Lenovo discount for Americorps Alums premium and lifetime members

Just in time for Christmas comes a discount offer from Americorps Alums that you can use to get yourself that ThinkPad you’ve been wanting (because you know Aunt Jane is just going to knit you another Cthulhu iPod cover).

If you’re a premium or lifetime member over at the Americorps Alums site, Lenovo (makers of IBM ThinkPad notebooks) is offering you a 15% discount off web pricing until Dec 15. Also, you can receive an additional 10% off specified ThinkPad notebooks. If you’re a premium member, check your messages at the Americorps Alums site for details. If you don’t see anything there, click over to the discount center for the full spiel.

Note: You have to have signed up as a member on the Working Advantage site to qualify for this discount. Working Advantage is a free discount site you receive a membership to as part of your Alums membership. I just signed up in the process of writing this post and checking out the details of the Lenovo offer, and it was painless. Your “employee” number to enter in the registration box is right there on your Americorps Alums discount center page in the Working Advantage box. Just copy that and head over to the site, click Register, then Employees, then you fill out your contact info, check off any newsletters you want and “hey, presto!” you’re in. Easy peasy.

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Quick Americorps roundup

Just got back from a week’s vacation in the land of the unwired, so I’m going to catch up with a quick roundup of interesting Americorps news tidbits I’ve corralled from the web:

  • Campus Progress does a good job of outlining the benefits of National Service for college graduates in its article, Don’t Sell Your Soul.
  • The Buffalo News highlights the Enterprise School, a charter school that provides intensive education, support and opportunities for inner-city youth with the help of Americorps members and other volunteers.
  • A page from the Americorps site shows you how to put your Americorps service to work for you.

Americorps as health insurance bridge

The Brown Daily Herald has a piece about a serious issue facing college graduates, namely the students’ loss of health insurance as they graduate and subsequently lose coverage under their school health insurance and, often, their parent’s insurance policies as well:

“Many colleges and universities require health insurance,” Jeanne Hebert, director of the University’s Office of Insurance and Risk, told The Herald in an e-mail. “If students are faced with unexpected medical expenses, they may not be able to continue their enrollment in college.”

After graduation, students no longer have access to SHIP, and most are barred from their parents’ policies when they turn 22 or cease to be full-time students. Some, like Rastelli, apply for jobs with firms that provide insurance. Others enter graduate programs, many of which have policies similar to Brown’s. But those who don’t receive insurance, and have no mandate to purchase it, face a difficult choice.

As the article notes in its last paragraph, Americorps offers a comprehensive health care plan, although it doesn’t include coverage for preexisting conditions. It’s not always the best insurance in the world – our coverage was so skimpy when I was serving my first year that we called it the ginseng and band-aid plan – but it’s better than nothing. I do know of at least one Americorps member in my group who was staying on a second year partly because of the health plan (and child care subsidies) that Americorps offers.

This is a real challenge for 20-somethings. Although health care plans can be cheap for healthy graduates, those with preexisting conditions or disabilities can face premiums that far outstrip the weight load of their fresh-out-of-grad-school earnings.

Alas, Americorps isn’t much help in these cases, but for the otherwise healthy college grad, it’s an option that can give you a year or two of breathing room while you suss out your options, decide what you’re going to do and build up your resume/experience, which will hopefully improve your chances of landing a benefits-loaded job or one that pays well enough to afford your own plan.

John Edwards signs pledge to expand national service

After a stop at a House Party in Dover, presidential hopeful John Edwards signed the Presidential Pledge to Expand National Service (pdf). Woohoo! (OTOH, John McCain declined to sign even while acknowledging that Americorps volunteers were “the best we ever had.” An action which makes obvious sense…wait, what?)

In short, the pledge promises to expand Americorps service positions by 100,000, to support policies that make it easier for folks to serve 4,000 hours (2 years) to national service, to promote service learning in schools, to support and expand the Peace Corps, and to increase service opportunities to seniors.

Read about this momentous event, and the tenacious work of ServeNext member Tate that it took to get it done, at the ServeNext blog, BlogNext.

Does Americorps promote military conscription, or undermine it?

In a comment to my Sept 22 post about the Eli Segal Fellowship announcement, Scott Kohlhass, who runs DraftResistance.org, writes:

I am worried that these programs could be used by selective service as “alternative service” during a draft.

Scott Kohlhaas

That is indeed a novel and intriguing idea, one that had not occurred to me. I considered responding in the comments section, but then realized that this is an interesting enough topic to deserve it’s own post.

For starters, let me note that I am unequivocally with Scott when it comes to the concept of conscription to military service and the current system of mandatory registration of men when they reach 18. In my opinion, it is morally reprehensible to conscript someone to go out and fight a war they neither believe in enough to sign up for and that may, indeed, be in direct opposition to their personal, moral and spiritual beliefs. This immorality grows even stronger in light of the fact that the folks who lobby for war (corporations like Haliburton, the rich who have massive holdings in oil, metals and technology, etc) rarely have to worry about getting their hands dirty (or their brains blown out) fighting it. I can only that God that, being female, to this point I haven’t had to face the prospect of refusing to register as, being committed to non-violence, I would be morally compelled to do.

Even the government itself acknowledges this to some degree through it’s Conscientious Objector status, although during past drafts such status was ridiculously and notoriously difficult to get and C.O.’s were often socially, if not criminally, persecuted for “lack of patriotism” and “cowardice.” Although to be honest, I think it takes far bigger balls to stick with your spiritual and moral beliefs against the common feeling than to just go along and agree to commit violence for political ends that you don’t even believe in just to avoid going against the flow.

However, I depart from Scott’s concern in that, in the event a draft was actually reinstated, I would much rather have an alternative like Americorps to serve in rather than face the choice of serving in the military or taking criminal action that would involve and potentially endanger my family.

