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Betsy Vetor, AmeriCorps VISTA Alum, Recognized for Service Award July 16, 2013

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Alumni Spotlight.
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Betsy Vetor, an alum of the AmeriCorps VISTA program who served the American Legion Auxiliary, was recently recognized with the President’s Volunteer Service Award for her volunteer work with the military community. The award thanks and honors Americans who, by their demonstrated commitment and example, inspire others to engage in volunteer service. The program continues as an initiative of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

1. Where, when, and in what capacity did you serve as a member of the ALA Call to Service Corps?

I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in the ALA Call to Service Corps from August 2009-2010 at American Legion Auxiliary Headquarters in Indianapolis. I was in the Corps’ inaugural class. The position I held was in volunteer development.

2. What have you been doing since you left the ALA Call to Service Corps?

Immediately after ending my VISTA year, I was hired by the American Legion Auxiliary as an administrative assistant. My husband, an active duty servicemember, and I then moved to San Antonio, Texas, in May 2011. I quickly joined the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) Auxiliary, a non-profit military spouse organization operating in support of the Fort Sam Houston community. I served as the membership chair for two years and now serve as the third Vice President in charge of programs.

Editor’s Note: The BAMC Auxiliary holds monthly events and service projects that encourage friendships and support among military families. It also raises funds for various BAMC and Fort Sam Houston organizations including the Fisher House, Warrior and Family Support Center, the Center for the Intrepid, and other departments within the BAMC organization.

3. Do you have any thoughts on the ALA Call to Service Corps, AmeriCorps, public service generally, or any other topic that you’d like to share with our readership?

I definitely benefited from serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in the ALA Call to Service Corps, as it helped me learn the ins and outs of a non-profit. Also, I made some pretty great friends through my time there. I think that AmeriCorps as a whole is doing some wonderful things for our nation, and it’s a program that I am happy to be associated with.

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AmeriCorps VISTA Members Build Organization Capacity to Place Military Spouses and Veterans into Jobs June 10, 2013

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Alumni Spotlight.
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The Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN) and Corporate America Supports You (CASY) are nonprofit organizations that provide employment readiness training programs, job placement solutions and no-cost services to military-affiliated spouses, retired military spouses, caregivers for war-wounded heroes and veterans.

Military Spouse Corporare Career NetworkTwo AmeriCorps VISTA members recently completed their service terms to MSCCN and CASY through the ALA Call to Service Corps. Mark Cernak, a military veteran and a VISTA alum, and Bianca Nafpliotis, a military spouse, both played integrals role expanding the organizations’ employment services footprint and brought military and veteran credentials to their service assignments

Over the course of her service term, Nafpliotis successfully restructured the organization’s volunteer program by rewriting its standard operating procedures, creating an organization map detailing both available volunteers and MSCCN staff members, writing new volunteer positions and descriptions, searching for and interviewing volunteer candidates and promoting the volunteer position within the military community.

Nafpliotis also successfully launched a new division of the organization’s volunteer program, called the Career Corps Professional Network. The network provides industry professionals with the opportunity to volunteer their time and expertise in support of MSCCN and CASY programs.

“Bianca’s strengths in organization and management have taken this program to new leaps and bounds,” said Erin Voirol, Nafpliotis’ supervisor. “[She] did a fantastic job.”

Mark Cernak was similarly influential in his role as MSCCN and CASY’s Training and Military Applicant Specialist. In that assignment, he assisted in the planning, development and implementation of a volunteer training system. As a facet of these duties, Cernak also actively conducted outreach to the military community, provided support to those utilizing the training system, and amplified his organization’s social media presence, which is used to locate potential volunteers and program beneficiaries.

Nafpliotis, whose term of service ended in April, has since joined the MSCCN as a full-time staff member. Cernak, whose term of service ended in May, now volunteers for the organizations.

