Giving Thanks and Giving Back: A Family Spends Thanksgiving Volunteering…at a Country Line Dancing Bar

Local church youth group volunteers making some plates to go

This guest post is contributed by Jung Fitzpatrick, a former AmeriCorps VISTA member, and staffer here at

When I called my mom about going home for the Thanksgiving holiday, she told me she was going to volunteer at the Brandin’ Iron. (You may know the BI from a quick mechanical bull riding scene in Borat.)

BI was going to serve a Thanksgiving meal to the hungry.  What else was I supposed to do but say, “Hey, count me in!” I loved the idea of volunteering with my mom.

On the day, my mom and I along with my brother, Sean, and his friend, Will, all headed to BI.  My mom country line dances every week at the BI and heard about the volunteer opportunity from there.  As it turns out, Continue reading

AmeriCorps Week: Challenging and Building Capacity through VISTA

Julia SyllaI hope everyone has had a fabulous AmeriCorps Week, which ends tomorrow. Our series of interviews concludes today. This interview is with  former intern Julia Sylla who is now serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA through Oregon Volunteers. To read more about folks who have also served in VISTA, check out my post on the “V is For __” campaign which features grad school blogger Eileen Gallagher, Idealist staffer Jung Fitzpatrick, and me. But, now for Julia:

Where do you serve?

My site is a nonprofit organization called SOLV, based just outside of Portland, Oregon.  SOLV is a state-wide organization focused on the promotion of environmental stewardship.  In a nutshell, we create opportunities for environmental volunteerism and support restoration and cleanup initiatives in communities throughout Oregon.  The work I do at SOLV is based in a collaboration between SOLV and Oregon Volunteers. I serve both organizations, even though I spend most of my time at SOLV.

What were you doing before you joined AmeriCorps VISTA? Continue reading

New Podcast: Grad School Financial Aid for Professionals

Photo via the East SA blog

Photo via the East SA blog

The newest Idealist podcast features Regina Garner, Director of Student Financial Services for the Monterey Institute of International Studies.’s Jung Fitzpatrick talks with Regina who dispels some common myths that working professionals have about qualifying for financial aid and to learn more about the ins and outs of financial aid for graduate education. Listen now!

Whether you’re thinking about graduate school–or are already on your way–this podcast helps answer many questions about the financial aid process. Topics include the basics of how financial aid is determined, the role of The College Cost Reduction and Access Act of 2007 in debt forgiveness and loan repayment as well as other issues for professionals transitioning to graduate school.

If you have more questions about grad school, check out our free Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center, which in addition to articles on financing your graduate education, includes information on preparing for, applying to and alternatives to graduate school. You can also post questions to our Graduate Education Forum! Follow Idealist’s GradResources on Twitter.

Also be sure to check out the upcoming Graduate Degree Fairs for the Public Good this summer in Washington D.C. and New York City and this fall in 16 cities in the United States and Canada.

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AmeriCorps VISTAs Reflect on their Service through “V is For ____”

AmeriCorps VISTAs and alums reflect on their service through the “V is For _” Campaign.

V is for ideas + action = making visions happen.

V is for ideas + action = making visions happen.

“V is For__” is a Campaign on Flickr that allows AmeriCorps VISTAs and alumni to post a photo of themselves, ostensibly holding up the V sign with their fingers, and saying something meaningful. Since several of us involved with are also AmeriCorps VISTA Alumnae, we thought we’d contribute!

Our Grad School Blog Project Blogger Eileen Gallagher served as an AmeriCorps VISTA and then VISTA Leader before heading to grad school at Brandeis’s Heller School. As a VISTA, she served at the Center for Experiential Learning at Allegheny College, her alma mater. She worked with students to plan service events, ran a tutoring program in local elementary schools and functioned as part of the college’s student affairs staff.

As a Leader, Eileen helped run the program and learned a lot about management. She knew that she loved the students, their idealism to create change, the community that she Continue reading