Public Spirit, January 2016

New Year, New InterCorps Council!

Which also means… Public Spirit is BACK in business! Your first edition is all jazzed up with articles to help beat the winter blues, explore AmeriCorps’ history, announce anexciting weekend we planned for you in January, and MORE – there’s so much jam packed into this edition it may just make you break out in dance. First, however, we thought we’d spend some time introducing ourselves and the work we, as the InterCorps Council of Minnesota, do. Therefore, in the spirit of getting things done, let’s dive right in! Welcome to Public Spirit, the monthly newsletter of the InterCorps Council of Minnesota, and enjoy the ride! 

Meet this year’s InterCorps Council of Minnesota!

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Hold Up – What Is The InterCorps Council of Minnesota?

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We’re glad you asked! The InterCorps Council of Minnesota (ICC)exists to be a form of support for all AmeriCorps members, and fulfill our mission of “serving those who serve.” Our Council is made up of representatives, each of us currently serving an AmeriCorps term as well. Throughout the service year, we will host events and give updates to help further enhance your year of service and spread awareness of AmeriCorps overall. Each ICC member serves on a committee, which is broken down below:

The Executive Committee –  ensures the committee runs smoothly overall. See below for a message from the ICC president!

The Communications Committee –  brings you Public Spirit at the end of every month, promotes ICC events, and runs all ICC social media- follow us on Twitterhere and like our Facebook page here!

The Service Committee – coordinates community engagement events for AmeriCorps members (and the greater public!) to volunteer with members outside their cohort and expand AmeriCorps’ positive impact. 

The Social and Networking Committee – holds events to assist AmeriCorps members with getting to know each other and increase collaboration and networking opportunities. Such as this one!

The Training and Education Committee – expands the development of service members by providing relevant trainings and educational events. 

The Outreach Committee – promotes and increases awareness of AmeriCorps through outreach in the Twin Cities metro to educate stakeholders on national service in Minnesota. 

 To see a list of ICC representatives and the AmeriCorps programs we serve on, check out our committee page.

 

A Note From This Year’s President

Hello! Greetings from the InterCorps Council of Minnesota! We are all so excited to be representing you this year. All of our members serve on a committee, planning all sorts of events and updates for you throughout your current year of service. Through these committees, we will bring you opportunities each month to both reach out to your communities and meet individuals outside of your cohorts. While most of our events will take place in the Metro area, we do have Ambassadors throughout Minnesota who will hold events elsewhere.

This year, I will be serving as the President. As my second time serving on the ICC, I have a lot of goals to provide you with valuable experiences and opportunities! As such, if you have any questions or ideas for the ICC, please do not hesitate to reach out to me (exec@iccminnesota.org). I look forward to meeting you at our upcoming events!

Thanks,

Alex Askew

College Possible member 

 

How to Love Winter

There are three words I utter every year that make people stare at me in disbelief: I like winter. In fact, I love winter. And I love snow. When winter rolls around and we have our first real snow, I feel like a kid again. Every single year.

I grew up in Minnesota and spent two years in Saskatchewan, where it routinely gets -40 degrees in January and February with an added wind chill. I also spent a year in Alaska, where at the winter solstice we only saw five and a half hours of daylight and the sun barely peeked above the mountains. And yet here I am, happy to see the changing season every December.

How can this be? What am I doing differently from so many people that I don’t dread this time of year? While I may be predisposed to enjoying snow, there are several things that I purposely do to enjoy winter each year:

  • Embrace the outside! The first, and probably the most important, is going outside every day. There are activities that I like to do that are only possible during the winter, like cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. I also love to simply go for a walk in a wooded area and listen to the snow fall. Stepping outside for just five minutes every day will do wonders for your mental health.

 

  • Get active! There are also many indoor activities around the state and Metro area. Minnesota is a state that knows how to handle winter and deal with cabin fever. Take advantage of free events in your area, like the St. Paul Winter Carnival if you are in the Twin Cities Metro. Or go on Meetup.com and join a book club or a different special interest group.
  • Get cozy! I also look forward to winter because I enjoy being cozy in my house. I arranged my bookshelves, bed, lamp, and other furniture in my bedroom into a space that feels inviting and comfortable. I can easily reach for books from my bed or watch movies on my computer. Less time outside means more time inside our houses, so it is in our best interest to make them places where we actually want to be during winter.
  • Treat yo self! Being cozy at home also means drinking lots of tea,hot chocolate, or apple cider. If you have a sore throat or want something warm but don’t like any of those options, you can mix honey, boiling water, and a little lemon together in a mug. Or simply drink hot water.

While summer can be a time to connect with the outdoors, think of winter as a time to connect with peopleReach out to friends that you were too busy to see in the summer time and catch up over a cup of hot chocolate. Have friends over to watch a movie in your cozy living space. Go outside and experience the beauty of a fresh snowfall together. With every passing day, the minutes of daylight are getting longer. Life moves very fast, and when it gets cold and dark, we can reach out to one another for comfort.

