Friday, March 6, 2015

Conferences, Trainings, and Lots of Snow!

It's officially March, though you wouldn't know it from the bunches of snow that fell yesterday and left my balcony looking like this:

My snow day took an unexpected turn when on my stroll back from a local sandwich shop, I realized that my keys were no longer in my pocket and I was locked out of my house. A coffee shop day full of cards ensued and while it was certainly not the productive day of work and snow gazing that I anticipated, it turned out to be an unexpected silly day of simple pleasures that reminded me of this Agatha Christie quote: "I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing."

If we've learned anything from trending events this week, it is that the unexpected or impossible can happen. Badgers can experience joyrides on the backs of woodpeckers and Spring will eventually be coming again.

This week, I wanted to highlight a couple of the exciting things that have happened both with PACC and with our VISTAs. One of our VISTAs attended a great conference in California and another put together a really successful event with several community partners.

PACC's Supervisor Orientation:
Last Thursday, PACC hosted our 15-16 Supervisors' Orientation. It was great to put faces to all of the names of our new host sites and to see all of our returning supervisors. We had 27 supervisors and 8 campus/community partners in attendance representing our 27 host sites for next year. Having read through all of the applications thoroughly, I have to say that I am just so impressed and excited by the scope of focus areas for these projects and the potential impact that VISTAs will make at each of them. Below you can see the breakdown of Focus Areas for next year and a map of where our 15-16 Host Sites will be located.

The first part of the day was just for new supervisors. We have 12 "Year 1" projects beginning in July 2015. We wanted to ensure that these supervisors had some time to learn about the Foundations and expectations of PACC and CNCS, along with the roles of PACC, Host Site Supervisors, and VISTAs. Some parts were a little dry but we really tried to cover as much information as we could on the dedication, commitment, and energy it takes to be a PACC*VISTA Host Site and how it's totally worth it! Once the returning supervisors arrived, the real fun began! We talked more about terms, conditions, and benefits of VISTAs as well as the next steps in making their VISTA project a reality, including recruiting and hiring a VISTA. And between slides, there were several opportunities to binge eat cinnamon rolls and drink copious amounts of coffee.
Next up for host sites...Recruitment!
This slide helps to really lay out the PACC*VISTA recruitment process
The "Personal Effectiveness Competencies" were intended to assist supervisors in considering what competencies or skill-sets will be important for the VISTA as they consider candidates 
All of the methods host sites can use to recruit candidates to serve as PACC*VISTAs
VISTA Panel:
A panel of current PACC*VISTAs did a stellar job sharing their experiences with regard to balancing supervisor and community partner expectations, understanding what it is like to be in a new role and sometimes new community, wanting opportunities for formal and informal professional development, and navigating life on an AmeriCorps*VISTA living allowance. Each of these VISTAs brought a unique perspective from their experience and the ways in which they are supported at their host sites. This session allowed for supervisors to gain a better grasp of the variety of ways in which they can most effectively host an AmeriCorps*VISTA and make their experience unique, impactful, and well-supported. 

The panel wasn't quite as intense as this
Their answers were more carefully considered , complicated, and eloquent than straight 10's
And they refrained from singing...
But, they did a wonderful job and really gave our supervisors some helpful insight into how to make the VISTA experience a positive one. 

Polarity Management:
The Polarity Management Training was the training activity that I was most excited to try. While we did it after lunch, when there was a bit of an afternoon "I just ate a lot" lull in the room, I think overall, it went really well and is definitely something we'll use at trainings in the future.

Here are some of the polarities supervisors tried to work through in their groups

Impact Conference:

What is the IMPACT Conference?
According to their website, "The IMPACT Conference is historically the largest annual conference focused on the civic engagement of college students in community service, service-learning, community-based research, advocacy and other forms of social action. Building on the rich 28-year tradition of the COOL Conference and the Idealist Campus Conference, IMPACT is the one time during the year when students, administrators, faculty, AmeriCorps members and VISTAs, and nonprofit professionals gather together to learn and share effective practices, improve personal skills and organizational strategies, discover opportunities and resources, exchange stories, be inspired and challenged to sustain our efforts."

Here's a piece that Tyreek Renwick from Philadelphia University wrote about the event:
        So, where do I begin with my experience with the IMPACT Conference? First, it was great to get away from the frigid cold of Philadelphia and into the mild weather of LA where IMPACT was hosted this year. Seeing Loyola Marymount, who hosted IMPACT, and its sprawling campus full of palm trees and open land was an amazing sight to behold. Secondly, seeing other like-minded individuals who all share the same common goal of community service is quite inspiring. Lastly, seeing all the other student leaders from different universities around the US was awesome!
        I got a chance to sit in on a few student led workshops and most, if not all, of the presentations were so well done and informative even from an administrator viewpoint. During every workshop everyone is collaborating and trying to share with each other to better their programs while assisting with others’ programs as well. I have yet to see such a grand scale of collaboration in my years working in Community Service. With that being said I personally enjoyed the small moments I shared with other Campus Compact VISTAs and other students. One moment in particular stood out to me after the conference:
       So, on the flight back to Philadelphia (which was awful by the way) I sat next to a student who was from UPenn and I remembered him because we attended the same workshop that Saturday. I can’t remember his name but I blame that on my awful memory but I digress. We shared a very small connection on the flight back. We talked about both of our programs the struggles, accomplishments, and the overall joys of being in this field of work. We also went over different after college options (which I have some knowledge of) and what he may be interesting in doing. When the flight was over we bid our farewells and went along our different paths. It may have been a small connection but it was meaningful one nonetheless.

       Overall, the IMPACT showed me a lot of different people, ideas, and viewpoints that I can use to further myself and only solidified my passion for the work that I do and hope to continue doing in my future.

13th and Union Community Fair 
Jasmine Clarke at Albright University explained: "I planned and organized the 13th and Union Community Fair this past Wednesday and was able to get 5 in-kind donations. There were 23 organizations in total that attended. There also was coverage on it in the Reading Eagle this Friday." It sounds like it was a really successful day for Jasmine, Albright University, and the community partners who attended!
PACC*VISTA, Jasmine Clarke, who planned and organized the event
Here's an newspaper article written about the event!
And last but not least, pizza! I posted this video on Facebook, but I think it deserves another shout-out on the blog. Rosa's is a pizza place in Philadelphia that has really embraced the idea of "Paying It Forward," an idea that is integral to our mission and the work we do.

“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition“Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition.” 
-President Barack Obama

-President Barack Obama

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