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.

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Teach For America Podcast Transcript

Aaliyah El-Amin

Aaliyah El-Amin

Below is the transcript of our August podcast, “An Interview with Teach For America Alumna Aaliyah El-Amin.” Huge thanks to podcast intern Sara Lozito, an AmeriCorps team leader, for work in creating the transcript. Listen to the show here.

Amy: Welcome to the Idealist podcast. I’m Amy Potthast and this is the The New Service Podcast from Idealist.org – moving people from good intentions to action.

This month I chatted with Aaliyah El-Amin, a Teach For America alumna.

In 2000, at age twenty, Aaliyah graduated from Davidson College and joined Teach For America to teach 4th and 5th grade in Atlanta, Georgia. After leaving the corps and working as an instructional facilitator at her placement school, Aaliyah became the executive director of Teach For America Charlotte. She’s currently a doctoral student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education in in Education Policy, Leadership and Instructional Practice.

Hi Aaliyah, welcome to the show. Continue reading

Career Podcast, Networking for Nonprofit Careers!

The newest Idealist.org Careers podcast features an interview with my colleague Meg Busse, co-author of the Idealist.org Guide to Nonprofit Careers.

The Guide walks job seekers through all the steps of the nonprofit job search, from describing the nonprofit sector and self-assessment to developing a stellar resume and interview skills. The book is available in two versions — for the first-time job seeker, and for the sector-switcher— for free on our website.

Meg Busse is the Coordinator of High School and College Career Transitions at Idealist. Along with creating resources, she works with career professionals and guidance counselors to connect students with careers in the nonprofit sector.

I interview Meg about Chapter Four of the career guide, “Networking.” We discuss the value of building relationships to begin and sustain a nonprofit career through volunteering and through informational interviews.

Listen now.

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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).

Podcast! AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps

This month’s Idealist Careers Podcast features Amy Ravis Furey of AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps.

AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps offers young people a chance to affect social change while deepening Amy Ravis Fureytheir commitment to Jewish life by serving for a year at an anti-poverty organization in Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and Washington, DC.

As with other service corps, AVODAH’s corps members earn a basic stipend. They also live in community with other corps members, and work on group building, negotiation, and conflict resolution. In partnership with the American Jewish World Service, AVODAH’s alumni find networking, support and training.

Herself an alumna of Avodah, Amy Ravis Furey serves as New York City Program Director for AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps. After earning her Masters in Social Work from Hunter College with a concentration in community organizing and group work, she served as an organizer for the New York City Coalition Against Hunger and as the Social Justice Coordinator at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Amy is the first Avodah alum to serve on staff as a program director at one of the AVODAH sites.

I speak with Amy Ravis Furey about the influence of AVODAH in her career path, and her mission of lifting up youth to change the world. We talk about the role of Jewish social justice teaching, the alumni nework, and the impact AVODAH has had in the world and on its corps members.

Listen to the show here!

For more information, join AVODAH staff on a conference call tonight (11/19) at 9 pm, or on December 2. The deadline to apply for the 2009-10 year is February 6th, 2009.

Career Tip, Document Your Service!

Saving facts and artifacts to share with hiring managers and grad admissions

Among the most important things you can do during your term of service is to keep records of your accomplishments now to share later, during job and admissions applications.

By “records” I mean everything from numbers to writing samples to screen shots of web sites you helped design to photographs of you or your clients in action.

The Facts of Your Service: Numbers

At the very least, keep track of your numbers. What the numbers are will depend on your type of service. Hours of training is a common one.

If you are a teacher, tutor, after-school coordinator, or trainer, keep track of numbers of students or participants; increase in grades and test scores from baseline assessments at the start of year; number of classroom volunteers you recruited and managed, etc.

If you are a project developer, keep track of dollars you raised, community partnerships you developed, clients your program served, meetings you facilitated, volunteers you recruited and managed, etc.

A great way to measure the impact of your service is not only to count your direct clients, but also the indirect clients of your service. Two examples: if you are an AmeriCorps member working with adult learners of English, look at the help you’ve offered the adults, as well as the benefit to their children, and the community. If you are an AmeriCorps*VISTA developing a volunteer program, count your volunteers, as well as the impact of their service.

When you are ready to transition, use at least some of the numbers in your resume and in anecdotes about the impact of your work! Numbers help a hiring manager or admissions committee put your resume into context and understand the impact of your work.

