Service Nation launches Mission Serve to Strengthen and Create Civilian-Military Service Partnerships

Michelle Obama and Jill Biden help kick off the Veteran’s Day launch of the new Service Nation initiative Mission Serve.

Today we pause to think of our veterans who have served our country in the Service. In honor of Veteran’s Day, Service Nation — the campaign to expand service opportunities — launches a new initiative, Mission Serve, to connect civilians and the military community in service.

Service Nation aims to strengthen the bonds between the military and civilian service worlds — two overlapping Continue reading

Youth Service is a Powerful Strategy for Youth Employment

Reports from the US and many other regions in the world continue to show that young people are bearing the brunt of the recession.

In the US, the Center for American Progress reports that minority workers, teens and less-educated workers have unemployment rates far above the national average. The latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in July 2008, 3.4 million young people in the United States were unemployed representing a youth unemployment rate of 14 percent, the highest rate recorded for July since 1992.

According to the National Youth Employment Council, “an unprecedented “age twist” in employment rates occurred in the US over the past 8 years with older workers (55+) improving their employment rates strongly while teens and 20-24 year old males reached new post-World War II lows.”

This trend is true in many parts of the developing and developed world. In several countries, young people represent the largest cohort in society yet experience some of the lowest employment rates.

The Middle East/North Africa region has an unemployment rate near 15 percent, the highest of any region in the world. Young people in the region experience even greater unemployment with average rates of 25 percent, far exceeding the world Continue reading

Really? Another year?: Committing to Another Term of Service

This post was contributed by Kate Borman who is currently serving her second AmeriCorps VISTA term with ThreeSixty Journalism, a youth journalism program based at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN.

Most people are shocked to hear that I chose to serve a second term as an AmeriCorps VISTA member. While the decision to serve an additional year may not have been the easiest choice (thoughts of actually receiving an income prodded my mind constantly) it was equally responsible and wise. Sure the dwindling job market and suffering economy played a tremendous role in my decision – especially after several job interviews resulting in a job offered to someone who had three times my experience. But I made my decision based on richer reasons that have little to do with money.

  1. Long-term investment. Serving a second year means an additional education award, which means I can either use it for future school or to pay off loans. A year or two of service partially funds at least four years of school. Not to even mention the loan forbearance and paid interest. Talk about a steady ROI for such a short period of time.
  2. Professional development opportunities. What other job do you know that allots each of its employees at least $150 in training opportunities before they have even established a year at the organization? Very few to none. AmeriCorps VISTA encourages all of its members to seek out professional development opportunities and even pays for us to do so.
  3. Passion for the work. I consider myself lucky to serve with AmeriCorps simply because I love working with social service organizations and intend to stay in this field of work in the future. By committing to a second term with a different nonprofit, I am widening my perspectives about the operational and organizational structure of nonprofits.
  4. Career building and networking. Since I intend to continue working in nonprofits after my term of service, I am seeking out every opportunity to network and build my career. I was just getting my feet wet and establishing my position in my first term. Now I consciously network and build relationships with other professionals as an effort to best position and market myself for the future. Also, if anything, serving two terms with AmeriCorps only increases my chances as being taken seriously as a devoted nonprofit employee.
  5. Proving myself wrong. My first year of service is what many call a character-building year. For the most part, I did not enjoy my year much, and often felt the VISTAs in my office were being used as cheap labor. I figured this could not possibly be the case for all organizations, and was determined to prove myself wrong by making my second term much better than the first.

I understand that most do not choose to serve a second term for many reasons. However, even on my worst days, I am glad I took the plunge again. On those days, I remind myself that a year is a short commitment and, if anything, this is a huge learning experience from which I will walk away as a stronger, more educated and informed citizen.


For more related articles, see also:

Please Pay Attention to the People Behind the Curtain

Think about what it takes to change the world. Now think about all the people involved. I’m not talking about the global leaders here—after all, we’re all familiar with extraordinary figures like Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa—but rather those who contribute behind the scenes, who change the world for the better outside the spotlight’s glare.

For every global leader, there are millions of individuals working, volunteering, and generally doing their part to foster healthy citizens and communities the world over. One such oft behind-the-scenes role that deserves a shout-out today? Volunteer resource managers.

If you’ve had a great volunteer experience somewhere—a role or project where you felt engaged in meaningful work, Continue reading

“The Way We Get By” Film to Air on PBS and Online Next Week

A new film shares the story of an community of service in Maine.

On Veteran’s Day, The Way We Get By — a new documentary about senior volunteers who staff a welcome center in the airport at Bangor, Maine, to receive returning military folks — will premiere on PBS stations as part of POV, “documentaries with a point of view.” (Check the broadcast schedule.)

From the show’s synopsis:

On call 24 hours a day for the past five years, a group of senior citizens has made history by greeting over 900,000 American troops at a tiny airport in Bangor, Maine. The Way We Get By is an intimate look at three of these greeters as they confront the universal losses that come with aging and rediscover their reason for living. Bill Knight, Jerry Mundy and Joan Gaudet find the strength to overcome their personal battles and transform their lives through service. This inspirational and surprising story shatters the stereotypes of today’s senior citizens as the greeters redefine the meaning of community.

Participants of the Conference on Volunteering and Service in June 2009 were invited to a preview of the film, but now anyone with a television or internet connection (Nov. 12 through Dec. 12, the film will stream online) will be able to view the film.

