Posts Tagged ‘ Corporation for National and Community Service ’

AmeriCorps Program Named CNN Top 10 Hero

Program involving AmeriCorps members is honored as part of CNN Heroes series.

Yesterday, Anderson Cooper named his Top 10 Heroes of 2008 on CNN. Among them, Liz McCartney and the St. Bernard Project, an AmeriCorps project in St. Bernard Parish, New Orleans.

According to a press release from the Corporation for National and Community Service,

Liz McCartney, co-founder of a Louisiana nonprofit that relies on volunteers and AmeriCorps members to rebuild homes destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, has been selected as one of 10 finalists in the second annual “CNN Heroes” program.

The St. Bernard Project, formed two years ago by McCartney and Zack Rosenburg, has mobilized more than 9,000 volunteers to renovate and reconstruct 151 homes for residents of St. Bernard Parish, an area just outside New Orleans that once was home to 67,000 people that suffered massive damage from Katrina.

Watch the AC 360 clip from CNN.

Anyone can vote for the Hero of the Year.

The announcement is expected Thanksgiving night. The winner will win $100,000.

The top ten heroes each won $25,000 and McCartney donated hers back to the project.

Blog Action Day! Combat Poverty as an AmeriCorps*VISTA

As part of Blog Action Day, we are writing about poverty. For us, the choice of what to say is easy enough — VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) has been the anti-poverty service corps since the Lyndon Johnson administration in the mid-60s.

Launched as part of Johnson’s War on Poverty, and influenced by the structure of Peace Corps, VISTAs have worked in a range of ways over the years, called on to tackle the root causes of poverty.

Over 170,000 VISTAs have served since 1965, and VISTAs were instrumental in launching and developing well-known programs such as Head Start, Upward Bound, and even the credit union.

In the 90’s VISTA became a branch of Bill Clinton’s AmeriCorps program, so it’s called AmeriCorps*VISTA now.

This is from the promotional booklet VISTA: In Service to America (PDF):

[VISTAs] have established health clinics, neighborhood watches, and computer training programs. They have formed many of our nation’s literacy programs, along with Upward Bound, Head Start programs, and adult education initiatives. Parents who want to work or to develop a skill can send their children to after-school clubs, athletics, and day care centers run by VISTA members. VISTA service has led to urban renewal programs and neighborhood beautification. Most importantly, many programs established by VISTA members continue long after they complete their service.

What makes VISTA different from other service corps?

Indirect service. AmeriCorps*VISTA service is indirect service, meaning that VISTAs are limited in the number of hours they are funded to work directly with clients. (You won’t often see VISTAs tutoring children, though they may very well run the tutoring program. You won’t see them building trails, though they may recruit the volunteers who do, or find the funding for the equipment the volunteers need.)

Capacity building. AmeriCorps*VISTA projects are spelled out clearly in work plans, and must expand the ability of the organization or agency to meet its mission and serve its clients. An example might be building a volunteer program structure at a drug treatment center, or securing grants that will extend the school lunch program through the summer in apartment complexes where families with low incomes live.

Sustainability. AmeriCorps*VISTA projects are usually 1-3 years in length (and can be run by a different VISTA each year, each VISTA building on the achievements of the person before). By the end of the third year, the project should be made sustainable in some way — through, for example, finding renewable revenue streams, or training organizational staff to maintain the program.

Anti-poverty. The AmeriCorps*VISTA project must be a proactive intervention into the cycle of poverty, with an aim to end it by tackling poverty’s root causes.

But what are the root causes of poverty?

According to Project Homeless Connect, they are:

  1. A family history of poverty. People born poor are most at risk of staying that way due to a range of issues like poor self esteem, abuse, and lowered emphasis on education.
  2. Chronic poverty which may include physical and mental disabilities without adequate health care, that make it impossible to work. Substance abuse. Elderly people who can no longer support themselves.
  3. Limited economic opportunity like high unemployment rates and few job prospects. Most common in rural  areas and where employers are paying only minimum wage.
  4. Lack of educational opportunities that are offered where and when needed, and that help people make the connection to a career.
  5. Racial and cultural isolation and discrimination that create barriers to self-sufficiency.
  6. Family chaos and strife, including divorce, parenting solo, and parents who deprive each other and their children of love and support, who are abusive, who abandon their children, who don’t bond with their young children.
  7. Limited social capital like “trust, good will, fellowship, social interactions, and community involvement.” Low awareness among people with low incomes about how to engage governmental institutions.
  8. Communities lacking an awareness of poverty so that solutions can be found.
  9. Catastrophic life events, especially when a family is already on the edge of poverty.

