Applying to U.S. grad schools from abroad

Are you a U.S. citizen working or volunteering abroad? Know someone who is?

Check out the newest article on‘s Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center: Applying to a U.S. Grad School as a U.S. Citizen Living Abroad.

The article offers considerations for working with your local mail system, finding test prep materials and taking tests, and finding good alternatives to the campus visit. grad fairs are not as useful if you can’t participate, however, you can and should check out the list of registered schools at some of the events (for example the 117 schools at this week’s San Francisco fair and or the 107 schools registered for the Los Angeles event).

Also note that Idealist is still looking for bloggers including current or former term-of-service participants (like Peace Corps and VSO volunteers), and people crossing borders to attend grad school.

Service Nation Day of Action Diary: Voter Registration

Can you feel the energy of service humming all around you? It might be the 2,720 + service projects happening across the 50 states today! Find one here!

I’m registering voters in my neighborhood in North Portland with a coalition of organizations including the Bus Project, NAACP, Urban League and AmeriCorps Alums Oregon.

Follow BeTheChangeInc on Twitter for more news as it happens at the Boston Day of Action event.

Register so you can vote on Nov. 4th!

Read Alan Khazei’s opinion piece in the Huffington Post on service.

Read the fabulous Kate Doyle’s Day of Action News Roundup.

What I learned from my volunteer experience: Registering voters is hard! I didn’t go door to door but stayed in the “downtown” areas of my neighborhood and that may have had an impact — I met a woman who registered far more people by going door-to-door. As with any state you have to get your registration in by a certain date, too — see the list of deadlines around the country.

Updating your registration after you move is crucial. In Oregon, for example, everyone votes by mail. (Your ballot won’t get to you if your address isn’t updated.)

Throughout the United States, under-represented on election day are people who are more mobile — like young people and people who rent apartments. The state of Ohio sparked controversy this summer when the media circulated a story that people who had lost their homes because of foreclosure would be ineligible to vote this fall due to change of address.

The Pew Center on the States puts it this way: “Participation data reveal clear patterns about who is most likely to vote and who isn’t. If you are old, white, educated and strongly rooted in your community, you are more likely to vote. If you are young, non-white, less educated and move frequently, you are less likely to vote.”

Another obstacle to 100 percent voter turnout can be requiring identification at the polling station, which apparently disenfranchise specific populations more than others.

Some tips I learned for registering voters include:

  • Familiarize yourself with the registration form for your state
  • Find out the registration deadline for your state
  • Know whether you can register others to vote in your state, and the deadline for turning in the registration forms you gather
  • Know who is eligible to vote in your state (what age?; also what about formerly incarcerated people?)
  • Pick a place with lots of foot traffic (you may have to ask permission)
  • Have a few clip boards and pens on hand
  • Approach groups (the voters among them can help pressure the nonvoters)
  • Stay nonpartisan
  • Ask everyone you see (don’t presume to know who is already registered by they way they dress, or by age), be friendly
  • Start by saying something like I’m registering voters today so they know you don’t need signatures on a petition

Here are some other tips for registering others to vote.

Join The League of Women Voters’ Registration Challenge. (You don’t have to be a woman.)

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.

Google’s “Project 10 to the 100th” Contest

To celebrate its 10th birthday, Google has launched a new Project 10100 contest. The text below has been copied from the project’s web site. Read the Spanish here.

May Those Who Help The Most Win

Why this project?

Never in history have so many people had so much information, so many tools at their disposal, so many ways of making good ideas come to life. Yet at the same time, so many people, of all walks of life, could use so much help, in both little ways and big.

In the midst of this, new studies are reinforcing the simple wisdom that beyond a certain very basic level of material wealth, the only thing that increases individual happiness over time is helping other people.

In other words, helping helps everybody, helper and helped alike.

The question is: what would help? And help most?

At Google, we don’t believe we have the answers, but we do believe the answers are out there. Maybe in a lab, or a company, or a university — but maybe not.

Maybe the answer that helps somebody is in your head, in something you’ve observed, some notion that you’ve been fiddling with, some small connection you’ve noticed, some old thing you have seen with new eyes.

