Alumna Spotlight: Jasmine Chikkala

Jasmine Chikkala

Inver graduate serving in AmeriCorps this summer

Jasmine Chikkala, 21, graduated from Inver Hills Community College in June 2020 with an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree. Jasmine was an exceptionally engaged student at Inver Hills. She participated in Psychology Club, Black Student Union (BSU), TRIO Student Support Services and Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ), the latter as both a member and event planner.

Jasmine is transferring to Augsburg University this fall to major in social work with the goal to earn her Bachelor of Social Work (BSW). She is focusing her career plans on bringing social justice to vulnerable people.

“My ideal job would be as a social worker advocating for mental health and disability policies,” Jasmine said.

Jasmine has volunteer experience with NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), WithAll (formerly The Emily Program Foundation) and 30forfreedom.

Working for AmeriCorps

Jasmine is currently working two jobs. She’s a behavioral health receptionist at Natalis Counseling & Psychology Solutions. She’s also serving as an AmeriCorps intern in the Emergency Response Initiative in Minnesota. She has experience working in a group home for REM Minnesota.

“I learned about AmeriCorps through Neighbors Inc., where I did my service-learning hours as an Inver Hills student,” said Jasmine, who is completing her AmeriCorps role at Presbyterian Homes and Services. “Neighbors Inc. helped me learn about poverty (and how blessed I am), and that experience also inspired me to help more in my community.”

Jasmine added that a community-based learning (CBL) project was required as part of her Introduction to Social Work course, which she highly recommends.

Jasmine covers the following duties as an AmeriCorps intern at Presbyterian Homes and Services:
  1. Sorting and delivering mail, packages and other deliveries.
  2. Screening employees and visitors as they enter the building, including having them complete a questionnaire along with taking their temperature and documenting results.
  3. Light housekeeping and sanitizing as needed
  4. Delivering meals to resident rooms and apartments
  5. Assisting in resident transportation in the building
  6. Engaging in meaningful activities and social support with residents as directed by the life enrichment director, including participation in one-on-one and small-group activities

“More than 200 Minnesotans sign up for first-ever AmeriCorps unit to help nonprofits during COVID-19”

A group of AmeriCorps tutors raised their right hands in 2018 as they took the AmeriCorps pledge. This year’s event was held virtually on Zoom. Photo by Alex Kormann, Star Tribune

More than 200 people will help organizations affected by COVID-19.

By Kelly Smith • Star Tribune • June 8, 2020 — 4:31 p.m.

For the first time, more than 200 AmeriCorps members are being deployed to help Minnesota organizations affected by COVID-19.

Starting Monday, they’ll work for about 70 organizations across the state and in the Twin Cities, which ranks No. 1 among U.S. cities for the number of volunteers in AmeriCorps.

While AmeriCorps members, often referred to as the domestic Peace Corps, have helped Minnesota communities affected by floods or fires in past years, this is the first time the state has created the AmeriCorps Emergency Response Initiative. They’ll join about 1,800 other AmeriCorps members who are working in Minnesota.

“So many organizations were struggling to respond adequately,” said Audrey Suker, CEO of ServeMinnesota, the state service commission that administers AmeriCorps state programs.


ServeMinnesota perspective…

Lisa Winkler serves as vice president of external relations for ServeMinnesota.
Lisa Winkler
How does AmeriCorps provide college students and graduates with opportunities for real-world experience?

AmeriCorps programs provide hands-on experience in nonprofit organizations, schools and local government. Your term of service is an opportunity to give back to your community, reflect on your values while learning more about what you are looking for in a career.

All programs provide training—which can range from education intervention strategies to facilitator training to safe chainsaw handling. Service happens in a variety of settings and members come from all backgrounds, so you’ll have the opportunity to meet new people and grow your network.

Plus, program managers and site supervisors can provide valuable mentorship. Countless AmeriCorps members tell us that their service not only gave them a leg up in their career search, but it often confirmed if they were on the right career path and also when they weren’t!

Why is volunteerism even more important during periods of national crisis?

When community resources are stretched thin, as during a national crisis, the extra support of AmeriCorps members helps fill the gaps. For example, during the coronavirus pandemic, our members stepped up to help schools with distance learning initiatives, preparing lunches for families, and helping people apply for SNAP food benefits.

Service also provides a stable opportunity for those who have lost a job or new grads who are struggling to find employment in a tight labor market. Service provides a regular living stipend, health insurance, career counseling, loan forbearance, money for school, professional development and networking opportunities.

What are the primary benefits of AmeriCorps service?

For new grads, one of the biggest benefits is the education award, which is up to $6,195 to repay student loans or pay for tuition. During your service, you can put qualified student loans into forbearance and the interest that accrues will be paid for you (in addition to the education award).