Would you add any others to this list?

And we’ll let the Corporation take us out, with this t.v. ad about VISTA:

Read more about Blog Action Day, and listen and call-in to BlogTalkRadio which is hosting a special live radio show from 9 am to 9 pm PST (Portland) time on Wednesday, October 15.

Read these Blog Action Day posts regarding poverty and other service corps:

Ode Magazine’s Reader Blog – Laura Portalupi reminisces about poverty and Peace Corps South Africa

Indiana VISTA Blog – Jenna reflects on confronting poverty as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member

Yikes! Kevin Johnson and AmeriCorps Prohibited Activities

Update June 12, 2009: Check out this article from Youth Today, for background information on the connection between the Kevin Johnson controversy and CNCS’s Inspector General Gerald Walpin, removed from his position by Obama this week.

Sometimes site supervisors who host AmeriCorps members don’t quite get it

Kevin Johnson, former Phoenix Suns point guard, is in trouble with the Corporation for National and Community Service.

According to the LA Times, the Corporation is suspending funding for St. HOPE Academy’s Neighborhood Corps pending allegations that its AmeriCorps members have been instructed to take part in  activities outside the scope of the program’s contract with the Corporation. Johnson founded the organization 19 years ago, and stepped down as CEO in June to devote energy to his mayoral campaign.

The LA Times reports that Johnson allegedly enlisted AmeriCorps members to wash his car and drive him to appointments, among other menial tasks that AmeriCorps members are not only not funded to do, but are usually annoyed when asked to do.

An AmeriCorps member is similar to a human resource grant, and as with a monetary grant, must be engaged according to the grant’s guidelines. When organizations write a grant proposal to request funding for AmeriCorps members, they must spell out clearly what the members will spend their time doing. The Corporation also has very specific focus areas that it funds, such as mobilizing volunteers, and bringing postive changes to the lives of children and youth through mentoring and tutoring.

(Further, all AmeriCorps members are prohibited from providing direct benefit to a partisan political organization, attempting to influence legislation, organizing or engaging in protests, participating in union organizing, and other things.)

Occasionally, an AmeriCorps member’s supervisor or colleague doesn’t understand the restrictions of a member’s service. In these cases, members (or AmeriCorps program staff) have to clarify these boundaries with the agencies they serve with and for. A classic example is an officemate who asks an AmeriCorps member to make photocopies for projects unrelated to the member’s service.

Usually the request is made innocently enough, because the staff member isn’t educated about the perameters of AmeriCorps service.

But it’s a tough position for the AmeriCorps member to be in, because they often like and respect their colleagues, want a good reference from the host agency, and want to be a team player.

Johnson, who has won awards for his community service achievements, is running for mayor in Sacramento, his hometown.

Neighborhood (or Hood) Corps’ mission is to empower youth and to “recruit, train and mobilize young adults to become civic leaders committed to revitalizing inner-city communities” as an alternative to gang participation. Despite the controversy, it is an example of a program that transforms the lives of the AmeriCorps members as much as it transforms the lives of its clients.

11/05/08 Update: Kevin Johnson won the Sacramento mayoral race.

Eight Years Out: the Public Impact of AmeriCorps Service

An Careers Podcast conversation with CNCS’s Bob Grimm

Solid evidence now exists to show that participating in a term of service program (like AmeriCorps, Teach For America, and Peace Corps) really is an effective launching-off point for a public service career.  Idealist has long held this belief, and has been formalizing its support of these programs since 2007.

Earlier this year the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) published an eight-year longitudinal study of people who participated in AmeriCorps programs in 1999-2000, as well as of people who considered participating but chose not to during the same year. It turns out that two-thirds of AmeriCorps alumni (including AmeriCorps*NCCC alumni) from that year are currently engaged in nonprofit or government careers — outnumbering the group who didn’t participate in AmeriCorps.
Click here to download. (0:30:27)

Today’s guest is Bob Grimm, Director of Research and Policy Development & Senior Counselor to the CEO at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in Washington, DC. He speaks with’s Amy Potthast about the study design and outcomes, and about some of the people who have served in AmeriCorps.

Are you a service corps alumni now engaged in a public service career? What do you do? Where do you work? We’d love to hear more!


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