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When I Was 24

October 30, 2014

Brad Meltzer headshotToday’s guest post is the first in our AmeriCorps Alums Founders Club series and comes to us from Brad Meltzer’s 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps speech with Volunteer Florida. Brad is the #1 New York Times bestselling thriller writer of The Inner Circle, and the host of Lost History on H2.  His non-fiction children’s book include I Am Amelia Earhart, I Am Abraham Lincoln, and I Am Rosa Parks.  Find more about him at and @BradMeltzer.


When I was 24, I thought I was invincible.


When I was 24, I was dating the most beautiful girl at Harvard. (I knew her before Harvard. She was my high school sweetheart. Now she’s my wife.)


When I was 24, I had $30,000 in outstanding student loans.


When I was 24, I wanted to direct movies (I had just seen this new movie Pulp Fiction); I wanted to meet JFK (I had just seen Forrest Gump); and I wanted to go to prison (Shawshank Redemption.) It was a good year for movies.


When I was 24, I wanted to write novels.


Brad speaking at Volunteer Florida's 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps event.

Brad speaks at Volunteer Florida’s 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps event. (Photo Credit: Volunteer Florida)

When I was 24, my mom hadn’t died from breast cancer.


When I was 24, my dad hadn’t died from heart disease.


When I was 24, I wanted to vote for Nelson Mandela, who that year was elected the first black president of South Africa.


When I was 24, I didn’t care what anyone thought about me. Unless it hurt.

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SPEA Connect Provides Flexible Professional Development for AmeriCorps Alums

October 28, 2014

This article is sponsored by Indiana University’s SPEA Connect online MPA program which offers a three-credit waiver valued at $3,165 per year of AmeriCorps service up to two years for a total award of $6,330. SPEA Connect also offers additional professional experience credit for qualified students. SPEA Connect is currently recruiting for its online MPA program with advanced curriculum areas in public management, nonprofit management, policy analysis, and public finance. SPEA Connect also offers graduate certificate programs in public management, nonprofit management, and public financial management.   

Along with more than 75 AmeriCorps Alums who have enrolled in SPEA graduate programs in the last 5 years, Anna Bragin and Erica Abrams Yan are able to take advantage of SPEA Connect’s generous credit waiver policy that provides any student who served in AmeriCorps with a credit waiver of 3 hours ($3,165 discount) up to a maximum of 6 hours ($6,330 discount). Because Anna and Erica are both busy professionals, the flexible and convenient structure of the SPEA Connect online MPA program allows them to study where and when it is most convenient for them. Learn how SPEA Connect is built for your career and fits into your busy schedule.

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What’s At The Top of Our Reading List This Week?

October 24, 2014
Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS, takes a turn reading. Photo Source: CNCS Twitter Account

Wendy Spencer, CEO of CNCS, takes a turn reading. Photo Source: CNCS Twitter Account

Gone Girl might be the best-selling book on The New York Times list, but Bunny Cakes might have topped the charts this week for AmeriCorps members and alums.

On October 21st, millions of readers joined in reading Bunny Cakes as part of Jumpstart’s Read for the Record, a campaign to celebrate literacy through the largest shared reading experience. Don’t worry if you missed out on the fun on Tuesday, you can still pledge to read until Friday, October 24.

But, what else should be on your reading list this week? Here are five stories that surprised, inspired, or made us click this week:

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The Many Similarities of AmeriCorps and Study Abroad

October 20, 2014

Barnhart.ErinToday’s guest blog comes from Erin Barnhart, Ph.D. (AmeriCorps NCCC Central Region alum, 1997-1998) who currently serves as the Graduate Program Director for IPSL, an international education and service-learning organization. This blog is the fifth in our International Careers Series sponsored by IPSL that profiles leading alumni of AmeriCorps working in international and intercultural careers.

It may not seem obvious, but there are actually quite a few similarities between AmeriCorps service and international education. I’m an AmeriCorps alum (NCCC Central Region, 1997-1998) who now works in the field of international education and service as Graduate Program Director for IPSL, an international service-learning organization. As I’ve interacted with and taught graduate students who are AmeriCorps and other national service alumni, I’ve increasingly recognized that there are many outcomes, impacts, and goals that domestic service and international learning have in common.

Let’s explore some of them, shall we?

IPSL/Concordia University MA-IDS students Ashley and Sarah serving in Thailand

IPSL/Concordia University MA-IDS students Ashley and Sarah serving in Thailand

First, for many AmeriCorps Alums, service with AmeriCorps presents a unique opportunity to learn about diverse, often multicultural communities – places where people have different lived experiences, practice different cultural norms, and often even speak different languages from their own. My service in AmeriCorps NCCC allowed me to partner with and learn from individuals and communities around the United States, the lives of whom, in many cases, were dramatically different from my own. As a young woman from rural Oregon, serving with community organizations and engaged citizens in inner-city Detroit, rural Texas, and small town North Dakota was a fascinating, illuminating experience. I came away from my 10 months of service with a much more nuanced appreciation for the strengths and abilities of communities. And my eye-opening acknowledgement of the sheer diversity of opinions, experiences, and ways of life in my country meant that many things were, for me, no longer black and white but rather many shades of technicolor gray.

