The year was 2005, and two nonprofit foundations, the California HealthCare Foundation and The California Endowment, were poised to change the way individuals accessed health and social services in California. They established the Center to Promote HealthCare Access, an institution dedicated to the development and implementation of technology aimed at providing efficient access to vital services.
One Degree is proud to share the following interview with Samantha Masannat, inaugural AmeriCorps Fellow, who has joined One Degree as part of our partnership with the AmeriCorps Volunteer Infrastructure Project (VIP). Samantha began her journey with us in March 2023 and has focused on the development and expansion of our volunteer program to enhance community engagement across Los Angeles County. With the support of our AmeriCorps Supervising Organization, Foothill Unity Center, Inc., we aim to strengthen One Degree’s capacity to support community members and increase ongoing volunteer recruitment across our organization. As Samantha approaches the end of her 900-hour service term, she continues to engage community members and recruit volunteers to lay the foundation for a high-impact volunteer program.
We recently sat down with Samantha, who generously shared her thoughts about her One Degree journey:
Can you tell us about your background and what led you to join AmeriCorps and One Degree?
After graduating from college with a degree in Public Health in 2021, I began my career in community outreach, assisting low-income individuals primarily by providing them access to free cell phones. But I quickly realized I was seeking something more sustainable and impactful. I knew about AmeriCorps and decided to apply, believing it could be a rewarding experience. I’ve always been drawn to the nonprofit sector as I love working and interacting with people. In a world that often feels disconnected, I wanted to contribute to building stronger communities.
What are your hopes for the Los Angeles community?
My main hope is that we can provide necessary resources to low income individuals in our diverse LA County. I was introduced to Foothill Unity Center by my mother, where I became inspired by volunteer work and the ongoing need for community outreach. During my initial months, I worked alongside other AmeriCorps fellows, assisting low-income residents in Pasadena and Monrovia through food drives and administration duties. I’d like to see well-resourced outreach and assistance programs operating in every community in LA, so that people can find help quickly and services organizations and volunteers are regularly collaborating to close gaps in the safety net.
Can you share a little about your current responsibilities at One Degree?
At the moment, my primary focus is establishing a robust volunteer program in Los Angeles. We are developing volunteer descriptions, a dedicated website for volunteer support, and conducting volunteer outreach. We’ve published volunteer roles on platforms like VolunteerMatch and our One Degree website covering areas such as outreach and social media. My goal is to enhance our team’s capacity, allowing us to reach out to more community organizations and increase our presence in local spaces. We have new volunteer support joining us this month, specifically to attend Los Angeles events and help share resources with our community members. We are excited to expand from there and see what we are able to accomplish together.
What makes volunteering with One Degree an exciting opportunity?
Volunteering with One Degree is very exciting. Here, you’re not just a volunteer—you’re part of a team that cares deeply about helping people and finding new ways to bring resources to those who need it. I’ve been able to sharpen a number of skills, meet incredible people, and contribute to a community-based mission. Their goal of strengthening the social safety net and working day in and out to bring equitable support to all members of our community, it’s very satisfying. I feel proud of this work, knowing that when people learn about resources and find out there is help available, especially when having a hard time, there can be a ripple of positive change in someone’s life.
As Samantha continues to serve her term at One Degree, she will concentrate her efforts on fulfilling the Volunteer Development standard, a commitment completed within the first year of service. This involves the creation of a recruitment plan, defining clear roles, formulating retention and recognition strategies, and establishing a productive feedback process for our volunteers. Her work aims to establish a sustainable volunteer program in Los Angeles County that emphasizes utilization, involvement, and effective management.
We look forward to witnessing the positive impact of Samantha’s volunteer work and encourage anyone interested in contributing to the One Degree mission and community to consider applying for our open volunteer roles. We are immensely grateful for Samantha’s achievements as well as the dedication and efforts of every volunteer who joins us in expanding access to social services in Los Angeles and beyond.