Commonwealth Corps Newsletter - Massachusetts Service Alliance

Commonwealth Corps Newsletter
Volume 3, Issue 1
Program Manager Welcome & Update
ear Commonwealth Corps members,
host sites, alumni, and friends,
Inside this issue:
Program Spotlight:
Program Spotlight:
Program Spotlight:
Member Spotlights:
826 Boston
Buzzards Bay
Veritas Preparatory
Charter School
Rachel Bergquist
Rebecca Van Horn
(826 Boston)
Member Spotlights:
Brendan Buckless
Tanya Creamer
(Buzzards Bay Coalition)
Member Spotlight:s
Barbara McKenzie
Dana Motley
(Veritas Preparatory
Charter School)
Alumni Spotlight:
Gracie MullenThompson
The Massachusetts Service Alliance (MSA) is
honored to partner with 15 agencies from
across the state to host 35 Commonwealth
Corps members for the 2014-2015 program More Than Words CC Members Evan
year. These members are serving in our Scarlett (right) and Marcy Braidman
Economic Opportunity, Education, and Youth (2nd from right) led a tour and volunteer day for MSA’s staff in late DeDevelopment focus areas. Together with their cember with youth staff from MTW.
host sites, they are accomplishing impressive
direct service and capacity building goals while also focusing on their own
growth and development. MSA and our partners offer training and support to
members throughout the year, starting with orientations in mid-August.
Through mid-December, our current members have given over 19,000 hours
of service to their communities. Since the program began in 2008, 875 members
have partnered with 67 agencies to give over 510,000 hours of service and
positively impact over 569,000 individuals throughout Massachusetts. We are
proud of this record of service.
As we approach the new calendar year, we are excited to see the program,
our members, our host site partners, and our alumni grow and pursue new
goals. We know this year’s members will continue to have an incredible
experience and impact thousands of residents throughout MA, and we look
forward to starting the selection process for our 2015-2016 partners this winter.
Happy holidays to all. Wishing you a wonderful and fulfilling 2015.
Orientation &
Recent Events
Upcoming Events
& 2015-16 RFP
Program Assistant
Meet the Corps
Stay Connected!
Susie Flug, Commonwealth Corps Program Manager
Commonwealth Corps Members in Action:
Vertias Prep CC Members Bri McKenzie (top left)
Raising a Reader MA CC Member Laura and Dana Motely gave an overview and tour of
Keenan reaching out to families at the the school before MSA’s October Member
Reflection Session held there in Springfield.
Malden River Fest this fall.
Page 2
Commonwealth Corps Newsletter
Program Spotlight:
826 Boston
826 Boston is a non-profit
organization dedicated to supporting students ages six to
eighteen with their creative
and expository writing skills and
to helping teachers inspire their
students to write.
Corps members
at 826 Boston has
Our service
members have
helped 826
Boston amplify our
service in the
Boston Public
Schools, harness
the talents of our
growing volunteer
corps, and
provide one-onone writing
tutoring to
hundreds of
Boston youth."
Daniel Johnson,
Executive Director
Rachel Bergquist and Becca
Van Horn, both full-time Commonwealth Corps members
serving at 826 Boston, provide
support for all of our in-school
programming, including the
Writer’s Room, a new literary
magazine, and our upcoming
young author’s book project at
the Boston Teachers Union
(BTU) school. They are also very
involved in the coordination of
our school vacation workshop
Both Becca and Rachel are
incredibly organized, focused,
and great with students, which
helped create a smooth and
successful start to the school
year. Rachel wasted no time
jumping into her role as the
main point of contact for
teachers looking to bring 826
Boston tutors into their classrooms to support their writing
projects. Within the first month,
she organized a number of
meetings with new partner
teachers and planning inschool sessions with students
from second through twelfth
grade. With her focus and
dedication, we are expecting
to meet, if not exceed, our inschool goals for the year.
Becca serves primarily in 826
Boston’s Writers’ Room, which is
in its second year. She has
helped to kick off one of our
most exciting new projects for
826 Boston CC Members Rachel Bergquist (left) and Becca
Van Horn (right) hosted a Flash-Fiction Station at the Boston
Book Festival this fall.
the year—a high school literary magazine.
