Public Spirit, January 2013

Happy January, fellow AmeriCorps folks. The winds are cold, the days still short, and many of us are still buried in post-holiday work. But for now, let’s come together to enjoy some Public Spirit. In this edition you will find information on upcoming awesome events, tips on sticking to New Year’s resolutions, as well as a note from the ICC President (among other things). So sit back and feel connected with Public Spirit

Upcoming Trainings and Social Events  

Grant Writing Social Event

What do grant writing and Ireland have in common?  Not much, but get a taste of both by joining the ICC Social and Networking committee at O’Gara’s on January 31st directly after the “Insider’s Scoop on Grant Writing” training!  Here are the details:

Who: Everyone is welcome (even those who cannot attend the grant writing training)

What: Social hour at O’Gara’s

When: 6:00pm January 31st (right after the ICC Grant Writing Training)

Where: O’Gara’s Bar and Grill on Selby and Snelling (164 N Snelling Ave)

This will be a great opportunity to network with AmeriCorps members and get some awesome food/beverages!


Leadership Matters: The Role and Importance of Developing Personal Leadership Skills

Joel Maturi is the former Athletic Director of the University of Minnesota, University of Denver, and Miami University. On February 19 at 4:00pm, he will speak to AmeriCorps members about the common characteristics found in leaders and how to develop these characteristics as well as apply them in personal and professional settings. That’s right; if you are an AmeriCorps member you have the opportunity to attend a free evening with Joel Maturi! Mr. Maturi has been a shining example of leadership—he transitioned Denver’s athletic program from the Division II to Division I level and he merged the University of Minnesota’s separate Men’s and Women’s athletics departments into one department.

Under Maturi’s direction, from 2002 to 2012 the University of Minnesota won seven national titles in four different sports, championed football’s return to campus by securing public and private funding for the construction of TCF Bank Stadium, and worked with the then newly-hired Coach Tubby Smith to help turn around a Men’s basketball program marred by scandal. Maturi’s vision and leadership skills are a credit to the high levels of academic and athletic success and integrity enjoyed at the University of Minnesota. This success and integrity is a direct reflection on the values of the great state of Minnesota.

To register for Leadership Matters with Joel Maturi, please click here.


Leadership Matters Social Event

Hungry for leadership? Join the Social and Networking Committee in grabbing some grub and drinks while sharing your leadership insights on February 19th right after the “Leadership Matters” training.

Who: All are welcome (even those that cannot attend the training)

What: Social hour

When: 6pm February 19th (right after Leadership Training)

Where: Stub and Herb’s – 227 Southeast Oak Street, Minneapolis


Social and Networking Committee presents, “Live for Five!”

We want to know what  you know, and we want to have a good time while learning it.

“Live for Five” is a networking event for AmeriCorps members to showcase their wit, excellence, and creativity in the form of 5-minute hot seat presentations on a topic of their passion.  

Who: All AmeriCorps members are invited!

What: Live for Five!

Where: O’Gara’s Bar and Grill on Selby and Snelling (164 N Snelling Ave)

When: Tuesday, February 26th from 5:30 to 7:30PM

Modeled on the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network’s Five Minutes in Hell, this high-energy, fast-paced event is the perfect bite-sized opportunity to gain knowledge, meet other AmeriCorps members, or get a taste of what it’s like to be in the hot seat.  Hot seat presenters speak about some topic that they are especially knowledgeable or enthusiastic about for 5 minutes, uninterrupted. All topics are welcome, from tutoring kids to interpretive dance! This is a great way to have fun while effectively describing something in a really short period.

When you register for this event, you will have the option of being an audience member or a hot seat member. Social and Networking Committee will only accept 10 hot seat presenters. “Live for Five” is structured so that 5:30 to 6:00 will be general networking and social time with appetizers; 6:00 to 7:00 will be the 10 hot seat presentations; and 7:00 to 7:30 will be more networking AND a raffle from which two audience members could win $20.00 gift cards to O’Gara’s! 

You must RSVP to attend or present at this lively and entertaining event! Please RSVP here

Questions? Email


AmeriCorps Week!

What: A week of celebrating AmeriCorps, showing AmeriCorps pride, and attending professional development training events specifically created for AmeriCorps members.

When: March 11 through March 17

Training day: Monday, March 11. Save this date, as it will have the majority of training and development events!  These training events will take place at the Center for Changing Lives, 2400 Park Ave., Minneapolis. Mark your calendars and check back here later for more details!


AmeriCorps Week Social Events

Dodgeball tournament on either Saturday 3/9 or Sunday3/10

Trivia Night at Darby’s in Downtown Minneapolis on Tuesday 3/12 at 6pm.

More details to come!

A Note from the ICC President  

Friends –

It is with deep appreciation and a profound sense of pride that I say “thank you” for helping make MLK Day 2013 an impactful one in the state of Minnesota! Across the Twin Cities and St. Cloud, hundreds of volunteer hours were spent at ICC service sites packing meals, repairing homes, educating children, and reaching out to disenfranchised members of our communities. You turned January 21st from a “day off” into a “day on,” bringing help and hope to hundreds of our fellow Minnesotans.

