Public Spirit, December 2014

Out with the Old, In with the New!

Happy New Year, from the InterCorps Council to you! The ICC has big aspirations for 2015, as we’re sure you do too. We hope you had a splendid 2014, and if not – 2015 brings endless possibilities for a better year! Scattered throughout this edition you will find topics ranging from a humorous piece on dating on an AmeriCorps budget and an excitingtraining opportunity for AmeriCorps members, to an interview with an AmeriCorps alumnus. So let’s start the New Year off right, together – by aiming higher, serving better, and of course, by reading Public Spirit.  

MLK Day of Service: Get Ready!

Answer the call: click HERE to volunteer

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 part of the President’s national call to service initiative.  It calls for Americans from all walks of life to work together to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems.

The Service Committee of the ICC has planned a number of service projects throughout the weekend so YOU can sign-up to serve. Join us as we give back to the greater community and remember what it means to “get things done!”

Click HERE to select a place and date to volunteer! 


Keeping Your New Year’s Resolution

Can you believe it is almost 2015? Starting a New Year is the perfect time for change; it is why so many people set New Year’s resolutions. Did you know only a small percentage of people actually accomplish their New Year’s resolutions? The ICC wanted to find out what your New Year’s resolution is so we can help you accomplish it! Here are the top three answers from our survey:

  1. Be healthier
  2. Meet new people
  3. Change bad habits

Accomplishing a New Year’s resolution takes a lot of patience and motivation. You are not going to be able to accomplish the resolution right away—you have to keep working at it. A helpful tip to accomplishing your goal is to start off slow and small and work harder gradually, that way it’s not too overwhelming in the beginning.

Being a National Service Member provides some unique circumstances to tackling these resolutions. Here’s some tips to accomplishing them:

New Year’s Resolution #1: Be Healthier


  • YMCA- YMCA has centers throughout Minnesota that offer scholarships to members with low incomes. Check out financial assistance memberships at these centers or contact the center in your  community: Twin CitiesMankato FamilyWinonaDuluthMarshall Area.
  • Other Affordable Centers - Snap Fitness and Planet Fitness often offer memberships for around $10 a month.
  • Exercise Outdoors – For those tough enough to endure the cold, check out the parks and trails in your  community.

Eating Healthy

  • Co-ops – Referred to as year-round farmer’s markets, co-ops offer natural, local food. In the Twin Cities metro, Seward Coop and Mississippi Market offer a 10% discount to members who are enrolled in SNAP.Other co-ops may offer discounts to those with low-incomes (Co-op Directory).
  • Fare-for-All – Buy a package of bulk produce and meat affordably through 30 Fare-for-All locations throughout the greater Twin Cities Metro.
  • Farmer’s Market – Farmer’s Markets provide local, healthy food at affordable prices during seasonal months. Many accept EBT cards and some provide discounts to customers using EBT, such as the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market. Check out the Farmer’s Market Directory to find one near you.


New Year’s Resolution #2: Meet More People

  • InterCorps Council of Minnesota (ICC)- Stay tuned to find service, networking and social events to mingle with fellow national service members. Follow the ICC on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn, and read Public Spirit to stay up-to-date.
  • Meet-up – Like brunch? Want to join a book club? Perhaps you want to hike alongside outdoorsy people? Find a group of like-minded peers on Meet-up.


New Year’s Resolution #3: Change Bad Habits

  • Bad habits are hard to break. In his book The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Charles Duhigg explains that poor habits in your routine should be replaced by positive ones that have a direct reward. You may eat a pastry for breakfast each morning because it tastes sweet and fuels you. Replace it with a healthier sweet option, such as an apple with toast and peanut butter. Use this technique to transform other bad habits into positive ones.

We hope these tips are useful in your journey to self-improvement. Best of luck keeping your resolutions and making permanent, positive changes!


AmeriCorps Recruitment: By the Numbers!

Have you ever wondered how many AmeriCorps members there are in Minnesota, or met someone serving in an AmeriCorps program you’ve never heard of? I know we have. So we did some research. 

But first, we wanted to know what others thought about how many members there are in Minnesota AmeriCorps programs, so the Communications Committee sent a survey earlier this month to find out. The answers varied, ranging from 200 to 20,000, and are broken down in the graph below.

First Glance: Responses to survey asking “how many AmeriCorps members?”

