Answering the Call from Citizens Who Want to Serve

AmeriCorps muscleThese days the fate of national service seems tied more than ever to the greater economic struggles our nation is facing. Citizens want to serve in their communities, and this week the Senate is debating legislation that would make it possible for more people to serve than ever before.

September 11th and 12th of last year, the Service Nation Summit convened hundreds of leaders, service corps alumni, and celebrities to talk about the need for expanded national service opportunities, to meet the growing demand among people of all ages to serve full-time in their communities.

While Summit participants were still returning home in the glow of that inspiring event, Lehman Brothers—just blocks from where the Summit took place in mid-town Manhattan—crumbled, and the bottom began to fall out of the economy.

This week, the U.S. Senate will take a hard look at the Serve America Act, a piece of legislation announced at the Service Nation Summit by Senator Orrin Hatch (while his partner Sen. Edward Kennedy, convalescing at home, joined him in spirit).

Little known in September was just how desperately needed this legislation would become by the time it saw the floor of the Continue reading

Advertisements

AmeriCorps*NCCC Members Earn Certification through American Humanics

AmeriCorps’s conservation corps partners with American Humanics to offer corps members certification in nonprofit competency.

Also note that AmeriCorps*NCCC has new deadlines: April 1 (summer class) and July 1 (winter class).

Recognizing that a term of service is a valuable education, American Humanics (AH) offers ncccAmeriCorps*NCCC corps members the opportunity to count service hours towards AH nonprofit certification.

A national organization that offers educational opportunities on nonprofit management topics to undergraduates throughout the United States, AH has been “preparing tomorrow’s nonprofit leaders” since 1948. Around 3,000 students across the country are engaged in AH programs at 70 colleges and universities. Many of these students are working towards AH certification.

(Note that neither AH nor any other nonprofit management certification is required to get a program-management job in the nonprofit sector. Some public service roles do require certification. Read more about professional certification — and how to assess the value employers place on it — on Idealist.org’s Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center.)

The requirements of typical AH certification include 300 hours of approved internship service, general engagement in nonprofit leadership activities, academic coursework, a Bachelor’s degree, and completion of one AH Management Institute (the organization’s annual conference). What this means for NCCC corps members and alumni:

  • AmeriCorps*NCCC members serve for 1700 hours which more than achieves the internship and nonprofit leadership objectives of certification.
  • NCCC’s extensive training throughout the 10-month term of service counts for most of the academic course work requirements.
  • NCCC alumni must attend one AH Management Institute to complete some of the course requirements.
  • For the remaining course requirements, NCCC alumni can take courses at AH partner schools. Louisiana State University’s Shreveport campus allows NCCC members and recent alumni to take the needed courses  online—paying in-state tuition. (The Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award can apply to the costs of these courses.) LSU Shreveport also waives the GRE requirement for NCCC alumni taking these courses.
  • If NCCC corps members haven’t finished their Bachelor’s degree yet, AH gives them seven years to complete it in order to be eligible for certification.

AmeriCorps*NCCC is the branch of AmeriCorps that is a conservation corps, modeled after the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps. NCCC stands for National Civilian Conservation Corps and is pronounced “N-triple-C.” The program is team-based and residential, for people aged 18-24. Teams travel to a variety of work sites throughout the 10-month term of service, exposing the young people to a variety of new service experiences. NCCC has been instrumental in rebuilding New Orleans and Mississippi in the wake of Hurrican Katrina in 2005. Each team is based out of one of the following campuses: Denver, CO; Sacramento, CA; Perry Point, MD; and Vinton, IA

AmeriCorps*NCCC is accepting applications through April 1, 2009, for its summer-start class, and July 1, 2009, for its winter-start class.

Learn more by listening to the Idealist.org podcast with Katrina Mathis on AmeriCorps*NCCC.

AH also has its own AmeriCorps program called AmeriCorps*ProCorps. ProCorps members serve from 450-1700 hours and earn the Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award (up To $4,725 for the full 1700-hour term).

AmeriCorps*VISTAs Blog on Grad School for Idealist.org

A former AmeriCorps*VISTA Leader and a current AmeriCorps*VISTA participate in Idealist.org’s Grad School Blog Project

Officially launched this week, a network of 12 bloggers — students, seekers, and admissions staff — are blogging about grad school. The project is a part of Idealist’s Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center.