But our work is only beginning. MLK Day is a powerful reminder each year, both of how far we’ve come, and how far we have yet to go. Hunger, homelessness, and inequality still sow their wretched seeds across our state and nation. Illiteracy, injustice, and prejudice continue to salt the fertile land we call home. It is in the face of these trials that we must collectively look within, not only to Dr. King and our host of better angels, but into our own hearts. It is there that we must decide the kind of home we want to build, the type of future we want to shape. And it is from our hearts that we must share our passion for service with our neighbors, for when we all walk together, there is no telling what heights we might reach.

I hope you will join the ICC in our continued efforts to serve the state of Minnesota and its AmeriCorps members throughout the coming months. Check back often for opportunities to serve, grow, and meet new friends who are dedicated to making our state a better place to live.

In Service,

Andrew Peterson

President, InterCorps Council of MN


Member of the Month: Luke Peterson

Where do you serve? I am an AmeriCorps VISTA member, serving with the Minnesota Literacy Council. More specifically, I serve in the district office of the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS), as part of the Math Department, which is within the larger Teaching and Learning Department.

What does your project look like? My project is a marketing and outreach position. I have been working on the public facing internet, doing such things as creating a common website structure and finding resources for parents, tutors, and students. I have also been working on the internal server, forming the template for the Teaching and Learning Department’s intranet, as well as posting resources that teachers can use in the classroom and for professional development.

What motivates you to serve? My favorite part of service is the group of people that I work with in the MPS Math Department. I’m also motivated to serve by the desire to help students find out what drives them and what they are passionate about.

Does your service relate to your future academic or career interests? I like math, so maybe? I have considered going back to school to get a teaching license, but really, I would take most anything that will pay me when my year of service is over.

What do you do in your free time? Am I not supposed to be serving 24 hours a day? Well, I usually watch a lot of movies and TV, read books, exercise, doodle and then color with crayons, sometimes bake bread and cookies, but mostly watch movies.

Have you found any cheap deals or activities for having fun on the AmeriCorps stipend? Reading is good, and you can do that with a free library card.

Any words of wisdom for other service members? There should be at least one thing in your life that you enjoy!

ICC AmeriCorps Tips

In light of the New Year, there are many common resolutions we all have made: eat better, exercise more, manage stress, etc. With the holiday season officially coming to a close, you may be dreading the inevitable credit card statements that are sure to follow. If so, why not make a resolution to tighten the proverbial money belt and live on a friendlier AmeriCorps budget?

Here are a few tips that can help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions without breaking the bank:

Eating Better: By now, many AmeriCorps members have probably become familiar with SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) that enables us to purchase food at grocery stores. But sometimes, eating healthier fruits and vegetables may not cut it. In case you crave an occasional pizza, be sure to check out Papa Murphy’s Pizza, which now accepts SNAP cards as payment! Papa Murphy’s has great pizza selections that are still healthy for you and affordable while living on a budget.

Another great food program to check out is Fare for All, which provides food packages you can buy in bulk that include choice of meat, fruit, and vegetables. They provide a great way to save on money while still buying quality, nutritious food.

Exercising More: If you ate one too many holiday cookies and want to focus on getting back in shape, don’t let gym memberships stonewall you from exercising more. Manygreat options can fit easily into your AmeriCorps budget. For example, the YMCA considers your income and often lowers monthly fees for AmeriCorps members. And a lot of gyms are offering free or discounted enrollment fees for the month of January, so keeping this New Year’s resolution just got a whole lot easier.

Enhancing Your Own Fabulous Self: Winter doldrums may leave you itching to reinvent your style, but living on an AmeriCorps budget usually isn’t compatible with shopping sprees. Luckily, there are money-saving ways to satisfy this urge without sending you into debt. Check out local thrift stores and consignment shops that offer a wide variety of clothing options – you never know what you might find! Use The Thrift Shopper to find budget-friendly stores nearest you. Need a little more inspiration to check out thrift stores? Listen to the popular musical talents of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz as they praise the gems found in thrift shops!

Also, make hair appointments at beauty schools instead of pricey salons. If you’re in the Twin Cities Metro area, treat yourself to a day at the Aveda Institute, which offers great deals on haircuts (only $16 plus tip!) and massages that will leave you feeling pampered and refreshed.

With all these great deals, you can be sure to keep your New Year’s resolutions in check. Now go treat yourself to a Papa Murphy’s pizza, enroll in a Zumba fitness class, and pop some tags at a local thrift store!

Life Hacker: Free Yoga

With temperatures dipping into single digits in the month of January, what’s an AmeriCorps member to do for free exercise? The days of a comfortable jog outside are long behind us, and with sunset around 5pm, it can be difficult to find the motivation for such an endeavor. Yoga might seem like an unlikely candidate to cure expensive exercise woes, but beyond upscale studios offering classes that cost $20 a pop there are small start-ups offering free classes almost every day of the week in the Twin Cities.

