For this spotlight, we’re focusing on none other than Joining Forces’ own Nathaniel Hagemaster as his year-long term of AmeriCorps VISTA service that brought him to Connections ends!
Born in El Paso, Texas, he has lived in San Marcos, TX, Fort Wayne, IN, and now Chicago. Nathaniel earned his bachelor's degree in Communication Studies and his master's degree in Rhetoric and Composition at Texas State University in San Marcos. Hoping to branch out and learn more about the world of nonprofits, he became an AmeriCorps VISTA, where his job involved supporting students in learning about the funding opportunities that are available to them to continue or go back to college. He researched and tried to find ways to address key barriers that college students aged 24 and up face.
Nathaniel said that when searching for his next AmeriCorps position, there was immediate chemistry between the work Connections is doing and what he wants to do. While he didn’t know anything about affordable housing beforehand, his current job has allowed him to gain a lot of opportunities to learn about what it is and how advocacy works.
With Joining Forces as our Community Education Coordinator, he first focused on researching census data and creating “snapshots” of municipal housing and demographic information for the north suburban Cook County region. Now, as his time with us winds down, he’s focusing on our communications by putting together our newsletter and advocacy alerts. He also maintains our website and calendar and is supporting our efforts to rework our Affordable Housing 101 and other workshops!
Nathaniel says that he now has a better understanding of how people get to a point of homelessness and the different ways to help people get out of it. His favorite part of his experience has been learning about how communities respond to issues like the need for affordable housing. Speaking of the controversy he’s witnessed about affordable development, he was surprised to see “the lengths that people will go to in order to prevent affordable housing or to make it look bad or scary”. He also said that he learned “how important it is to inform the public [about affordable housing] and to demystify the stigmas around it.”
As his AmeriCorps term comes to an end, Nathaniel said he wants to look for work opportunities that would support marginalized communities. He wants to expand on his work at Joining Forces and work in communications, marketing, etc. He’s even interested in coming back to work at Connections in the future!
We can’t thank you enough for all your work this past year, Nathaniel. You’ve been instrumental in our work with municipalities across Cook County, and in the work that Joining Forces is doing to advocate for affordable housing. We’re excited to see where your journey takes you in the future.
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