Monday, August 14, 2017

Tamara Jordan


We continue to share stories of the work our 2016 AmeriCorps Alums award winners have done and continue to do in their communities. 

Our annual National Service Alums awards honor and celebrate people from all national service programs, including AmeriCorps State and National programs, AmeriCorps VISTA programs, National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), and SeniorCorps. Each year, we take your submissions and award winners who are then honored at the Serve Illinois Opening Day program in our state capital, Springfield, IL.

This interview is with AmeriCorps Alums Tamara Jordan.

1. Why did you choose to serve?  Tell me more about the program you were with and your year of service.
I heard about AmeriCorps through a friend. I choose to serve because I was able to work with veterans, a group that care about so much mainly because I am a veteran and I realize the needs of the community.

2.  What are you doing now?
I currently serve as Senator Durbin’s Veteran/Military liaison for the Chicago office. I also handle issues that fall under the Department of Education, Housing and certain immigration issues. I am the middle man between the constituent and the federal agency.

3.  How has your service experience changed your worldview?
My service has made me appreciate the world a lot more and be grateful for what I have. I worked with an underserved population and it made it easy to put my blessings in perspective.

4.  Out of all your experiences with AmeriCorps, what was your proudest moment?
Running the food pantry at the VA and being able to serve hundreds of veterans every week.

5.  What is an invaluable lesson you learned in your service?
Be thankful for what you have because you never know when you can lose it all. I have learned to be humble and treat others with respect because I would want the same. I have learned that helping others is one of the most invaluable feelings in the world.

6.  What is one thing you wish more people knew about AmeriCorps or the program you served with?

AmeriCorps is a great way to transition between college and work. Although the pay is very difficult to live off of, it is a wonderful way to learn about adapting in the work place. AmeriCorps members are also highly respected amongst the workplace because of the skill sets they bring to the table.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Bevin Callan, AmeriCorps Alum of NCCC



We continue to share stories of the work our 2016 AmeriCorps Alums award winners have done and continue to do in their communities.  
Our annual National Service Alums awards honor and celebrate one person from each major stream of national service, including AmeriCorps State and National programs, AmeriCorps VISTA programs, National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), and SeniorCorps programs. Each year, we take your submissions and choose one award winner from each program who are then honored at the Serve Illinois Opening Day program in our state capital, Springfield, IL.
This interview is with Bevin Callan, AmeriCorps Alum of NCCC.

Why did you choose to serve?
I chose to serve as I was finishing up my senior year of college. I knew I wanted to go to grad school, but wanted to take a year or two off first to give back. I was looking into the Peace Corps when a professor of mine told me about AmeriCorps and the opportunity to give back to my own country. 

I applied to a couple different programs and was accepted to the NCCC Southeast campus. This was in 2003 when the campus was still in Charleston, SC. My Corps Member year we had zero natural disasters, so my team focused on environmental projects. We were the only fire team at our campus that year and got to participate in a prescribed burn of 180 acres to restore a longleaf pine forest. In addition to three environmental projects, my team tutored at Mary Ford Elementary School, helping them prepare for end of year exams, and we supported the Child Life Department of the Arkansas Children's Hospital. I loved my experience so much that I came back the following year to be a Support Team Leader where I had the opportunity to assist the Unit Leader with identifying projects for the 7 teams in my unit, managing their paperwork, and visiting their project sites. Best job I ever had!!
What are you doing now?
I have spent the last ten years since completing my AmeriCorps experience working for various nonprofit associations and foundations in Chicago. I am also part of the leadership team for the AmeriCorps Alums Chicago chapter, started in 2010. The last couple months I decided to leave full time employment to focus on a dream of mine, writing children's books.
How has your service experience changed your worldview?
My AmeriCorps experience opened my eyes to the inequality that exists in our country and awakened the desire in me to do something about it.

Out of all your experiences with AmeriCorps, what was your proudest moment?

That's tough. Hurricane Ivan hit at the start of my second year, and we went from a campus with no disaster projects to a campus of 90% disaster projects. It was a HUGE adjustment that lead to forming relationships with the Red Cross, FEMA, and several other agencies. The following year Katrina hit and our campus had teams leading the way in helping affected communities (I was out at this point, but did return to help train team leaders for disaster projects). Disasters have continued in various parts of our country and the NCCC Southeast Region has become the disaster relief campus, even moving locations to Mississippi so they are more centrally located in the region. Then FEMA Corps was created based on the NCCC Southeast campus disaster recovery program. This makes me proud, to have been a part of something that so positively impacts our country in our moments of greatest need.
What is an invaluable lesson you learned in your service?