Having served two years in Americorps serving those who need help the most I can say without reservation that, if a draft were reinstated with Americorps as an alternative service, the prospect of the sheer numbers of objectors that would put in a position of public service would be an unequivocal Good Thing.

If a draft was reinstated for the Iraq conflict, just imagine the number people who don’t support the war and who have no intention of getting their head blown off for some ideal they don’t believe in that would willingly flood into public service as a viable alternative. Such a social service tsunami could literally change the nature of our country in so many ways I can’t even begin to imagine the end result.

Also, consider this – the best way to prevent war is to prevent the circumstances that provoke it and one of the key circumstances that create wars is xenophobia – the fear of the other. Fear of other races, other religions, other socio-economic realities, etc, create an insular, nationalistic fervor that easily transfers to dehumanization and hatred of people in other countries who are doing foreign things for foreign reasons that xenophobes neither understand nor feel comfortable with. Stir in violence perpetrated by radical members of these other groups and war is not only probably, it becomes downright easy.

If nothing else, a year or two in Americorps exposes both the member and those the member serves to so many different peoples, cultures, mindsets, and other realities – and forces them to act and live within those realities – that the end result of a national draft that swelled Americorps to that degree would be a new generation of people who would be far less likely to be xenophobic as well as far more likely to understand the dynamics of poverty, oppression and cultural intolerance as the source of anger, violence and fear that underly the actions that lead to war.

Plus, by dint of the quantity of direct services performed and the betterment of those served, our country would become more educated, more economically balanced and less divided than it was before, which in turn would make its constituents less violent, less oppressed and less warlike to begin with. And since the poor are always hit hardest by a draft (and the blandishments of the recruiters’ offices) this rising tide of education, economic status and cross-cultural exposure would also take many of them out of harm’s way in terms of the circumstances that often lead them to be victimized by the military machine.

In short, having public service alternatives like Americorps would actually be subversive to a war-like nation’s militaristic intentions, and to my mind would be one of the best antidotes to future wars I can think of, both in terms of how we perceive others and in terms of internal social realities that the military feeds off of.

So, although I support Scott wholeheartedly in his effort to eradicate conscription and end even the possibility of the draft, I have to say that having Americorps as a possible alternative in the event of a draft seems like a feature, not a bug, one that I would support equally wholeheartedly.

My interview in the WE: Magazine for Women blog

Sorry for the radio silence – I took my computer to the shop for a diagnostic that ended up taking almost a week. Talk about your junkie withdrawals. *shudder*

Anyway, to get things back into the groove, here’s a link to an interview I did a few months back with WE: Magazine for Women, that’s just now made it into print. It’s basically just me talking about me, my writing work and my Americorps service.

The formatting is a little wonky and I do tend to go on a bit (when I edit myself, I end up doing a lot of machete work through acres of run-on sentences that tend to clog up my first-run writing like bloated bits of conversational silly string), but it’s not half bad, all things considered, and I don’t come off sounding like too much of a dork. 😀

WE Magazine for Women’s Meet Soni Pitts of Getting Things Done Blog

Americorps Alums Site Tour – Profile Section

As with many membership sites, one of the first things to do on the Americorps Alums site once you create an account is to fill out your profile.

Basic Profile

There are several sections in your Americorps Alums profile that you can edit and add information to. Aside from the basic username/password stuff and a photo uploader, there are sections for Personal Information (gender, age, marital status, etc., including your Americorps service background), Additional Information (text boxes for “More About Me,” “Educational Experience” and “Social/Volunteer Organizations”), Contact Information (address, email, IM handles and the like), and Professional Information (basically, your current employment status).

Blog

You also get a personal blog on your profile that you can use, but I don’t recommend it. It’s clunky and the contents are only available to other site members, will not be indexed by the search engines and there are no RSS feeds. If you’re not the blogging type, it’s just one more thing to do. If you are the blogging type, chances are very good that you’ve already got at least one other, more functional and more visible blog out there, so why bother with another one that only a handful of people, at most, are ever going to know exists? I just put up a post on mine directing people to this blog and called it a day.

Bits and Pieces

There are a few other bits and pieces of potential interest that make up the Americorps Alums member profile, including a photo uploading app, a preferences section where you can tweak notifications and whatnot, a page to access your membership status information (paid, lifetime or free), a message inbox and a page that lists all the groups you can belong to (A.A. has “groups,” which let you connect to other people from, say, past Americorps programs or organizations. These operate more like announcement boards than interactive chat groups or anything. Useful for keeping up with what your old Americorps org is doing (if they update their group announcements) than anything else.

Connections

The Americorps Alums site also allows you to connect with other members. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be any way to upload your contacts to find members easily, so you have to manually track them down using the Member Search function (or discover connections in your Group memberships) and connect from there. Not sure what the point of connecting is at this point, as there don’t seem to be any additional features you have to be connected to use, but they may add functionality later so it won’t hurt to connect up with your peeps, if they’re on the site. If they’re not, drop them an invitation via the Tell a Friend function at the bottom of the My Profile sidebar.

Conclusions

It’s your all-around standard Profile section – nothing weird, nothing unrecognizable to anyone who’s ever been on any membership/connectivity site. As far as whether or not you should spend the time to really buff it out, I’d say that if you’re going to be using the Alums site to go job hunting through the Career Center or as part of your resume/CV, it’s probably a good idea to create a full profile with all the useful stuff a future employer might be interested in (including who you’re connected to). And if you’re going to be heavily networking among the Alums, a complete profile with interesting tidbits about yourself will probably enhance your connectibility. Otherwise, you can just set up a basic profile and leave it at that.