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What AmeriCorps Taught Me: Finding Yourself Vs. Creating Yourself

October 13, 2014

HeadshotToday’s guest blog comes from Eli N. Goldman, a four-time AmeriCorps veteran of Bonner Community Scholars at  The College of New Jersey, City Year, and a two-term VISTA. Eli is now working towards his master’s of public administration at Rutgers – Newark while looking for a career that aligns with his passion for creating a social impact. Follow along with him on Twitter (@EliNGoldman)  and LinkedIn.

I believe that people working for the common good is what made this nation strong. That is why I joined AmeriCorps and served 4 years for a total of 5 assignments in three states on both coasts of the U.S. I wanted to do my part to help my country. However, I also was looking for something. I wanted to find myself.

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Bringing The Opportunity Equation Conversation to Atlanta!

October 9, 2014
AmeriCorps members from Youth Villages mingling with other alums, and Eric Schwarz

AmeriCorps members from Youth Villages mingling with other alums, and Eric Schwarz

AmeriCorps Alums hosted Eric Schwarz, the Co-Founder and former CEO of Citizen Schools, in Atlanta for a conversation on closing the achievement gap in our schools and the role citizens play in achieving that goal as part of The Opportunity Equation book tour. Before reading from his book, Eric spent time signing books and meeting with current Corps members and alums and community leaders.

Eric shared how we live in a time of greater educational innovation, but also of greater inequality. The achievement gap between students from lower-income families and those from higher-income families has doubled in recent years. What’s the key to closing this gap?

AmeriCorps Alums staff with Eric Schwarz. From left to right: Greg Heinrich, Eric Schwarz, Maria Caruso, and Ben Duda.

AmeriCorps Alums staff with Eric Schwarz. From left to right: Greg Heinrich, Eric Schwarz, Maria Caruso, and Ben Duda.

In The Opportunity Equation, Eric suggests that this achievement gap is caused not by the opportunities during the school day, but by the lack of  learning opportunities after and beyond the school day. What higher-income families can access to a greater degree than lower-income families is what Eric calls our country’s “shadow education” system. It’s access to internships, summer camps, after school programs, arts enrichment, and more. It’s also the chance to engage with a network of tutors, mentors, and experts in their field.

“America’s greatest asset is its citizen power”- Eric Schwarz, in interview on NPR affiliate WGBH

booktalk_CSIf we put kids in front of enough opportunities through expanded learning time and apprenticeships with experts in their fields, Eric believes each child will find their momentum and discover their talents. How do we help start that momentum? With citizens, Eric says, and with millions more AmeriCorps members and citizen volunteers. To learn more about the power of citizenship, Citizen Schools, and The Opportunity Equation, watch our webinar with Eric (& AmeriCorps alum Jessica Graham from Cisco Community Relations) on-demand here and see more pictures from last night’s event on our Facebook page!

Faced with a Wicked Social Problem? Speed Up Your Learning Cycle

October 6, 2014

Gale.MichaelToday’s guest blog comes from Michael Gale (AmeriCorps Member with Heads Up, 2003-2004) who currently serves as the Senior Program Manager at GlobalGiving. This blog is the fourth in our International Careers Series sponsored by IPSL that profiles leading alumni of AmeriCorps working in international and intercultural careers.

My AmeriCorps service ended over a decade ago, but sometimes I feel like I’m back in my classroom of 4th graders at Birney Elementary in Southeast Washington. Anyone who has ever taught can tell you that educating requires flexibility, quick thinking, and a willingness to learn from your mistakes. Really, these are attributes that would serve you well in any field, but too often, they are missing in the field of international development.

Students from Michael's AmeriCorps class

Students from Michael’s AmeriCorps class

International development nonprofits, at their best, are learning organizations. We raise money, carry out programming, evaluate how we did, hopefully make some decision on how to do a little (or a lot) better next time, and we start the cycle over again. The problem is, this cycle – from program design to program evaluation – usually takes at least a year, and in many cases much longer. Nonprofits are tackling wicked problems, problems that are particularly difficult or impossible to address because of their complex origins and range of factors producing them. These problems include entrenched poverty, structural inequality, and environmental destruction. We are hesitant to promise, especially to funders, that we’ll be able to make progress quickly on such challenges. So we promise an evaluation after three years, or we offer surface level report-backs on successful aspects of our work. This wouldn’t cut it in the classroom.  In many ways, the education of a child is the wickedest of problems, yet good teachers still find ways to test new approaches, analyze the results, and adjust their lesson plans and teaching styles to continually search for the best way to reach the diverse learning needs of the kids in their classes.

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