The experience looks good on a resume—hundreds of employers have committed to recruiting national service grads and we hear from many of our alumni who have gone on to work in the school district or organization where they served. Members also say that serving helped them connect more with their community by engaging in a meaningful way that wouldn’t have been possible without AmeriCorps.

Lisa Winkler
Vice President of External Relations
AmeriCorps Minnesota State Commission

AmeriCorps participated in a Minnesota State and CareerForce Virtual Career Fair in June 2020.

AmeriCorps time stamp: 30:41

More about ServeMinnesota and AmeriCorps…¹

ServeMinnesota works with AmeriCorps members and community partners to meet critical needs throughout Minnesota. We focus on solving tough problems in educational achievement, economic opportunity, substance use disorders,  environmental protection and more. By using evidence-based practices, we know our programs are proven to work!

ServeMinnesota serves as the hub for 17 AmeriCorps programs with about 2,000 AmeriCorps members serving community throughout Minnesota. More than 1,200 sites across the state are hosting an AmeriCorps member this year. These sites include schools, local nonprofits, and community organizations.


Jasmine Chikkala Q & A

Why did you join the AmeriCorps Emergency Response Initiative?

I chose to work for AmeriCorps because I wanted to help people especially during this difficult time, and I desired to make a difference in my community. Also, they have a nice education award ?.

FAQs about joining AmeriCorps

What advice would give people thinking about working for AmeriCorps?

I would say you should definitely look into AmeriCorps! The organization’s mission is to serve communities in need, and they work very hard to serve others. Don’t be disheartened by the low pay because AmeriCorps helps to pay tuition. There are several diverse opportunities with different missions.

What have you learned during your AmeriCorps experience so far?

I have learned more about how to help the elderly, and I have also had to consider their health and safety above my own.

Three words that describe you as a college student:

Why did you choose your career path?

I actually started college as an elementary education major. I previously thought those involved with social work were only therapists and child protection workers. Initially, I was hesitant to work in the mental health field because of my own experiences with mental illness.

After listening to a speaker with a mental health organization who shared their struggle with mental illness, I was inspired to use my experiences to give back. I am pursuing policy and social work because I believe many systems need to implement more mental health and disability inclusion policies.

What is the greatest challenge facing your generation?

There are so many problems that I don’t really know how to pick only one. I am concerned about homelessness, mental health, disability inclusion, racism, poverty and so on.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

I will most likely be living in Minneapolis, and working as a social worker advocating for mental health and disability policies. You never know what might happen, though ?.

More about Jasmine…

Originally from St. Paul, Jasmine graduated from Woodbury High School, Class of 2017. Her mom is a nurse and her dad is an engineer. Her younger brother is a college freshman.

In her free time, she enjoys running, walking, getting coffee with new people, volunteering and going to concerts. She also likes reading books about self-help, psychology and Spanish. Jasmine resides in Woodbury, Minnesota.

More about the Associate of Arts (A.A.) at Inver Hills…

The college’s #1 transfer degree

The Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree is an ideal choice if you plan on transferring to a four-year college or university. You will save money and have the added advantage of working one on one with your instructors.

A.A. Program Planning Guide

The A.A. degree is 60 credits and contains three parts:

Associate of Arts (A.A.) with Emphasis

The Associate of Arts (A.A.) with Emphasis allows you to thoroughly prepare yourself for your chosen major at corresponding bachelor’s degree programs at several public and private four-year colleges and universities. We strongly recommend that you work with an Inver Hills counselor or advisor when making your transfer plans.

Emphasis areas

Minnesota Transfer Curriculum (MnTC)


AmeriCorps connection at Inver Hills…

Emily Johnson, the college’s director of career development, reported that the Center for Career Development and Community-Based Learning works with Lizzie Morris Vogt, director of school partnerships for Minnesota Reading Corps and Minnesota Math Corps, two large, school-based AmeriCorps programs, to connect students with AmeriCorps tutoring opportunities.

Inver Hills also works with other programs to give Inver students opportunities to serve as tutors, including America Reads and America Counts.² Emily noted that local schools are looking for college students to work as reading tutors for grades K–5, or math tutors for grades K–8. Students don’t have to be English, math or education majors—they just have to like working with kids and giving back to their communities.

“Students of all majors can benefit from sharing their knowledge with children,” she said. “America Reads and America Counts are also great opportunities for students who are undecided on a major. They can gain exposure to a fun and exciting career path.”


Learn more about the Center for Career Development and Community-Based Learning (CCD+CBL) by contacting:

Emily Johnson
Director of Career Development

Shannon Williams
Community-Based Learning Coordinator

Learn more about earning an Associate of Arts (A.A.) at Inver Hills by contacting:

Admissions Team
College Center

¹ Courtesy of ServeMinnesota
² Note: America Reads and America Counts are not part of the ServeMinnesota portfolio.

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