AmeriCorps VISTA member Ryan Etzwiler joined the Behavioral Health Equity Corps (BHEC) in April of 2021. They are currently serving at THEARI and were kind enough to answer some questions about themselves and their service.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I consider myself to be an individual whose results are predicated on moving toward the shared vision amongst my teammates. I find my interests lie particularly in marketing and financial fields.
How did you get into volunteering?
I’ve been volunteering since a very young age. The first time I volunteered was probably in elementary school. In high school, we had a service day every week on Wednesday. We would go out for a couple hours and serve the community. This made me look further into volunteering apart from my school. I began volunteering at a Down syndrome physical therapy center. That was really rewarding to me, which inspired me to move forward and the next thing I knew I was a summer camp counselor for two summers. I had the time of my life mentoring younger kids aged 8 to 18. I feel like they got a lot out of it, too. I certainly learned a lot about myself and my leadership skills. Still, I wanted to further explore. The summer of 2019 I volunteered at an international non-profit that was founded by my uncle. It supported rural populations in Sierra Leone. Right now, my Peace Corps application process is underway. But I didn’t want to sit around in the meantime, so I’m doing AmeriCorps and moving along with my career plans.
What do you most enjoy in your free time?
I do a lot in my free time, I love playing guitar, I practice or play about 1 to 3 hours a day. Outside of that, I play tennis one or two times a week. I ski almost every weekend. I love hunting, fishing, everything outdoors in Colorado. It puts a smile on my face to be out here.
What advice would you give people considering going into service?
Ensure that you are locked into an organization that is going to sponsor your career growth, that there is opportunity or room for you to grow as an individual and allows enough flexibility to take on projects that may be outside your original interests. You’re probably going to jump on a lot of different projects and require different skills for each of them.
If you could visit one place, anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Right now, I would say Indonesia or the Philippines because I would love to learn how to dive and explore coral reefs.
What is one item you cannot live without?
Well, my phone, but more interestingly, my guitar now.
What is your favorite hobby?
Out here it’s either skiing or fishing with my friends. Both scenarios are amplified with friends around me. Really, the more friends around me the more enjoyment I get out of each of my hobbies.
What would you like the world to know about you and your work?
I’m a motivated individual who seeks a leadership role down the line. I love working with teams and collaborating with a diverse group of people. This really provides more perspectives and they all come back towards that shared vision that we all have. I think it’s rewarding to see it all come together. In the future I want to do that in the financial sector, possibly private equity, or investment banking. I think having a team behind you in a competitive environment is extremely fun and exciting.
Tell us about your host site. How do you, as a BHEC member, fit into their vision of supporting communities?
My host site is THEARI. My skills I’ve been building fit into THEARI’s needs and responsibilities in that I’ve provided a lot of financial support by writing grants and budgeting. I’ve also done marketing, outreach, and fundraising campaigns. So, I’ve increased their financial capacity to support communities, which I’m happy with.
What attracted you most to work with BHEC?
What initially attracted me to BHEC was the ability to create an impact for people struggling with opioid use and other excessive narcotic use. Our work has provided resources that literally save lives. Giving back to the community of Colorado is something that brings a lot of joy to me.
What programs/projects are you currently working on? Please describe.
There’s a lot- I’m working on , and on my legacy binder presentation that’s due at the end of the month. I’ve been reflecting a lot on all the projects I’ve taken on this past year. Right now, I’d like to support THEARI as much as I can before I leave service. I’m looking into stock donations as an option to increase our financial capacity. With any luck, we’ll be able to set up this structure and see some expedited financial growth. I’m hopeful.
Highlight a specific project you are currently working on or completed.
One project that I’m extremely proud of is one I picked up in the first couple months of service. Serving at my original host site didn’t pan out the way it was supposed to, so I did outreach to find my own projects and connected with the Colorado Consortium for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and next found the Tri-County Health Department. I found an opportunity in the Tri County Overdose Prevention Partnership. I created a website that brought attention to International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) through videos, stories, resources, and an event posting page for non-profit organizations throughout the state that are battling the epidemic. We had 20 different organizations post their events and hundreds of people at each of these events. I got to lead a team in designing and curating the information that went into this final product.
What impact do you feel these projects/programs will have on the community?
Well, I hope they have a direct impact! From the IOAD project I just mentioned, one of the most rewarding pieces of feedback was from a recovering addict that reached out to my supervisor at the time. This person used our resources for naloxone, and this had saved their life. This isn’t something to take lightly. It’s rewarding to see that the work we accomplish isn’t going to waste- it’s creating a benevolent impact.
Tell us about the support you receive from your host site.
I would say the support I get from my host site is good. I meet with my supervisor, Jack Patterson, individually every week and in a variety of team meetings throughout the week. Given this pandemic and having to be virtual, I think we are doing a good job at staying connected.
What would you like to gain from service at this host site?
I’d really like to work in investments, but there’s not an abundance of these opportunities with THEARI. If we get the stock donations going, I’d love to investigate strategic investments to accrue wealth over time.
Outside of that, I’d like experience in other financial opportunities. I’ve gotten to do budgeting and such, but in the last couple of months in my service, I’d like a better look at how we handle our financials.
What is the most rewarding aspect/proudest accomplishment of your work/position?
Hmm, I would say the most rewarding accomplishment followed Colorado Gives Day when we discovered our marketing edits, new videos, photos, stories, and such that we put on our Colorado Gives Day website yielded revenue generation that was greater than the revenue between 2014 to 2021 combined. Being able to see a significant financial uptick in our financial capacity and revenue generation from one year to the next is something I’m very proud of. Now I’m working on ensuring this will be sustainable and THEARI can grow and maximize its revenue generation over time.