Through her leadership and organization, we
now have a group of dedicated and passionate directed study students serving as the editorial board for our literary magazine in the Writers’
One of the members’ greatest accomplishments so far has been 826 Boston’s fifth annual
College Essay Boot Camp, held on Saturday,
November 15th at Northeastern University. The
Boot Camp matched over 100 Boston Public
School high school students with trained tutors
for free one-on-one essay support. Rachel and
Becca provided key support, assisting with student and tutor recruitment; event promotion;
and leading training on the day of the event.
I know the connections that Rachel and Becca have already begun and continue to make
with both Boston Public School students as well
as teachers will have a lasting impact on their
lives as well as the sustained success of our organization.
~ Jessica Drench, Education Director
Volume 3, Issue 1
Page 3
Program Spotlight:
Buzzards Bay Coalition
The Buzzards Bay Coalition is excited to partner with
MSA to host Commonwealth Corps members for another great year. Here at the Coalition our mission is to protect clean water in all the communities of southeastern
Massachusetts through education, conservation, science and advocacy.
Our Commonwealth Corps members serve the community by helping youth and families get out and explore their local environment through educational programs, trainings, and outreach. Their impact has been
tremendous. We have been able to increase our program offerings by 300% while also recruiting volunteers
and developing resources and partnerships that provide a lasting impact for our organization the communities we serve.
This year we are hosting two fantastic service members, Brendan Buckless and Tanya Creamer. Brendan is
a native of Westport, MA, with a life-long connection to
the local environment and a love of educating and
engaging both kids and adults alike. Tanya hails from
Attleboro, MA, and brings lots of enthusiasm and
knowledge of the outdoors.
Both members are off to a great start for their service
year and are already leading programs, managing volunteers, and engaging community members. They are
challenging themselves and developing new skills
along the way.
In addition, their commitment to service is making a
lasting impression on our communities and our organization. The energy, enthusiasm, and dedication of our
Commonwealth Corps members is an inspiration to
everyone they meet.
~ Rob Hancock, VP of Education & Public Engagement
CC Members Tanya Creamer (left) and Brendan Buckless (right).
CC Member Brendan Buckless (right) explored Apponagansett Beach with Martha and Oliver during the Buzzards
Bay Coalition's Itty Bitty Bay Explorers: Beach Exploration.
“Together with their Corps
members across the state I
have no doubt that they are
making the Commonwealth
better and stronger every day.
It’s going to be a great year!”
Rob Hancock,
VP of Education & Public
Page 4
Commonwealth Corps Newsletter
Program Spotlight:
Veritas Preparatory Charter School
Corps parent
liaisons have
been an asset to
our team this
year. Being
parents of
scholars that
attend our
school, they have
a very literal
understanding of
what our parents
need, want, and
struggle with."
Director of
Charter School, established in
2012, is hosting two full-time
members for the first time this
year. Located in Springfield,
Veritas Prep is a college
preparatory middle school
that serves over 240 students
in grades five to seven and
helps prepare them for
success in secondary and
charter school, which is
available tuition-free on a
lottery basis to all Springfield
residents, strives to close the
achievement gap between
lower-income students and
their academic peers in
neighboring communities.
Along with individualized
support, high expectations,
and data-driven instruction,
parent engagement is a key
component of the Veritas
Prep philosophy. This is where
the two Commonwealth
Corps members come in.
Barbara (Bri) McKenzie and
Dana Motley are serving in
the Family Outreach Program
as coordinators and parents
Through their service, Bri
and Dana engage Veritas
Prep families in their child’s
learning and character
capacity within families to
support their scholars on the
path to and through college.
Additionally, the members
recruit parents, guardians,
and family members as
educational opportunities for
all Veritas Prep parents to
Veritas Prep Charter School’s CC Members Dana Motely
(left) and Bri McKenzie (right), both of whom are parents at
the school.
learn about high school, college, and the
resources and supports available. Together with
their role as Commonwealth Corps members, Bri
and Dana are also mothers of Veritas Prep
students, which helps them connect with the
other parents—and their children are proud to
have their moms serving at the school.
