Where Are They Now? – Former Literacy*AmeriCorps Member Diana Aschner

By Jessica Schrader
Edited by Maia Lamdany

There’s a week or so left in July, and many of us are hitting the 1700 hour mark this week – or are already there! I recently talked with a former Literacy*AmeriCorps member, Diana Aschner, to find out where she is a year after completing her second term of service.

Where are you from, and where did you go to college? What did you major in?
I grew up in Mt. Lebanon and went to college at Chatham University. I majored in French and Studio Arts.

How did you hear about AmeriCorps, and why did you decide to apply?
I learned about AmeriCorps from my next door neighbor, Lori Como! She moved in when I was just about to graduate, wondering what my next step was. I have always been really interested in learning about other cultures and meeting people from around the world. Not to mention, the education award would help me survive a few more years.

Where did you serve, and what was your role there?
I served one term with Goodwill and one term with GPLC. I was primarily an ESL teacher, but also did some ABE and GED stuff as well.

What are you doing now, and how did you get there?
Now I am serving in the Peace Corps in Indonesia. I teach middle school English at a madrasah (government-run Islamic school) to classes of about 35 students. I am hoping to start a girls empowerment program in the future, but I’ve only been at permanent site for a month! I applied early on in my 2nd AmeriCorps term, and my service definitely added to my application.

How do you feel your experience in AmeriCorps affected your life after your term of service?
Not to get too dramatic, but AmeriCorps really turned my life around. I grew up in a community where people rarely had to struggle financially. Whatever they needed to live a comfortable life could generally be found. All you had to do was get into college and get a well-paying job, and then you were set too. I went through periods of depression quite often, but all that stopped when I joined AmeriCorps. I think I finally found some substance to my life. Giving my time and effort to others makes my existence more meaningful. While I may have joined in part to help pay off my student loans, I know now that service will always be a part of my life. I think it’s my duty to my fellow human beings, and it makes me feel great!

What was your favorite memory from serving with AmeriCorps?
It’s hard to pick just one memory that is my favorite. I really enjoyed my Nepali students in Carrick. They were always so positive and hard-working, even though they were just starting out. At the end of class one day, after working very hard to learn how to write her address, one of my students ran around the classroom with her arms stretched out like an airplane and cried “I feel happy!”

Do you have any advice for current members as their terms of service come to an end?
I would just say to be open to whatever opportunities are out there. These are uncertain times, and you might not end up doing what you always envisioned yourself doing. However, with the right attitude, you might stumble upon something even better.

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Where Are They Now? – Former Literacy*AmeriCorps Member Virginia Grych

By Jessica Schrader
Edited by Tina Norland

It’s the beginning of July, and that means most of us have about a month left to go in our service terms. Time certainly does fly! I recently talked with another former AmeriCorps member, Virginia Grych, to see what she’s done in the past year since her term of service ended.

Where are you from, and where did you go to college? What did you major in?
I’m from Princeton, WV, and I went to Marshall University in Huntington, WV for undergrad. While there, I double majored in Religious Studies and Psychology.

How did you hear about AmeriCorps, and why did you decide to apply?
I first found out about AmeriCorps from acquaintances who completed a service term either before or after going to college, and I knew that I wanted to commit myself to a year of service in a similar capacity. When I graduated college, I wasn’t exactly sure what I wanted to do with my degrees, and I didn’t want to continue bouncing from temp job to temp job until something better came along. I saw this as the perfect opportunity not only to immerse myself in service, but also to explore my interests and skills in hopes of finding work that I might be interested in continuing as a career.

Where did you serve, and what was your role there?
I served at the GPLC CareerLink Workforce Classroom, where I was a GED and ABE teaching assistant. I basically helped the full-time teachers tutor students individually and in small groups, and helped test and assess our students.

What are you doing now, and how did you get there?
I’m currently going into the second year of my Master’s in College Student Personnel at Ohio University, and hope to complete a dual degree in Cultural Studies in Education as well. I’m also a graduate assistant for the Supplemental Instruction program, which is one of the academic support services offered at OU.

How do you feel your experience in AmeriCorps affected your life after your term of service?
My service term with AmeriCorps helped me realize how much I enjoyed supporting students through academic challenges, which directly influenced my decision to apply for my current Master’s program. It also caused me to develop an interest in academic and social equity, which inspired my decision to apply for a dual degree in Cultural Studies in Education.

What was your favorite memory from serving with AmeriCorps?
The most memorable part of my service term would have to be all of the people I was able to meet and form relationships with. This is true at all levels of my experience, from the AC coordinators, my site supervisors, the students I worked with, and my fellow corps members. I learned great lessons from all of them, and had a very rich experience because of them.

Do you have any advice for current members as their terms of service come to an end?
My advice to members coming to the end of their service would be to keep an open mind about opportunities that may await them and to be confident in wherever their next steps may lead.

Picking a Summer Read

love-to-read

By: Dawn B

Edited by: Jessica Schrader

With the solstice just passing a few days ago, summer has officially begun. For many people that means it’s time to start picking out their summer reads! There are plenty of booklists online that people make with their top picks, but what if you want to find books more custom to your liking? I did some investigating and there are a couple of great sites online to help you navigate!

1. Whichbook

Whichbook is great in that it allows you to pick books based on many different factors, all illustrated on a scale. The categories range from happy to bleak and conventional to unpredictable. Once you’ve picked a couple of categories, Whichbook generates in-depth lists of books! There are even summaries, extracts, and a link for finding similar titles.