If you have an idea that you believe would help somebody, we want to hear about it. We’re looking for ideas that help as many people as possible, in any way, and we’re committing the funding to launch them. You can submit your ideas and help vote on ideas from others. Final idea selections will be made by an advisory board.

Good luck, and may those who help the most win.

Category Descriptions

Here are the categories in which we’ll be considering ideas.

  • Community: How can we help connect people, build communities and protect unique cultures?
  • Opportunity: How can we help people better provide for themselves and their families?
  • Energy: How can we help move the world toward safe, clean, inexpensive energy?
  • Environment: How can we help promote a cleaner and more sustainable global ecosystem?
  • Health: How can we help individuals lead longer, healthier lives?
  • Education: How can we help more people get more access to better education?
  • Shelter: How can we help ensure that everyone has a safe place to live?
  • Everything else: Sometimes the best ideas don’t fit into any category at all.

How it works

Project 10100 (pronounced “Project 10 to the 100th”) is a call for ideas to change the world by helping as many people as possible. Here’s how to join in.

1. Send us your idea by October 20th.
Simply fill out the submission form giving us the gist of your idea. You can supplement your proposal with a 30-second video.

2. Voting on ideas begins on January 27th.
We’ll post a selection of one hundred ideas and ask you, the public, to choose twenty semi-finalists. Then an advisory board will select up to five final ideas. Send me a reminder to vote.

3. We’ll help bring these ideas to life.
We’re committing $10 million to implement these projects, and our goal is to help as many people as possible. So remember, money may provide a jumpstart, but the idea is the thing.

Good luck, and may those who help the most win.

Submit your idea here! Deadline: Oct. 20!

Support for LGBT Peace Corps Volunteers and applicants

Group of Returned Peace Corps Volunteers offers support to LGBT applicants, and help for Peace Corps recruiters, too.

Living two years in a developing country is rough — homesickness, language, culture, infrastructure, lack of creature comforts, etc. For people who are gay or lesbian, the experience can be even more challenging in cultures where same-sex relationships are hidden due to intolerance or fear of punishment.

So for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Peace Corps applicants, a lot of questions can arise that have tough answers. Questions like “Will I have to be celibate for two years?” or “How am I going to get myself back in the closet after working so hard to get out of it!?” And the mother of them all, “Can my partner and I serve together?”

In 1991 Mike Learned founded LGB RPCVs, one of many chapter groups affiliated with the National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) — the support and advocacy organization for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs).

Most NPCA chapter groups are based on the U.S. region where RPCVs live now — for example Boston Area Returned Peace Corps Volunteers— or else they are based on the country of service — for example Friends and RPCVs of Guyana.

LGB RPCVs is unique in that it unites returned Volunteers who served across the world, and who also now live across the globe. Its web site presents articles and Frequently Asked Questions for people considering Peace Corps service. The group also issues regular newsletters and features resources for Peace Corps staff to better understand policies that pertain to future Volunteers who are LGBT.

The Mentor Program — the groups’ “most successful outreach and recruitment project” — connects these future Volunteers with LGBT returned Volunteers in order to discuss life in Peace Corps.

Several years ago my friend Kate Kuykendall, then a Peace Corps recruiter, was interviewed for the LGB RPCV web site. In that interview she answers some of the questions posed above, and elaborates on the challenges of talking about the Peace Corps experience and sexual orientation with LGBT applicants.

Kate now works as a Peace Corps public affairs specialist for Peace Corps in Los Angeles and is a lesbian and a newlywed. I asked her if new state laws legalizing gay marriage affect the ability of gay couples to serve together in Peace Corps.

She said, “The recent changes to certain state marriage laws do not affect the Peace Corps’ policy of not placing [LGBT] couples together.  This is because, as a federal agency, the Peace Corps must abide by the federal definition of marriage, which is limited to the marriage between a man and woman.  The Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, is the law that prohibits any other interpretation of marriage.”

And for now at least unmarried couples cannot serve together in Peace Corps. Even siblings and other family members are turned down if they want a guarantee they’ll be posted to the same country, assignment, site, etc.

To find other groups of RPCVs, see the list on the National Peace Corps Association web site.