 

Join the ICC in Celebrating MLK Day of Service!

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 on January 18th 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 Corporation for National and Community Service is celebrating through service, and so are we! 

The ICC Service Committee has planned a number of service projects on MLK Day of Service so YOU, your friends, and family can sign-up to serve with AmeriCorps members from other programs. To check out service event details and sign-up, click here! Any questions about the process, please email service@iccminnesota.org. Furthermore, The Social and Networking committee has planned a networking event at Sweeney’s Saloon in St. Paul to celebrate the weekend. Click here to RSVP!

Join us as we give back to the greater community and remember what it means to “get things done!”

Click here to join us in service on this important day of service!

 

AmeriCorps Highlight

Welcome to the AmeriCorps Highlight section! Every month we will be highlighting either an AmeriCorps program, member, or alumni to help you discover all the different ways we as AmeriCorps members are impacting Minnesotan communities. In this first highlight, we’re learning more about two VISTAs and their AmeriCorps experience.

Member Name: Caleb Mingus

Service: AmeriCorps VISTA

Site: Valley Outreach located in Stillwater, Minnesota. Their mission is to “help our St. Croix Valley neighbors in need of food, clothing, emergency financial assistance, and other support while respecting their individual dignity and offering them encouragement and hope.”

Project Focus: Increasing the capacity of the Volunteer and Food Shelf programs.

Why did you make the choice to serve a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member? And what are you working on this year?

I made the choice to do a year of service because I had always told myself that I would work in the nonprofit world. AmeriCorps VISTA seemed to be a great way to get experience and discover if the nonprofit sector is right for me. Not to mention knowing that my work will have a long-term effect within a community.

This year I am working on improving the practices of the Volunteer Program to betterrecruitengage, and recognize short-term volunteers, as well as increase the capacity for volunteer leadership within the organization. I am also building on the work of the two previous VISTAs as I am making two emergency food services, Mobile Choice and Snack Pack, sustainable through volunteer leadership.


Member Name: Dylan McDonough

Service: AmeriCorps VISTA

Site: Neighbors, Inc. located in South Saint Paul, Minnesota. According to their website, Neighbors provides emergency assistance and supportive assistance programs primarily through the service of volunteers.

Project Focus: Building capacity within the Volunteer Department at Neighbors, Inc. through the recruitment and retention of volunteers, and improving department activities to sustain the organization for the future of volunteerism.

Why did you make the choice to serve a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member? And what are you working on this year?

I originally had no idea what AmeriCorps VISTA was. I chose to volunteer at my current site, Neighbors Inc., as a chance to practice and improve my Spanish while I searched for a full-time position right out of college. The opportunity to serve as a VISTA came my way in the first week of volunteering, when my now supervisor heard that I was looking for a full time opportunity. I didn’t know too much about the position; just that it offered great professional development, time to practice my Spanish, and an opportunity to help people. That was good enough for me!

This awakened a hidden passion of mine to really dedicate myself to serving others. Exactly three weeks after my interview I was notified that I was chosen for the position, and I was so excited! I knew right then and there that this next year would be the mostexciting year of my life.

So to summarize in the cheesiest manner ever: I didn’t choose AmeriCorps; AmeriCorps chose me!

As the third and final year of the VISTA program at Neighbors Inc., my area of focus is to create a sustainable plan to continue the VISTA legacy so the program can continue to develop and provide service to the community.

Well, folks, there you have it! Thank you to Caleb and Dylan for sharing your stories of service. If you would like to be featured in an AmeriCorps highlight, have an inspiring story of service you’d like to share, or are an AmeriCorps alumni who would like to tell us about your experience, please email us at communications@iccminnesota.org.

 

4 Tips for Using Social Media in Your Job Search

More employers than ever are using social media to source and pre-screen candidates.100% of the Fortune 500 companies are now using social media to hire for positions. Major retailers, like Zappos, are now only accepting applications via social media. More employers than ever are using social media to source and pre-screen candidates. Who even remembers the days of paper resumes? The digital age is here, yet many colleges and universities have not caught up with hiring trends. Older workers looking for employment are still learning how to use digital media. Millennials are the most socially connected generation ever, yet many recent college grads haven’t considered theprofessional implications of social media.

As AmeriCorps members, we know our service year has an expiration date, and we willeventually have to turn to the job market to search for a position we love (unless you get hired at your service site!). While some may consider it early to begin thinking of the job hunt, it’s never a bad idea to be proactive. Building and molding your social media presence into a positive one can increase your odds of getting that dream position. An impressive, professional social media profile can be a benefit for you and help showcase your projects and skills. Now, more than ever, the off-color joke, or irresponsible post can have far reaching consequences, especially if you are looking for work.

