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).

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).

Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month Web Event: Diversity in Peace Corps

Diversity among Peace Corps Volunteer groups serving overseas is crucial to the success of the entire program — for many reasons. Peace Corps promotes person-to-person diplomacy, and aims to increase understanding among people of other countries about the United States. Without recruiting Volunteers who reflect the rich array of cultural and ethnic and racial heritages that make up U.S. communities, host country nationals in Peace Corps countries can’t begin to grasp the ways of life that exist here in the United States.

Tomorrow Peace Corps will highlight and celebrate the contributions of Asian and Pacific Americans in Peace Corps service. Last year, hundreds of Asian and Pacific Americans served as Peace Corps Volunteers, providing needed skill sets and services to Peace Corps host countries.

Returned Volunteer Mike Buff  — of South Korean descent — will host an online information session tomorrow Continue reading

Celebrating Women, Celebrating Civic Engagement: A message from Queen Rania of Jordan

Guest post by Talloires Network Intern Alissa Brower. Cross-posted from the Talloires Network blog.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, this article places a spotlight on one female leader who has had a great deal of influence on civic engagement in the Middle East. Recently, the John D. Gerhart Center for Philanthropy & Civic Engagement at the American University in Cairo hosted Jordan’s Queen Rania Al-Abdullah who spoke to students about their impact in society and the difference they can make in the larger community.

The objective of Queen Rania’s speech was to encourage students to realize the kind of difference they can make in society and take advantage of attending a university that provides support for civic engagement and community service.

Her majesty started her speech with a story that symbolizes where civic engagement and understanding can start. The story itself can be considered a celebration of women making a difference in the world, as it involves a young girl who wanted to change the living conditions of a less fortunate community. The story begins with Raghda visiting an elderly community outside of central Cairo. Raghda met a woman who invited the girl into her home. What Raghda saw when she Continue reading

Emerging Corps: Blue Engine’s Nick Ehrmann

Blue Engine's Nick Ehrmann

The New Service podcast show features a service program tackling the challenges of college completion for students from low income families. Blue Engine is now accepting applications for its 2010-11 corps.

In 2010, a new national service corps is getting off the ground. Blue Engine, based in New York City, aims to recruit a corps of about a dozen fellows for the 2010-2011 school year to facilitate daily, differentiated, small-group instruction for high school freshmen.

Our guest is Nick Ehrmann—Blue Engine’s engine and a Teach For America alum— who says that we know how to get high-needs kids into college, or getting them “college eligible” — nonprofits and schools have been targeting and tackling hurdles like high school completion, college admissions, and financial assistance.

But, while the high school drop-out problem is far from solved, groups are paying far less attention to college completion rates for high-needs kids, or “college readiness.”

Blue Engine aims to close the gap between college eligibility and college readiness.

After graduating from Northwestern University in 2000, Ehrmann began his career in education as a Teach for America corps member in Washington D.C. In 2002, he joined forces with local philanthropists to launch the nonprofit “I Have a Dream” Project 312, a youth development program for Nick’s fourth-grade students. In the fall of 2003, he began doctoral work in sociology at Princeton University as a William G. Bowen fellow.

Over the past three years, Nick spent months shadowing his former students in high school classrooms, living with their families, and conducting extensive interviews in the local community, where he has witnessed firsthand the negative effects of academic underperformance on the transition from high school to college. His dissertation—Yellow Brick Road—is scheduled for defense in the spring of 2010.

Idealist’s Amy Potthast talks with Nick about the Blue Engine fellowship, its application deadlines (March 10 and April 28, 2010); the gap between college eligibility and true college readiness; and why it’s crucial to expect more out of high schoolers in order to prepare them for high school and college success, and beyond.

Listen to the show here.

Happy Peace Corps Week 2010

This week — March 1st-7th — is Peace Corps Week 2010.

For Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, this is a time to share your experiences in your current community, in fulfillment of the Third Goal of Peace Corps, bringing the world back home:

For people considering Peace Corps service — in the next year or in their “next life” — it’s a prime time to check out a presentation from an RPCV.

Take a look at a new video explaining Peace Corps Week and introducing Peace Corps:

Are you a current, former, or prospective Peace Corps Volunteer? What are you doing for Peace Corps Week?

Put Your Heart (Health) First

Happy post-Valentine’s Day! On a daily basis, all of us combine our compassion, charity, and action to serve our communities and nation. I consider “service” one of the greatest sources of happiness. Nonetheless, one must fully take care of their well being before attempting to care for others’. For the month of February, focus attention on the centerpiece of your love, compassion, and health—your heart.

5 Heart-Health Tips

1. Chocolate, Wine, and Berries… The Darker the Better

  • Dark chocolate, unlike milk or white chocolate, contains high amounts of catechins, a heart healthy antioxidant. Aim for chocolate with 70% or higher cacao.
  • Red wine, in comparison to other alcoholic beverages, contains more flavonoids and antioxidants. Two 4-ounce glasses of Continue reading