Wednesday, January 21, 2015


After MLK Day this year, I asked our PACC*VISTAs to share what they did to commemorate this very important day in our nation. Many have come to consider this  a "National Day of Service." This day honors an incredible legacy and serves as another opportunity to continue working  together to impact change in our communities. Here are some of the experiences our VISTAs had during MLK Day this week:

AJ Ortiz at Millersville University:
Yesterday I did some volunteer service at the Millersville Area Meals on Wheels program.  Alongside me were my supervisor, Melissa Wardwell, and her boss, Victor DeSantis, Dean of Graduate and Professional Studies at Millersville University.  We also had a graduate assistant from the Experiential Learning and Career Management office as well as three of our AmeriCorps Next Steps students in attendance.   The 25 volunteers present went to work cleaning the kitchen, making cards for regular Meals on Wheels Volunteers, and creating posters to promote the upcoming food drive to be held at John Herr’s Market on February 7th and 8th.  Local news media conducted interviews and took photos of the activities.  After two hours of work, much was accomplished and our group of volunteers went out to lunch to get to know each other better and celebrate a commitment to volunteerism.   

Riccardo Purita at Drexel University:
I was at Robeson High School from about 10am-1pm. We brought over 20 Drexel students who were volunteering at the site. The Drexel volunteers, the Lindy Center staff, and about 20 Robeson students helped to paint the walls of the front lobby and the cafeteria.  The principal and other staff were there as well as two painters from the Philadelphia School District. It was great to see Drexel students work alongside the Robeson students.  The principal was incredibly grateful and hoped that this was the beginnings of a long-term partnership with Drexel University's Lindy Center for Civic Engagement and Robeson High School.

Kevin Zuidervliet at Bucknell University 
The meal was set weeks in advance, turkey gravy over mashed potatoes and squash on the side, as was the volunteer group, Susquehanna AmeriCorps C.O.R.E. members. From 2:00 to 7:00 I worked alongside students and staff from Bucknell University along with our C.O.R.E. counterparts to feed 79 people a hot meal. In a lot of ways this was just another one of our Monday night Community Harvest meals, we arrive to an empty gym in a church, transform it into a dining hall, serve 60-100 people, and before we leave it is again an empty gym. This week though was all the more important because of our continuation the legacy of service to our communities that Martin Luther King Jr. left behind. 

Kelly Langan at Keystone College:
For MLK Day, we made 21 sleeping bags to pass out to the homeless. Keystone has been doing the Sleeping Bag Project for 4 years now, and we made more than they ever had before! The woman who ran the project--Flo Wheatley--worked with us all day and told us what brought her to start making sleeping bags for the homeless. Once, while with her sick son in a big city, a homeless man helped her get onto a taxi after she had almost given up. Before he shut the door, he said "don't abandon me." And she certainly hasn't.

Here's Here to read an article featuring a quote from one of our veterans, Darren Glass. 
  Megan Acito at Northampton CC:
I was in Philly this weekend, and so participated in the MLK Day of Service down there. I volunteered along with City Year Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Health Corps, and many other organizations at Blaine Elementary School. We painted murals throughout the school. The different floors had different themes; the floors for younger students had murals like multiplications and division tables, key grammar definitions, and Dr. Seuss. I was on an older students' floor, and we painted motivational quotes on the walls. I also painted the words Originality and Reflection on two of the pillars in the hallway (words made up of the letters of "SCHOLAR," which the students are called there, were painted on each pillar, so "O"riginality and "R"eflection were two of those words). I attached a picture of one of the quote murals that I painted. The stairways were painted with murals of famous and important African American figures from history (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Oprah, President Obama, etc.). It was a really fun way to give back to the community!

Ana Cordova at Bryn Mawr:
Lutheran Children and Family Services resettles many refugee families into the Philadelphia area. Many of these families arrive with very little belongings. Fortunately, over the past years, many churches in the area have donated household items for the refugees. I drove myself and seven other Bryn Mawr students to St. Marks Lutheran Church to organize and sort all of these items.