Bri and Dana continually demonstrate their
enthusiasm and commitment to service and to
Veritas Prep. As a part of their efforts to engage
parents, they have developed events, such as
the parent coffee hour, that give parents a
space to connect with each other and with the
school. The members have also helped with the
creation of a school library, as well as a website
and newsletter to share information about the
parents, school events, and volunteerism. All of
this will be part of the sustainable infrastructure
that allows Veritas to continue to foster parent
engagement after the conclusion of Bri and
Dana’s service in June.
~ Rachel Lochner, MSA’s CC Program Assistant
Volume 3, Issue 1
Page 5
Member Spotlight: Rachel Bergquist
When I moved to Boston in the Fall of
2013, I started volunteering at 826 Boston, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood.
Now, I get to serve there full-time!
I was drawn to the Commonwealth
Corps by this opportunity: to spend more
time at my favorite organization. We are
in full swing with a busy year of in-school
writing support in BPS classrooms of all
ages and a book publishing project with
7th graders focused on memoirs.
I have loved getting to meet some
wonderful teachers and to be building
partnerships with caring, innovative individuals in my community. In fact, earlier
this fall, I set up a meeting with one of
the partner teachers, only to realize
when I walked into his classroom, that he
was an old family friend. Our meeting
led to his class’s involvement in our field
trip and in-school program.
Now less than half of the way through
my service, I have already felt the impact of the students' unbounded creativity. They are so willing to share, always
open to feedback, and brimming with
such great ideas! Spending time with
kids always gives me a fresh perspective.
Rachel Bergquist
Host Site:
Because of Commonwealth Corps, I get to
spend every day doing the
two things I love - building
relationships with people
and writing.
826 Boston
Original Hometown:
Olympia, WA
Current city/town:
Jamaica Plain, MA
Member Spotlight: Rebecca Van Horn
I chose to serve in the Commonwealth Corps because I was inspired by
the work of 826 Boston. I was blown
away by the organization’s creativity,
engagement with the community, and
extensive tutoring and educational opportunities. As an aspiring writer and
teacher, I wanted to be involved.
Bowdoin, my alma mater. I’ve spent a
lot of time helping this student with her
college essay, and we have built a
great relationship. I also watch the slam
poetry team and the National Novel
Writing Month group create dazzling
work. These kids are good. It’s a privilege
to serve with them.
I now spend most of my time serving
in the Writers’ Room at the John D.
O’Bryant High School for Math and Science. I facilitate two small classes a day
of directed study students who work on
our new literary magazine, Rubix. I help
students on their essays and assignments. One of the Writers’ Room students, a high school senior who comes in
every day for sixth period, found that we
have a lot more in common that she
had expected. We both share an interest in social justice and community organizing, and her dream college is
The Commonwealth Corps is providing me a perfect transition into my future, during which I want to write and,
hopefully, find a position working with
people one-on-one on their writing. It’s
been great to have the support of the
literary and educational community at
Because of the Commonwealth Corps, I’m more
confident about my future.
Becca Van Horn
Host Site:
826 Boston
Original Hometown:
Proctor, VT
Current city/town:
Somerville, MA
Commonwealth Corps Newsletter
Page 6
Member Spotlight: Brendan Buckless
Brendan Buckless
Host Site:
Buzzards Bay
Original Hometown:
Westport, MA
Current city/town:
Westport, MA
I was drawn to the Commonwealth
Corps because it is a unique opportunity to make a positive change in a city
and community that I care about. I
chose to serve because I want to directly impact scholars from New Bedford Public Schools and the greater
New Bedford area. If I can share even
the most incremental appreciation for
the natural world with each and every
boy and girl I teach, then I will have
contributed to the mission of preserving
the Bay and land surrounding.
I strive to take full advantage of my
service, and on October 5th, along
with over one hundred others, I undertook a 75 mile bike ride along the scenic coast of Buzzards Bay. Together, we
raised over $75,000 that is going directly
to protecting and preserving the natural beauty and health of the Bay.
Additionally, through the month of
September, I helped coordinate a pro-
gram series called Itty Bitty Bay Explorers
that focused on getting preschool age
children and their parents out exploring
the Bay. Our last program was in the
pouring rain, and we only had one little
intrepid explorer: Eula. But the bad
weather didn't bother Eula, and she
was completely captivated by the story
book walk we'd set up in the woods.
Point being, don't let what you cannot
do interfere with what you can do!