Alumni Spotlight: Ruby Liang April 29, 2013

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Ruby Liang recently completed a term of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to the MRuby LiangWEBilitary Officers Association of America through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps. In her assignment as a Community Blueprint Network support specialist, Ruby coordinated MOAA national level support and communications to three MOAA chapters leading Community Blueprint efforts in their respective communities. In addition, she provided information to chapters responding to MOAA national efforts to initiate additional Community Blueprint sites nationwide. Prior to joining the Call to Service Corps, Ruby held positions with the Peace Corps and the Department of Homeland Security. Ruby holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of California, San Diego.

1.     What motivated you to serve as an AmeriCorps member?

Ever since high school, I have been an active participant in community service. I am passionate about public service and helping those in need. Thus, AmeriCorps had always been something I was considering. After graduating from college in 2012, I thought it would be a good time to serve as an AmeriCorps member while trying to determine my future career path.

2.     What motivated you to choose your sponsor organization?

I chose my sponsor organization based on its mission and location. I knew I wanted to join the military as a reservist, and I have always had an interest in veterans’ affairs. The Military Officers Association of America was therefore a perfect match, as it advocates for the rights of those that are currently serving or have served in the past.

3.     Do you feel that you achieved your personal goals as an AmeriCorps member?

I do feel that I achieved my personal goals as an AmeriCorps member. I learned a lot about military communities and culture, which has also raised my awareness of military issues in general. My time with AmeriCorps also enabled me to figure out what kind of career I would like to pursue after my service term. I confirmed my decision to join the U.S. Air Force and pursue a career in the public sector. Being an AmeriCorps member has taught me to appreciate the value of community service and people’s sacrifices. I have definitely matured during my service year and certainly gained useful skills.

4.     Are you particularly proud of any accomplishments from your service year?  If so, can you explain why?

Even though my assigned project, the Community Blueprint, is something that requires a long period of time before I can see the results, I am proud to be part of it because I can see the progress I have made during the past year. The progress is slow, but I could see the impact I have made. I am proud that I have put in the effort to assist the military community, which will not end after my service year; it is something that I will continue to do. Since I am the first AmeriCorps member serving at my sponsor organization, I am proud to have accomplished the initial stage of the Community Blueprint. I think I made a great start to the project and hopefully this will be beneficial to the future AmeriCorps members coming on board.

5.     What are your future plans after your AmeriCorps service year?

I will be going through a few months of military training as I have joined the U.S. Air Force as a reservist. Beside the Air Force reserve, I plan on pursuing a career in the public sector.

Alum Profile: Nathan Brown March 28, 2013

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nathan-wNathan Brown recently completed his term of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps. In his assignment as a communication VISTA, Nathan developed and implemented communications tools and resources to mobilize Legion Family members and other community members in service targeted to poverty alleviation by and for military servicemembers, veterans and their families. Prior to joining the Call to Service Corps, Nathan held positions in the newspaper and magazine field with NUVO, the Indiana Daily Student, Inside Magazine and Fiore Magazine. Nathan has prior AmeriCorps State/National experience from his term of service at Easter Seals’ Camp Wawbeek, where he served during the summer of 2011. Nathan holds a Bachelor’s in journalism from Indiana University-Bloomington. His father served in the Marine Corps Reserves. His grandfather received a Purple Heart for his service in the Korean War.

1.     What motivated you to serve as an AmeriCorps/AmeriCorps VISTA member?

My motivations were many: when I graduated from Indiana University, my then-girlfriend, now-wife and I moved to Durango, Colorado together. She had an AmeriCorps VISTA position with the Southwest Conservation Corps. I was with her from beginning to end during her service and saw the myriad ups and down, the successes and the not-so-successful. At the end of her service, I could tell she was transformed by her experience, not only on a personal level, but professional as well. I wanted that experience myself and sought a position that would enable me to take my career to the next level.

2.     What motivated you to choose your sponsor organization?

I have a lot of family in the military: one cousin in the Air Force, an uncle in the Air Force, my father was in the Marine Corps and my grandfather is a Marine Corps veteran who earned a purple heart in the Korean conflict.

