Public Spirit, March 2019

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AmeriCorps Week 2019

Welcome to our favorite time of the year! AmeriCorps Week 2019, which is March 10-16, is a celebration of all things AmeriCorps – from the programs and organizations that make this national service initiative possible in thousands of locations, to the members who have pledged to “Get Things Done” since the program’s inception in 1994. This year, we’re aiming to use it to the max!

The InterCorps Council of MN (ICC) has a goal to share our love for all our members, and we’ve packed the week with fun events and opportunities to win a prize. Read below for information on our events this year!
 

Sunday: Our goal for Sunday this year is for everyone to practice self-care. As AmeriCorps members, it’s easy to burn the candle at both ends and become worn out - so take a day to relax and do what you enjoy! You can share your favorite post-service activities with the hashtag #selfcaresunday.
 

Monday: On Monday, we’re keeping our service strong by inviting members to volunteer with House of Charity to serve food to local individuals experiencing homelessness.
 

Tuesday: After gaining some first-hand knowledge of the housing crisis in Minnesota and meeting individuals in the homeless community, we’re going to take a night to learn about Homelessness and Health from some panelists working to fight homelessness in the Twin Cities. Participants will also have the option to help make care packages for shelters!
 

Wednesday: As part of CNCS’ #DayoftheA encouraging members and alumni to wear their gear and post on social media, we’re having a photo scavenger hunt in which an individual or team can win a fabulous prize we put together with the help of our generous donation providers! Did we mention it’s not just for metro members? We also found a few greater Minnesota locationsmembers can compete in!
 

Thursday: Since our theme for the week is surrounding the housing/homeless crisis in Minnesota, we’re continuing on this trend by spending a day volunteering with Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity and assisting in the mission to provide affordable housing in the metro.
 

Friday: What is one of our core passions as AmeriCorps members? That’s right, education! Help Reading Partners as Tutors for a Day at Anishinabe Academy.
 

Saturday: The final day we’re bringing everyone together with a dodgeball tournament! Teams at a max of ten can compete for another prize provided by generous organizations, so bring in your cohort and alumni and put on your game face! Without a group of ten members? Never fear! We will also be assembling teams for any individuals who email us that they are interested in having a mixed team!
 

AmeriCorps Week is a great opportunity to make new national service friends and share our important story across new networks. As part of this year’s festivities, CNCS will also focus on how AmeriCorps has transformed lives and communities. Keep watching our social media as we share just how much of an impact we can make when we come together.

We’re also keeping the #continuingservicemn challenge open through AmeriCorps Week as members share their own personal impact for this special week of AmeriCorps celebration.

Thank you all, and we can’t wait to see you during AmeriCorps Week!

If you’re doing something outside of what the ICC is hosting, feel free to share it with us so we can let others know!


Program Feature

Ecolibrium3 (VISTA)

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Written by Roger Jones, VISTA Leader Ecolibrium3

Ecolibrium3 provides distinct VISTA experiences as a non-profit organization working in northeastern Minnesota. Ecolibrium3 worked with the State of Minnesota to define a 'Community Resilience Framework' which identified core community functions that needed to be advanced in order to make a community more resilient after catastrophic flooding in 2012. The framework focuses on economic development, housing, energy, natural resource management, and health.

The Ecolibrium3 VISTA Corps began in 2017 and currently has sixteen positions working around concepts of community resilience and poverty. VISTA Program Director and CEO of Ecolibrium3, Jodi Slick, states, "Each position in our VISTA Corps is unique. We have built our program around identifying strong partners and understanding individual organizational needs for capacity building."

The Ecolibrium3 VISTA Corps reflects the organization’s priorities by establishing mini-cohorts that are tackling different challenges. For example, members are currently serving at Ecolibrium3, the Duluth Community Garden Program, Zeitgeist Center for Arts and Community, the Damiano Center, the Lincoln Park Children and Families Collaborative, and the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, which are all sites that are focused around food security and sovereignty. "Some areas of our community face a health disparity where residents in one census tract die, on average, twenty years earlier than adjacent tracts." Slick said, "It is all related to the social determinants of health and access to things like healthy food and healthcare. Each VISTA member is building community capacity to create a collective impact to address these difficult challenges."

