Monday, February 16, 2015

Post-Valentines Day

For this addition of the PA Campus Compact Blog, I thought I would spotlight a recent conference that a few of our very own PACC*VISTAs presented at/attended, as well as piecing together a mixture of articles and videos. Ultimately, I hope that this entry emphasizes the importance of sharing stories and the impact that this seemingly simple act can make.

Well, I don't know if you all noticed, but it's freezing outside. I woke up this morning to see this on my phone: 
I've been pretty seriously considering hibernating through the rest of winter. When I was a kid growing up in Georgia, "The Blizzard of '93" was the first time I remember seeing snow. If you read reports of it now, the amount of snow Atlanta got is recounted as being anywhere from 4 inches to 1 foot, not that much compared to what the Northerners endure. Either way, it was a lot for Georgia. I made my first snow angel and then ran inside screaming that I had fallen victim to frost bite. In actuality, my skin had just never felt that cold. I think back to that little kid screaming on days like today, when the wind whips against your face and it hurts to inhale the air. Snow and I have never fully understood each other. Then I remember that Boston looks like this right now: 
And while I will probably still spend too much time and energy whining about the chill in the air and how it seeps deep into your bones, this at lease offers me some perspective. I have a warm house and a warm coat and at the very least, our cars are not snowballs. And this is possible...Although probably not in Pennsylvania...: 

Valentine's Day  was this past weekend. Many people have mixed feelings about Valentine's Day that span from a day of love to a day of Hallmark price-hikes. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, here' a video about the history of Valentine's Day and an infographic about how the day went from the Lupercalia Fertility Festival in ancient Rome to a day honoring the martyred, mysterious Valentine to a multi-billion-dollar-grossing consumer holiday.

Ultimately, I thought I would give in to the sentiment of the holiday and share a story that Service Nation posted over the weekend about Colleen Holohan and Adam Reinke who first met while serving in AmeriCorps with the Massachusetts Campus Compact program. Colleen was my Program Manager ("Member Development Manager" was her title) when I was in AmeriCorps serving as a Massachusetts Promise Fellow up in Boston. Colleen and Adam are now married and recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Quinn Reinke. Colleen is now the Director the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship, a state-wide AmeriCorps program, and Adam is the Program Director for Eastern Massachusetts at uAspire and has often served as the direct supervisor for AmeriCorps members at his organization. Here's their story: Colleen and Adam's Campus Compact Love Story

Speaking of stories, for the 50th Anniversary of VISTA Celebration, they are asking folks far and wide to share their VISTA story. So, if you would be willing to do so, please click the link and add your story to the collection of 50 years of VISTA: Your VISTA Story

After reading the article about Colleen and Adam on "Service Nation," I was interested in learning more about "Service Nation" as an organization. So, here's a bit more about who they are and what they're trying to do:

The 3-year Serve A Year campaign will reach and inspire tens of millions of Americans – especially Millennials – to spend a year in service working on issues in education such as literacy, keeping students in school, and improving graduation rates while cultivating those who serve to be the next greatest generation. ServiceNation is bringing together leading service nonprofits with the entertainment industry, leading Americans, great companies, media and digital partners, politicians of both parties, and everyday citizens to build a powerful campaign to make national service part of the American way of life.
This is their campaign overview for the next 3 years as they try to increase the understanding and interest in National Service.
I recently found an article that Evan McMorris Santoro, the White House correspondent for Buzzfeed, wrote back in 2013 called "20 Years Later Trying to Make AmeriCorps Cool." The article details more about the purpose of ServiceNation. I think there's a lot of important insight to be gained from the article, including the state of National Service in our country. So, I thought I'd share it here: 20 Years Later, Still Trying to Make AmeriCorps Cool.

As this article alludes to, the best way to ensure a program flourishes is simply by getting the word out. This whole blog entry has really focused on the importance of storytelling. I wanted to share a story about an organization that has used AmeriCorps to enable their growth, development, and outreach as a nonprofit. Here's a great article about an organization that I was connected to in Atlanta called "The Fugees." The School for Young Refugees.

Speaking of getting the word out, this video, "Things Everybody Does but Doesn't Talk About" of President Obama has pretty much gone viral by now. While this video includes such silly images as Obama using a "selfie stick" and struggling with the complicated word "Feb-ru-rary," it also had an important message about the Open Enrollment period for 2015 coverage under the Affordable Care Act, which ended yesterday, Feb 15th. I know our VISTA at Northampton Community College was working tirelessly on these registration efforts and I appreciate the creative, humorous push Obama is using to raise awareness and get the word out.