Emily McGaha at Wilkes University:
For MLK Day, I participated in the Sleeping Bag Project at Keystone College in collaboration with My Brother’s Keeper Quilting Group.  Sleeping bags were hand sewn for the homeless individuals in the area as well as New York City. It was a wonderful experience to make handmade sleeping bags and to be able to distribute them to locals, but also in the larger populated areas where homelessness is very present. I encouraged my sister to visit and participate in this service project and she was really impressed with the outcome. She plans on sharing this idea with her university in order to help out the homeless population in the area.

Emily Lytle at Alvernia University:
The Holleran Center for Community Center Engagement had 230 students volunteer to work on various projects. I was in charge of 10 of those students and we went to volunteer at a local boys and girls club in the neighborhood. We taught a lesson on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., painted collage tiles for a new community building and served lunch to the kids. It was great to see the university students work with the youth in the community on the education of this holiday.  My favorite part was seeing the kids so engaged in the lesson and asking questions about the civil rights movement.

Evalyn Gleason at Temple University:
I spent the day helping students with scholarship and college applications. The majority of my day was spent proof reading and giving feedback on written works. The rest of my day was spent researching other opportunities available to my students. I looked at scholarships and college prep programs that many of my seniors can enroll in for the summer. I also did a lot of work with students on application deadlines and requirements for admittance to various institutions. I have been working consistently with two different students and was able to really focus on them this past Monday

Kaila Druetto at Alvernia University:
I spent my day serving with 10 out of an estimated 230 Alvernia students. I lead my group at the Reading Area Firefighters Museum. We helped the volunteers that run the museum clean display cases and work to set up new cases. It was a really great time hearing all of the stories these older gentlemen had to share and was really great to see my students reflect on their service. It was great to see my students appreciate service with a different vulnerable population than they usually do. It was a great day.

Jaylene Nissley at Messiah College:
Numerous teachers and Principal Travis Peck served with about fifty Messiah College students at Downey School on MLK Day. They served alongside Kim Phipps, Messiah College President, on projects such as organizing teaching materials and clothing donations, participating in numerous painting projects and sorting library books. Gov.-elect Tom Wolf, Rep. Patty Kim, Senator Rob Teplitz, Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse, and President and CED of UWCR, Tim Fatzinger were among those also present and serving at Downey. PennLive spoke with a Messiah College student who commented on Wolf’s visit:

“‘It's so great and I hope it brings more opportunities to the school,’ she said. ‘Usually, when people in high places come, that usually means that something good is happening for them. I'm happy for them’” (retrieved from PennLive).

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

PACC Visits The Philadelphia Mayor's Office

“If you’re an employer who wants to hire talented, dedicated, patriotic, skilled, tireless, energetic workers, look to AmeriCorps, look to the Peace Corps… Citizens who perform national service are special. You want them on your team.” 

– President Obama

I had the pleasure of attending an event at the Mayor's office this week and wanted to share a bit more about what it entailed and all of the really important people that were there emphasizing the importance of National Service.

The meeting was held in the Mayor's Reception Room at City Hall. The event was technically called "Employers of National Service~Announcement and Signing." Check out the pictures from where the event took place: 
Philadelphia's City Hall is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Though, it is definitely not user friendly as far as navigating your way around. I walked around the whole building to find an entrance that was open and then followed the crowd to the event after spending a couple of minutes lost in the hollow center. Fun Fact: Despite William Penn looking so tiny atop the large building, the statue is the tallest atop any building in the world. Standing at 37ft. I also once heard that the top hat of William Penn could fit a whole VW Bug inside. Though as far as I know, this has never been tested.
This is The Mayor's Reception Room in City Hall. Paintings of past Philadelphia Mayor's line the walls.
Entering into the main building there were tons of signs in the hallway about Philly being an Advocate and Employer of National Service.

So, now seems like a good time to break down what this means exactly. According to an article put out by which you can read in full here: Link to Article, "If you're an AmeriCorps or Peace Corps alumnus, the City of Philadelphia is looking to hire you. Starting this month, the city will award up to five points on its civil service exam for alumni of national service programs. Nutter made the announcement along with Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National & Community Service, a federal agency which oversees AmeriCorps. 'These individuals, through their service, create critical thinking skills, demonstrate leadership qualities, responsibility and they become the kind of invaluable workers that any employer would want,' Nutter said. Philadelphia is the first municipal employer to announce a concrete incentive like civil service points as part of a partnership with the National & Community Service agency."

