Today’s guest post comes from Marchelli Hill, an AmeriCorps VISTA alum, and current Community Involvement Coordinator for the city of Houston. Hill grew up in South Florida and attended Florida International University, where she studied Public Policy, Political Science and Spanish. She now lives in Houston where she currently serves as president of the Houston Alum Chapter and promotes AmeriCorps programs throughout the community.
I spent my year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA for Community Services and Employment Training (CSET), in California. During that year, I developed a curriculum and facilitated teacher workshops for CSET’s Junior Leadership Academy. The academy served about 240 youth, ages 10 to 18 years. The curriculum taught core competencies in communication skills, conflict resolution, consensus building, group facilitation, public speaking, strategic planning, group dynamics, character development, and community organizing.
I loved my experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA, and my favorite part was watching the positive progression of the youth I worked with. And it also helped prepare me for the career I’ve chosen today. My AmeriCorps experience helped me develop a particular set of skills that I use on a daily basis and were instrumental in helping me obtain my current position with the city of Houston.
As the Community Involvement Coordinator with the City of Houston, I continue to work with youth through research and program development, specifically through a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) funded initiative called Striving To Reduce Violence Everywhere (STRYVE), a youth violence prevention program. The purpose of STRYVE is to develop a comprehensive youth violence prevention plan at a neighborhood level, using strategies that are based on the best available evidence. The project has been very effective at engaging large nonprofits and building capacity for long-term sustainability in youth and community development in Houston.
AmeriCorps gave me the opportunity to develop and cultivate my skill on both a personal and professional level. I was living in California on $800 a month, which wasn’t much at the time, but I knew it was worth it long-term. Not only did I grow professionally, I grew as a person. I know I made an impact. Without a doubt, AmeriCorps VISTA helped pave my current career path, and because of that experience, I have been afforded opportunities that I may not have otherwise experienced.
I think youth should be exposed to what AmeriCorps does and leverage it as tool to have a voice in the community. AmeriCorps programs provide great opportunities to give back. Participation in National Service programs can help break down barriers, especially for many youth of color who desire to access higher education and advanced professional training. The leadership and professional development opportunities made possible through AmeriCorps is opening doors for those who are looking to access higher education and career exploration, while at the same time providing the opportunity to make a difference in others’ lives.
As AmeriCorps Alum, I have taken on the charge to encourage more people to participate in national service programs and I am committed to utilizing my platform to tell our stories.
Today’s guest post comes from Greg Ericksen, chapter president of AmeriCorp Alums Los Angeles.
Every holiday season there’s a swell of desire to help those in need, and this year was no different than the rest. AmeriCorps Alums Los Angeles wanted to harness this passion and really help an organization fulfill their mission this holiday. Throughout the month of November, the LA Chapter partnered with Big Sunday to help with a Thanksgiving Food Drive. AmeriCorps Alums Los Angeles signed up to collect 750 cans of green beans to help fill Thanksgiving food bags, and the chapter came through in a BIG way!!!
With the help of alums, members, AmeriCorps projects, family, and friends, the AmeriCorps Alums LA Chapter successfully collected 1,012 cans of green beans and 106 pumpkin pies to contribute to Big Sunday’s 2nd Annual Thanksgiving Stuffing Event. We helped fill over 1,000 bags of food which was distributed to over two dozen non-profit agencies and their clients. You can view all of our amazing donors and see the pictures from the actual service day HERE.
Ernad Prnjat, LA Board Member, shared “Big Sunday’s project was very inspiring and I am glad that AmeriCorps Alums LA was able to be part of it. It was amazing to see our friends and family come together and help us collect over a thousand cans of green beans, that went towards making Thanksgiving packages for those in need.”
As our chapter grows and evolves, we are truly becoming a reliable resource for the non-profit community here in Los Angeles. We are excited to keep building our brand and reputation so we can continue to carry out the AmeriCorps mission of GETTING THINGS DONE!
Today’s post originally appeared on the Corporation for National and Community Service National Service Blog on November 27, 2013, and was written by Dana Forde.
By: Dana Forde
Blair Brettschneider didn’t plan on creating her own nonprofit. But something she imagined had never been done before. So Blair decided to make a change.
“There was nothing in Chicago really dedicated to improving education for teenage refugee girls and expanding opportunities for them,” said Blair, an AmeriCorps VISTA alum.
That’s when the 24-year-old launched what is now GirlForward, an organization that offers mentorship and educational opportunities for girls who have been uprooted from their war-torn countries. Blair credits her experience with the AmeriCorps VISTA program for exposing her to the plight of refugee youth and their families. She is an example of how national service programs are molding a new generation of entrepreneurs, innovators, and leaders.
Blair served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member from 2010 to 2011. As part of her responsibilities, she completed fundraising development projects at RefugeeOne, a refugee resettlement agency in Chicago. She then joined a former VISTA member in creating an after-school mentoring and tutoring group for teenage girls. Blair quickly started pairing students with hand-picked mentors. Later, she began processing mentorship referrals for other agencies.
But expanding on this progress meant Blair would need to commit to a full-time plan and make GirlForward an official organization.
“I wanted a summer program. I wanted a place where the girls could go after school,” Blair said. “If I had held back and waited for funding, nothing would have happened. Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.”