Skeptical about the physical benefits of yoga? According to Huffington Post columnist Sadie Nardini, research has found that three 60-minute sessions of yoga per week can delay aging at the level of DNA. Exercise in general preserves telomeres (the aspect of DNA that shortens as we age), but yoga has the added benefit of detoxifying and balancing the endocrine system. In regard to mental health, a study from Boston University School of Medicine found that an hour of yoga increased levels of the GABA neurotransmitter responsible for managing anxiety by 27 percent in comparison to a control group that read for an hour.

The best news about these statistics is the plethora of opportunities for free yoga classes available in the metro area. Check out PhenoMNal Twin Cities or follow twitter handle @phenoMNaITC to see a calendar with free classes offered multiple times per week at prAna in Edina. Athleta stores in Edina and Bloomington also offer a mix of free yoga classes and other workouts on Saturdays and Sundays. For those who crave a bit of adventure with their yoga, the East Phillips Park Community Center has a free acro yoga class every Wednesday from 5:30-6:30pm followed by unstructured playtime until 8pm. As the name implies, acro yoga combines elements of acrobatics and dance into yoga with positions that require the teamwork of two yogis. You don’t have to be a circus performer to attend this free class, but a playful attitude and willingness to make new friends will help you get the most of your acro yoga practice.


Site Highlight: White Earth Land Recovery Project

Pieces in Public Spirit so far have featured members or sites whose focuses are crime prevention, literacy, and college preparedness, but there are many more areas that AmeriCorps programs cover.One that does not normally bask in the limelight is agricultural community development. That’s why this edition’s Site Highlight section features the White Earth Land Recovery Project (WELRP).

Land recovery  and agriculture may seem like projects that are distinct from the more obvious social services mentioned above, but as WELRP demonstrates, they are deeply and obviously tied to individual and community capacity building.

What is the White Earth Land Recovery Project?

The White Earth Land Recovery Project is based on the White Earth Indian Reservation, in Callaway, Minnesota. The project was founded in 1989 with the creation of WELRP as a non-profit, Native American organization. WELRP’s founder and current Executive Director, Winona LaDuke, is a notable Native American scholar and social activist with degrees from Harvard University and Antioch College. (LaDuke gave a TED Talk on agriculture and ancestral heritage, which can be viewed here:

WELRP’s mission is to “facilitate recovery of the original land base of the White Earth Indian Reservation, while preserving and restoring traditional practices of sound land stewardship, language fluency, community development, and strengthening our spiritual and cultural heritage.” That last part is key, because even though WELRP addresses community building and poverty alleviation in the general mannerof most AmeriCorps programs, WELRP is also particularly cultural and spiritual. Anishinaabeg culture and its values inspired the creation of the project and shaped WELRP’s programs. The project was born out of the Anishinaabeg tribe’s struggle for land rights, which left the tribe with less than ten percent of its original land base. This disenfranchisement has led to widespread tribal and regional poverty and a languishing of tribal culture. While many of the tribal members moved to the Twin Cities, those who stayed must now fight for agriculture and energy independence as well as develop a nurturing employment and educational culture for reservation inhabitants.

WELRP reaches out to its population through four main program areas: nurturing civil society, energy sovereignty, food security, and economic and environmental justice. Since its beginning, WELRP has hosted 30 AmeriCorps members, including VISTAs. This past summer, several VISTA Summer Associates planned and maintained WELRP’s garden. They also ran WELRP’s Minwanjige Café, for which they prepared traditional Ojibwe dishes using local produce. WELRP volunteers and VISTAs cultivate crops using Anishinaabeg tribal agriculture practices. Additionally, WELRP has begun several energy independence projects with the hopes of offering job opportunities to tribe members with engineering backgrounds and creating regional energy independence. WELRP received a grant from the U.S. government to provide a tribal renewable energy program, which had given at least 50 individuals a certificate of completion by 2012. To indirectly address the reservation’s challenges, volunteers and VISTAs form partnerships with several community organizations. They also improve the project’s visibility by promoting and hosting several community events, such as the White Earth powwows and the upcoming 10th Annual Great Lakes Indigenous Farming Conference, March 4th through March 7th, 2013.

What has WELRP accomplished?

WELRP’s community action work has earned it several awards. These include the Blue Cross Upstream Award for work on diabetes improvement, the Northwest Area Foundation Great Strides Award (shared with White Earth Community Investment Initiative), and the Jessie Smith Noyes award for Organizational Achievement.

It is worth noting the successes behind the awards as well. WELRP created Native Harvest, a brand name to market foods produced on reservation land, such as wild rice and maple syrup. In 2011, WELRP created its own broadcasting station, Niijii Radio, KKWE 89.9 FM, which is the first independent Native American radio station in Minnesota. WELRP also created the first successful farm-to-school program on any reservation in Minnesota, which serves as a national model for such projects. Additionally, members of WELRP have published several reports on agriculture, food security, sustainability, energy independence, and Native American community development. These reports motivate policy-makers, volunteers, and activists to focus their energies on truly sustainable community development.

Lessons from WELRP

WELRP teaches AmeriCorps members how culturally significant AmeriCorps projects can be. Sites such as the White Earth Land Recovery Project show how AmeriCorps solutions need not be one-size-fits-all prescriptions, but can root themselves in a spiritual culture with a historically rich community life.

Visit the WELRP website for more information.