Public Spirit December 2010

What you’ll find in this month’s edition

  • Attention Scholars! Curious about how to use that hard earned Ed Award?…
  • ICC President Says Hello: Julia loves national service…
  • Member Spotlight: Meet Kat McCarthy, GreenCorps member and bike enthusiast
  • MLK Day of Service 2011: Find out how you can make it a day on, not a day off
  • Minnesota GreenCorps! Meet the new program on the block…
  • Eat and Meet: How to organize your own AmeriCorps Progressive Dinner…
  • The Two Month Slump: Feeling frustrated during your service time? You’re not alone…

    Attention Scholars! Curious About How To Use That Hard Earned Ed Award?…

    Did You Know…? Resources for AmeriCorps Members

    Segal AmeriCorps Education Award

    So, you’ve got $5,000 to spend on education related expenses. Do you know how to get the most out of your money? Thankfully, there’s a great new website about the Education Award: http://edaward.orgHere are the top 10 things you should know about the Education Award and paying for higher education.

    #1 – VISTA is sometimes different than other branches of AmeriCorps when it comes to the rules and usage of Ed Awards. http://edaward.org/guidebook/vista

    #2 – The Ed Award is considered taxable income, but only in the year you use it to pay for school, loans, etc., not the year you receive it. http://edaward.org/guidebook/taxes

    #3 – Some colleges and universities will match your Ed Award or give AmeriCorps member/alum discounts, which mean even more savings. http://edaward.org/guidebook/matching-schools

    #4 – Going to school after AmeriCorps? Don’t lose Financial Aid because of your Ed Award. http://edaward.org/guidebook/avoid-losing-aid

    #5 – You may receive a better Financial Aid package because of your national service since national service income doesn’t count against you. But make sure you fill out your FAFSA correctly. http://edaward.org/guidebook/create-better-aid-offer

    #6 – If you’re going to school after serving, you may be able to use your Ed Award to buy school supplies like a new computer.

    #7 – Don’t want to go to “traditional” colleges or universities? You can use your Ed Award to pay for qualifying overseas schools, trade schools, or even an outdoor education program. http://edaward.org/guidebook/types-schools

    #8 – If you’re worried about being able to afford your student loan payments, check out the Income Based Repayment Program, which will adjust your payments according to your income. http://edaward.org/guidebook/income-based-repayment

    #9 – Planning on making a career out of public service? You could have your student loans forgiven after 10 years of qualifying service. http://edaward.org/guidebook/loan-forgiveness

    #10 – Need real-world examples? There are 7 stories to help demonstrate the ways in which you can use your Ed Award to its full potential. http://edaward.org/content/ed-award-stories

    ICC President Says Hello: Julia Loves National Service…

     

    Julia Quanrud

    VISTA Leader for Volunteer MPS

    ICC President, 2010-2011

    What is your background?

    I grew up near Caledonia, Minnesota in the southeast corner of the state.  I moved to St. Paul to attend Macalester College, where I earned my bachelor’s degree while working in Macalester’s Civic Engagement Center as a student issue-based and program coordinator through an amazing program called Leaders in Service.

    Why AmeriCorps?

    AmeriCorps was the clear next step after my experience working in Macalester College’s Civic Engagement Center.  I found that I had a growing passion for public service, and I welcomed the opportunity to explore public service full time as an AmeriCorps member at Minnesota Campus Compact through the Minnesota Literacy Council VISTA program.  It was such a great experience that I signed up for a second year of AmeriCorps as a VISTA Leader for Minneapolis Public Schools.

    What makes national service important to you?

    I simply believe that national service has the power to empower and improve the communities I care about.  I feel grateful to be part of a national movement that has changed the lives of so many people, including my own.

    Why ICC?

    AmeriCorps members are stronger and more effective when we work together, and the InterCorps Council is the only organization in Minnesota that unites AmeriCorps members from state, national, and VISTA programs behind a common vision of empowering Minnesota communities.