Reality: What we found by calling each AmeriCorps program office

  • There are about 2,456 AmeriCorps members serving in Minnesota this year
  • There are 12 AmeriCorps State and National programs and 13 AmeriCorps VISTA programs across the state
  • Over 250 positions have been added across programs this year
  • All but a few AmeriCorps programs have fulfilled their recruitment goals this year

VISTA members serve behind the scenes at more than 150 different organizations to build their capacity. Organizations that sponsor VISTA projects typically redistribute those members to other nonprofit organizations. The organizations sponsoring VISTA projects in 2014-2015 are

From the looks of it, we’re expanding! This is pretty exciting, as it means that we are providing valuable services to our communities, and that we’re more in demand than ever. Good work out there folks. Let’s keep it up!

Upcoming Training Opportunity!

Education in the Twin Cities: The Intersection of AmeriCorps & Non-Profit

Friday, Jan. 30 at 5:30 p.m.

College Possible, 540 Fairview Ave N, St. Paul, MN 55104

To RSVP: click me!

This event is to share the perspectives of different AmeriCorps organizations in how they see themselves redefining/impacting education. Each official participating organization will have 7 minutes to introduce their organization and how they see themselves impacting education in the Twin Cities, followed by a structured, small group conversation about education. Following this will be networking time where participants will be encouraged to meet individuals outside of their organization. The event will end with a brief presentation about opportunities for further service.

Click HERE to attend this awesome event! 


Date Me, I Have a Great Personality

It was a couple weeks ago. I was at a bar, counting my loose change and searching for random dollars hidden in various pockets of my coat. I saw a girl standing at the bar of the CC Club; she was spotlighted by dim red lights. Every particle of my being told me to walk up, buy her a drink, and begin chatting. I wanted to be her dapper gentleman from the 1960’s, except my tuxedo was a flannel shirt. After scrounging up four dollars for a rail whiskey and ginger, I approached her. My shoulders swaying back and forth with the swagger of a college kid, I asked the mysterious vixen if I could buy her a drink. “Bartender,” I said with a false bravado, “I would like a whiskey ginger for this beauty.” I nod toward her and flash my pearly whites. She twirled her hair and gave me a cheeky smile.

“That will be five bucks,” the bartender demanded. Five bucks, five bucks, all I had was four! I tried to mask my panic by laughing, but it came off maniacal. The beautiful brunette began to retreat to her table and in pathetic desperation I yelled, “I have no money, but I work with kids and I possess a great personality.”

 The dating world can be scary and intimidating. It can also be awfully lonely when you are on a tight budget. So here are a couple of ideas to date without spending a fortune:

1. Volunteer together. Show your significant other why you are proud to be an AmeriCorps member and what you can do to benefit others.

2. Watch each other’s favorite movies. If your date has not seen your favorite movie, this is an underrated romantic way of letting your partner see a different side of you.

3. Go stargazing at a local college observatory.

4. Browse through Ikea, taking the time to sit on every piece of furniture.

5. Finally, this is for you wild ones, test drive a sports car.


The Real Deal: Personal Impacts of Service

We often talk about national and community service in terms of big numbers. But sometimes those numbers don’t tell the whole story – they especially seem to leave out the effect of service on individual AmeriCorps members. One of the reasons service is so wonderful is its ability to transform service members into powerfully helpful and dedicated community members. In this section, we explore the effect of service on former AmeriCorps VISTA member Katelyn Waalen. Her year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member opened her eyes to new realities and a unique career path.

Where and when did you serve? What was your project?

I served in 2012-2013 year with the Saint Paul Public Schools Foundation VISTA cohort. I was located at Riverview Elementary School on the West Side of Saint Paul. My focus was building the capacity of the elementary school to help students improve scores in math and reading. I worked on recruiting and training volunteer tutors for kids.

Reflecting back, going forward: has service affected your career path?

My service really got me to think critically about a global perspective of impoverished communities. When I was in college, I studied abroad in Spain and I had such a great experience. But it never fully occurred to me how study abroad programs are only accessible to a small portion of the population. My service inspired me to pursue a career that would result in me helping to make study abroad more accessible for everyone. Everyone should have the opportunity to gain new perspectives and face new challenges by leaving their home country.

The take-away: what was the most important lesson from your service?

The biggest thing I learned was the real capacity found within a community when you mobilize volunteers. There is a real basis to the saying, “It takes a village.” I witnessed first-hand how students in need were helped when they received regular support from tutors.

I also learned a crucial lesson on service. Before I served with AmeriCorps, I saw national service as a big thing that I couldn’t connect with. I thought of the military and the Peace Corps – I had no idea that service could have a local impact. My service experience opened my eyes to the local ways that we can contribute to making our communities better. That’s why service is so important: it turns caring people like me into people who actually improve communities.


That’s all for now, folks! Have a spectacular rest of your week, and a beautiful end to your 2014!