AmeriCorps Members Support Island Communities

Maine has 15 island communities, many of them unique but often isolated due to often being far offshore. Many of the islands struggle with issues that threaten their viability. The Island Fellows AmeriCorps Program uses an innovative model in order to address their issues. These issues include limited economic opportunities for families and youth; reliance on an uncertain fishing incomes; declining school enrollment; inadequate energy efficiency of aging homes and high fuel and electricity costs; diminished housing affordability to year-round residents due to rising real estate values; limited access to health and medical services, and limited availability for produce and other healthy foods. All of these issues require a creative approach to combat, and to do this, the program places college graduates within these communities for one to two years of service and trains them in service learning, volunteer mobilization, capacity building, and sustainability.

For almost fifteen years, AmeriCorps members have been deployed to address over 90 local projects supporting community sustainability. Program evaluations have shown that 88% of the projects started through the program are slated to continue upon departure of the AmeriCorps members. Each year ten AmeriCorps members are placed throughout these islands for a year, with the option of expanding their service to two years. Members are expected to integrate into the communities by participating in local social and service opportunities, taking notes and writing articles for the Island Institute’s Working Waterfront Newspaper, and attending town meetings. By developing strong community relationships, AmeriCorps members are able to address the problems through the broader community context. Also, it helps to alleviate the brain drain Maine has, where almost four of the ten members stay on the islands after their service terms.

To read more about this program and its innovations and secrets to success, go to pages 34–35 in the Transforming Communities Through Service Publication.

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Mentors help kids higher their achievements

Higher Achievement’s afterschool and summer academic programs provide kids from at-risk communities their best opportunities to succeed in middle school and in life. Since 1975, Higher Achievement has served more than 10,000 youth in the Washington D.C. area, and approximately 520 volunteer mentors commit to working with students each week. In the 2012–2013 grant year, Higher Achievement saw 75% of students increase their reading grades or maintained an A/B average; 75% improved their attendance or maintained fewer than 5 absences; and of their 83 scholars they had that year, 82% of graduates are attending the city’s top high schools.

These outstanding achievements are due to important innovations such as numerous active partners. Higher Achievement’s school partners, for example, provide access to high quality facilities and assist with recruitment and sharing of data. Higher Achievement also has a highly active alumni group. The program has dedicated themselves to further increasing the support offered to their alumni in order to help promote college and career readiness of Higher Achievement scholars. Higher Achievement’s successful model is based on its theory of change, where scholars are showered with numerous academic opportunities. It’s further grounded by a culture of Spirit, Excellence, Respect, and Collaboration. All these elements combine to create a proven and successful program.

Read more about this program’s innovations and secrets to success on pages 32–33 of the Transforming Communities through Service publication.

501 Commons helps communities Prepare/Respond/Serve

501 Commons first created the Prepare/Respond/Serve program to help nonprofits create emergency preparedness plans. Through the Washington Commission of Volunteer Service’s Volunteer Generation Fund, the program has been expanded to low income housing properties. One of the innovations of this program is how it utilizes veteran volunteers, whose valuable skills help these communities build robust emergency preparedness plans. This program helps community organizations, especially those in vulnerable populations, respond to emergencies and recover quickly.

The local Volunteer Centers have assisted in recruiting skill-based veteran, active-duty, and bilingual volunteers. The program is able to pull from a database of over 450 volunteers in order to access those that are available and willing to apply their skills to the project. Another innovation is the customized planning tools that help communities build their emergency preparedness plans; the tools are the PRS Assessment©, pre- and post- questionaire to measure the levels of preparedness in the community, and a PRS Guide© that is customized for low-income communities. Another innovation is the high ability for replication of the program by the 501 Commons service members who share their skills in emergency preparedness with new service corps members. As an example, 501 Commons organized a teleconference for alumni to share their skills and knowledge with newer members last year.

To learn more about this program, see pages 69-70 in the Transforming Communities Through Service Publication.

Outstanding Commissioner Award – Nicole Trimble

Image of Nicole TrimbleThe final recipient of the Outstanding Commissioner Award is Nicole Trimble. She is a Social Venture Partner, and has served as the Chair of Serve Washington for the last three years. She is a visionary leader and has diverse experiences in national service, nonprofit and philanthropy arenas. She has worked for Casey Family Programs, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Corporation of National and Community Service (CNCS). Nicole embodies the values of the AmeriCorps pledge to bring Americans together to strengthen our communities.

Nicole brings a unique perspective to Serve Washington due to her experiences as an AmeriCorps member, AmeriCorps Alum, AmeriCorps program director, CNCS Program Officer, grant-maker, and work in the field of corporate social responsibility. She creates a stronger national service network through partnerships and collaboration. In 2012 during a White House ceremony, Nicole was one of 12 AmeriCorps Alums who were recognized as a “Champion of Change” for using their national service experience to become influential leaders in their careers and their communities.

“I have committed to taking my AmeriCorps lessons with me into each professional experience and it has paid off. I have been blessed with a more fulfilling career than I could have ever imagined and I owe much of it to national service.”

-Nicole Trimble

Nicole attended the Corporate Service Council (CSC) annual dinner at the 2014 Conference on Volunteerism and Service and shared with a group of corporate leaders how she recognizes AmeriCorps as a foundational experience in her personal and professional trajectory. She encouraged everyone at the dinner to actively recruit and hire AmeriCorps Alum because of the talents they bring to the workplace are more valuable than any lines on a resume.