Finally, I want to spotlight three of our VISTAs who recently attended the NASPA Veterans Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Here's what they had to say about it:

Kelly Langan, Keystone College:
Being at the NASPA Veterans conference was a great opportunity for many reasons. First of all, I was so excited to see Ashley give her presentation on the R-VETS program she's running--she bragged a lot about PACC and AmeriCorps VISTAs, and it was a treat to see her talk about all the things her program has accomplished. The conference attendees were all really interested in hearing about the work that we do as VISTAs, and a few of them I spoke with are planning to contact the Campus Compacts in their states. Other than getting to spend some time with Ashley and Emily, I think my favorite part of the conference was just networking with other people who serve veterans--I felt refreshed and ready to tackle my job by the time the conference was over.

Emily McGaha, WIlkes University:
The conference was an amazing experience. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to go and gather fresh ideas and network with a variety of individuals to learn which best practices to use with my program.

Ashley Woodward, Marywood University:
Lauren Williams and I were accepted to present at the 2015 NASPA Veterans Conference with Lauren's intern, Katie DeStefano in Louisville, Kentucky. The conference took place in the Brown Hotel. We presented as a mini-institute in front of about 20 to 30 new and seasoned higher administration professionals from all over the country. It was daunting, but I was so happy to have the opportunity. My presentation covered the R-VETS program and I talked about how PACC and AmeriCorps VISTA made the whole program a reality on our campus. The focus of our presentation was to give an overview of R-VETS from conception to implementation and to show how other campuses could start similar programming to serve veterans and their families. After the program, a few people told us that they were interested in applying for VISTAs of their own, so I was happy to spread the word. I also got to see Kelly Langen and Emily McGaha at the conference! It was nice to be reunited with them so far from home!

Classic Wolf PACC Pic!

Thank you all for your continued hard work, for telling the stories, raising awareness, and for making the impact! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Mid-Year Report and Groundhog Day

We've rounded the corner of the first month of 2015 and February is upon us. The Patriots won the Super Bowl, the rain is consistently pouring outside, and Pennsylvania's very own Punxsutawney Phil has officially determined this morning that there will be six more weeks of winter when he happened upon his own shadow. Upon doing more research, I have found that Groundhogs are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation, and often build a separate "winter burrow" for this purpose. In most areas, groundhogs hibernate from October to March. So, Phil shouldn't even be awake right now. And if his sleepy state is anything like mine, I think we should declare Phil's decision that winter will be extended null and avoid pending further evidence that he is in fact right. 

President Obama released his 2016 budget proposal today. The 2016 budget requests $1.18 billion for the Corporation for National and Community Service. This is a 12% increase from last year. This shows President Obama's firm belief in the impact National Service can have on this country. In the words of CNCS, "This funding level will enable AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and the Social Innovation Fund to improve lives, expand economic opportunities, bolster civic and faith-based organizations, engage millions of Americans in service, and invest in evidence-based solutions." President Obama's budget would allott $96,885 to the VISTA program which is a 5% increase from last year.
This is a picture from Obama signing the Serve America Act in 2009 which reauthorizes and expands national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). And, below you'll find a video of Obama talking about National Service at the 20th Anniversary of AmeriCorps Event back in September 2014.

In PACC Land, we are celebrating our very own Michele Lowery's 25th anniversary as PACC's Office Manager. Char said it best, "We are so grateful for her diligence, organizational acuity and tenacious commitment to excellence for our organization." Congratulations to Michele!

And, as far as what I've been up to, for the past two weeks, I've been working on reading, writing, and compiling the Mid-Year Report for CNCS. There were times I felt like this:

 But, it was really cool to see the work everyone is doing and read about the accomplishments our VISTAs have had so far. Despite being a writer, I do enjoy the occasional graph or chart. I suppose it's the visual learner in me. Here are a couple of graphs that really exemplify the work of our VISTAs.

Here are some of the trainings that our VISTAs have been a part of this year through PACC, their host sites, and other training outlets

97% of community partners reported that the PACC*VISTA program met or exceeded their expectations

In the first half of the 14-15 year, 1,765 volunteers were engaged in PACC*VISTA projects. Collectively, they completed 12,360 hours of service. $153,153 of cash resources and $23,506 worth of in-kind resources have been raised as part of the PACC*VISTA projects.
In other words, they're getting things done!
This is just a small piece of the data collected from the VISTA project. It does not include all of the narratives that speak to the challenges, accomplishments, stories, and partnerships established from the PACC*VISTA projects this year. And, it doesn't address all of the other commendable accomplishments achieved specifically in each focus area. However, it does give you just a glance at some awesome outcomes that have come from the first half of this year.

Can't wait to see what the New Year and 2nd half of the 14-15 PACC*VISTA Term will bring!