Sargent Shriver, 1915-2011

I was so sad yesterday when my husband let me know that Sargent Shriver had passed away. Shriver has been one of my

Sargent Shriver, from SargentShriver.org

personal heroes, representing to me boundless energy, open mindedness, and voracious intellectual curiosity.

In addition to his creativity in leadership, and his passion for his varied work (which varied greatly — from working in the Navy to managing buildings to heading up exciting government agencies), Sarge impressed me because of his ability to combine public service with family life.

He and his wife Mrs. Eunice Kennedy Shriver maintained a robust family life while creating innovative programs that have made a lasting impact here and abroad. As the mother of two little kids (and the grandchild of a dyed-in-the-wool public servant), I’m learning to juggle family, service, work, and life, and I have been deeply moved and inspired by the example of the Shrivers and want to pass that example onto my children.

Here are the thoughts of Pete Hessler, a writer who was another Peace Corps Volunteer in China, about his impressions of Sarge, printed on The New Yorker site.

And to the Shriver family, I’m so sorry.

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Blue Engine Accelerates Academic Achievement in High Need High Schools – and it’s Recruiting Now!

Guest post by Alison Fedyna, Blue Engine 2010-2011 Fellow, teaches individualized algebra instruction to a small group of high schoolers daily in New York City. Blue Engine is currently accepting applications for its 2011-2012 year.

A few months ago I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I was a recent college graduate on the verge of unemployment, and spent most of my free time obsessively browsing Idealist.org for socially-conscious job opportunities.  Sound familiar?

Alison Fedyna, Blue Engine Fellow

Now, I am in a classroom, looking up at the group of five students that I am working with today. I see four students smiling up at me, thumbs raised to show me they understood the lesson our lead teacher just taught.

I glance over at my fifth student, who is bashfully looking down into his lap. His thumb is pointed down, and is barely visible underneath his other hand that is trying to hide his difficult admission: I’m lost.

As I was rushing back and forth from the one side of the table to the other, trying to keep both the students who were ready to move on with the lesson and the student who needed some remedial work intellectually engaged, I realized something.

If this learning disparity is keeping me this busy with just five kids, how could a teacher with a classroom of 30 possibly do this on his or her own?

It’s simple. She couldn’t. This is how students fall through the cracks. They have learned to just smile and nod and pretend that everything is fine, when in reality they might be completely confused. When a teacher has behavioral issues to deal with, and students are calling for help in ten different directions, the student with his head down who appears to be working diligently is left alone. No one checks to see if he has done the work correctly and no one notices anything is wrong until an alarming test or quiz score shows up. But by then, it is too late.

This is where Blue Engine comes in.

Blue Engine is a new education non-profit based in New York City. Eleven other recent graduates and I are engaging in a year of service as Blue Engine Fellows, working as full-time teaching assistants in a public school.  We conduct small group tutorials alongside experienced classroom teachers, helping entire grade levels of students, from those who need extra help to those who can be pushed to excel, make dramatic progress in core coursework and become prepared for college.

I joined Blue Engine to help students, students just like the ones I was working with today, succeed.  Even though life as a Blue Engine Fellow can be crazy at times, I have the amazing opportunity to see my students growing in both their academic and personal endeavors each and every day.

It is that daily feeling of impact, that wonderful realization that our students are steadily increasing their academic achievement that for me makes all of the effort completely worth it.

It is the end of class, and again I ask the students in my group how they feel about the material we learned today. I glance at the student sitting farthest away from me, and I smile when I see his thumb proudly pointing up for everyone to see.  A few months ago, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. Now, it is moments like this that make me realize I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

To find out more about becoming a Blue Engine Fellow, check out our website or contact us at admissions@blueengine.org.

Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. with a day on, not a day off

featuredThis coming Monday, January 17th, is the 25th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day — a national day of service in the United States. Where will you volunteer your energy and time?

People across the country are kicking off the new year by creating, joining, or reporting on MLK Day service projects in their communities:

Every year I try take part in a service project. This Monday, my family is going to carry out our second annual DIY project Continue reading

ServeNext.org is now accepting applications for its 2011 Field Program

Patti Kurtz, 2010 ServeNext Field Organizer

ServeNext.org is now accepting applications for its 2011 Field Program, placing part-time organizers throughout the country to help build networks of service supporters and stakeholders and to advocate for Federal support of service.

To give potential applicants a first hand perspective on what it’s like to be a ServeNext Organizer, 2010 Organizer Patti Kurtz shares her experience.

I applied to be a ServeNext Organizer because…
Patti: I had an amazing year in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, and I wanted to make sure opportunities like this exist for other people as well.  After my year in service, I moved to Chicago and got a job in advertising with a private company.  While I love my job, I also wanted to Continue reading