This announcement comes after President Obama launched the "Employers of National Service" initiative at the White House during the ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps on September 12, 2014

What does this do? Well, it basically "Builds a talent pipeline which connects AmeriCorps and Peace Corps alumni with leading employers from the private, public, and nonprofit sectors to create recruitment, hiring, and advancement opportunities. Through this initiative, employers will have new access to a dedicated, highly qualified, and mission-oriented pool of potential employees and national service alumni will have additional opportunities to apply their skills in the workplace." 

No but really, what does that mean?  Basically, Employers of National Service have agreed "to include a box for service experience descriptions on employment applications or [to give] interview preferences to former volunteers." These companies are expressing their interest in the experiences that these programs provide potential applicants with. They are basically saying that they will incorporate the importance of these experiences into their hiring practices. The Participating Employers of National Service list can be found by clicking Here.

Mayor Nutter making the announcement

Wendy Spencer, the CEO of CNCS, recognizing Philadelphia as being at the forefront in advocating for the importance of National and International service

The other speakers included the General Manager of SEPTA, Joe Casey, and Fred Maahs, the Director of National Partnerships for Comcast Corporation and the Vice President of Comcast Foundation. These important supporters of National Service were among the many recognized at the event.
Here is a picture of some of representatives from the companies and organizations in PA who have agreed to be Employers of National Service
Here are five fun facts I learned during the day: 
1. 3,051  AmeriCorps/SeniorCorps Members are currently serving in Philadelphia
2. Those currently serving in Philadelphia are located at 150 sites
3. 43,000 Pennsylvanians have done AmeriCorps
4. Those Pennsylvanians have devoted over 57 million hours to AmeriCorps
5. Mayor Nutter thinks "National Service volunteers are the pride of our Country"

All in all, it was an important day for National Service. In which, the City of Philadelphia and many Philadelphia Employers recognized the fine work and promising futures of people who have committed a year or two of their lives to service, as our PACC*VISTAs have!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Happy New Year from PACC!!

Happy New Year, All!! 

I hope everyone's holiday seasons were full of time with family and friends, relaxation, lots of tasty treats, warmth, and celebrations!

It's hard to believe that it's December, let alone that it's 2015. All is well but busy here in PACC land. We've had so many exciting things happen since last I wrote. I drove all over this great state of Pennsylvania to see supervisors and VISTAs far and wide during my Host Site visits. I visited 20 Universities between October and Decemeber!
This is where everyone is located.
My drives all looked a lot like this:

and they sounded a lot like podcast upon podcast:
Some involved tours of campus, some involved community partners, some involved coffee shops, others involved conference rooms. But all of them involved getting to see and hear about all of the awesome things the VISTAs are doing.
Sometimes during my travels, I had the opportunity to eat with supervisors and/or VISTAs and other times I had the opportunity to dine with Santa Claus on his lunch break.
In between site visits, we had our Fall Board Meeting at Messiah College. PACC's board is composed of college and University president's from PACC member institutions. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend and sit at the same table with these impressive women and men who are running notable Universities doing innumerable commendable things. They are also at the forefront of cultivating institutions that hold civic engagement as a integral and imperative part of their education. I did a presentation for them about a few of the many projects that our VISTAs are working on at our host site universities. These are the Presidents that I had the opportunity to present the VISTA program to:

The other exciting thing that happened before 2014 came to a close was the launch of our 15-16 PACC*VISTA application. We are very excited about all of the institutions that applied and all of the potential projects that will start or continue during the 15-16 year. We were granted the opportunity to grow in the number of projects we'll have next year and we're really looking forward to it! We've been reading away, chatting with schools, offering feedback and will be very excited to announce our 15-16 Host Site projects in just a few weeks!

I've felt a bit like this...
But then I try to remember the impact
these programs make...or at least I try.