Here are 4 things you absolutely need to know about social media and the job search:

  1. If it’s on the internet, information may eventually be found, even if your profile is set to private. If it’s on the internet, it may eventually be found. Before you start applying for jobs, delete any information you aren’t comfortable with employers seeing. Know what information is online about yourself.
  2. Inconsistency is a huge red flag for many hiring managers. Make sure your information is consistent across all profiles. Name, experience, and qualifications should all be the same on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or any other social profile.
  3. Have a profile. Having a complete LinkedIn profile is a must in today’s working environment. It’s difficult to be taken seriously without one. Also, being anonymous on the internet may not work in your favor as a job applicant. Beproactive, and list employer friendly social profiles on your resume. If you do, it’s less likely HR will go searching for info.
  4. Put just as much effort into your professional profile as you do with your resume, if not more. Using a professional photographer is a great idea and usually not too expensive. As most of us are on a budget, having a pic party is a fun way for you and your friends to get it done. Invite everyone to come dressed in business professional, and take pictures to use online.

These are simple tips you can act on right away to improve your chances. Perhapsfollowing us on Twitter and liking our Facebook page will improve your social media profile?  Good luck with your career search!

 

AmeriCorps: A Brief History

As AmeriCorps members, we know we are making a positive impact with our service and getting things done, the AmeriCorps way. Have you ever been curious, however, about how AmeriCorps came to be? We at the InterCorps Council believe it is important to understand our roots, how AmeriCorps evolved, and the different programs that fall under the AmeriCorps umbrella. Read on, and make your elementary history teacher proud in the process:

In his 1961 inaugural speech, President John F. Kennedy spoke the famous words, “and so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Fifty-four years later the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) serves more than five million individuals, of all ages and backgrounds, to help meet local needs. Spanning projects in six priority areas: disaster services, economic opportunity, education, environmental stewardship, healthy futures, and veterans and military families, CNCS works to impact the lives of fellow Americans through core programs ofAmeriCorpsSenior Corps, and the Social Innovation Fund. Since its establishment in 1993, CNCS has evolved considerably to continue change the lives of Americans across the nation.

AmeriCorps formally began in 1993 when President Clinton united several programs under the umbrella of CNCS. As an initiative of CNCS, AmeriCorps has three divisions: VISTAAmeriCorps State and National, and the National Civilian and Community Corps (NCCC). Service members involved in these programs may be provided with cost-of-living allowances, student loan deferment and the AmeriCorps Education Award, and eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Plan. While having many similarities, each division is unique in the implementation of its services.

  • VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America, was originally imagined as President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” initiative. Through Johnson’s work, President Kennedy’s 1963 vision of a national service corps “to help provide urgently needed services in urban and rural poverty areas” came to fruition. After a few iterations of mergers and divisions with a multitude of other national service areas, in 2015 AmeriCorps VISTA is “larger, stronger, and more vital than it ever has been” according to the CNCS website. When the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program joined the AmeriCorps family in 1995, VISTA had already been in existence and serving the nation for twenty eight years. Nonprofit organizations, as well as local, state, or federal agencies can become a sponsor. These groups want to build their capacity to build permanent infrastructure to bring individuals and communities out of poverty.  
  • AmeriCorps State and National unites local community organizations with federal funds and national service. These organizations vary greatly and include working to increase access to healthcare, provide housing for the underprivileged, achieve educational equity, and implement many other outreach efforts to better the lives of others.
  • Last, but certainly not least, the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) is based on the Great Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps. Members ages 18-24 work on urgent short-term projects. These members live and train on one of the five NCCC campuses and are typically on the scene of problems for six to eight weeks. These problems might be environmental cleanups, natural disasters, or just a general category of “unmet needs.”

Although programs have changed and grown since their individual and collective establishment, the mission remains much the same. Whether helping with disaster relief efforts or teaching a student to read, service members strive to better the lives of those around them. Qualitatively and quantitatively, participation in AmeriCorps programsstrengthens civic attitudes and behaviors, and members are more likely to choose careers in the public service sector. This December, after a long fight for representation, Congress voted to increase CNCS funding by $40 million with a $51 million increase for AmeriCorps. To learn more about AmeriCorps history, check out the interactive timeline on the CNCS website. Now more than ever, an investment in AmeriCorps is an investment in the future of America. Thank you AmeriCorps members for your service and the daily positive impact you’re having on your community! 

 

Do you have any questions or suggestions for Public Spirit? Do you have an inspiring story of service you’d like to share, or are an AmeriCorps alumni who would like to tell us about your service experience? Please email us at communications@iccminnesota.org.

That’s all, folks! Keep your eye out for the mid-month update; an email update with information about exciting ICC events for you to join!

We wish you the happiest New Year, and stay classy!