Nicole Trimble serves as Senior Director of Social Corporate Responsibility for Outerwall (company behind Coinstar and Redbox kiosks), and has facilitated a new partnership with Serve Washington to engage Outerwall employees in a day of service with AmeriCorps members on 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance. This new partnership resulted in $35,000 in unrestricted donations to Serve Washington and one of its subgrantees.

We commend Nicole Trimble for her outstanding efforts and accomplishments!

Graceland University AmeriCorps Youth Launch

Logo for AmeriCorps Iowa Graceland University AmeriCorps Youth LaunchThe goal of the Graceland University’s AmeriCorps Youth Launch (AYL) is to answer the old African proverb, “How are the children,” with the answer of “the children are well.” To do this, AYL provides positive youth development activities that build a youth-serving network within a six county region in south-central Iowa. Through the involvement and support of community partners, the program assists students in achieving educational success and building developmental assets. AmeriCorps members serve in school-based and/or community based host sites, and within these sites, they develop and strengthen programs that promote positive youth development through the five promises: caring adults, safe places to learn and develop, a healthy start, effective education, and opportunities to help others.

The program has a lasting impact on program members and their community. An example of one of the impacts is from the last program year, where a delegation of youth from Lamoni, IA community attended the Governor’s summit. Upon return, they decided to host their own version of this event at their school. The students led groups and planning committees with the help of the AYL program, and through their determination, the school was able to execute their first ever Bullying Prevention Summit with multiple workshops lead by community leaders, professionals, caring adults, and youth. The success of this has lead to the the continuation of this summit this year in other schools of the south central Iowa region.

In 2011, an evaluation showed of the people surveyed, 80% rated the program as good and/or excellent at “strengthening community” and almost 95% felt the program builds positive assets within the youth served and that the program is effective at impacting youth positively. The secrets to this success include an active alumni group, the support of all the involved partners, and the networking and collaboration that creates a win-win-win situation. All of these play a role in the success of this program.

To read more about this program, see pages 30–31 of Transforming Communities through Service.

Outstanding Commissioner Award – Lawrence Neil Bailis

Lawrence BailisThe recipient of the Outstanding Commissioner Award is Lawrence Neil Bailis, who currently serves on the Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA) Board. He is an Associate Professor at Brandeis University’s Heller School for Social Policy and Management. For over twenty-five years, he has been a nationally recognized researcher and scholar of service learning/experiential education and national service programs. His Brandeis courses include seminars on Citizen Leadership and Service, and additional coursework that trains the alumni of service programs and other individuals to become more effective advocates for the causes they believe in.

In 2014, he drew upon his academic expertise in policy advocacy in order to assist in developing and implementing an initiative that brought together the MSA board and staff with political leaders in both parties, including all major candidates for Massachusetts governorship. This helped insure candidates were familiar with service programs and helped them develop support for service programs in their platforms.

He also directly supported the capacity building efforts of MSA through training on program evaluation and related management issues in MSA training sessions. In addition to this, he has played a prominent role, during his years on the MSA board, in working with federal and state legislators to advance the prominence and support for AmeriCorps, Commonwealth Corps, and other service programs. He helped created and lead the Eli G. Segal Citizen Leadership program, a program that bridges generations by selecting AmeriCorps alums, CNCS staff, City Year alums and Brandeis students as Fellows and creating networks that support them in their commitment to citizen leadership.

He has served three years of service as Commission Chair and four years of service as Vice Chair. In addition to this, he has chaired the MSA Program committee and the search committee that resulted in the selection of its current executive director. He was a leader in a recently completed strategic planning process for the Commission and currently serves on all MSA committees.

During his years as chair, his advocacy work has contributed to an increase in state support for the commission. He has promoted expanded outreach to service program alumni at Brandeis University and expansion of scholarship opportunities at the school for service program alumni.

“No one has been a more effective advocate for service programs in Massachusetts than Larry Bailis. He has taken his academic expertise int he field of advocacy and translated it into effective working relationships with key lawmakers and leaders in the executive branch to help to formulate, promote, and enact legislation that provides solid funding for service programs and a precedent-setting “Annual Service and Volunteerism Day” in our Commonwealth.”

-Massachusetts State Representative, Ruth B. Balser

We commend Lawerence Bailis on his hard work and advocacy efforts.

 

AmeriCorps members make College Possible

Through an intensive program of coaching and support, College Possible makes college graduation possible for low-income Omaha students. In Omaha, College Possible serves eight partner high schools across the metro area school districts. During the 2013-2014 academic year, the organization is slated to serve 1,390 students. These students include attendees to College Possible’s College Prep Talk workshops and high school juniors, seniors, and college students.

AmeriCorps members, who are recent college graduates, provide one-on-one and group guidance to low-income students through every stage of the college process. College Possible gives AmeriCorps members intensive, ongoing training and a structured curriculum to help them serve as full-time coaches to students in high school and college. Their commitment and dedication to the year-long term of service has provided outstanding results, and all members are fully supported by a full-time staff at College Possible. This organization believes in ripples, where every action toward the goal of college graduation sends out a small ripple of hope regarding the cause of education equity. College Possible members helped at least 85% of seniors earn admission to an institution of higher education and helped at least 85% apply for financial aid.

Recent and compelling data document the organization’s impact and can be found in a 2013 randomized controlled trial by Harvard Kennedy School Professor Dr. Christopher Avery. The study shows that College Possible has a significant positive effect on enrollment for low-income students into four-year colleges and universities. This program is the first college access organization to attempt a rigorous evaluation.

To read more about this program, see pages 28-29 of the Transforming Communities through Service Publication.