I learned many valuable lessons. My AmeriCorps experience completely changed who I am today. The lesson that I am currently applying to my life is money management. When I was in NCCC our bi-weekly living allowance was $150. I learned to be a minimalist and to save money even when starting with very little. This lesson has allowed me to save and prepare to take my current sabbatical to focus on writing my book.
What is one thing you wish more people knew about AmeriCorps or the program you served with?


I wish more people just knew about AmeriCorps in general. Every time I talk to someone about my experience I hear, "I wish I had known about AmeriCorps when I was out of HS/college", "Would you be willing to talk to my kid/niece/nephew about AmeriCorps", or "Could you send me information on that?" Our 1 millionth AmeriCorps member signed up this year and our advertising is strictly by word of mouth. If we could promote AmeriCorps, just a little bit, we would drastically increase the numbers of participants.

Monday, March 6, 2017

March 2017

We live in a challenging time. A time where it can be difficult to find stories about the amazing good that people still accomplish every single day. Because of this, we will be sharing stories of the work our 2016 National Service Alums award winners have done and continue to do.

Our annual National Service Alums awards honor and celebrate one person from each major stream of national service, including AmeriCorps State and National programs, AmeriCorps VISTA programs, National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC), and SeniorCorps programs. Each year, we take your submissions and choose one award winner who is then honored at the Serve Illinois Opening Day program in our state capital, Springfield IL.

First up is our interview with Samoane Williams, Program Manager for First Defense Legal Aid. Samoane is an alum of AmeriCorps VISTA, where she served with the same organization. First Defense provides free, 24-hour legal representation to people in Chicago Police custody and educates Chicagoans about how to protect their constitutional rights. Their work strives to promote fairness and accountability in the justice system. Only 1% of arrestees had a lawyer present while in Chicago police custody in 2013, the year before Samoane’s service term, which is why her work was and continues to be so important.

Why did you choose to serve with AmeriCorps? 1) I chose to serve with First Defense Legal Aid (FDLA) because I really believe in the program's work and mission. I was a VISTA Attorney with FDLA'S hotline program in 2014. FDLA's hotline program provides free legal representation for people under investigation by the Chicago Police Department. The hotline was staffed by only three attorneys and heavily depended on volunteers to help provide this service. I was responsible for recruiting a network of volunteer attorneys and law students to help operate the hotline. My year of service was extraordinary. I had the opportunity to be a leader in the organization. I will always cherish that experience.

What are you doing now? 2) I stayed with FDLA after my year of service. My supervisor created a position for me to stay. In 2015, I was hired as a full-time staff attorney and program administrator of the hotline program. I am now the Program Manager of the entire organization. I manage the hotline program and street law program of the organization.

How has your service changed your worldview? 3) My service experience exposed me to the potential horrors of not knowing constitutional rights or how to exercise them. I realized how criminal justice does not guarantee actual justice.

What is something you are especially proud of accomplishing as an AmeriCorps VISTA? 4) My proudest moment as a VISTA was helping the organization's annual fundraiser be a success. I helped to organize the venue, prepare to honor our guests, and raise funds.

What is something you learned during your term of service? 5) I learned that doing valuable work is more important to me than making as much money as possible.

What is something you wish more people knew about AmeriCorps service? 6) I wish more people knew about the great opportunities that can arise from working with the organizations with VISTA programs.

Interested in learning more about First Defense Legal Aid? Check out their website: https://www.first-defense.org/ . Interested in sharing your AmeriCorps or volunteer story? Contact us at americorpsalumschicago@gmail.com.

Sarah Hertsted, Chapter President AmeriCorps Alums Chicago

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Meet Our Leadership Award Winners!

Last week, on October 21, four very special national service alums were recognized for their great work. These alums represented four national service programs: AmeriCorps NCCC, AmeriCorps VISTA, AmeriCorps State and National program, and Senior Corps. They represented a variety of fields, and came from around the state. And we have all of you to thank for introducing us to them. 

AmeriCorps Alums Chicago and the Serve Illinois Commission selected these four alums from a wide range of nominations as the best of the best, extraordinary people who exemplified the AmeriCorps pledge, commitment to improving our country and community, during their terms of service and ever since. 

