Commonwealth Corps Newsletter Volume 3, Issue 1 August-December 2014 Program Manager Welcome & Update ear Commonwealth Corps members, host sites, alumni, and friends, Inside this issue: Program Spotlight: 2 Program Spotlight: 3 Program Spotlight: 4 Member Spotlights: 5 826 Boston Buzzards Bay Coalition Veritas Preparatory Charter School Rachel Bergquist Rebecca Van Horn (826 Boston) Member Spotlights: Brendan Buckless Tanya Creamer 6 (Buzzards Bay Coalition) Member Spotlight:s Barbara McKenzie Dana Motley 7 (Veritas Preparatory Charter School) Alumni Spotlight: Gracie MullenThompson 8 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. Member Orientation & Ongoing Development 9 Recent Events 10 Upcoming Events & 2015-16 RFP 11 Program Assistant Farewell/Hello 11 Meet the Corps 12 Stay Connected! 12 Sincerely, 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. “Hosting Commonwealth Corps members at 826 Boston has proven transformative. 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 underserved 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 series. 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’ Room. 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 Engagement Page 4 Commonwealth Corps Newsletter Program Spotlight: Veritas Preparatory Charter School "Our Commonwealth 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 sometimes struggle with." Matthew Kuzmeskas, Director of Operations Veritas Preparatory Charter School, established in 2012, is hosting two full-time Commonwealth Corps 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 higher education. The 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 liaisons. Through their service, Bri and Dana engage Veritas Prep families in their child’s learning and character education and build capacity within families to support their scholars on the path to and through college. Additionally, the members recruit parents, guardians, and family members as volunteers to create 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. Name: 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 Age: 24 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 826. Because of the Commonwealth Corps, I’m more confident about my future. Name: Becca Van Horn Host Site: 826 Boston Age: 27 Original Hometown: Proctor, VT Current city/town: Somerville, MA Commonwealth Corps Newsletter Page 6 Member Spotlight: Brendan Buckless Name: Brendan Buckless Host Site: Buzzards Bay Age: 23 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 opportunity. Because of the Commonwealth Corps, I wake up every day excited to go to the office! Member Spotlight: Tanya Creamer Name: Tanya Creamer Host Site: Buzzards Bay Age: 22 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 Bay Coalition, I’ve had 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. Name: Barbara McKenzie Host Site: Veritas Preparatory Charter School Age: 39 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. Name: Dana Motley Host Site: Veritas Preparatory Charter School Age: 44 Original Hometown: Springfield, MA Current city/town: Springfield, MA Commonwealth Corps Newsletter Page 8 Alumni Spotlight: Gracie Mullen-Thompson “I really feel like my experience... made a difference in my community, and I am grateful that I was able to give back! Because of the Commonwealth Corps, I am an even better teacher than I was before.“ Name: Gracie MullenThompson Host Site: Buzzards Bay Coalition (2013-14) Age: 25 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 stewardship in the 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 different students throughout my year of service and focused 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 ten through eighth grade, and they are all an even better teacher different sizes. I am than I was before. I would the developing lesson plans r e c o m m e n d for each grade level Commonwealth Corps to and teaching them anyone who feels a pasSpanish. I feel that my sion to make a difference experience as 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 . Commonwealth Corps! 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 potential. 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 Cogan. Topics included: leadership self knowledge, balancing for success, strategic vision, and self-care/burnout prevention. Members raved about Shoshanna’s 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 www.mass-service.org 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 www.mass-service.org 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. Massachusetts 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 www.mass-service.org Stay Connected... Whether you’re a current member, host site partner, alum, or other supporter, we invite you to stay connected with the Commonwealth Corps and MSA. Feel free to email Program Manager Susie Flug ([email protected]) with questions or updates, and please connect with us via Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Alumni and 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.
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