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AmeriCorps Alums (and the Lifetime of Service Blog) is a community of experienced volunteer leaders. We are a national network of over half a million alumni from AmeriCorps national service (including NCCC, VISTA and pre-AmeriCorps VISTA) and we believe that the lifetime engagement of alumni is a transformational force for change in America’s communities.

The Lifetime of Service Blog exists to connect and inform alumni, friends and supporters through timely news, tips, stories and personal testimonials. To read more about our mission, vision and values of, check us out on our main site.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2009 3:36 pm

    Our program needs your help! We have a monthly e-newsletter that is entitled “Life as a VISTA”. It features a variety of columns from community partner spotlight, student leaders, VISTA projects/programs, and more. One of our columns “Blast from the Past: VISTA Alumni” showcase past VISTA volunteers and helps them to share their story. We need help connecting with other AmeriCorps Alumns !! If you are interested in being featured in our monthly newsletter, please contact me at ynegron@siena.edu and I can send you a list of questions that you can either answer and write the column on your own or you can send the answers to me and I can write the column for you! Either way, our program loves to connect with past VISTA and other national service volunteers. Share your legacy !!! Thanks for your time.

  2. Vanessa Bush Ford permalink
    September 22, 2009 9:59 am

    Hearing on Children of Incarcerated Parents Renewed Memories of VISTA Year

    The year I spent working with VISTA caused me to look at issues of race and class more closely than I ever have. Having grown up in the projects and now a firm – if occasionally dubious – member of the middle class, I had been making observations about race and class nearly all of my life. But my VISTA year offered a close-up look at a vexing problem – children of incarcerated parents, children who, through no fault of their own, essentially end up serving time along with their parents. I worked with a program in Chicago to find mentors for children who had a parent in prison. Even though my VISTA service ended nearly a year ago, I still keep up with the issue. So, I attended a recent hearing on the issue held by the Youth and Family Committee of the Illinois House of Representatives.
    Among those testifying was a woman who had been arrested in the presence of her children by police showing little sensitivity, not even granting her a chance to calm her children and make arrangements for them to get home safely. I heard administrators of social service programs talk about cutbacks in funding that would hurt their efforts to provide transportation so children could visit their parents in jail. Many of those testifying praised the Children’s Bill of Rights devised by a San Francisco group, and adopted by many states and municipalities, to provide basic rights to children whose parents have been arrested.
    Some of the legislators were so moved that they volunteered the fact they themselves had had a parent incarcerated, that they had suffered from the kinds of addictions that had sent many of the parents to prison for committing crimes to support their habits. But the most memorable testimony was by a father, a 38-year-old black man raising four daughters while his wife served a prison sentence. In a calm but firm voice, he managed to castigate the legislators and the administrators of all the programs meant to help families such as his. He called them out on the distance between “regular” people such as himself and those who sat above them or before them behind desks, getting paid to offer services to help people who don’t always actually get the help. Meanwhile, failing schools and other programs each year crank out even more potential clients for the social workers and judges and legislators.
    The issues, the frustrations, the class and race divides were all so familiar from my VISTA year. But as I listened to the presenters state their compelling cases, and the legislators voice concerns and empathy and caution that given the dire state of the economy only so much could be done, I thought about the benefits of volunteering, how even in a time of cutbacks citizens can affect social issues by volunteering their time. These families need transportation to maintain contact with parents in prison, they need the videoconferencing capabilities that some suggested, they need the alternative sentencing programs and community-based facilities and drug treatment programs. But while they are waiting for the state to find funding for those programs, they could use volunteers to mentor the children – that is a low-cost solution that might help erase some of the distance between “us” and “them” that the father spoke about so simply and eloquently.

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