Public Spirit, March 2016

March = AmeriCorps Week!

It’s time to celebrate YOU! AmeriCorps Week begins this Saturday! As promised, the InterCorps Council of Minnesota will deliver a week filled with dodgeball dodging, canned food donating, trivia playinghomebuildingeducating, and most importantly CELEBRATING AmeriCorps members, alumni and community partners for contributing their talents and resources to make a difference.

For those of you who have signed up for an event already, bravo! Below you can refresh your memory on the details of the event(s) you signed up for. If you’ve procrastinated and want to join in on the fun, it’s not too late! There’s still room to sign up for several events. 

Saturday, March 5th

Dodging Hunger: Dodgeball Tournament & Food Drive

9 am – 2 pm at Oxford Community Center in St. Paul

Kick-off AmeriCorps Week with a bang! Sign up individually or with a team of 5-8 of your best dodgers and prepare yourself for a day of fun! Each team needs to bring a minimum of 10 canned food items, and lunch will be provided. Registration ends this Wednesday so sign up soon!

Full details and register here


Tuesday, March 8th

Social Networking & Trivia Night

5 pm – 8 pm in the Ashland Room at Sweeney’s in St. Paul

Join other AmeriCorps members and friends for a night of trivia and networking! Tacos are only 75 cents until 6 pm which is when trivia begins!  

Full details and register here


Wednesday, March 9th

Domestic Violence Education Forum

4 pm – 6 pm at The Center for Changing Lives in Minneapolis

Join us for a night of education! Panelist will discuss the complexities of domestic violence and resources. Refreshments provided. This event is nearly filled, so sign up soon! 

Full details and register here!


Saturday, March 12th

Habitat for Humanity – Homebuilding 

8:30 am – 4 pm in Minneapolis

Event has been filled!

Full details here


Happy early AmeriCorps Week from the InterCorps Council of Minnesota to you! We look forward to celebrating with you. 


Personality Types and Service

Every personality type has various strengths and weaknesses, and knowing yours can help you have your very best term of service! Furthermore, some of us may be interviewing soon for our next position. Utilizing a personality assessment can help you understand your strengths and weaknesses and therefore answer the dreaded “What is your biggest weakness?” question. Personality assessments, such as the Enneagram of Personality, provide one way of learning more. The Enneagram, which consists of nine personality types, is primarily derived from the teachings of Oscar Ichazo.

Every personality has various strengths and weaknesses (perfect for those pesky interview questions!) and can aid you in discovering how to have your very best term of service!

To take a free short assessment and figure out your Enneagram Personality Type, check out: Use your results to learn some tips below for using your personality type to your advantage in service!


This personality type is described as the rational and idealistic type. They are principled, purposeful, self-controlled, and perfectionistic. – You have a lot to teach others and are likely a great teacher but sometimes need to give people time to change on their own. Things at your site take time to change and while it sometimes may not feel like it, everything does not depend on you alone.


They are the caring and interpersonal type. Helpers are described as demonstrative, generous, people-pleasing, and possessive. You have so much to give but you need to remember that you must also keep your own needs in context. When you’re fulfilled, you’ll be able to give more to your term of service and your good works.


Achievers are success-oriented, pragmatic types: adaptive, excelling, driven, and image-conscious. Continue to develop charity and cooperation in your relationships at your site. It can be challenging to nurture when there’s so much to do! However, taking breaks to reconnect can recharge your service battery.


Sensitive, withdrawn people are categorized as individualists. They are expressive, dramatic, self-absorbed, and temperamental. Try to start earlier on projects and avoid procrastination, especially when other people are depending on you for a product or direct service. Pay attention to your feelings but make sure to remember that they are telling you about yourself in that particular moment and perhaps nothing more.


People that are intense and cerebral are investigators. They are perceptive, innovative, secretive, and isolated in nature. Begin to recognize when thinking and speculating removes you from physically experiencing something during your service. Make sure that you’re making an effort to learn how to relax and calm down from a hectic day in a healthy way.


Loyalists are committed, security-oriented people. They are engaging, responsible, anxious, and suspicious. When stressed or feeling anxious, learn to identify what is making you feel that way. It’ll help to focus that energy into changing things for the better.


Busy, fun-loving people are enthusiasts. Spontaneous, versatile, distractible, scattered people are enthusiasts. Work through recognizing your impulsiveness and become a better judge of quality versus quantity. Change comes through time and learning to listen to other people and populations. Do not speak for other people but rather invest more into learning what is actually wanted and needed at your site.


This type is powerful, confrontational, and dominating. They have strengths in being self-confident, decisive, and willful. While it might be difficult, learn to yield to others especially in subjects where you might not have as much knowledge. Learn to recognize and appreciate your dependence on other people and sometimes eschew your self-diagnosed self-reliance.


They are easygoingself-effacing people. Peacemakers are receptive, reassuring, agreeable, and complacent. Focus your energy on becoming a more active participant in the service going on around you. Make sure to be truly present in relationships and work on being independent in order to really be there for others when they need you.


How to Deal with Service Year Lows

As we mentioned in last month’s Public Spirit, there are different phases of a service year. Community service can be tough and is always accompanied by highs and lows as the year progresses. Many of us now find ourselves in the 6-9 month phase of our service year, which is often the time of the lowest lows. It is our hope that this article will offer some tips on how to increase momentum and positivityduring a low period.