Here are other ways to share the film’s message in your community:

Chronicle of Philanthropy Announces VolunTV Contest Finalists

Nov. 4th Update: A submission based on the t.v. show 30 Rock won the competition, with prize money to benefit Quality Services for the Autism Community, a New York nonprofit. Read more here:

The entry was submitted by Joe Moran, assistant director of multimedia development at the autism group, who created a video showing how 30 Rock could highlight the organization’s work in one of its episodes. The plot twist involves a cast member’s confusion over the words “artistic” and “autistic.”

And check out his submission:

This month, the Chronicle of Philanthropy has sponsored a contest for people to produce scripts of their favorite television shows with plot themes that incorporate volunteerism.

Finalists, announced recently, submitted scripts and video for shows like Bones, House, two submissions for Two and a Half Men, a couple for 30 Rock, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Glee and at least a couple inspired by The Office (and here). (See all the submitted ideas and the nonprofits that will receive the prize money here.)

VolunTV contest judges include people like Ashley Judd and Nigel Barker  from the entertainment industry as well as leaders in our sector like volunteer resource management guru Susan Ellis, social media mavens Beth Kanter and NTEN‘s Holly Ross, and blogger and podcaster Rosetta Thurman.

Contest prizes and categories include:

  • $5,000 Grand Prize: The most creative pitch, script, or scene that best incorporates volunteerism
  • — written or video — into a TV show.
  • $2,500 Silver Prize (Text): A written pitch/script that effectively incorporates volunteerism into a TV show.
  • $2,500 Silver Prize (Video): A video pitch/scene that effectively incorporates volunteerism into a TV show.

Recently the Entertainment Industry Foundation and partners piloted the iParticipate campaign, in which t.v. shows actually mentioned volunteerism, or at least offered public service announcements in support of the iParticipate campaign.

Quitting Early? Some Dos, Don’ts, and To-Dos

You haven’t really participated in a term of service until you one day think to yourself, “You know, I could just quit. I could make more money at Subway, plus get free sandwiches and “burnt” cookies. What am I doing with my life?!”

I can think back to conversations with my dad when I first started. He told me that it’d be smart to keep looking for “real” jobs while in AmeriCorps VISTA and not to worry about ending my term early. He said it’d make sense to take another offer, economically, since anything else would likely pay more than $210/week.

I reminded him that I’d be forfeiting the $4725 education stipend and the forbearance benefit, and that my healthcare at a new place might not be as good as the VISTA benefits. I also reminded him that it doesn’t look good to only have worked at an organization for a few months, not to mention those few months were my only post-degree experience.

So I never applied for jobs while a VISTA with the intention to end my term early.  I’ve certainly been tempted and browsed open positions.  But I know others who have applied for jobs, and still others who have left their term of service early for another situation.

I don’t know how many service corps participants leave early or try to leave early, but I do know there are many reasons given for doing it or trying to end early:

  • The stipend is too little for me and my family.
  • I don’t have enough to do/I don’t feel like I’m making a difference/I don’t agree with my program/I don’t get along with my supervisor.
  • A family member (or self) has a medical emergency/condition that prevents me from working.
  • I was on an acceptance waitlist and just got accepted to grad school.
  • I have no real interest in doing anything related to this in the future, I took the job as a stepping-stone because the market was awful.
  • The way the site the position was presented, there was lots of work to do, but I completed everything within the first (insert period of time).
  • I thought I could have a part-time job or go to school while doing the term of service, but that’s not true according to my program’s guidelines (like AmeriCorps VISTA, or NCCC).

Some can be solved, others are not as flexible; some could’ve been forseen, and others emerge after time.

If you do choose to look for other jobs, please please please be professional (yes, I have seen most of these happen):

  • Don’t apply for open positions at your site or host organization.
  • Don’t use your site’s/organization’s fax/email/phones to communicate with potential future employers, send out resumes, and complete applications.
  • Don’t apply for other jobs while at your site, using your site’s computer, on your site’s time.
  • Don’t talk to other corps members or staff about applying for other jobs.
  • You get 10 sick/10 vacation days if you’re a VISTA (you get them in other programs too). Use these for interviews instead of coming in dressed differently than normal.


Thinking of leaving? Applying for other jobs?

See if there are things you can be doing differently to make the current service experience a better one. Meet with your project supervisor or manager. If that doesn’t leave you happy, meet with your site supervisor. Still not happy? Meet with your service corps team leader or a staff member at the organization that placed you (the Corporation for National and Community Service state office, for example, or your specific service corps). Be open to hearing others’ observations about yourself. You may have to face some hard truths about your own work style and readiness for the workplace.

Re-evaluate your plan for what you want out of your term of service. Re-evaluate whether you are taking care of yourself or burning yourself out. Take time off to have a life, re-connect with hobbies, friends, and family. You may just be stressed out.

Most importantly, if you choose to leave don’t do it in a bad way. Don’t burn your bridges. If you choose not to leave, don’t think you’ll stick it out but make everyone else around you as miserable as you are. You may not consciously think to make everyone around you painfully aware of your unhappiness, but that’s how it comes off.   It’s hard to pretend you’re happy. But it’s also hard to make these decisions on your own and without first talking to a trusted non-work friend or adviser, and then your supervisor.

I also found this post from March on the site, which tries to filter people out to begin with.


Service Corps to Social Impact Career — a free career transitions guide from Idealist for service corps participants — offers specific career-related advice for people who who have terminated their term of service early, or who are considering it, including how to talk about early termination in a future job application (see Part Two).

The same book also offers basic work-related skills to build during your term, that might save you from needing to terminate early (see Part One).