We honored them all in Springfield, IL, at the Serve Illinois Commission's Opening Day ceremony, where we were joined by a very special guest, Wendy Spencer, the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service!



We were so impressed that we want you to have a chance to meet our winners as well!




AmeriCorps NCCC: April Friend

For her service to AmeriCorps NCCC, today we’re honoring April Friend. April served at NCCC’s Denver campus. She also served a VISTA term with a nationally-recognized tax preparation program, the Center for Economic Progress, where she still works today as the Senior Director of Tax Services.

We also wanted to read from April’s nomination. April’s nominator said:

AmeriCorps service helped April to both define a career path as well as a personal mission to continue to serve. She continues to utilize her background to help her program move forward and ensure positive, productive experiences for all those involved.


(Pictured from left to right: Faye Stauber, Jamar Beyonou, and Birtis Reed.)

AmeriCorps VISTA: Faye Stauber

Our winner from AmeriCorps VISTA is Faye Stauber. Faye served two years as a VISTA Case Manager and After School Coordinator at Inspiration Corporation, and is now a social worker leading a team of clinical care staff and serving those afflicted with mental illness at Thresholds.

Faye’s nominator had the following to say about her:

Faye is very well rounded. She has great wisdom and incredible clinical skills that she puts to use daily. Her work ethic is top notch and she leads her team by example. Faye is very empathetic and goes above and beyond in the work that she does with our staff and our clients.


AmeriCorps State and National: Jamar Beyonou 

From AmeriCorps State and National Programs, we’re honoring Jamar Beyonou. Jamar served his AmeriCorps terms with City Year Chicago, and now, nine years later, is still serving there today as an employee.

Jamar’s nomination included the following quote:

Having worked in urban education reform for over ten years, I can honestly say that Jamar is one of the most committed and caring colleagues that I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Jamar truly lives City Year's values of inclusivity, collaboration and putting students first.


Senior Corps: Birtis Reed

For his service as a Foster Grandparent, a Senior Corps program, today we honor Birtis Reed. Birtis has served an astonishing 21 years as a Foster Grandparent, where he volunteers with the children at Anna Waters Head Start.

Here’s what impressed us so much about Birtis, from the words of his nominator:

Birtis Reed has been a volunteer in the Foster Grandparent program for 21 years. This man is now 81 years old … and still volunteers every day …. Each year his evaluations continue to exceed all expectations of what our program supports. He is always smiling and in a great mood, I feel this man should be recognized for his true compassion and dedication to the children and the Foster Grandparent Program.


And one more thing:

We celebrate these individuals for their selfless work and their commitment to service, but we also celebrate that national service programs in which they served. We believe that programs like AmeriCorps and Senior Corps provide great opportunities for great people to do great work, and to get things done in the world.

Unfortunately, there are many who don't know about AmeriCorps or Senior Corps, and many others who don't fully understand their value. In fact, federal funding for AmeriCorps is once again on the precipice, and it needs your help to bring it back to safer ground. 

What can you do? To start with, talk about AmeriCorps. Tell your story, and tell your elected officials that this is something that matters to you. We are working on a plan to provide more ways to help, and will keep you all posted as it develops. In the mean time, thank you for all you to do to continue to serve, and to proudly continue serving out the AmeriCorps pledge to get things done!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tell Your Elected Officials that AmeriCorps Matters!

Recently, both houses of our Congress--your elected officials--proposed a budget that included major cuts to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the government arm that manages all AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs. This means they want to take away funds for AmeriCorps, which would eliminate tens of thousands of AmeriCorps positions.

As someone who knows firsthand the value of AmeriCorps programs, it's important that you TELL your elected officials that AmeriCorps is important and needs to keep it's current funding! This is

Voices for National Service, a national advocacy organization, has developed some materials to help. Please see below. You can send this template, or make your own, to your elected official. Specifically, in Illinois, the most important person you can communicate this to is Senator Mark Kirk, R-IL. 

Please take a moment to send a message or make a call to Senator Kirk before the end of this month! Staff at his office WILL read your messages and answer your calls. As a constituent, your voice and your opinions matter to the Senator, and he has a duty as your elected official to represent your interests. 

You can copy/paste any of the samples below, or send a note to us and we can send you Word doc copies, along with more details about the bills and national service in Illinois. Email us at americorpsalumschicago@gmail.com 

Thank you for helping to Save Service!


