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.

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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

Interview with Health Corps Coordinator Sarah Fishtrom

This is the first post  contributed by Health Corps Coordinator Nathan Allen who serves in Mississippi.

Sarah Fishtrom is a Health Corps Coordinator at Kurt Hahn High School in Brooklyn, New York.  Sarah is Danish and has the gift of being excited about whatever you are excited about, which makes her joy to work with.  Health Corps Coordinators are a widespread group, but we find ways to stay connected, and recently I was able to catch up with her in Brooklyn from Clarksdale, Mississippi to reflect on the work Health Corps is doing:

NATHAN: Evening, Sarah! First off, summer has recently come to a close, how did you spend your time during summer break?

SARAH: I spent one month training the incoming cohort of Health Corps Coordinators in New York.  During the Continue reading

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

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

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

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?