    What are the goals for this year within ICC? (personal or council-wide)

    As the President of the InterCorps Council, my primary goal is to continue to support the Council’s great work.  I’ve set a personal goal of making the Council a more transparent and accountable organization, and I also strive to learn more about the different AmeriCorps programs in Minnesota so that we can be more effective at all members of AmeriCorps in Minnesota.

    Member Spotlight: Meet Kat McCarthy, GreenCorps Member And Bike Enthusiast

     

    Member Spotlight

    Kat McCarthy

    Program: Minnesota GreenCorps

    Service Site: Capitol Region Watershed District

    Background Info:

    I am a 23 year old from Mt. Horeb Wisconsin, living in Minneapolis, MN.

    I graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science, Policy, and Management. I started the Minnesota GreenCorps program that fall, wanting to gain experience working in the environmental field. After having a great experience in the first year, I am now serving in my second year at a different host site.

    What’s an average day like in your service position?

    This year, I am serving at a watershed district, which is a local unit of government that manages and protects water resources. I am working with their education and outreach coordinator – organizing workshops, conducting surveys and interviews, and working with community groups on various projects.

    What made you decide to join AmeriCorps?

    Many of my friends served in AmeriCorps after college, and showed it was a great way to serve their community while gaining experience working in their field.  I appreciate that AmeriCorps has a good balance between serving and learning. We all do what we can at our host sites, while they accept we are just getting started.

    Any good stipend saving tips?

    I hate to sound like a Negative Nelly, but I do not have extra money to save. The health insurance plan offered by AmeriCorps makes that hard because we have to pay for prescriptions out of pocket.  I do try to live a modest lifestyle: I don’t own a car, I buy most things used or made by friends, I cook at home rather than eating out, I borrow movies and books from the library instead of buying my own copy.

    What do you like to do in your spare time?

    Almost everything I do outside of AmeriCorps is related to bikes in some way. I commute to work on my bike, I like to race, and I play bike polo. I also help organize Grease Rag, a bi-weekly open shop night teaching women / trans / femme cyclists how to fix their own bikes.

    What are you most passionate about?

    Bikes!

    For more information about Minnesota GreenCorps visit the website at:

    www.pca.state.mn.us/mngreencorps

     

    MLK Day Of Service 2011: Find Out How You Can Make It A Day On, Not A Day Off

     

    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?”

    The MLK Day of Service is a part of “United We Serve”, the President’s national call to service initiative. This initiative calls for community members from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. The MLK Day of Service empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, and creates solutions to social problems.

    This year, the InterCorps Council of Minnesota is encouraging AmeriCorps and community members alike to pursue projects that are focused on local food access and food security.  Many service projects throughout Minnesota are being organized and there are many volunteer opportunities available to both AmeriCorps members and the general public.  Any help is greatly appreciated.  If you are unable to join in on one of these opportunities, or you are organizing a separate MLK Day event for your program members, the ICC encourages you to contact your local food shelf to see how you can make a difference in your community.

    Please take this day to recognize the civil rights movement, and the dream that was sparked by the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.

    What: MLK Day of Service

     When: January 17, 2011

     Where: Many locations across the state of MN

     VIEW SERVICE PROJECTS AND SIGN UP HERE!

    Deadline to sign up is January 12.

    Don’t see a service opportunity near you?  Never fear!  New events will be added until January 7, so check back often!

    Minnesota GreenCorps! Meet The New Program On The Block…

    Minnesota GreenCorps is a new statewide AmeriCorps program through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency; “with the mission to preserve and protect the environment while training a new generation of environmental professionals,” says Stephanie Grayzeck Sounter, the program coordinator.

    GreenCorps members are responding to higher energy costs by local governments, assisting community members to take eco friendly actions, reducing greenhouse gases and other air pollutants, and helping to transition to a green economy.

    “MN GreenCorps members serve with communities to offer local, community-based solutions to environmental problems,” continued Sounter.  For 11 months, members serve with local governments, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations.

    What are the requirements for being a GreenCorps member?