_ _ _ _ _

Template for Email:
- Submit messages through online form: http://www.kirk.senate.gov/?p=comment_on_legislation 

Dear Senator Kirk,

I am writing to you about the proposed spending bill before Congress that contains debilitating budget cuts to the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a small federal agency that harnesses the power of citizens to fuel community solutions to pressing local problems. AmeriCorps and Senior Corps are two programs that CNCS administers that provide vital resources and services to our state by tutoring and mentoring struggling students, providing job training to returning veterans and their families, building homes for those in need, enabling seniors and individuals with disabilities to live independently, and helping communities recover after natural disasters. These national service programs deliver a dual benefit, offering a ladder of opportunity to those who serve.  During their service terms, members acquire workplace skills and post-service scholarships that provide access to higher education, propel them towards future career success, or help them enter or re-engage in the workforce. 

The cuts to CNCS included in the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill would have serious consequences in Illinois, where 2,826 AmeriCorps members and 12,263 Senior Corps volunteers participate in 146 programs at 2,011 sites. The bill proposes to cut CNCS by 20 percent and, if enacted, would eliminate tens of thousands of national service positions nationwide.  

This is a loss our community cannot afford.  National service programs have real impacts on communities and are a smart investment for the nation: according to a study by economists at Columbia University, for every dollar invested in national service, there is a $3.95 return to society in terms of higher earnings, increased output, and other community-wide benefits. 

In my community of Chicago, IL, [Insert personal story here. Include your connection to national and community service, the positive impacts of it that you’ve witnessed personally, and how these cuts will negatively affect your community. The more specific and meaningful, the better!].

CNCS programs play a deep and meaningful role in Illinois. Cutting them would take key services away from our community and those in need.  I ask that you use your position on the Appropriations Committee to ensure continued funding for CNCS in fiscal year 2016. Illinois is counting on you.

Sincerely, 

[YOUR NAME]

[YOUR ADDRESS]

_ _ _ _ _ 

Template for Letter:
- Send letters to either office: 
Chicago
230 South Dearborn
Suite 3900
Chicago, IL 60604
Fax: 312-886-2117 
Washington, DC
524 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington DC, 20510
Fax: 202-228-4611 





Dear Senator Kirk:

As representatives of national service organizations in the state of Illinois, we urge you to protect the current funding level for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) in any budget negotiation and/or continuing resolution. CNCS is our nation’s largest grantmaker for service and volunteerism, and their core programs, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps,  harness the energy and ingenuity of American citizens to address the nation's most pressing challenges. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, we know you are well positioned to support CNCS funding and ensure these programs continue to provide intensive, results-driven service to meet education, environmental, health, economic, and other pressing needs in communities across Illinois.

We represent a broad spectrum of national service organizations in Illinois.  We receive competitive grants from CNCS that helps to fuel our service delivery.  Our programs support struggling students, provide returning veterans and military families with job training, enable seniors and individuals with disabilities to live independently, and help communities rebuild after natural disasters.  Under current funding levels, STATE receives $XX million annually from CNCS, which allows a total of 12,263 Senior Corps and 2,826 AmeriCorps members to participate in 146 projects at 2,011 service locations across the state. [Add in story/example/case study of how CNCS programming affects the state]

National service programs supported by CNCS are proven to be a cost-effective investment for the nation. A study by economists at Columbia University demonstrates that, for every dollar invested in national service, there is a $3.95 return to society in terms of higher earnings, increased output, and other community-wide benefits. Through a robust public-private partnership, the federal investment in national service is highly leveraged to cultivate matching support from private, philanthropic, and local sources. Every AmeriCorps grant dollar results in another dollar of investment by community partners.

Given the impact and cost-effectiveness of national service programs in Illinois and across the country, we are extremely concerned about the proposed funding cuts to CNCS adopted by both the Senate and House Appropriations Committees for FY16. CNCS has been subject to significant reductions in funding since FY10, and further decreases to the agency’s budget would have dire implications. Should CNCS’s appropriations be cut further—after years of inadequate funding due to the combination of budget caps and sequestration—AmeriCorps and Senior Corps positions will be eliminated and our ability to deliver critical services  in Illinois will be in jeopardy. We certainly recognize the difficult atmosphere in which the Appropriations Committee is working to make challenging decisions, but the impact of national service programs on local communities and the economy in our state cannot be ignored. CNCS must be protected.

As a member of the Appropriations Committee, you have the power to protect CNCS funding. We are counting on you to be our champion.