This portion of your service year can feel like a dragcompared to the momentum of the first six months. The adrenaline of settling in to your site and (potentially) a new city will bring you far, and once you are more used to how things run at your organization, the adrenaline of completing your first big tasks will carry you further. But how do we deal once that adrenaline has worn off? How do we feel motivated when progress stalls?

The most important thing is to not get bogged down. Whether performing capacity building services or directly serving clients, it is easy to get distracted by one or more things throwing a kink into your plan. Maybe you have been waiting for weeks to hear back from a potential partner, despite sending them multiple e-mails and leaving countless voicemails. Maybe a grant you applied for has not come through. Maybe one of your students isn’t progressing as you would like. Maybe your car is making a strange noise or your bike tire is flat.

When feeling overwhelmed, the first step is to admit that it’s OK to feel overwhelmed. If you minimize your feelings or try to convince yourself that you are fine, they will continue to nag at you and only get worse. There is nothing wrong with taking a step back and saying “OK, I am overwhelmed right now. That’s how I feel and that’s the way it is.” Sit down with someone at your site and explain to them, without accusing anyone or anything, why you are stressed. Simply acknowledging your feelings andsharing them with someone else will help to ultimately deal with stress.

The second thing to remember is that none of these issues are life or death. Service can be complicated and temperamental, which is no one’s fault, and colleagues at your host site know this. It is part of what makes it so rewarding; when all the pieces come together after all of the hard work, miracles happen. You are making these miracles possible simply by devoting yourself to service and showing up every day!

Whatever happens this year, you are making a difference in your community simply by being there. In the great words of Willy Wonka, “We are the music makers. We are the dreamers of dreams.” So go forth, continue to dream, and make some miracles happen!


Partnership Development Basics

Partnership development is at the heart of community service. Without the insider knowledge of a community and the support of beneficial partners, it is impossible to get any meaningful work done. Keep reading to learn some tips about forming these vital partnerships that we hope will enhance your service year.

Know the background. This means knowing the background of your organization and of the organization you are approaching. Memorize your organization’s mission statement if you have to and practice a 30-second or longer “elevator speech” that you can summon on command. This will make you appear confident when speaking to others about your organization in any setting. More importantly for partnership development, however, is to make sure that you alsoknow the background of the potential partner. What are their values? What is their mission statement? Do your homework. This is a sign of respect and will get you off on the right foot for the partnership.

Know your audience. What kind of organization is it? Should you dress formally for the meeting or are you meeting someone from a more casual organization? This could also be rephrased as “Meet them on their terms.” If possible, go to their organization for the meeting. Take a tour of their facilities so that you better understand their place in the community. Show a genuine interest in their work and the desire to learn more about them.

Building successful partnerships with community organizations also means that you connect with the organization representative on some sort of personal level. Be friendly, open, and willing to listen and they will almost certainly respond in the same way. This is a skill that will be useful for your personal and professional life beyond your service year as well. The ability to connect with people is powerful in all aspects of life.

Know the benefit. How will their organization benefit from your partnership? For example, can you supply volunteers for their service project or connect them to other valuable community resources? And of course, what benefit would your organization receive from them? Having a clear idea of this before going into the meeting, as much as you can, is very important. It will allow you to speak clearly about the mutual benefits of a partnership and increase the chances of having an efficient first meeting. Community organizations can be understaffed and busy. As well as showing them that you respect their work, you also want to show them that you respect their time.

The skill of successful partnership building is a mix of research, respect, andopenness. Forming the right partnership is essential to community service and ultimately powerful and rewarding. We hope this article will help you in your service year. Good luck!


AmeriCorps Alumni Highlight

AmeriCorps Service Member Name: Katie Spoden

Type of AmeriCorps Service: AmeriCorps VISTA Leader

Site & Location: Initiative Foundation, Little Falls, MN

Project Focus: VISTA Leader – build the capacity of the Initiative Foundation’s AmeriCorps VISTA program and support the needs of the VISTA members serving across Central Minnesota, sponsored by the Initiative Foundation.

Why did you make the choice to serve a year as an AmeriCorps member? And what are you working on this year? I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in 2014-2015 with University of Minnesota Extension in St. Cloud, with the Initiative Foundation as my sponsoring organization. During my year of service, I focused on opportunities to create healthy food access for low-income communities, including building the capacity of rural farmers markets to accept EBT as a payment option. I chose to serve this year as a VISTA Leader because of the phenomenal opportunity togrow as a nonprofit professional and support the meaningful work of VISTA members across Central Minnesota who are empowering rural communities to address the burdens of poverty. As a VISTA Leader, I support eight VISTA members throughout our region; their projects range from creating a resource center to meet the needs of veterans and military families to creating micro-enterprise opportunities for women escaping the violence of domestic abuse.

Can you share a success story that you have experienced through your service this year? I see success in my role as a VISTA Leader through the passion of the VISTAs I support. Granted, I had nothing to do with the flame that is inside each and every one of them – but I see success in that every member of our cohort is passionate about their service, passionate about their community, and passionate about creating solutions to overcome poverty.

What do you hope to do in the future and how is AmeriCorps supporting that? I hope to continue working in the realm of community organizing. I have a desire to empower communities to be healthier – physically, economically, socially, and environmentally. VISTA has provided me with the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working within communities, and I know that my national service will continue to illuminate my career path.


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

That’s all, folks! Have a spectacular month, and until next time – stay classy!