Vanessa Mason is a prospective public health student and is a current AmeriCorps*VISTA member servingvanessa-mason with a refugee-focused nonprofit in Houston. She blogged about the relationship between refugees and public health this week as part of the refugee-themed Bloggers United day:

…Since I have started working as an AmeriCorps VISTA for the Partnership for the Advancement and Immersion of Refugees, this has taken on a newfound importance for me to raise awareness about the challenges that refugees face. This cause is particularly personal after meeting some of the children that have been directly affected by the escalating crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Violence in recent weeks has escalated to an untenable level. While violence is an obvious contributor to the high mortality rates, the majority of deaths are caused by preventable and treatable diseases. (Read more…)

Vanessa blogs at Subject to Change. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Eileen Gallagher is a Masters candidate at Brandeis Heller School for Social Policy and Management. After graduating from college, she served as a VISTA on campus, “working with students to plan service events, running a tutoring program in local elementary schools and functioning as part of the college’s student affairs staff.”

Originally interested in higher ed administration, her experience in VISTA shifted her career goals.

She says, “I knew that I loved the community that I had built ineileen-gallagher small-town Meadville and the way that I saw people banding together to create change. I wanted to study ways to use the resources that a community has to create change.”

So, she says:

“I narrowed my interests to the fields of community development, nonprofit management or business. I decided that a business degree would allow me to gain the management and technical skills that I was interested in, as well as experience in leadership and organizational behavior. I looked specifically for programs that had coursework or a concentration in community development or socially responsible business.  I also examined the list of schools that match the AmeriCorps education award.

This list is precisely how I found Brandeis’ Heller School, where I am currently enrolled in the Master of Business Administration program.  When I looked at the website for this program, I saw that Heller’s motto is ‘Managing for a Social Mission.’  I was hooked!  This seemed like the perfect fit for my interests and ambitions.”

Eileen blogs for Social Impact MBA.

Read more about the Grad School Blog Project. Find more grad school bloggers and check out Idealist’s Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center. Apply to be part of the project—we are especially looking for bloggers in the fields of journalism, public interest law, public policy and administration, international affairs, and theology. The Project would also love to hear from more men!

Chicago’s Inner-City Teaching Corps

New teachers serve for two years in Chicago’s Catholic and charter schools, live in supportive inter-faith communities, earn alternative teacher certification, and work towards their education degree.

The Inner-City Teaching Corps of Chicago aims to transform education in under-served communities and to empower children in urban schools. The organization houses two programs that create and train new teachers who work in under-resourced schools in Chicago’s poorest neighborhoods.

Eligibility & placement

The Volunteer Teaching Corps recruits and supports recent college graduates, and the Urban Impact Through Education (UNITE) program brings “proven leaders from the business world into the teaching profession.”

As with Teach For America and other education service corps you don’t need to have been an education major, though a 3.0 minimum undergraduate Grade Point Average is expected.

ICTC places its Corps members in Catholic and charter schools because its Corps members are working towards alternative certification during their first year of service.

Alternative certification and education

The Corps’s Alternative Teacher Certification Program is a partnership with Northwestern University that adds a diverse group of talented new teachers to Chicago’s schools and allows Corps members to earn up to 22 credits towards an M.S. in Education during their term of service. Read more about ICTC’s professional development benefits.

Community living and other benefits

Volunteer Teaching Corps members live in supportive communities with other six or seven other Corps members—communities that are spiritual, and inter-faith, depending on the beliefs of the community members. Corps members receive room and board, health insurance, and a $5/day allowance. They can defer qualified student loans, and earn the Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award for each year they are in the program. (Corps members use the first year of the Ed Award to contribute to the cost of the first eight Northwestern University course credits towards their degree.)

Competitiveness

This year 35-40 Corps members serve in the Volunteer Teacher Corps, but the program gets five times that number of applications. About 35 teachers serve in the UNITE program for mid-career professionals transitioning into the field of education.

