Community Shares Stories of Priceless AmeriCorps Service at the Northwest Service Academy Luncheon

A gathering to celebrate Northwest Service Academy.

Monday, 50 members of the extended Northwest Service Academy community gathered at the Lower Columbia Center here in Portland to share stories of the remarkable impact NWSA has had in the community and in their own lives. The gathering felt like a celebration and, frankly, a closing of sorts.

Last month the Corporation for National and Community Service declined NWSA’s proposal for continued funding, and we still aren’t sure why. The organization has been operating an environmentally-focused AmeriCorps program for 16 years that has brought together a who’s who of sustainability organizations, people, and projects in a region renowned for its environmental values. NWSA AmeriCorps members have built countless and far-reaching social and environmental programs.

Unfortunately, the guest of honor for the occasion Ruth Lampie, the program officer from the Corporation for National and Community Service, had arrived in town for her site visit but was too busy preparing for her site visit to attend the summer BBQ in her honor during the lunch hour. The announcement came about 30 minutes into the scheduled luncheon.

Among the speakers at Monday’s event were Idealist’s first Portland intern Bob Potter, Kathy Dang a program manager at Oregon Tilth — the organics certifier — and Katy Kolker, executive director of the Portland Fruit Tree Project which she launched as an NWSA member several years ago.

Without complaining, the gathered community went on with sharing stories and celebrating the remarkable accomplishments of NWSA.

Here are summaries of the stories community members shared:

Bob Potter, NWSA Alum

An NWSA alum, and Idealist’s first Portland office intern Bob Potter spoke.  Bob is the Assistant Director of Operations for the Cascadia Region Green Building Council. As an NWSA corps member several years ago, Bob served two terms, first as a field team member working with an at-risk youth group in Clackamas County and secondly as the volunteer programs coordinator for The ReBuilding Center, a reuse/reclaim program at Our Continue reading

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Interview with the New Team: Inner City Teaching Corps of Chicago Corps Members Begin a New Year

New volunteer teaching corps members of the Inner City Teaching Corps of Chicago.

On June 10th, 15 recent college graduates moved to Chicago to begin their service with the Inner-City Teaching Corps’s Volunteer Teaching Corps. ICTC Recruitment Director Jim Conti contributed this post introducing the newest members of one of ICTC’s communities.

They came from across the country, and from universities like Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, and Georgetown University. They moved in to two communities located on Chicago’s South and West sides and began their training as teachers at Northwestern University, including practice teaching at summer schools throughout the city.

One of these communities is located at Our Lady of Charity School and Parish.

Here, seven teachers have taken up residence. The converted convent now offers living and work space for the residents in their beginning days as teachers.

Tracey, Tim, Brit, Katie, Saul, Ty, and Andrea share cooking and cleaning responsibilities, organize commutes in their three cars, and are beginning to get to know each other. To understand a little bit better what their lives are like as they begin their time with ICTC, I spend an evening with these seven teachers.

After a dinner consisting of four different kinds of quesadillas, rice, beans, and dessert, Tracey, Brit, and Ty sit down to share some of their thoughts on their summer so far.

What do you do on a typical evening this summer? Continue reading

Elected Officials Come to the Aid of Northwest Service Academy

In early June, one of the most vibrant AmeriCorps programs operating in the Pacific Northwest — Northwest Service Academy (NWSA) — was notified that its latest funding request to the Corporation for National and Community Service was denied, with no warning and no explanation — after 16 years of achieving its performance goals, and establishing itself as one of the country’s top AmeriCorps programs addressing critical environmental and related social issues.

Last week, nine members of the US House and Senate representing both political parties sent a letter to Patrick Corvington, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service.  Six of seven members of the Oregon Delegation signed the letter, along with Congressmen & Senators from Idaho.

They wrote:

“To dispel any notion that CNCS uses an arbitrary and capricious evaluation process, we respectfully request that you consider NWSA’s application for funding in this year’s cycle.”

Read their letter of support:

(Read more…)

The Corporation for National and Community Service has notified members of the Congressional delegation that it is crafting a response to the letter.

As part of a previously scheduled site visit, Northwest Service Academy’s program officer from the Corporation for National and Community Service Ruth Lampie will visit NWSA’s offices in Portland tomorrow for a lunch gathering in which NWSA supporters are encouraged to attend and share the impact of NWSA.

Will Ms. Lampie’s visit have any meaningful impact? If CNCS funds aren’t reinstated, the Lower Columbia Center — NWSA’s Portland home — will be shut down and all but staffers laid off as of August 31.What are the chances for funding coming through at this point? — a year when CNCS has said no funding decision appeals are possible.

On a final note, and possibly the only good news, is that 25 NWSA members will still be in service during the coming through a partnership with the social services agency Impact Northwest and  AmeriCorps funding distributed locally through the Oregon Volunteers State Commission on Voluntary Action and Service.