Additional examples of sites and local issues addressed by the Ecolibrium3 VISTA Corps are positions at the City of Duluth on planning and equity, the Duluth Children's Museum on STEM education, Life House on social enterprise development with homeless youth, the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation on disaster resilience, Habitat for Humanity on housing, St. Louis County Public Health on opioid reduction, and Ecolibrium3 partnering with low-income providers on energy poverty.

To learn more about the Ecolibrium3 VISTA Corps and positions for 2019-2020, please contact Jodi Slick or Roger Jones at 218-336-1038 and check out www.ecolibrium3.org/Americorps.

Ecolibrium3 VISTA Corps members completing a joint day of service to clean an abandoned property in Duluth, MN.

Ecolibrium3 VISTA Corps members completing a joint day of service to clean an abandoned property in Duluth, MN.


Member Spotlight

Meet your fellow AmeriCorps members and the programs they serve within our monthly member spotlight!  This month’s member spotlight is on Jessi Wightman, an Academic Coach serving with the City of Lakes AmeriCorps program.

Meet your fellow AmeriCorps members and the programs they serve within our monthly member spotlight!

This month’s member spotlight is on Jessi Wightman, an Academic Coach serving with the City of Lakes AmeriCorps program.

What program do you serve with?

I serve with City of Lakes AmeriCorps at Seward Montessori School in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

What do you do in your position?

City of Lakes serves middle school students who are in the English Language Learning (ELL) program. I spend my day supporting ELL students in their math and language arts classes, working directly with them in ELL classes, and supporting them in their overall academic growth.

What interested you in serving with AmeriCorps and with your specific program?

AmeriCorps interested me because of the opportunity I would have to experience professional opportunities that I felt were unavailable to me otherwise. I chose City of Lakes as a program because I think that it fills a really unique role for students. Middle schoolers have huge expectations being put on them every day to both progress academically and mature emotionally. Through City of Lakes, I get to see both of those things happen simultaneously through mentoring and being able to see students in multiple different settings throughout the day which is incredibly rewarding. Also, I think middle schoolers are absolutely hilarious so it's a wonderful way to spend my days goofing with some pretty cool kids!

What do you like to do in your free time?

In my free time, I like to read, do puzzles, experiment with baking sweet breads, and dance with my roommates.


Alumni Feature

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Kyle Kline, Recruitment & Program Coordinator at Minnesota Alliance with Youth

Where (and which program), when, and why did you join AmeriCorps?

I served two terms as an AmeriCorps member. My first term was with AmeriCorps NCCC at the Vicksburg, Mississippi, campus in 2009-10 and then as a Student Conservation Association Green Cities Sustainability Fellow in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. To be honest, I joined AmeriCorps because I had no idea what I wanted to do after I graduated from college. As a first-generation college student, I didn't have many people in my life to show me what was supposed to come next. After researching grad schools, I realized I wasn't prepared at all for that next step, but I kept seeing that volunteer experience looked good on applications. So I started doing some googling and came across AmeriCorps. I had a friend who just graduated who was serving as an NCCC member and gave him a call. After talking to him for about an hour, I was convinced that AmeriCorps was right for me. The rest is history.

What was your role/what did you do?

In NCCC, my team served in a wide range of projects across the Southern US. We built houses with Habitat for Humanity, restored an oyster reef habitat in Savannah, Georgia, organized a princess tea party in Hurricane, West Virginia, and ran chainsaws all day on a disaster relief project after a tornado in Yazoo City, Mississippi. As a Green Cities Fellow, I served at Global Links, a Pittsburgh based nonprofit that takes in the medical surplus from area hospitals and works with medical centers and doctors in Latin America and the Caribbean to get them the specific supplies they need.

How has serving impacted what you decided to do in life?

