Notre Dame AmeriCorps

picture-33In the world of national service, spring and early summer is prime time to apply for open positions—most of which will start this fall. In the coming weeks, The New Service blog will bring you details about a variety of programs that are currently recruiting. To find more program introductions, also check out the “Service Corps Programs” category in the pull down menu in the left-hand sidebar of this blog.

My alma mater, Notre Dame AmeriCorps, offers AmeriCorps opportunities in 16 areas throughout the United States. The program also offers eight placements mentoring kids through the Children of Incarcerated Parents (CHIP) program.

Founded and operated by Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Notre Dame AmeriCorps places corps members in schools, after-school programs, community centers, and other organizations that educate children and adults in economically disadvantaged communities.

Corps members tutor children and adults (literacy, GED, and ESL), organize after-school enrichment activities, model and teach conflict resolution and parental effectiveness, and involve community professionals in the learning process.

I served in the program from 2000-01, in a Lowell, MA-based community center for Asian refugees and immigrant adults. My students worked hard every day to master the English language even though many of them also juggled family responsibilities, and worked full-time (second or even third shift). They not only taught me about their different cultures (my students were from Laos, Cambodia, China, South Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand) but also their personal histories (many of them escaped the Khmer Rouge as children, and suffered the loss of parents and siblings at a young age, and grew up in refugee camps). In turn, I helped them build their English writing, vocabulary, and grammar skills, and taught a class on citizenship for students studying for their exams.

My husband is also an alum of NDA (in fact, it’s how we met). He served in public schools in Cincinnati, OH, and Redwood picture-13City, CA, focusing on literacy, parental involvement, and mentoring kids. His two-year term led directly to his decision to return to school to become a teacher, and his years in the classroom as an AmeriCorps member significantly increased his competence in grad school and during his first years of teaching.

I was very lucky last month to have been invited to attend the Mid-Year Training for this year’s AmeriCorps members and program directors. At the training conference, I witnessed the zeal of members who feel very connected to their host organizations and their service. The NDA corps is among the most diverse I’ve ever seen — age, race, language, education, faith. But one thing corps members and staff all have in common seems to be love for the kids and families they serve.

A full term of service in NDA is 11 months and 1700 hours. Members earn a basic living stipend ($11K for the year), the Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, student loan forbearance, child care benefits, and optional health coverage. They also receive professional development training and peer support; in some cities members can choose to live in community with others in the corps.

Learn more about the program’s requirements, and how to apply.

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