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Looks like Obama and the gang have done good: Senate Moves To Triple Americorps

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First draft of the Americorps book chapter outline

Okay, kiddies. I’m actually plunging into the writing process of the book (well, more like dipping my toe, actually) and have completed a first run at a chapter outline for the book.

[For those that don’t know, one of the things I would like to do is use my experiences in Americorps (and yours, as well) to write a book for those who are thinking about going into Americorps – telling them what it’s like, what they can expect, what they can’t expect and so on.]

I’m going to include my first chapter outline draft below. If anyone’s reading this and would like to offer feedback on what I have so far, please do. The more input, the merrier. You can comment here or send me an email to the address in the sidebar (scroll down to the bottom).

Note that the outline doesn’t scan quite right vis-a-vis numbering and lettering, because of the ordered list coding for this template, so I had to mix bullets and numbers to make sense.

Americorps Book Chapter Outline

Blurb (from blog) [Editor’s note: This is just pasted in here for potential use in the book’s marketing copy.]

You will hate Americorps. You will love Americorps. You will dread getting out of bed, and you will wish you didn’t have to go home. It will be the worst decision you ever made and the best thing you’ve ever done. You will count off days like a felon marking time and you will miss it terribly when you’re done. Sometimes, several of these things will happen in the same day. Welcome to a life spent in service to the greater good: It’s the Vomit Comet of right action, complete with breathtaking climbs, stomach-dropping falls, heady views and jewel-like moments of perfect, weightless exhilaration and clarity that make it all worthwhile.

  1. Introduction
    • About Americorps
    • History of Americorps
    • My experiences with Americorps
  2. Chapter 1: Why Americorps
    • Giving back/Community building
    • Experience/Training
    • Educational Award
    • Networking
  3. Chapter 2: What To Know Before You Go
    • Income and work restrictions
    • Using social services
    • Benefits and shortfalls (health insurance, etc)
    • Political and religious restrictions
    • Dead trees – Americorps and paperwork
    • Acting like a professional
    • Keeping track of trainings/etc
    • Culture shock – personal (dealing with the Americorps vow of poverty, being out of school and in the trenches) and program-related (dealing with other team members, people you’re helping, program members, etc)
    • Building a team from scratch
  4. Chapter 3: Killing the Buddha (ditching the “Make-It-Better Fairy” mindset)
    • Starting over every year (you can’t save the world in a year – you’ll be spending the first 4 months just figuring out how to work the equipment)
    • Ungrateful wretches (dealing with the reality that saving the world is not always appreciated by the saved, and is sometimes outright ignored, disparaged, road-blocked, resisted and condemned by same) [Editor’s note: yes, the title of this bullet point is tongue in cheek]
    • Dealing with doubt – the long, dark night of the soul (reference Mother Teresa letters)
    • Ego vs work – being responsible for the work, not the results (i.e. take pride in doing well those aspects of the work you can control, but don’t hang your personal sense of accomplishment on the qualities of the final results, over which you have no influence; handing out food boxes is a worthy activity, even if overall hunger rates don’t decrease in your service year)
    • Honoring those you serve – Seeing beyond surface labels (seeing the Buddha within the beggar/Christ within the junkie); respecting their humanity even if you can’t respect their choices; a Buddhist monk begging offers townspeople the chance for compassion and generosity, just as those you serve give you the chance to practice the same, so be sure to say “thank you.”
  5. Chapter 4: A Bureaucracy of Angels (working in a non-profit)
    • Budgets, Bureaucracies and Blowhards – the non-profit and the community (dealing with NIBMY’s, laws, politics, community issues, funding issues, personality problems, actions restricted and required by the org’s charter/status and so on.)
    • Saving the world is like working in a coalmine – a lot of dirty work no one else wants to do, for little pay and less appreciation. OTOH, you light up the world. Yay!
    • Finding your place – sometimes Americorps members are welcome, well-fitted parts in a well-oiled machine of public services, sometimes they are disrespected scutwork interns caught in the middle of internecine political battles, budget shortfalls and turf wars.
  6. Chapter 5: Getting Started
    • Branches of Americorps
      1. NCCC
      2. Americorps National
      3. Americorps State
      4. Americorps Vista
      5. Professional Corps
      6. Senior Corps
      7. Others
    • Researching Americorps Programs
    • Application Process
  7. Chapter 6: A Year of Service
    • Orientation
    • Placement
    • Launch
    • Day in the life (chapter of stories from alums)
    • Service Projects and Days of Service
    • Trainings, retreats and summits – Americorps events
    • Graduation
    • Breaking up is hard to do
    • Should I stay or should I go – pros and cons of dropping out of your term of service, what to expect, pro-rated benefits, paperwork
  8. Chapter 7: A Lifetime of Service
    • Americorps Alums
    • Continuing your work