Career trajectory

While teachers nationally tend to stay in the classroom an average of 3-5 years before burning out, almost 90 percent of ICTC-trained teachers are still in the field of education, according to the organization’s 2007 Annual Report.

More info and open house

Read more about this year’s Corps members, and about admissions. Note that the next application deadline is Nov. 5 — that’s next week! Also note that ICTC runs several other programs.

Also note that the Volunteer Teaching Corps hosts a weekend-long open house in mid-January called the Come & See Weekend (January 15-18, 2009). Participants in the weekend stay in the VTC communities, participate in a Corps member’s classroom, and visit Chicago’s South and West Sides. Another application deadline follows that weekend on January 21.

Resources

For more resources on graduate education, check out the Idealist.org Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center, and if you live in the U.S. South, come out to one of our graduate admissions fairs touring New Orleans and Atlanta in the coming days.

This week The New Service blog is looking at education service corps. While many service corps programs have application due dates in the spring for a fall start date, most education service corps have deadlines throughout the winter and start in the summer. Check out this list of education-related opprotunities that don’t require an education degree.
add to del.icio.us :: Add to Blinkslist :: add to furl :: Digg it :: add to ma.gnolia :: Stumble It! :: add to simpy :: seed the vine :: :: :: TailRank :: post to facebook

AmeriCorps for Recent Public Interest Law Grads

Corps of recent law grads bring legal services to the poor

Equal Justice Works, an organization that fosters the public interest law career pipeline so the rest of us can sleep better at night, has recently sent off its newest AmeriCorps team to serve in 17 sites across the United States.

The Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Program acts to increase the availability of pro bono legal services in under-served communities. The program achieves its goal by engaging recent law school graduates, who connect the dots among legal aid workers, law schools, law students, and clients in need.

The AmeriCorps members also offer legal assistance to low-income clients, and thereby hone their skills practicing public interest law. They also help expand the public interest law emphasis in law school course content and offerings.

At $22K, the AmeriCorps stipend for the Equal Justice Works member is significantly higher than for most AmeriCorps programs. With the possibility of student loan deferments and the $4,725 Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award, participating in the program post-law school isn’t as costly as it seems at first glance. The program also connects participants with 500,000 other AmeriCorps Alums post-service.

Summer Corps

In addition to the year-long AmeriCorps program, Equal Justice Works organizes an AmeriCorps-funded Summer Corps for first- and second-year law students. The Summer Corps engages hundreds of short-term members in 300 hours of service. Members then receive a $1000 education award. Look for applications in the spring.

Equal Justice Works Fellows

Finally, check out the two-year Equal Justice Works Fellowship for law grads, which offers new lawyers support (financial and professional) to practice public interest law. According to the web site, “Recognizing that many obstacles prevent committed attorneys from practicing public interest law, including the dearth of entry-level jobs and daunting educational debts, the program provides financial and technical support to lawyers working on innovative and effective legal projects.”

Public interest law

To learn more about careers in public interest law, and to learn about law school, check out Equal Justice Work’s web site, and its E-Guide to Public Service at America’s Law Schools. Keep up with the latest news and trends in public interest law, law education, and EJW by subscribing to the Equal Justice Works blog.

Kennedy-Hatch Serve America Act

Update, April 21, 2009: President Obama signs the Serve America Act into law. To take effect October 1, 2009.

Friday, Sept. 12, Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced new legislation called the “Serve Amerca Act” to expand national and community service opportunities. After the bill was introduced in the Senate, it was referred to the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

The legislation will seek to expand the number of national service participants to 250,000 (175,000 more than can be currently funded).

Themes include expanding opportunities for people to serve at every stage of life, and to use service to meet specific national challenges like natural disaster preparedness and response, high school drop out prevention, energy conservation and environmental stewardship, and health care and more jobs access for people with low-incomes. It includes the creation of a reserve corps of national service alumni who can be mobilized in the wake of a natural disaster.

The act seeks specific opportunities to serve for students, working adults, retirees, and “Americans of all ages.” A new benefit for older participants would be an education award transferable to grandchildren. Currently AmeriCorps members must use their Eli Segal Education Award on their own tuition or student loans.

The bill, if passed, would support social entrepreneurship through establishing a commission to look at cross-sector solutions to social problems, and to apply effective business practices in the nonprofit sector by establishing venture capital funds to increase its talent pool and efficacy.

