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How a man and a van are helping young moms succeed

Rick Barrett pictured with the van he drives at Florence Crittenton High School in Denver.

Rick Barrett is perhaps not who most people picture when they think of a typical AmeriCorps member.

Rick, a retiree and former news reporter and bus driver, is serving with Colorado Youth for a Change’s Corps for a Change program this school year. Corps for a Change connects high school students with AmeriCorps members who can help them connect with resources, improve their attendance, and stay on track.

Rick’s service site is Florence Crittenton High School, a DPS intensive pathways school specifically tailored to educate and support students who are pregnant or parenting. Rick makes sure “Flo Crit” students succeed with the help of an unlikely ally: a trusty minivan. While the van, which belongs to the school, has been put to use in previous school years, Rick has taken a special ownership over it this year by driving students to and from school as well as to important appointments at places like the airport, the DMV, and more. 

“When I first got here, I came to realize how critically important transportation is. I took it for granted,” Rick said. “I didn’t know how hard it was for students to get here. I think [driving them] has got to ease their pain a little bit. And that’s really cool.”

Alayna Shaw, Senior AmeriCorps Program Manager, has been managing the Corps for a Change Program for the last few years and has seen a lot of AmeriCorps members come through the program. “Rick is by far one of the most genuinely enthusiastic members I have worked with,” she said. “It can be difficult to recruit for the position at Florence Crittenton because not everyone is excited about driving a van full of students and their children every day. But Rick has taken on this challenge with open arms and shows up every day with a smile on his face.”

While Rick has only been at Florence Crittenton for about two months, he feels lucky to act as a trusted adult in the lives of the students.

“I guess I am most proud of them getting to know me and trusting me,” he said. “In the beginning, it’s like, ‘who’s this guy?’ And then gradually they take you in and you joke around. I am proud of being accepted.”

What’s next for Rick? According to him, hopefully more of the same: he intends to finish this year of service and return for another in the fall of 2022.

“I look forward to come back every day,” he said. “That’s unusual for a job. I hope they have me back next year.”

AmeriCorps programs benefit when they have members from all walks of life. Diversity of experience and viewpoint are crucial to successful service.

If you are interested in serving with AmeriCorps and empowering students ages 3-21 to succeed in school and life, please visit

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