3.     About what accomplishment from your service year are you most proud?

There are too many accomplishments to just list one. From a big-picture perspective, I’m extremely proud to have helped build the capacity of such a long-standing and well-respected organization. It’s always an amazing feeling and so reassuring to hear others at the American Legion Auxiliary say to me that without my help project X, Y, Z wouldn’t have been completed for a long time, if ever.

4.     What message would you like to share with individuals considering national service opportunities generally, and/or assignments with the ALA Call to Service Corps specifically?

This AmeriCorps position is actually my second. I did a half-term of service as an AmeriCorps member when I worked at an Easter Seals camp for people with disabilities. I can honestly say that because of my AmeriCorps experiences, I have had some amazing life-changing experiences, become a stronger individual and become more confident in my skills. That being said, national service is not something you do for the money. It’s something you do to improve yourself and the lives of others. What you get out of it is entirely up to you.

5.     What are your future plans, if known?

For right now, I plan to do freelance writing and photography.

Meet Fabiani Duarte, AmeriCorps VISTA Alum with Still Serving Veterans December 14, 2012

Posted by servicecorpsnews in Alumni Spotlight.
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Fabiani Duarte recently completed his term of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member assigned to Still Serving Veterans (SSV) in Huntsville, Ala. through the American Legion Auxiliary Call to Service Corps. In his assignment as a public relations/special events coordinator, Duarte worked to build the outreach, fundraising and performance management infrastructures to support SSV’s Mentoring and Workforce Development Program (MWDP). Prior to joining the ALA Call to Service Corps, Fabiani held positions in real estate law, youth service and leadership development, student advocacy and organizing at Johnston, Moore & Thompson Attorneys at Law, Optimist International and Vanderbilt University. Duarte holds a bachelor of arts in global communications and politics from Vanderbilt University.

Fabiani Duarte1.     What motivated you to serve as an AmeriCorps member?

Upon graduating from college, I returned to my hometown of Huntsville, Ala., and joined a local law firm where I aimed to gain legal experience for a year and then re-launch my education by going to law school. Although I was successful in being accepted to law school, leaving for school became a larger challenge than I had initially anticipated: 1) due to my experience a the law firm, I had become uncertain if law school was actually the right “next-step” on my professional journey, and 2) I had become increasingly involved in a local service organization whose growth and expansion into several local schools would require significant leadership in the year ahead.

Seeking guidance during a few weeks of indecision, I connected with a former high school mentor who now worked at Still Serving Veterans – a locally-based, national non-profit focused on helping our heroes find jobs, obtain counseling and receive the VA benefits they have earned – that I was unfamiliar with at the time. After explaining my situation, she explained that the AmeriCorps VISTA program could potentially help me clarify some uncertainties while also advancing the projects I was passionate about and that I had begun to develop in my hometown. Having known several of my college classmates who had joined the Peace Corps, Teach for America and AmeriCorps, I was familiar with the program and needed little convincing about its legitimacy. After a few days of consideration and prayer, I energetically agreed to apply to one of the VISTA positions that had come available at Still Serving Veterans. And thus, my journey with AmeriCorps VISTA and ALA Call to Service Corps began.

 2.     What motivated you to choose your sponsor organization?

In addition to being recruited by a former high school mentor who now served in the leadership of Still Serving Veterans, I had begun to seriously consider a future in the military. Although I had been interested in obtaining a law degree since before going to college, I had always harbored a desire to serve our nation in uniform as well. During my year of work at a hometown law firm, I began to discuss the possibility of achieving both goals and became more and more educated about serving as a military lawyer in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. In hopes of acquainting myself in a deeper and more meaningful way with the military culture while also more closely investigating the possibility of becoming a JAG officer, I felt that serving at Still Serving Veterans would assist me on clarifying various questions about my new and very specific professional goal.