Finally, the bill seeks to expand Volunteers for Prosperity, which fosters short-term international volunteer opportunities for United States professionals to serve in developing countries.

(The information here is a summary of a press release from Senator Kennedy‘s and Senator Hatch‘s offices.)

Update from the Service Nation Summit, Sept. 12, 2008:

Orrin Hatch officially announced the new Serve America Act bill this morning at the Service Nation Summit and spoke touchingly of his work with Ted Kennedy “across the aisle.” The senators have worked together for a long time and Hatch’s affection for his friend was obvious and endearing. (Senator Kennedy was convalescing at home.)

In a statement that drew enthusiastic applause, Hatch announced that both Senators McCain and Obama have signed on to co-sponsor the legislation! Other co-sponsors include Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), RPCV Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS), and Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR). To the bi-partisan crowd gathered for the Summit, all supporters of national service, the support of both Presidential candidates means a lot. Hopes are high for national service and the next administration.

In an interview with Hatch after his speech, he addressed a question about the cost to government of national service. The bill, he said, “should please those who are concerned about cost.” He cited the relatively low cost of supporting trained volunteers compared to the cost of allowing high schoolers to drop out, and ignoring young people who have lost their role models to prison and worse fates. Further, according to Hatch, elevating these youth, educating them, and connecting them with job skills will serve the economy well, as will the creation of jobs, including in the energy industry.

Read the Press Release.

Read the executive summary of S.3487, The Serve America Act.

Read the entire bill (PDF) written by Emma Vadehra.

Read the opinion piece by Senators Kennedy and Hatch in TIME Magazine.

Grad school for social change

This week, the Idealist.org Graduate Degree Fairs for the Public Good kick off the 2008 fall tour on September 10th in New York City!

(Please note that due to the Service Nation Summit‘s Presidential Candidates’s Forum on Sept. 11 at Columbia, the venue for the NY fair has changed!)

The fairs bring together graduate schools that focus on positive societal change, and public service professionals– like you? –who want more education to further their careers.

If you are thinking about grad school, it’s one of the best ways we can think of to meet staff from some of the country’s top schools in degrees ranging from nonprofit & business management and social work, to public policy & administration, public interest law, public health, journalism, international affairs and more.

If you don’t live near one of the cities where the fairs will come this year, check out the Idealist.org Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center with lots of resources for going back to school. Read here for information specifically for service corps alumni.

Looking for experience before going to grad school?

Graduate admissions staff recognize service corps programs as a great way to get valuable, practical experience in the field to prepare for grad school.

If you are considering participating in a service program, know that several programs have benefits that await you after you are finished with your term.

Programs funded through AmeriCorps offer the Eli Segal AmeriCorps Education Award; the amount varies depending on the term of service, but a full term typically means $4,725. (The amount hasn’t been increased in a over a decade, though RPCV Senator Christopher Dodd (D-Conn) and others in Congress are working to rectify that with the AmeriCorps Act of 2008.) The ed award is held by the National Service Trust until you are ready to use it, and can go towards tuition at most schools, or for student loans. Dozens of grad schools match the ed award so that your award may be doubled if you enroll at those schools.

Teach For America, an AmeriCorps program, has also fostered partnerships with many top graduate schools around the country that benefit TFA Corps members through application deferments, scholarships and ed award matches, and application fee waivers.

As we have written about before on this blog, Peace Corps also has two programs, Masters International and Fellows USA. The latter is specifically for people who have returned from Peace Corps service already.

A pretty good comparison (including education benefits) of some of the more famous service corps programs can be found in Chapter Five (PDF) of the Idealist.org Guide to Nonprofit Careers. Also check out Equal Justice Works blog about public interest law. Other associations of social-impact grad schools can be found among Idealist’s grad fair cosponsors.

Do you know of other benefits for service corps alumni not mentioned here? We’d love to hear about them!

Also Idealist is still looking for grad school bloggers! Click here to see if blogging for us sounds compelling to you!

Also note that many grad schools offer benefits to service corps alumni that aren’t through official partnerships with the service programs. It’s always a good idea to ask at your target institution.