In all the ways. I probably would have never left small-town Pennsylvania. Moving to Mississippi for NCCC was the first time I was ever on a plane and the farthest west and south I'd ever been. My AmeriCorps experience opened up so many doors for me that I decided that I want my career to focus on ensuring that AmeriCorps opportunities are available for generations to come.

How has your AmeriCorps service supported you?

It has given me access to a lot of social capital that I probably wouldn't have had otherwise. I grew up and went to college in rural parts of Pennsylvania and had never had the opportunity to get out of that bubble. Through the people I've met while serving in AmeriCorps, I've been able to travel the country and always have couches to sleep on and friends that I know will always be there for me and make me a better person. On the other side of that coin, my service experience showed me how much privilege I have and that I will always have a lot to learn.

What was your favorite part of serving?

Besides being able to make an actual impact within the communities I served, it has to be all the friends I made. My NCCC team was the weirdest/best group of people that I ever could have asked to spend 24/7 with for 10 months and my SCA Green Cities crew helped me learn how to navigate living in the big city of Pittsburgh. I have about a hundred stories to tell about our adventures, so free to reach out sometime. I love swapping AmeriCorps stories.

Please also give us a little blurb on your role as the MN Alliance's Recruitment Manager:

I manage all of the Alliance's recruitment efforts including both our Promise Fellow and VISTA programs.

Advice From Kyle
What is one thing you wish you had known before you started your year of service?
I wish I did more informational interviews and got to know folks who were serving in other programs.

What is a tip on using your educational award?
I don't have a good answer for this other than to use it. 

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W-2s, 1098-Ts, and More: It’s Tax Season Again!

Everyone’s probably either super excited or super stressed now that it’s tax season! Have no fear if you still need help with your taxes this year. We are here to provide some resources and tips for you to use when filing for taxes.

Make sure you have all your necessary documents in order to file your taxes. This is a general list of documents that you should bring to your appointment at a clinic or when filing your own taxes, put together by the MN Department of Revenue. Please note that you may need different documents than the ones listed; please confirm with a clinic or accountant.

April 15th, 2019 is the last day to file your 2018 taxes!

To look for free tax clinics near you, use this tool put together by the MN Department of Revenue.

Tax Credits and Deductions

Earned Income Tax Credit: You need to be at least 25 but less than 65 to qualify for the EITC without a qualifying child. -IRS.gov

Student Loan Interest: “. . . you may be allowed a special deduction for paying interest on a student loan (also known as an education loan) used for higher education.” -IRS.gov

MN Student Loan Credit: Minnesota residents who make payments on their own postsecondary education loans may qualify for a nonrefundable tax credit. For married couples, each spouse may qualify for this. The maximum tax refund in 2019 is $500.

Renter’s Property Tax Refund: If you’re from Minnesota or have lived in the state long enough, you may know about this refund for renters already. But if you haven’t yet, here is some basic information. There is another form (Form M1PR) that you would fill out and mail in separately by August 15 to receive a refund. The refund is “based on their household income, the number of dependents, and how much property tax you paid through rent on your principal residence.” You’ll need to receive a Certificate of Rent Paid (CRP) from your landlord. It’s a document that shows how much rent you paid during the previous year and the amount of property taxes paid through your rent. You must include a CRP when filing your Property Tax Refund return. - MN Dept of Revenue

Education Award: Please note that your Segal AmeriCorps Education award can be federally taxed as income in the same year it is used to pay for tuition and/or repayment of student loans. “If your education award and interest payments total more than $600 in a calendar year, CNCS will send you an IRS Form 1099 to be used in preparing your income tax return.  All education award and interest payments made on your behalf are considered taxable, even if they do not total $600.” You may be eligible for tax reliefs when paying for higher education per the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997. Contact a tax professional or the IRS for more information about this potential benefit, IRS Publication 970. Also, look under the ‘Tax Relief’ tab on the “Tax Implications” page on the NationalService.gov. -NationalService.gov

Communications Committee