Closing the blog for now

Yeah, I know. I’m lame. But the truth is, I simply don’t have the time to keep up with it, plus my work, plus my life and a few other things as well. So I’m closing the blog for the time being.

However, I still intend to write a book about Americorps. So, when that happens, I’ll probably open this blog back up to use as a sandbox for idea, and for pimpin’ da goods.

In the meantime, I’ll leave everything up and available. I’m not taking the blog down or anything. So all the stuff will be here for the edification of future stumblers-upon. (Hi!)

So, for now, goodbye, good luck and good hanging with ya!


Michelle Obama and Americorps

In the US News article, “10 Things You Didn’t Know About Michelle Obama,” was this note:

5. In the early 1990s, following the death of both her father and a close friend from college, Michelle reassessed her life. Rethinking her career path, she decided to leave the corporate law world to work in public service. She took a job in the mayor’s office and then in the city’s office of planning and development. In 1993, Michelle became the founding executive director of Public Allies Chicago, an AmeriCorps national service program that provided training to young adults pursuing careers in the public sector.

It looks like public services is a deep vein in the Obama family. Always good to know.

Bill Clinton remembers Eli J. Segal at Brandeis University speech

On December 4th, as part of the kick-off speech for the new Eli J. Segal Citizen Leadership Program lecture series at Brandeis, Bill Clinton reminisced about his friendship with the late Eli J. Segal, architect and original head of the Americorps program. The presentation included video footage of Segal speaking about his friendship with Clinton.

“I was just thinking all over again what an astonishing human being he was,” Clinton told the crowd.

“He had a quality that was relatively rare in public service, government service, at the time. He could take a vision and turn it into a reality.”

The new leadership program is divided into 3 parts:

The Eli J. Segal Citizen Service Fellowship will provide stipends to create 15 summer internships at Brandeis, in which students will serve with selected non-profits and other organizations dedicated to public service.

The Segal Fellows Network will serve to connect Segal Fellows and others who have been recognized in programs created in Segal’s honor, as well as Americorps Alums, in an effort to foster relationships that will boost community service efforts and effectiveness, and make the Segal Fellowship credential more valuable and useful.

The Eli J. Segal Memorial Lecture will provide lectures from prominent leaders – including policy makers, service leaders, social entrepreneurs, Segal Network members, etc. – speaking on the subjects of civic leadership and public service.

Keeping my hand in

The Americorps Alums chapter I belong to here in Asheville is sponsoring an essay contest for students in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. The winner will get a ticket to the swanky MLK Day breakfast, and some other prizes like a gift certificate and whatnot (those haven’t been finalized yet).

Knowing that I’m a writer by trade, the chapter leader asked me to help out by writing up the flyer/handout that goes out to the students explaining the contest. It was fun, easy and felt good to be doing something to keep my hand in with my Americorps program. It’s that whole “Lifetime of Service” thing – it sounds cheesy sometimes when you say it, but it really is nice to be a part of something that continues after your year or two of service is up.

Anyway, just wanted to share what I’m up to. I can’t wait to see the essays when they come in (I think I remember volunteering to help judge, as well; I may live to regret that 😀 ).

Is Americorps about to go BOOM?

In this brief piece, the author talks about the increasing need for more programs like Americorps and Peace Corps to absorb the coming influx of Baby Boomers who are going to be suddenly finding themselves retired and looking around for something to do with their time that doesn’t make them feel like an old fart.

The writer mentions the Americorps Senior Corps, along with Peace Corps and Experience Corps, as great options for aging go-getters, but notes that more will be needed.

He may have a point. There are a lot of Boomers out there, and these programs are only so elastic. Perhaps we need to start working on ways to make use of this incredible and probably unique population surge of restless energy. Wouldn’t it be great if one of the legacies of the Boomer generation was the creation of even more powerful ways to serve others.