Category Archives: After Americorps

After your term of service, the big question is always…now what?

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

Americorps Alums speed link post

Here are just a few things crossing my radar of interest to current members and Americorps Alums.

The Indiana University of Bloomington is starting up a new student association for students who are Americorps members or Alums. Their first meeting will be the 11th, and free pizza is on offer. (Ah, free food…the most effective Americorps bait there is.) Anyway, to check it out, drop by the IUB blog for more information.

The Americorps Alums site is launching a new book club to encourage conversation and community dialogue among Alums.

Check out the new My Americorps site, where members can learn all about how to access your educational award online, generate tax documents and proof of service papers, and other stuff relating to using the Segal Americorps Education Award. Warning – I tried to log in to my account just now and it never seemed to load. Dunno if it’s a “right now” issue or an ongoing problem.

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The Never Ending Project

Spent the day at Emma today, playing volunteer and doing still yet more painting. God, you’d think it’d be done by now, but it’s tough to make progress when you can only work a few hours at a time, a day or two a week. By midday, it’s either too hot to paint (the paint gets all thick and nasty in the pail, making it too thick to apply nicely) or it rains. And here lately, it’s been doing both.

Managed to get in several hours today, enough to get the rest of the cut-in work done on the back, but not enough to roll out the second coat, since by then it was hot enough that the paint would have just dried on the roller pan. And while I was up on the ladder, I realized the back window trim needs a second coat. Lovely.

But it goes. The checklist to date is: roll out second coat on back wall, second coat for window trim, trim out bottom of trailer (a lately-added decision, since we have the paint to do it), then do punch-list/touchups where needed. Feels like more than it really is, to be honest. I just wish it would go back to those lovely cool, overcast but not rainy days of spring. You could get a whole day in with weather like that. 😀

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The Wheel of Americorps turns…turns…turns…

Since Americorps service years tend to change over about this time of year, I went tag-surfing on the “Americorps” Technorati tag to see what was out there, and here are a few interesting bits and pieces I’ve come across. I present to you – the Americorps blog carnival:

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The party is dead. Long live the party!

It’s been a real whirlwind of a week winding up my Americorps year (plus getting doctored up to my eyeballs before the insurance ran out) and to be honest, it’s not exactly finished for all that. I’m still going into the Emma Center, where I was assigned, as a volunteer to finish up a few projects that aren’t done yet (the weather has prevented me from getting the last bits of painting done on the trailer for the past week and a half), and there will be ongoing paperwork regarding the Educational Award and so on.

But for all intents and purposes the party’s over – the food table is down to crumbs and greasy dishes, the guests have all gone home, the band’s been disbanded and the balloons are floating forlornly by themselves on the empty dance floor, trailing their ribbons half-heartedly through the confetti like bored kids drawing in the dirt.

And I, dear readers, am standing in the middle of the floor under the disco ball with aching feet and an up-too-late headache, feeling all sad and mopey now that it’s over.

But damn. It was one hell of a party.

Oh, it had it’s ups and downs, it’s grand moments and stumbling miscues. But all in all, it was everything a party should be.

It lasted long enough for everyone to have their fill, but not so long that we all got sick of it. The band played and the party danced right up until the last song with every ounce of their energy. And even if a few of us weren’t so sure about the playlist when it started, in the end we all enjoyed at least some of the music and even got attached to the players.

We met friends we never knew we had, and exchanged numbers and promises to keep in touch. Don’t know whether we will or not – intentions are always strongest in the afterglow of a communal good time and tend to wither in the harsh sunlight of the day after – but it’s a more connected world out there than it used to be, so I have high hopes.

We all tried new things – new dance moves, new refreshments, new ideas – and shared old favorites. We learned about and had fun with each others’ unique wonderfulness. Challenges were encountered, assessed and met with the accompaniment of sparkling laughter and cheering support.

And throughout the event rousing sub-parties formed, swirled brightly under the lights and then melted away to reform anew somewhere else, mixing and remixing the party with energy and laughter and a contagious strain of goofy fun, so that there was no corner left stagnant or unstirred.

Here’s to the party! Long may it’s music ring in our ears, long may it’s taste linger on the tongue, and long may it’s memory brighten our days.

Salut.

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Last day of service

Sorry for skipping yesterday’s post. I didn’t get in from work until late (had a dentist appointment on top of that, to boot) and just didn’t feel like cracking open the old bit-twitcher once I got home and got sucked into the loving embrace of a new novel by one of my favorite authors.

Anyway, today is my last official day of service. I’ll end up coming back for a while anyway, if for no other reason than I still need to finish the painting on the trailer (there’s just a bit left, but the weather has been downright sodden lately and it hasn’t been dry enough to get those last bits finished this last week). And there are still a few projects that I don’t want to leave cold, and I’ll need to collect July’s volunteer data for the office, so I’ll be around.

It’s been crazy this last week. My brain-bits resembled nothing so much as a flock of pigeons that has just been run through by a 5 year old – pppfffffttttrrrrrrr. Scattered all over the place and with no discernible flight plan. I’ve been running around trying to get all ongoing projects finished (or at least to a point where they can be easily finished by others) plus maintain my regular duties.

