Blue Engine Launches this Week — a New Corps for NYC Schools

This week a new national service corps launches its website and application process. Blue Engine, based in New York City, aims to recruit a corps of about a dozen fellows to facilitate daily, differentiated, small-group instruction for high school freshmen.

Nick Ehrmann—Blue Engine’s engine and a Teach For America alum—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. Watch the video that explains:

A startling statistic: for every 100 kids from low-income families who make it into college, only 15 end up graduating Continue reading

Reinvigorating Peace Corps

Sprin 2009 cover

The Winter 2009/2010 WorldView Magazine — a quarterly publication of the National Peace Corps Association — came in the mail recently, and explores questions of how to reinvigorate Peace Corps to fulfill its potential.

The issue features results of a survey of 4,500+ Peace Corps community members: applicants, current Volunteers, and Returned Volunteers; how Peace Corps might focus on “strategic” countries and partner with other organizations; how Peace Corps might strengthen the Peace Corps Fellows USA program (in which partner universities offer funding, field experiences, and special consideration for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers); how Peace Corps can better fulfill its third goal of educating people in the United States about the wider world.

A couple articles to highlight:

• An interview with Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams:

Erica Burman, National Peace Corps Association’s communications director, interviewed new Peace Corps Director, and Continue reading

Calling All Applicants! Webinar on Getting into the Peace Corps!

All right, all you prospective Peace Corps applicants I’ve been talking with lately: here is your chance to get expert insider advice on how to ace your Peace Corps application.

Tomorrow, 12/19 at 10 am PST (1 pm EST), Kate Kuykendall — a former Peace Corps Volunteer and recruiter, who is now the Public Affairs Specialist in the Los Angeles Peace Corps regional recruitment office — is sharing her best advice on “Getting into the Peace Corps” via an online webinar.

Here’s the description:

With approximately one in three applicants entering Peace Corps service and the recent 18% increase in applications, applying to become a Peace Corps volunteer is more competitive than ever.

Please join us for a webinar that will suggest ways in which future and current candidates can strengthen their Peace Corps application. A staff member from the L.A. recruitment office will cover general application tips, as well as specific volunteer experiences or language study that will make your application more competitive.

Register here!

Are you attending? What do you want to know about the process?

Teachers College Announces a New Teacher Residency Program

Teachers College at Columbia University is launching a new program to help people earn an affordable master’s degree while apprenticing with experienced teachers in high-needs New York City classrooms.

Funded through a new U.S. Department of Education initiative to bring teacher education into the 21st century, the Teaching Residents at Teachers College (TR@TC) program is a 14-month graduate-level program.

Modeled after a medical residency, the new teaching residency at TC gives teaching students, or “residents,” the chance to implement ideas in a classroom setting, while receiving feedback and support from expert practitioners. Residents are simultaneously taking graduate level classes.

While other teaching residency programs also focus on bringing highly qualified, diverse people into the classroom as Continue reading

Congress is Considering Final Action to Appropriate $400M for Peace Corps

More Peace Corps may be in the stars — and the budget.

Yesterday evening, Jonathan Pearson of the National Peace Corps Association’s Advocacy Program announced that According to Congressman Sam Farr, speaking tonight at an event in Washington to celebrate the Peace Corps, negotiations on the State/Foreign Operations Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations bill have closed.

Farr says the final bill contains $400 million for Peace Corps — an impressive figure that falls in between what the House ($450M) and the Senate ($373M) recommended for the Peace Corps appropriation.

The Peace Corps Polyglot yesterday sounded optimistic that because of the amount of work that Congress needs to get done by December 18th, the $400 million figure is not likely to be amended.

Peace Corps advocacy groups like the National Peace Corps Association‘s More Peace Corps campaign, and the informal group Push for Peace Corps have been urging Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and other supporters to contact their elected representatives this week to voice their support for expanded Peace Corps funding.

Yesterday the NPCA sent a letter to President Obama asking him to increase his suggested Peace Corps budget for his 2011 budget request. That letter was signed by almost 60 RPCV affiliate groups.

HIV Positive and Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer

Contributed by Elizabeth Tunkle, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Zambia and Lesotho.

When you join the Peace Corps, many people ask you why. I never had a very good answer. But the truth is something way down deep inside of me told me that is what I needed to do and I listened. I really had no idea what I was getting into. I thought 2 years would go by in a flash and I would come home better for having gone so far from home and for having done such a noble thing. Two years did not go by in a flash and I came home changed but not how I thought I would.

I started out my service in Zambia and after getting posted to my village, as I was settling in, I met my future boyfriend. When we started dating, I asked him if he had been tested for HIV. He told me yes. He told me his test was negative just 1 year before and he had not had unprotected sex since his last test. We mutually decided it would be safe for us to use birth control and not condoms. We were wrong. Despite the fact that I knew all about HIV prevention I had unprotected sex with him anyway.

A few weeks later, I decided we should get tested. I had a bad feeling. I tried telling myself that it couldn’t be me. I was going to be fine. Too many times in my life I had played with all kinds of fire and survived. Not me. I was too nice and honest and fun and giving and I practiced yoga and meditation. We get bonus points in life for being good, right? No, I guess we don’t. HIV doesn’t just choose mean people or people who tell lies. It turned out it chose me. We found out my boyfriend was positive and that I was also infected. As if that news isn’t devastating enough, the Peace Corps told me I Continue reading

America’s Service Commissions Launches a Wiki to Help State Groups Replicate Effective National Service Models

This week, America’s Service Commissions (ASC)—the independent association of state commissions on voluntary action and service—and ServeMinnesota — the Minnesota commission on volunteering and service — have announced the launch a new resource, the AmeriCorps State Program Replication Wiki.

The Kennedy Serve America Act, signed into law in April, offers the national service community an unprecedented opportunity to expand service at the local level and offer far more citizens a chance to serve in their communities. The Act also poses a huge challenge to national service programs — the opportunity to increase the number and size of individual corps without weakening the impact of service, or diluting support for corps members, host organizations, etc.

State service commissions—appointed by state governors and responsible for the bulk of AmeriCorps funds distribution Continue reading