In order to operate the much-smaller team of AmeriCorps members, NWSA will be looking for office space. Here’s the announcement from director Ernie Guerrero:

We will need space for our field teams after August 31st.  This will mean space for two teams to meet in the morning and at the end of the day, and a place where two SUVs and 12’ tool trailers can be parked overnight, and space for three staff to work (Cara, Suzi, and the Impact Northwest Program Coordinator). If you have any space available, or any leads, please contact myself (503-234-2383 ext. 109 or  Ernie.Guerrero [at] esd112.org) or Suzi Cloutier (503-234-2383 ext. 103, or Suzi.Cloutier [at] esd112.org).

Service Nation Asks: How Do You Find Volunteer Opportunities?

Be The Change, Inc. — the folks behind the Service Nation movement to grow funding and support for service opportunities — have launched a survey to ask you how you find volunteer opportunities.

A  Service Nation blog post explains:

In the next month, we are launching a project that we are calling ServiceCensus. The ServiceCensus project aims to increase the number of volunteer opportunity postings available online.

Before we launch the ServiceCensus full-scale, we need to do our homework. The intern team has been running a Pre-Census outreach effort in the Boston area and connecting with organizations in the area to find out how they use online resource to connect with volunteers. So far we’ve received some great insight from these organizations! The idea is to take this knowledge and try to help improve awareness of the range of available opportunities as well as to improve the volunteer search experience.

But now we need your help ServiceNation! We need to hear the other side of the story from volunteers like YOU. Continue reading

Global Conference on National Youth Service Offers a Unique Opportunity for Youth Service Practitioners and Policymakers Worldwide

On October 25-28, 2010, the International Association for National Youth Service (IANYS) will convene youth civic engagement professionals for the 9th Global Conference on National Youth Service in Alexandria, Egypt. (Registration is now open. Click here to register!)

The 2010 Global Conference is organized by IANYS Secretariat – Innovations in Civic Participation (ICP) – in partnership with the Library of Alexandria and the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy and Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo.

It is an exciting opportunity for professionals in the field of youth development to come together to exchange knowledge and discuss current developments with other policymakers, practitioners and researchers.  Participants will include professionals in the field of youth civic engagement from across the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region and from around the world.

The 9th Global Conference on National Youth Service will draw considerable attention to the importance of youth engagement throughout the world, with tremendous benefits for youth community engagement efforts. It will provide a significant opportunity for increased networking and collaboration among youth service stakeholders from different countries globally.

Participants at the 8th Global Conference in Paris

The conference will also enable youth policy practitioners to learn from other professionals, ranging from those working in well-established and successful programs to those just beginning to consider the potential of youth service.

The 9th Global Conference will take place over the course of three and a half days and will include a special multi-session track on the connection between youth service and employability; a track for policymakers and others interested in National Youth Service policy development; and sessions to explore other theoretical and practical themes of service, such as peace building and post-conflict reconstruction, service and technology, impact evaluation, private sector funding for youth service and more.

This programming will provide participants with the chance to hear perspectives related programs and policies at all stages of development and will also provide important insight into how successful youth service programs benefit all young people and communities. More information, including the preliminary conference agenda, can be found at www.icicp.org/ianys

The last conference in Paris in 2008 saw the largest single gathering of participants and the most diverse representation of countries in IANYS history, with more than 120 participants from approximately 40 countries attending.  Given this growing interest in youth civic engagement globally, IANYS expects a similar level of participation at this year’s conference in Egypt.

As today’s youth population is the largest in history making the transition to adulthood, coupled with the significant challenges facing the world today, it is vital that we tap into this valuable resource in every nation around the world. Through this conference, participants will help advance youth service as a strategy across the world by contributing ideas, knowledge and experience.

New Libraray in Alexandria, Egypt

The location for the IANYS 9th Global Conference, the new Library of Alexandria, is a state of the art establishment in Alexandria, Egypt, with a library that holds millions of books, four museums, four art galleries, a planetarium, nine permanent exhibitions, eight academic research centers and more! The city of Alexandria, known as “the Pearl of the Mediterranean”, is equally captivating, with its abundant historical landmarks, multi-periodic architecture, limitless antiquities and stunning Mediterranean Sea coastline.

Community Launches Letter-Writing Campaign to Demand an Apeal on the NW Service Academy Decision

About a month ago, one of the most vibrant AmeriCorps programs operating in the Pacific Northwest — Northwest Service Academy (NWSA) — was notified that its latest funding request to the Corporation for National and Community Service was denied, with no warning and no explanation — after 16 years of achieving its performance goals, and establishing itself as one of the country’s top AmeriCorps programs addressing critical environmental and related social issues.

Over half the AmeriCorps members serving in the state of Oregon this past year have been members of NWSA.

CNCS’s denial of funding for the program brings up many questions for the local community as well as for national service communities as a whole:

• What does the NWSA funding denial mean for other AmeriCorps programs that are operating in good faith to achieve what’s needed for local communities and for members? There is never a guarantee for continued AmeriCorps funding, but shouldn’t the Corporation respect local program efforts enough to have a conversation about terminating funding for well-established programs? (NWSA has been working hard for 16 years to develop high-quality AmeriCorps programming.)