In addition to that, there’s been exit paperwork to do (necessitating scheduling a trip to the office around all the other slalom-like flags on my calendar), databases to start entering data into so we could see if it’s all working (it is, more or less – woohoo!), a dentist appt yesterday and a doctor appt today (got to take advantage of that insurance while I’ve got it), my own personal business to try to bring up to speed so I don’t get sucked into homelessness when I lose this check…and much, much more!

There’s a nice graduation party tonight at the Governor’s Western Residence. I’m even going to shave my legs so I can wear a dress (yeah, I know…the shock of it has the whole center here in an uproar).

After that…well, like I said, I’ll be winding down my work here over the next week or so, and I’ve told them to give me a call if they need me and if I can swing it, I’ll help out. Like I said, I’ve got my own copywriting and marketing strategies businesses to spin up to speed, as well. I’ve got a few nibbles on the line, so cross your fingers.

In other words, I’ll be plenty busy-busy.

And I’ll be keeping up with this blog, too, although probably not daily. I will keep up with my adventures in navigating Americorps Educational Award land and dealing with any remaining paperwork, plus writing about Alumni stuff and articles of interest to those considering joining Americorps. And, since I still want to write a book about what you need to know before you join, I’ll be using this blog to keep notes, comment on my progress and so on.

So, I’m not abandoning anyone. We’ll stay in touch.

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Parting is such sweet sorrow

Sunday afternoon, we held our last group meeting of the Americorps service year. We will, of course, be getting together at our graduation dinner on the evening of the 31st at the Governor’s Western Residence. But other than that, last night was the last time we’ll all be together.

We met at “the cabin,” which is a summer cabin property that Tammy caretakes for the owners. It’s a very rustic log structure with several large sleeping areas filled with beds, screened in sitting room, a modern kitchen, a spring-fed pool (the same spring water feeds the plumbing inside), a croquet/badminton court and lots and lots of trees. Cathedral-like cypress trees essentially make up the entire woods around the cabin, allowing only a few other species to punctuate their grandeur, and give the air a gorgeous smell.

The main focus of the meeting was a cookout, complete with enough inch-plus thick rib-eye steaks to make me inquire as to whether she’d gotten a good deal on a cow, and to remark upon the eerie silence that must dominate the plains now that all that mooing has ceased. There were, in all fairness, several veggie options including grilled marinated tofu (pretty good) and Sunshine patties (sunflower burgers), plus a huge salad complete with wild greens, peppers, walnuts, dried cranberries, feta and who knows what else, baked potatoes with fixings, and all the other trimmings of a real gut-whomper of an open-air feast, right down to the build-it-yourself strawberry shortcake dessert. I barely made it out alive.

The “meeting” portion of the event itself was short and sweet, basically just a few bits of lingering paperwork to be signed off on, attendance sheets from the mediation training to be signed, new addresses to be collected from those who are moving and other oddments of the paper empire that is Americorps bookkeeping.

While dinner was grilling, a rather cut-throat game of badminton was brutally enacted on the croquet court, morphing later into a couple fast rounds of “nuke ’em” and volleyball, all played around one of our members small children who basically ignored everyone else and did his thing under and around the feet of the players.

In short, a good time was had by all. The paperwork got done. Weeks of activities and events were caught up on by those not involved in them. And large, sloppy dog kisses were handed out all around by Jasmine, Tammy’s big black (and exceedingly well-behaved) Lab.

For me, this always a bittersweet time. You get so used to being around your Americorps team members over the year that it seems inconceivable that within weeks you’ll all be splitting off and, with a few exceptions of those doing a second year, never seeing each other again.

It was harder to go through my first time, in part because I didn’t really see the emotional hit coming, but mainly because all of us in the Habitat for Humanity build team literally spent 6 days a week together (or only temporarily split up into a few teams) for the whole year, and spent many team-building and training weeks throughout the year hanging out together with all the other HFH Americorps members from across the states of NC and SC. So it was a serious jolt going into our exit retreat (we spent a weekend at the beach doing end-of-year paperwork and whatnot), looking around and realizing that here were a whole camp full of people whom I knew pretty well (folks from the other chapters) and my own team (whom I knew like family, for good or ill) that I’d spent the whole year bonding with and who I was never going to see again. It was heart-wrenching, unexpectedly so. I had assumed I’d be sad, but I had had a hard winter and was dealing with some physical and personal problems and was well ready to get my service year done and over with. But the depth of my reaction was well beyond my expectation – I was essentially losing upwards of 100 friends at once, and that’s a hell of a hit to take.

This year it’s a looming emotional hit, too. I really am going to miss my team members. But it’s also tempered somewhat by the fact that we didn’t work altogether as a team on the same site all the time, and by the fact that I know it’s coming this time around and have been mentally and emotionally preparing for it. Nonetheless, I expect to be doing a decent impression of the dwarfs Mopey and Weepy for good few weeks after we graduate. You can’t just up and walk away from year-long friendships with a hearty wave and a “Cheerio!” over your shoulder. And just because you see the bus coming doesn’t mean the impact will be any easier.

*sigh*

The reality is that in life, many things may come to pass…but they rarely come to stay.

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