Thankfully, the Coalition has allowed
me the platform and means to use all
my energy and knowledge to enlighten
these young men and women. I am
grateful and humbled to be given this
Because of the
Commonwealth Corps, I
wake up every day
excited to go to the office!
Member Spotlight: Tanya Creamer
Tanya Creamer
Host Site:
Buzzards Bay
Original Hometown:
Attleboro, MA
Current city/town:
Attleboro, MA
I was drawn to serve with the Commonwealth Corps because it provided
such a unique opportunity to contribute to a non-profit organization, while
gaining valuable experience. One major accomplishment that I am proud of
so far in my year of service is leading
outdoor education programs for students, adults and families. These programs present community members
with a way to facilitate outdoor discovery and exploration for groups and individuals who may not have this opportunity otherwise.
Through my host site, the Buzzards
the opportunity to travel all over the
Buzzards Bay watershed area, and I
have gotten to see so many beautiful
natural areas. Thanks to the Coalition,
I’ve learned more about the specific
issues facing Buzzards Bay and the
communities around it and how to best
tackle these challenges. I am now more
aware of how important it is to protect
and preserve clean water, and I am
even more invested in the amazing
work the Coalition does to serve
the communities around the watershed.
Every single person who is serving
with the Corps shares a common goal
of supporting and bettering local communities, and with their help and support, I know that I can meet any challenges I face during my year of service.
Because of the Commonwealth Corps I have become connected to
a unique and inspiring
group of individuals.
Volume 3, Issue 1
Page 7
Member Spotlight: Barbara McKenzie
I decided to serve with Commonwealth Corps because I wanted to give
back to the community and especially to
my child as a parent. I wanted to learn
more and provide my knowledge and
experience to my community and to
those in need. I wanted to guide other
parents to excel with their children and to
have a better understanding of what
they would want to improve in a parentchild relationship.
The major thing that I have accomplished is building parent to parent communication in a position where I can
translate and speak to other parents who
have difficulties communicating with their
child’s school. Building this rapport with
families that do not speak English and
guiding them to the proper resources has
made such a huge impact in our school. I
also have helped Veritas Prep grow by
building a library in our school.
This service has helped me become a
stronger individual and a better parent.
As a single mom suffering from a terminal
illness, at times you lose hope and feel
that life cannot move forward. The Commonwealth Corps changed that.
Serving has given me the strength to
believe that I have an opportunity to
make it better and especially to see my
child receive the best education. It has
shown me that, as a parent, we still learn
from our children, and they are our
strength to move forward in life.
This is why the
Commonwealth Corps has
impacted me: because it
made me believe in me
and in myself as a parent.
Barbara McKenzie
Host Site:
Veritas Preparatory
Charter School
Original Hometown:
Brooklyn, New York
Current city/town:
Springfield, MA
Member Spotlight: Dana Motley
I saw the Commonwealth Corps position in the Veritas newsletter. I started
reading up on MSA, and I was very excited. I chose to serve to give back to the
school that had embraced me and my
family in some very trying times.
One of the great things that we have
accomplished so far is letting parents
know that we are here for them to provide or help them get the services needed. That Bri and I are parents and have
children going to the school has been a
great comfort to the other parents. The
best part has been letting parents know
that we speak Spanish, because there
are parents who don’t speak English and
felt that they had no voice. We have also
created a Spanish and English newsletter
just for parents, which has been helpful
with getting volunteers and with parent
involvement as well.
My service has impacted me because
I am proud of the great work Veritas
does. I knew that it was a great school,
but to be on the inside and working with
this great staff on a daily basis has made
me want to go back to teaching again.
Going into these amazing teachers’
classrooms to observe every morning has
brought back my passion to teach that I
lost many years ago.
Because of the Commonwealth Corps, I have met
many incredible people—
my peers in service as well
as the teachers and staff—
and they made it possible
for me to give back to
my community doing
something I love and
that helps people.
Dana Motley
Host Site:
Veritas Preparatory
Charter School
Original Hometown:
Springfield, MA
Current city/town:
Springfield, MA
Commonwealth Corps Newsletter
Page 8
Alumni Spotlight: Gracie Mullen-Thompson
“I really feel like my
made a difference
in my community,
and I am grateful
that I was able to
give back!