    In addition to the standard AmeriCorps requirements, they require at least two years completed towards a four year degree/associate’s degree. A four year college degree is preferred. Applicants must also show a demonstrated interest in the environment and sustainability issues, through coursework, personal experience, work experience, or a combination thereof.

    What is the scope of work done by a GreenCorps member in relation to the other branches of AmeriCorps, such as State/National or VISTA?

    MN GreenCorps members serve with local governments, school districts, and non-profits around the state in the categories of energy/air quality, waste prevention and recycling, living green outreach, or green infrastructure. Members educate and engage host site staff and community members, implement sustainable practices, and put in place systems that can be carried forward after their service is done.

    Eat And Meet: How To Organize Your Own AmeriCorps Progressive Dinner…

    Progressive Dinners to Unite AmeriCorps Members on MLK Day!

    Connect with other local AmeriCorps by participating in a Progressive Dinner to celebrate Martin Luther King Day in January.

    A Progressive Dinner is a “traveling” dinner party, with each course being served at a different location.  So maybe you go to John’s house for salad, then Julie’s house for soup.  Ramble on over to Yvonne’s for the main course with dessert served at Mark’s!  It’s a great way to meet new folks and eat some delicious food!

    ICC Social and Networking Committee members will help you create the event and connect you with members serving in your area. Meet other AmeriCorps members!  Eat awesome food in a travelling sort of way!  For more information on how to get involved, please contact Annie or Terra.

    The Two Month Slump: Feeling Frustrated During Your Service Time? You’re Not Alone…

     

    It’s happened: the honeymoon period is over.  The excitement we first had at the beginning of our AmeriCorps positions was replaced by some form of static or day-to-day feeling where our hopes of changing the entire world have faded into a dark, abysmal place of no return.  Well maybe it’s not quite that negative, but we definitely are hitting a point in our service that is one of the toughest to get over: the Two-Month Slump.

    What brings about this Two-Month Slump? One site director says, “People start to feel some constraints or limitations around what they’re able to do” and that leaves people feeling like they aren’t able to do everything they had hoped for.  This could also be due to the fact that some AmeriCorps members realize that what they’re doing isn’t what they expected.  One AmeriCorps member writes, “I thought I applied for a coordinator position, but I truly feel like I’m doing something else.” Another writes, “When I applied, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into.  All I knew was … that I would have the opportunity to work with children in some manner.”  So perhaps a major part of the two-month slump is a misconception of what our AmeriCorps positions were to be before starting service terms or not being aware of the obstacles we would face in our job.

    Another symptom of the two-month slump is the total lack of energy one can feel before, during, and after their day.  This could be unique to the upper-Midwest as we experience the wonderful (but ever so dreary) season of winter.  Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) hits newcomers and natives alike, coupled with the end of our grand misconceptions of changing the world, it is no wonder that our energy seems to have dissipated.  As one member writes, “Every morning I come [to my service site], I feel like I have no energy and I am really drained.  I am so exhausted by the end of the day that I am and feel so negative.”  This is a point of concern, because when our feelings begin to affect our day [at our service sites], it affects our personal life too.  However, program directors have noted that no matter how down a person has felt, their participation has never yielded.  “I have been impressed with people’s willingness to keep going in difficult situations,” wrote Rachel Goplin and Jolene Anderson, program directors of Multicultural Communities in Action.

    But all is not lost in the two-month slump.  Members feel like there are opportunities out there, if not for them, then perhaps for others, to get over the two-month slump.  Talking with site supervisors to re-evaluate or redefine the duties of the position, venting with co-workers over the struggles they’ve encountered and maybe getting feedback are things that you can do at your site. It’s also good to explore your own personal stress relievers, such as books, movies, and articles, so that you can make the most out of your experience.

    While not everyone may get what they signed up for, and not all of us will return for a second year, it seems like the two-month slump is vital in our development as current members and future employees.  Once we best this slump, through communication and personal growth, we’ll face any other problems head on.  As one member writes, “I know I’ve gotten a lot more confident since the beginning, but that’s because I think I’ve learned a ton from watching teachers, and of course from experiences–both good and bad.”