(See these chapters from the Idealist.org Guide to Nonprofit Careers about preparing your resume and for the job interview.)

The Artifacts of Your Service: Portfolios

One way to present the artifacts of your service is to create a portfolio — similar to a professional scrapbook — of your service term, with sections for each skill set you have built or employed.

The portfolio can start off with your position description and/or work plan, your resume, your Description of Service (for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers), constructive performance evaluations, letters of recommendation, workshop evaluations, and thank-you notes or emails that describe the impact of your service from colleagues, community partners, and others.

Skill sets to include may be anything from trail and house building to grant writing, event planning, curricula development and teaching, program development, volunteer management, etc.

Mini-portfolios to leave behind

Rather than taking the whole portfolio to interviews with you, you can photocopy relevant sections and leave them behind at the interview, for the hiring manager or admissions counselor to look at in their own time.

I don’t recommend offering more than a few samples of your work, but I do recommend you wait till you are prompted to offer recommendation letters or reference contacts.

Online portfolios

Alternately, you can create an online portfolio like Beth Kanter — the guru of social media use for nonprofits — has done, through a tool like Wikispaces (public spaces are free). Include the link on your resume and cover letters with the rest of your contact information.

Online portfolios are especially useful if you’ve used multimedia to document your service. Linking to your audio or video podcast on iTunes or Youtube is easier if your portfolio is already online.

And a warning: Keep in mind that if you have designed web pages or developed web content, capturing the image of the web page through a screen shot is still the best route for documentation. Linking to the web pages is too risky. Once you have left your service site, you won’t know if your web pages will be updated, if links will have gone sour, or if your pages will have come down altogether. Because you have no control over the pages after you are gone, it’s best to preserve them visually through a screen shot rather than linking to them.

Writing samples

Writing samples are great to include in your portfolio.  A common question I get is what to use when you are asked for professional writing samples.

Depending on  your position this year, you should have a chance to collect a variety of these. Anything professional you’ve written should work — from grant proposals, brochures and newsletters, formal emails or letters, project descriptions, focus group or survey summary reports, web content, press releases, etc.

If you are in a direct-service role with few opportunities to write, try to create a reason to write tied to your service like a narrative summary of your service or a specific service project.

Hang on to your documentation

The problem many service corps alumni face is that they’ve saved all these documents on the computer at their old service site, and now that they are finished, can’t access them easily to share during the job or school search.

Save yourself the heartache by emailing documents and photographs to your personal email account, or backing them up on a thumb drive. You can also use online tools like Google Docs and Flickr to access documents and photos later on.

Returned Peace Corps Volunteers can request a photocopy of their Document of Service from Peace Corps, to be sent to them directly or to their hiring manager or graduate admissions office. (Peace Corps keeps your DOS for 60 years.)

Other reasons to document

Documenting your service is not just useful for your next steps. Keeping good records helps during your term with grant writing and reporting, monthly reporting for AmeriCorps*VISTAs, communicating with your supervisor, preparing for your mid-term or end-of-service performance evaluations, and creating public relations materials for your program.

This blog post has been adapted from a section of the forthcoming Service Corps Companion to the Idealist.org Guide to Nonprofit Careers, due out this coming spring from Idealist.org.

Eight Years Out: the Public Impact of AmeriCorps Service

An Idealist.org Careers Podcast conversation with CNCS’s Bob Grimm

Solid evidence now exists to show that participating in a term of service program (like AmeriCorps, Teach For America, and Peace Corps) really is an effective launching-off point for a public service career.  Idealist has long held this belief, and has been formalizing its support of these programs since 2007.

Earlier this year the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) published an eight-year longitudinal study of people who participated in AmeriCorps programs in 1999-2000, as well as of people who considered participating but chose not to during the same year. It turns out that two-thirds of AmeriCorps alumni (including AmeriCorps*NCCC alumni) from that year are currently engaged in nonprofit or government careers — outnumbering the group who didn’t participate in AmeriCorps.
Click here to download. (0:30:27)

Today’s guest is Bob Grimm, Director of Research and Policy Development & Senior Counselor to the CEO at the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in Washington, DC. He speaks with Idealist.org’s Amy Potthast about the study design and outcomes, and about some of the people who have served in AmeriCorps.

Are you a service corps alumni now engaged in a public service career? What do you do? Where do you work? We’d love to hear more!