Public Spirit, January 2017

Meet the  2016-2017 InterCorps Council

Written by: Ashley Strusz

While 2016 has come and gone, the InterCorps Council is looking forward to a brand new year. With a brand new InterCorps Council Executive Team and Council Members we are excited for a new year to begin! Members of the council represent AmeriCorps State & National and VISTA streams of service. Council members are coming from organizations such as Reading Corps, College Possible, Green Corps, and Emerge. Each member of the council is participating in one committee. The committees include communication, education and training, service, and a social networking committee. Each committee is working to serve those who serve.

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Words from Hannah: Our 2016-17 ICC President

“ICC is such a unique organization which consists of AmeriCorps service members wanting and eager to continue on giving back. Not only do we have ICC members within the Twin Cities, but we also have 8 ‘ambassadors’ who serve in Greater Minnesota. Both committee members and ambassadors brainstorm, plan, and execute great events throughout the year.

With that said, I am excited to see the product of all their hard work! Additionally, I am looking forward to the ways ICC can continue to develop its presence within the AmeriCorps service community in Minnesota and across the country.”

MLK Day of Service Event!

Greetings AmeriCorps members!

Martin Luther King day is coming up on January 16th, 2017 and as the tradition stands the ICC of Minnesota has planned great volunteer events that will be loaded with fun and service! The ICC has partnered with The Arc Greater Twin Cities & Arc Value Village at four locations, Food Group Volunteering, PCs for People, Como Zoo, Open Door Pantry, Feed My Starving Children, and Neighbors Inc. ICC of Minnesota has partnered with eight organizations at 12 locations.We’re now calling each of you in our service community into action! For addresses and number of positions available please see our eventbrite page. Grab a friend and support these great organizations working towards helping those who need it. There are several times available as well, just sign up for a spot by reserving your volunteer slot at the place and location of your choice! There will also be a midday “Power Hour” between morning and afternoon volunteering for MLK Day of Service.  Drop in from 11:00- 1:00 for some refreshments after your volunteer slot or right before.  A time to socialize, reflect and share your volunteer experience on this national holiday. It will be at the MN Alliance with Youth (2233 University Ave W #235, Saint Paul, MN 55114).  We can’t wait to see you all there!

 Other Upcoming Events include:

Civil Justice Documentary Viewing and Small Group Discussion
When: January 17th, 5:00pm- 8:00pm
Where: Center for Changing Lives 2400 Park Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55404 Room: 104


AmeriCorps Member Highlights

Written by Marlee Davis and Rachel LaForge

Above and Beyond Expectations: AmeriCorps Service at Beyond Walls

AmeriCorps Member Highlight: Deborah Lefler

In a tiny office, tucked back in a corner of the Recreation and Wellness Center at the University of Minnesota, Deborah Lefler sits at her desk typing away on her computer. With tennis shoes on her feet, and a smile on her face, Lefler is ready to jump and head to the squash courts when she hears the volunteers starting squash lessons. In a glass enclosed room, they play this unique sport with middle school and high school students from around the Twin Cities.

Lefler is an Americorps VISTA at Beyond Walls, a young organization in the Twin Cities that works to inspire confidence and academic excellence in urban youth. They encourage students to be life-long learners and active leaders – both on and off the court. Their programming splits time between academics and squash, while helping participants to make a positive impact in their own lives as well as in their community.

As a part of the National Urban Squash and Education Association (NUSEA) Beyond Walls is connected to other similar programs across the country, with whom they not only compete in tournaments with, but also share resources and connections to ensure all their students are able to succeed. Nationally, 99% of NUSEA high school graduates matriculate to college. Not only that, but many students receive substantial scholarship offers. Lefler explained “squash is typically played at Universities, prep schools, or private clubs, so participation in the sport can open many doors, including collegiate scholarships and support.”

Since beginning her service at Beyond Walls in August, Lefler has discovered a deep passion for their mission. “Each day, the way (our staff) inspires our students and cares for them so well makes me want to do my job better. I see the impact it’s having on our students, and I know I want to be a part of that.”

The scope of her work has been vast. As part of the Americorps VISTA program her assignment is to build capacity at her organization, and with a young nonprofit like Beyond Walls there are many ways this can be done, covering all aspects of the program. “I could be planning a volunteer orientation one day, looking at new ideas for marketing the next, and contacting other programs the day after,” Lefler said. “I seem to have my foot in many areas of our organization. It keeps everything feeling fresh.”

Lefler has been fortunate enough to see how some of her work is already making an impact. One of her projects was to create a volunteer handbook from scratch. That handbook is now being distributed to all incoming volunteers, and used to train them for their role with Beyond Walls. “A lot of times, we might not get to see the impact that we have, but those times when we do, even if it’s something as seemingly small as a handbook or a report, it’s definitely encouraging.”

Having come into AmeriCorps service because of her passion for the organization where she serves, the connections and support she has found have proved to be an incredible bonus. “I was completely prepared to do this on my own, but I have been so pleasantly surprised with how much I have loved getting to network and share experiences with other AmeriCorps members,” Lefler said. “I have loved getting to know other people’s projects, sites, and seeing what amazing things others are doing across the city and the country.”

The value of these connections is something Lefler hopes other AmeriCorps members experience. “The biggest piece of advice I could give is to dig into that AmeriCorps network. Get to know people whose project are both similar and completely different. Share information, share knowledge, and share experiences. Learn from each other and grow together. After all, your time of service will eventually end but the relationships you build will last for a lifetime.”

If you want to learn more about Beyond Walls, and the work being done there, visit


Reading Corps Service at Parker Elementary in Elk River

AmeriCorps Member Highlight: Rachael Snavely

Rachael Snavely is in her second year of service as a Minnesota Reading Corps member and she is a first-year Ambassador for the InterCorps Council of Minnesota. Reading Corps is focused on developing literacy skills in kindergarten through 3rd grade. Rachael is a kindergarten focused member at Parker Elementary, a Blue Ribbon school, in Elk River.

Rachael has forty-six success stories from the past year and a half–the kids who have exited or re-exited Reading Corps.”It’s not just about the numbers. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen has been in myself. I went from having a very low self-esteem in thinking I wouldn’t be good enough for anything other than menial work, to finding out that through volunteering, I can change lives and experience the world! Seriously, I have done so much since joining Reading Corps; it’s no exaggeration to say it’s changed who I am.” She sends a special shout out to her master and internal coaches, Janet, Sue, and Amy, who have pushed her to even greater heights – Rachael traveled last summer to Washington DC to learn about teaching English as a second language, joined Toastmasters, and is a co-leader of her PLG. After her year of service, she hopes to join the Civil Air patrol.

As an Ambassador member of the ICC, Rachael will be talking about AmeriCorps to various groups who may not know much about its programs and helping the different branches of AmeriCorps network together in her area. Keep an eye out for her in Elk River!

Readers, if you know of a group near you that would like to learn more about Americorps state and national service opportunities, please contact the ICC at and we’ll help arrange a presentation.

Thank you for reading and until next time!