Because of the
Corps, I am an
even better
teacher than I was
Gracie MullenThompson
Host Site:
Buzzards Bay
Coalition (2013-14)
Original Hometown:
Mattapoisett, MA
Current city/town:
Mattapoisett, MA
In my year as a Commonwealth Corps member, I was an environmental educator for the
Buzzards Bay Coalition in
downtown New Bedford.
My role was to organize
and create environmental education programs
for local schools and
groups and also to commit to outreach in my
community. The programs I developed had
an environmentally conscious focus, attempting
to create a sense of
people they reached.
One of the greatest
successes from my Commonwealth Corps experience was creating programs for every 4th grade
class in the city of New
Bedford. This was an accomplishment because
we addressed a need in
the community and were
able to reach a great
number of students. We
also offered programming to a variety of other ages. Some of the students that came to our
programs had never
been to the beach before, and we were able
to change that. I really
feel like my experience
as a Commonwealth
Corps member made a
difference in my community, and I am grateful that I was able to
give back!
efficient. I am able to
accomplish a lot more
and truly feel that my
capacity for work and
creativity is substantially
greater now. I do not feel
burdened by my class
sizes or load and am
excited to create classes
for students of varying
ages. I became comfortable with developing
programs and teaching
throughout my year of
Currently, I am teach- specifically on lessoning at a Catholic school planning and organizain New Bedford and tion in my term.
loving it. I have eight
Because of the Comclasses, aged Kindergarmonwealth
Corps, I am
grade, and they are all an even better teacher
different sizes.
I am than I was before. I would
developing lesson plans r e c o m m e n d
for each grade level Commonwealth Corps to
them anyone who feels a pasSpanish. I feel that my sion to make a difference
a in their community and
Commonwealth Corps also wants to grow as a
Th a n ks
member helped me to pro fe ssion al .
be more organized and
Every day is a Commonwealth Corps reunion at
School on Wheels of MA (SOWMA), whose mission
is to educate children impacted by homelessness
by providing academic support and one-on-one
mentoring so children can reach their full
After a year of service with SOWMA, CC Alumna
Stephanie St. Louis joined the staff as a Program
Assistant. Pictured from L-R in their Brockton office
are Stephanie, Education Director and CC
Supervisor Jenn Gold, Founder and ED Cheryl
Opper, and Current CC Member Kassmin Williams.
Commonwealth Corps Newsletter
Page 9
MSA Member Orientation Highlights
We opened the orientation in
August with a River Story
activity, where many
members like Jessica shared
their stories with the group.
Members were given the
necessary training to start their
service on a positive note,
including writing letters to self
that will be mailed in January.
Throughout the two days and
in our Closing Circle,
members shared their
excitement and hopes for this
service year.
Members bring many
strengths to the Corps.
Ongoing Member Development
MSA and our host site partners focus on Commonwealth Corps
member development, not only with program-wide and site-based
orientations in August, but also with training and tailored supervision
throughout the year.
MSA offers monthly in-person trainings and reflection sessions, as well
as online resources and a virtual, program-wide community and
discussion group. Host site partners provide day-to-day supervision of
members, offer professional development throughout the year, and—
along with MSA—focus on helping members prepare for and transition
to a rewarding and successful life after service.
Volume 3, Issue 1
Page 10
Recent Member Development Opportunities
In September, MSA offered training on Volunteer
Recruitment and Management, roles that all members
have as part of their capacity building responsibilities.
Pictured here are the members who attended our
Worcester session, hosted by Ascentria Care Alliance.
In October, MSA offered one of our bi-monthly
Member Reflection Sessions where members connect,
celebrate successes, and offer peer support.
Pictured here are attendees at our session in
Springfield, which was hosted by Veritas Prep.
In November, MSA offered a training on
“Remarkable Service Leadership” with
internationally known facilitator Shoshanna
Topics included: leadership self
knowledge, balancing for success, strategic
vision, and self-care/burnout prevention.
engaging style and inspiring content.
Here, one team of members display the
“peace pole” they built as part of a teambuilding and leadership style assessment
activity that sparked a lot of conversation.
In December, MSA again offered bi-monthly Member
Reflection Sessions, which were a great chance for members
to connect and celebrate during the busy holiday season.
Members attended sessions in Worcester (above, hosted
by the United Way of Central MA) and in Boston (below).