• Do local and regional programs need to start hiring lobbyists to ensure a fair hearing when funding decisions are being made?

• Why can’t programs denied funding this year appeal CNCS’s decision?

• Is AmeriCorps truly a public-private partnership, when the local organizations, agencies, and schools that provide matching funds to host NWSA AmeriCorps members aren’t offered any kind of cogent explanation for why they can’t host a member this coming year after all?

• NWSA can reapply for funding in 2011. But what will its staff do till then? Will experienced staff have gone on to find jobs elsewhere as a matter of necessity — and if so, what does that mean for future NWSA funding proposals, and AmeriCorps teams?

• What can NWSA supporters do to express their anger and confusion, and to be heard by people who can help?

To this last question, Laura Guderyahn, an Oregon-based former NWSA corps member wrote an email to the community last week urging people to take part in a letter-writing campaign letting the right government leaders understand the impact of losing NWSA:

The focus of the campaign is to demand that the appeals process be re-instated, so that NWSA can appeal the funding rejection.

Laura writes:

In an effort to make sure that letters are most effective and that they are getting to the people that need to see them, here are a couple of guidelines:

  • Make it personal – describe exactly what NWSA members have been able to do for your organization (building capacity, providing services, reaching out to people that your organization otherwise wouldn’t have been able to reach) and what their loss will mean in terms of loss of service, loss of momentum and loss of energy, even if only for one year.
  • Focus the message in your letters towards requesting/supporting an appeal.  It is still unclear what the official/unofficial appeals process is and if enough people request that the NWSA application get a second look, we just might get a second chance.
  • If possible and appropriate, consider sending a petition around your organization or to the citizens that will no longer be educated/reached out to by AmeriCorps members.  This may allow people that might not be able to write a full letter, still get their feelings known.  If you have school groups that are usually taught by members, consider having the kids all sign a petition to keep NWSA members at their schools. Attach this petition to the letter(s) you write.
  • Do not send or address letters to NWSA – NWSA cannot forward any letters on to those that they need to get to, as this would be seen as them advocating for themselves.  If you did send or address a letter to NWSA, please consider sending another one to the folks listed below – these are the folks that need to receive your letters.  If possible, please send a letter to each of them.

NWSA, which can’t advocate for itself, has made it clear what the impact will be on Oregon and Southwest Washington communities to not get the AmeriCorps members they were expecting — organizations will struggle to find other means of supporting their work in a poor economy, and with an anticipated 9 percent cut in the Oregon state budget.

While NWSA is investigating other means of support and other program designs that don’t require federal dollars, the sudden funding decision and the lack of communication from CNCS is heart-breaking for local fans of national service, including NWSA, its members and partners. State sources of AmeriCorps funding look promising in Oregon and Washington (for example, NWSA is partnering with Impact Northwest, an AmeriCorps State program, to fund 26 members starting this fall).

Search Healthcare.gov for Transitional Health Coverage When Your Term of Service Ends

Your transition to next steps just got ever so slightly easier with the launch of a new government site that demystifies the new health care law.

When your term of service ends, you’ll have many things to figure out including things like job search, maybe a move to a new place, and health insurance — and how to afford it all with little savings from your stipend.

At least one piece of the transition just got a little easier.

Healthcare.gov launched this past week, giving you a place to start when you are looking for public or private health insurance options in your community (click on the “Find Insurance Options” tab) — you can also use the site to help out clients of your service site.

When I wrote Service Corps to Social Impact Career last year, I struggled with a section on finding health coverage during the transition — and wished for a website like Healthcare.gov that was easy to use, localized, and allowed graduating service corps participants to search for their options.

On Healthcare.gov’s Insurance Options Finder, you answer a few questions about yourself, such as which state you live in, your reason for needing insurance, whether you have trouble affording health insurance, and your age range. (Note, you don’t have to create a login, or in any other way identify yourself, so there should be few if any privacy concerns in answering these questions.)

After clicking on your answers, the site offers several options for you to investigate, including a listing of health insurance plans available in your area. (Unfortunately price comparisons won’t be available till this October.)

In another section of the site you can see how your state is implementing the new Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plan (“to make health coverage available to you if you have been denied health insurance by private insurance companies because of a pre-existing condition”). So if you’re worried about getting insurance because of a condition that’s been diagnosed already, you may have reason to hope!

You can also learn more about the new health care law (the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act), passed in March, including a chronology of when the different provisions will take affect, and an interactive timeline of “what changes when.” And you can read the “Patients’s Bill of Rights.”

Finally other sections focus on prevention of health problems, and a tool that lets you compare health care facilities in your area on a range of different criteria including patient surveys.

Have you tried using Healthcare.gov? How has it worked for you? Have you gotten help for you or a client of your organization through using the tools?