Her optimism paid off. What started as a modest enterprise has now grown to one that helps more than four dozen girls. In fact, GirlForward’s success prompted media giant CNN to name her one of its top 24 CNN Heroes for 2013. Airing on December 1, CNN Heroes is a yearly television broadcast that celebrates remarkable and inspiring contributions to humanitarian causes and community endeavors.
Still, Blair’s newfound celebrity has not fully resonated yet.
“When I see people sitting in the office I think, ‘Wow this is an actual organization,’” Blair said. “I’m really proud of everything that we’ve done and I’m also really thankful for all of the support we’ve received.”
North Texas Chapter of AmeriCorps Alums Hosts Successful Continuing Education Series Event with Clinton School and Bush School
Today’s guest post comes from the North Texas Chapter of AmeriCorps Alums. It originally appeared on the North Texas Chapter of AmeriCorps Alums blog. During 2013 and 2014, AmeriCorps Alums is conducting Continuing Education Series events with school partners dedicated to national and community service. In November and December, the Clinton School of Public Service and the Bush School for Government and Public Service are tag teaming to sponsor events with three AmeriCorps Alums chapters. The events are designed to provide alumni and current members a sense of how education can impact their career success, and offer insight into career options available in the field of government and public service. The North Texas event is chronicled below.
On Wednesday, November 20, 2013, AmeriCorps Alums of North Texas hosted the Clinton School of Public Service and the Bush School of Public Service in our first ever graduate school fair. AmeriCorps members and Alums from all over the North Texas region showed up to hear Alex Thomas from the Clinton School of Public Service and Kathryn Meyer from the Bush School of Government & Public Service discuss their programs–and get some delicious free food from Scalini’s and some tasty desserts from Katdid’s Kreations!
The event ended with a panel on the state of education and public service with Alex and Kathryn and two dedicated local panelists:
- Stephanie Feniri – Manager of Homeowner Neighborhood Support at the Dallas Area Habitat for Humanity, Stephanie got her start as an AmeriCorps member with CitySquare and is now concurrently completing an MPA and MCRP at the University of Texas at Arlington. Stephanie has sparkle, and advocates, “spreadsheet your life.”
- Jennifer Rajkumar – Director of AmeriCorps at CitySquare, Jennifer and her organization are cornerstones of the AmeriCorps community in North Texas with over 300 active members making an impact year round! Jennifer got her MPA at the University of Texas at Arlington. Read more…
AmeriCorps alumni embody the essential spirit of the Institute to be the solution to the world’s critical issues. AmeriCorps alumni have already shown that they are dedicated to being an agent of change, and we believe that the Monterey Institute’s programs can amplify their impact.”
That’s what Devin Lueddeke, Director of Recruitment at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, a graduate school of Middlebury College, thinks AmeriCorps Alums bring to the Monterey Institute.
We hear time and again from our school partners about AmeriCorps Alums thriving and succeeding in institutions of higher learning across the country, and this is particularly true for those schools that actively seek out AmeriCorps Alums. The Monterey Institute is no exception to that, and today’s article features the story of Grace Andrews, an AmeriCorps Alum and Monterey Institute Alum. Grace has utilized her AmeriCorps experience and education foundation at the Institute to catapult her success as a cutting edge social entrepreneur, and her story is featured below. Read more…
Today’s blog post comes from our “Ask the Career Coach” Column by Denise Riebman (AmeriCorps ’94), Director of Career Development and Alumni Services for the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration at George Washington University. Each month Denise takes questions from our LinkedIn Group and responds in our “Ask the Career Coach” column. If you have a question for the AmeriCorps Alums “Ask the Career Coach” column, you can submit it here.
Two questions posted on the AmeriCorps Alum LinkedIn Group this month both deal with the struggle of being stuck in no man/woman’s career land:
- How to find entry level jobs to transition from AmeriCorps into a full time position?
- How to escape being over or under qualified for entry to mid-level positions?
These commonly heard challenges during the transition out of service and subsequent early professional years can make people feel like they are stuck in career limbo. Escape by STOP doing these FIVE things:
1. STOP thinking that job descriptions are everything
Job descriptions are just wish lists and often not what is really needed or wanted. It might be what the departing employee wished she had actually been able to do or written by someone in human resources without a real understanding of the job. While the description gives you a general idea on how to tailor your cover letter and resume to match the qualifications, you also need to “blur the edges.” Read more…
In the interest of public service, Clinton and Bush are joining forces yet again……sort of! In November and December, AmeriCorps Alums is bringing together the Clinton School of Public Service and the Bush School of Government and Public Service to host three continuing education series events. Both schools offer matches to the Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, and they are co-hosting events in Des Moines, Dallas, and Little Rock to highlight their respective programs, as well as their commitment to AmeriCorps and public service. The events will also feature broader panel discussions around “Careers In Public Service” with panelists composed of AmeriCorps alumni who are employed in the government or public service locally and will eagerly share valuable insights from their careers.
These events are open to Alums and current AmeriCorps members. Both the Bush and Clinton Schools have a high opinion of AmeriCorps Alums as students who bring important experience from national service into the classroom setting. Alex Thomas, Director of Admissions at the Clinton School believes,