Volume 3, Issue 1
Page 11
Upcoming Events for Current Members & Supervisors
January Events and Deadlines: (check the CC Resources Page for details and registration information)
January 7: Midyear Host Site Meeting
January 16: Member Training on “CC Transitions: Sustaining Your Service & Yourself” (Boston)
January 16: Midyear Host Site Progress Reports due online
January 17: Day of Service Opportunity with Project 351 in Boston
January 22: Training on Pair Reading with Adolescents offered by 826 Boston
January 26: Member Training on “CC Transitions: Sustaining Your Service & Yourself” (Springfield)
January 30: Midyear Member Performance Evaluations due to MSA
Save the Date for Future Events:
 February: Bi-Monthly Member Reflection Sessions
 March: Bi-Monthly MSA Trainings
 April 16: MSA Service & Volunteerism Day at the State House
 May: Bi-Monthly MSA Trainings
 June 1: MSA’s Bi-Annual Conference on Service & Volunteering (discount for current CC members)
 Late June: Commonwealth Corps Celebration of Service in Boston
Upcoming RFP for 2015-2016 Host Site Partners
We are excited to announce that the 2015-2016 Commonwealth Corps Request for Proposals (RFP) will be
released in early January. Please keep an eye out for it at and in your inboxes.
Agencies can apply to host 2-4 full-time members or 3-6 half-time members for a 10.5 month term of service
from mid-August 2015 through late-June 2016 in one of our designated focus areas.
Important Application Dates
 Intent to apply - due January 26, 2015
 Full application - due by noon on Thursday, February 12, 2015
Technical Assistance (TA) Webinars
To help interested parties learn more about and prepare for the application, MSA will host TA webinars:
one on Thursday 1/15 from 10-11:30am and one on Wednesday 1/21 from 11am-12:30pm.
Learn More! Review Last Year's RFP and Contact MSA
Although certain details will change, agencies can get a sense of the program and application by reviewing last year's RFP, which is available at under “Resources.” Interested individuals can also contact Susie Flug, Commonwealth Corps Program Manager ([email protected]).
Program Assistant Farewells and Hellos
In October, MSA bid farewell to outgoing Commonwealth Corps Program Assistant Virginia Frias (left). We
were thankful for her passion for the program and time
supporting MSA and wish her well with her next steps.
In December, MSA welcomed our new Commonwealth Corps Program Assistant Rachel Lochner (right).
Rachel recently finished a year of AmeriCorps service with
the HealthCorps in East Boston and has since spent her
time helping train and support the members in that program. We are happy to have her at MSA.
Service Alliance
100 North Washington Street, 3rd Floor
Boston, MA 02114
Contact: Susie Flug
Commonwealth Corps Program Manager
P. 617-542-2544 Ext. 202
F. 617-542-0240
Email: [email protected]
The Commonwealth Corps, a state-funded
program administered by the
Massachusetts Service Alliance, engages
Massachusetts residents of all ages and
backgrounds in a stipended term of
service designed to strengthen
communities, address unmet needs and
increase volunteerism.
Learn more at
Stay Connected...
Whether you’re a
current member, host
site partner, alum, or
other supporter, we
connected with the
Commonwealth Corps
and MSA.
Feel free to email
Program Manager Susie
([email protected])
questions or updates,
and please connect
with us via Facebook,
LinkedIn, and Twitter.
supporters are always
welcome to share their
skills and experiences
with current members.
Click Here!
Click Here!
Click Here!
Click Here!
Meet the 2014-2015 Commonwealth Corps
This year, 35 Commonwealth
Corps members are serving
with MSA and our 15 host site
partners. True to the mission of
the program “to engage
Massachusetts residents of all
ages and backgrounds in
service,” this year’s members
range in age from their early
20s through their 40s.
All are Massachusetts
residents; many of them were
born in the Commonwealth,
while others were born across
the US or abroad in Africa and
Asia and have since made MA
their home. Some members are serving during college or graduate school,
while other members are serving right out of school to gain experience, and
others decided to serve as a mid-career change or a way to come back to
the professional world from parenting.
Our members are balancing their service on top of family, school, and
work commitments, and they do it amazingly well. They are all serving
because they have a desire to give back to their communities and make a
difference, while also gaining skills and experience.
They inspire us every day, and we are thankful for their service.