.

What about in your free time?

I like to work out, draw, study, play the piano and drums, and I like to write.  I’m currently working on a book titled “From Piece Mover to Chess Master” about how I evolved personally from acting without purpose to strategize more, to think and plan before I move, and to set goals.  On the weekends I clean my mother’s church.  I joined the Center for Male Engagement that’s connected to CCP.  They provide support and resources to keep you on track with your courses.  I go and check in with them about once a week.

I was recently invited to join Julia Hillengas, senior staff member of PowerCorpsPHL, to present at a conference.  So on February 11, 2016 Ms. Julia and I went to Hampton, VA to attend the Urgency of Now Symposium.  I was honored to be invited.  The symposium was organized by Cities United and focused on changing the narrative for black males from failure to hope.  We presented on the prevention of youth violence and used PowerCorpsPHL as a model.  The hospitality was amazing!  They were very receptive to my story.  They wanted to hear the challenges and barriers I’ve faced since returning to society and how the resources provided by PowerCorpsPHL addressed these challenges.  When I was presenting, I was nervous at first.  But I was so sincere about the topic that my thoughts easily transformed into words.  It almost felt like a duty to be part of this fight against youth violence.  I really enjoyed the symposium.  It is what inspired me to start my book!

What motivates you?

Number one on my list is my mother.  I’ve put her through so much and I want to make her proud.  Next is my new found value in life.  When you go through something traumatic, it changes your perception of the essence of your life span.  Those who came before me and didn’t have the same opportunities I have today paved the way for me.  And I am grateful.

How did your time with PowerCorpsPHL impact you?

PowerCorpsPHL gave me a safety net that allowed me to experiment and find out what I wanted to do.  I used to ask the question “Why me?”  PowerCorpsPHL helped me ask the question “Why not me?”  It allowed me to think my possibilities were endless.  It brought out what was already in me.

Now that you’re an alumni, what sort of involvement would you like to have with PowerCorpsPHL?

I want to be a spokesperson for the good things PowerCorpsPHL did in my life any chance I get.  People in my community see me and I hope they see what they can do too.  I even got one of my neighbors interested and he’s a member right now!  I want to get other people to get involved, I think PowerCorpsPHL should be in every city.  I also like supporting fellow Alumni.  I used my personal experience to help many fellow Alumni on how to get into school, how to apply for FAFSA, and register for courses.

What do you miss about PowerCorpsPHL? What don’t you miss?

I miss that daily motivation.  Now I have to be self motivated, which is hard.  I also miss the comradery, working side by side with my brothers and sisters.  I don’t miss anything; I would do it all again.

What do you hope to do in the future?

I hope to stay in the environmental field.  Ever since the Urgency of Now symposium, I really want to get involved with the inner-city youth.  I would like to see everyone have a fair chance, for all the classes to come together.  We are all one brotherhood, one humanity.  I do not think you should be valued by materialistic things, you should be valued off what you bring to society.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

“If one thinks about racism by examining only one wire of the cage, or one form of disadvantage, it is difficult to understand how and why the bird is trapped. Only a large number of wires arranged in a specific way, and connected to one another, serve to enclose the bird and to ensure that it cannot escape.” -Iris Marion Young

A special shout out to:

    1. Darren Brown, my co-worker and PowerCorpsPHL Alumni
    2. Ms. Shelley Thomas, for not allowing me to quit
    3. Ms. Margy Wilcox, for putting my nerves at ease at the end of the cohort
    4. Pat Edouard, for always challenging me to do better
    5. Water Inc. SALUTE blood sweat and tears baby we’re finally here Alex Warwood, Gerald Bright

You may contact Aaron at kirkstone380@gmail.com.

Back to Alumni Page