2. What Should I Read Next?

What Should I Read Next? is a simple search engine in which you write what book you read last, then it puts together a recommended list of books that you can check out next. If there’s a long list of similar results, just click the highest link on the page. The reviews on this website are connected to Amazon.

3. The Carnegie Library Lists

On the Carnegie Library’s website are lots of different booklists, separated into an abundance of categories. If you see one you’d like to check out then all you have to do is click on the link, and it will lead to the catalog and you’ll be on your way. There’s even a book list on volunteering.

There’s also this flowchart (while it’s geared toward high school summer reading, it still has some solid picks) and this summer book personality quiz.  Happy summer reading!

World Refugee Day by the Numbers

by. Cristina Norland
edited by. Dawn Bush

Yesterday, on June 20th, the world celebrated World Refugee Day.  Family was the theme this year and while many gathered with family and friends to commemorate and raise awareness, it is also a somber event as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently announced that global forced displacement at the end of 2012 was at an 18 year high. According to UNHCR, “during the year, conflict and persecution forced an average of 23,000 persons per day to leave their homes and seek protection elsewhere, either within the borders of their countries or in other countries.”


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War continues to be the main cause of this displacement and 55 percent of the refugees in the report come from just five main countries: Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Syria and Sudan. Afghanistan has remained the top producer of refugees for 32 years (making up one out of four refugees worldwide).

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The majority of refugee host nations are in developing countries, often neighbors of the war torn source countries. According to the US Office of Refugee Resettlement in the fiscal year of 2012 the United States hosted just 58,238 refugees from 89 countries; the majority from Bhutan, Burma, Iraq, and Somalia. Of those, Pennsylvania resettled 2,809.  2,166 of those came from Bhutan, 255 from Burma, and 167 from Iraq. While only 4 people were resettled in PA from the Congo in 2012, agencies are expecting the number of Congolese to increase dramatically in 2013.

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“These truly are alarming numbers. They reflect individual suffering on a huge scale and they reflect the difficulties of the international community in preventing conflicts and promoting timely solutions for them,” said António Guterres, head of UNHCR.

Where Are They Now? – Former Compass Member Stephanie Klocke

By Jessica Schrader
Edited by Dawn Bush

As we approach the end of our terms of service, some of us are looking at doing another term with AmeriCorps, but many of us are moving on to other things. Some of us may have accepted job offers or plan to attend graduate school, but not everyone knows what they want to do after they complete their 1700 hours of service. I recently talked with Stephanie Klocke, a 2011-2012 Compass AmeriCorps member, about what she’s doing now, almost a year after she finished her year with AmeriCorps.

Where are you from, and where did you go to college? What did you major in?
I’m from the South Hills of Pittsburgh and attended Allegheny College studying Spanish and Economics.

How did you hear about AmeriCorps, and why did you decide to apply?
I was really active in service in college and had many friends who had completed AmeriCorps terms both during undergrad and after they graduated. I’d gone to school thinking I was going to eventually work in international business, but come the end of my senior year when I was actually looking at those jobs realized that I wasn’t that interested. I’d loved interning at a non-profit while I was studying abroad in Argentina, and decided to do AmeriCorps to see if I really wanted to work at a non-profit full time.

Where did you serve? What was your role there?
I served at Catholic Charities as a Refugee Caseworker. I was responsible in guiding refugees through their first 180 days in the United States, beginning about two weeks before their arrival securing housing. Once in the US, I picked clients up from the airport, helped them apply for Social Security numbers and public welfare benefits, coordinated all medical appointments, and enrolled children in school and adults in ESL. As the caseworker I also guided clients through applying for jobs, preparing a resume and cover letter, practicing for interviews and maintained a connection with employers to monitor their progress.

What are you doing now, and how did you get there?
I’m the Volunteer Coordinator for Free Arts NYC, an arts education and mentoring non-profit in New York. I’m responsible for recruiting over 2,000 volunteers to run our programs each year and oversee their training, placement and management. Being able to prioritize and pay attention to details is crucial in my position, so my manager was really impressed during my interview when I told her about my AmeriCorps experience, especially prioritizing and managing case details when a third of Catholic Charities’ refugee clients arrived on the same day! Additionally, because of my service term I was able to speak to my dedication to volunteerism and my understanding of volunteer motivations, both of which are necessary in managing so many volunteers!

How do you feel your experience in AmeriCorps affected your life after your term of service?
To begin with, I decided to pursue work in the non-profit sector because of my term! Though my job now is serving a different population than I did with AmeriCorps, I’m still really interested in working with refugee populations and so have been tutoring individuals studying for their Citizenship Test through the International Rescue Committee. Also, I also feel like I’ve come full circle since my term finished because Free Arts is preparing to bring a pair of new AmeriCorps members onto our team! I’m excited to use the experiences I gained to shape our new members’ projects and support them throughout their term. I’ve also become the designated knowledge source on prohibited activities, so I guess I didn’t get away from that when my term ended!

What was your favorite memory from serving with AmeriCorps?
My favorite memory would have to be the first time that I picked a family up at the airport- they were exhausted from their hours of travel, but so excited to see their new home and discover the new opportunities waiting for them.

Do you have any advice for current members as their terms of service come to an end?
I see a lot of resumes where applicants list their AmeriCorps service as a sort of side note. I may be just a little biased, but Compass is a really challenging, interesting, and unique accomplishment so make the most of it when marketing yourself!