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.

Youth Civic Participation in Action: New publication highlights global momentum for youth civic participation across the world

Innovations in Civic Participation recently released a new publication providing brief snapshots of youth civic engagement programs and policies in 101 countries spanning six continents.

The report, Youth Civic Participation in Action: Meeting Community and Youth Development Needs Worldwide, builds on information ICP has gathered over the years from previous participants of the International Association for National Youth Service global conferences, from partners throughout the world and as part of various ICP projects.  The snapshots are not intended to be comprehensive, but instead provide a brief glimpse into how youth civic participation is taking shape in various countries.  The publication highlights the growing international movement in which more and more countries are supporting youth and community development by expanding youth civic participation opportunities.

Programs for civic participation can take many forms and work best when adapted to the needs and resources in the local community.  As a result, the snapshots in this publication describe programs ranging from intensive, highly-structured, government programs to infrequent volunteering with community-based organizations; from service-learning integrated into primary, secondary and university curricula to young people creating their own organizations to engage others in addressing issues that matter most to them.

This report demonstrates that young people worldwide are active in addressing the needs of their communities through service including medical students meeting health needs in rural areas in Latin America, young people supporting disaster relief efforts in Asia, service programs bolstering social services as an alternative to conscription in Europe, peer mentoring to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa and young people sparking grassroots campaigns for community development in the Middle East.

Throughout the world, young people are building their skills while meeting critical community needs through service. To learn more about these efforts, please browse through the snapshots on the publication website or view the full report. We will do our best to update the online space with new information as it becomes available. If you have news about youth civic participation programs or policies, please send it to me at Hammelman [at] icicp.org.

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

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.

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?