Sincerely,

[YOUR NAME]


_ _ _ _ _

Template for Phone Call:
- Call either office: Chicago - 312-886-3506 , Washington, DC - 202-224-2854 


  • Phone Call To Congressional Offices – Talking Points
  • Hi, my name is NAME and I’m calling from Chicago, Illinois.
  • I’m calling to urge the Senator/Representative to protect funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service. 
  • The Corporation for National and Community Service is our nation’s largest grantmaker for service and volunteerism, and they operate two large national service programs, AmeriCorps and Senior Corps.  These programs harness the energy and ingenuity of American citizens to help address local needs.  AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members tutor students, provide job training to veterans, and aid in recovery after natural disasters. 
  • Our national service programs offer an additional benefit by helping to develop the workplace skills and experience of those who serve.   
  • National and local nonprofits receive grants from the Corporation for National and Community Service to help fuel their work, including Habitat for Humanity, City Year, Teach For America, the American Red Cross, and many others.
  • Funding for these programs is important to me because [insert personal story of how AmeriCorps/Senior Corps has affected your life and/or your community]
  • As we approach the end of the fiscal year, I respectfully request that the Senator use his Appropriations Committee position to protect funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service.
  • His constituents are counting on him!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spread the word about AmeriCorps to "The Daily Show"!

See post below from Scott, an alum from Austin, TX, and take action!

_______

Hey everybody, I've got a true test for the power of the AmeriCorps network... If you believe in the work we all do, and think more people should know about it, PLEASE READ ON!!
Earlier this week, on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart and guest Sebastian Junger were lamenting the fact that there is no "non-military, domestic national service program" that enabled people to work to improve their country at home. WE, of course, know that such a thing DOES exist... AmeriCorps!
A few of us folks have gotten together and decided to try bring this to the attention of the Daily Show, Jon Stewart, and The Corporation for National and Community Service, through tweeting messages with the intention of going viral... AmeriCorps active and alumni members is a huge and tight-knit network, so we think it could work. The ultimate goal would be to get an AmeriCorps rep (probably Wendy Spencer) to be invited as a guest on the Daily Show, spread the word, and talk about the great work we all do! We're trying to use the ‪#‎AmeriCorpsOnTDS (AmeriCorps on the Daily Show) as the tag to go viral...
If you've got a twitter, @mention @TheDailyShow, @AmeriCorps or @WendyCSCS. and PLEASE be sure to share this and encourage any other AmeriCorps folks you know. VISTA's if you have a PSO Training group on FB, that'd be perfect, as would the Austin AmeriCorps Alumni Group.
My twitter handle is @ScottZienty, so feel free to find me and retweet any of the ones I've made, or come up with your own.
We appreciate your help, and let's get #AmeriCorpsOnTDS!!!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Leadership Committee Positions

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We are excited to announce that we will be growing our Leadership Committee! Starting this fall, we’ll be adding three new positions: Social Media Chair, Event Coordinator, and Fundraising Chair. If you are interested in taking on a leadership position with AmeriCorps Alums, please submit a resume and message explaining why you are interested to our email: americorpsalumschicago@gmail.com. The deadline to apply is November 1st!



POSITION DESCRIPTIONS:


Social Media Chair
-       Maintain AmeriCorps Alums Chicago blog, Facebook page, and Twitter account
-       Increase presence across all social media
-       Help respond to chapter emails
-       Build email templates for use across AmeriCorps Alums functions
-       Strong writing skills required
-       Expertise in social media is a plus

Event Coordinator
-       Plan two big events per year based on group decision and input
-       Responsible for coordinating location, food, attendance (if necessary), and all other logistics of events
-       Working with Social Media chair to promote and market events
-       Must perform well against deadlines
-       People skills and timely, effective communication skills are essential

Fundraising Chair
-       Help increase chapter revenue by creating sustainable fundraising opportunities for the chapter
-       Work with Event Coordinator and Social Media Chair to schedule fundraising events, as needed
-       Experience in fundraising is a plus, but not required


Requirements for all Positions
-       1 year commitment to position
-       2-10 hours per week (higher hours during weeks prior to events)
-       Attend approximately 90% of all chapter events, including Leadership Committee meetings, happy hours, and all other events
-       This position is what you make it. Your energy and enthusiasm are appreciated, and your commitment to follow-through is imperative.
-       Our Leadership Committee works as a team, so please respect our established culture and help us work together to make AmeriCorps Alums Chicago great!