3.     Do you feel that you achieved your personal goals as an AmeriCorps member?

Certainly. During my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member I was not only able to contribute to the capacity building and expansion of Still Serving Veterans, but I was also able to determine whether or not I would be able to thrive in a military context as a JAG officer. Beyond discovering that serving as a military lawyer has solidified itself as personal professional goal, I was also able to revive my talents as a collaborator, networker, community leader and volunteer galvanizer that I had developed during my college years at Vanderbilt. During my first year away from my familiar campus environment, structured lifestyle and leadership roles in various organizations I became disoriented and lacked confidence in the skills I had honed during those formative years. AmeriCorps VISTA helped re-cultivate and renew this skillset and allowed me to transfer my former formula of success to a new organization and hometown community.

 4.     Are you particularly proud of any accomplishments from your service year?  If so, can you explain why?

Perhaps my proudest achievement as I look back on this past year of service has been the development of service-learning initiative that I began cultivating ten years ago and began to spearhead again after I returned home from college. Thanks to the support of Still Serving Veterans, I was able to fuse the goals of this service-learning initiative with the employment, volunteerism and mentorship goals of our organization.

In November of 2011, I, along with various veteran advocacy leaders met with the newly installed superintendent of Huntsville City Schools and his Director of Transition – both Army veterans – to discuss a workforce development partnership between the city schools system and Still Serving Veterans. Our goal was to develop a hiring program for unemployed veterans to fill target areas available within Huntsville City Schools (e.g. human resources, finance, transportation, logistics, technology, athletics, allocations, inventory control, IT, security, TV station operations and teaching positions).

Simultaneously, after returning to Huntsville after graduating from college, I had affiliated myself with the local chapter of Optimist International. The Optimist Club was a civic organization like the Kiwanis, Civitan, Lions, or Rotary Clubs present in city across the country that I had been heavily involved with during my middle and high school days. Focused on serving youth of the community, this service organization sought to create Junior Optimist Clubs in schools across the city similar one that I had been able to found and develop when I was in high school. Due to an effort to reinvest the club’s large endowment into local community projects like these junior service clubs, the club asked me to help spearhead the city-wide effort by offering a fully-funded program to schools that expressed a desire to increase their students’ service-learning opportunities.

With the goals of developing both a substantial veteran workforce development program in public schools and expanding service-learning through fully-funded Junior Optimist Clubs, I developed a proposal with the support of the leadership at Still Serving Veterans and new members of our Community Blueprint Network team. The plan outlined a three-way partnership between Huntsville City Schools, Still Serving Veterans and the Optimist Club of Huntsville that would fulfill two principal areas of the Community Blueprint Initiative: Employment and Volunteerism. The plan consisted of funneling resumes of unemployed veteran-clients from Still Serving Veterans to Huntsville City Schools. These veterans, once hired to fill full-time or part-time positions, would serve as mentors to fully-funded youth service clubs established in schools designated by the superintendent. These youth service clubs, or Junior Optimist Clubs, would serve three purposes: 1) combat bullying and boredom in public schools by providing structured service-learning clubs for students in elementary, middle, and high schools where few volunteer opportunities existed, 2) connect local school children to positive veteran mentors, and 3) promote veteran volunteerism by allowing newly hired veterans lead service-learning programs in school settings that additionally would assist with the  veteran transition to civilian life by providing veterans with a sense of meaning, purpose and belonging.

After conducting a series of meetings and leading presentations to various public school principals and city school administrators, the stakeholders all agreed to develop two pilot sites at a public elementary and middle school based on a proposal I had developed.

Finally, in the summer of 2012, the stakeholders re-assembled to review the success of the two pilot sites and discussed specific action-items and commitments from each of the three parties to expand the program. After drafting a formal document outlining specific deliverables, a signing ceremony and luncheon was held on October 11, 2012, to formally launch the partnership between Still Serving Veterans, Huntsville City Schools, and the Optimist Club of Huntsville.

Based on this signed agreement, that last month of my service was been dedicated to meeting with principals from the 16 schools approved to benefit from the program and have worked with SSV’s Workforce Development manager to streamline client resumes to Huntsville City Schools Human Resources and Operations offices.

I am proud to say that I have successfully transitioned this program to my VISTA successor and will continue to be involved in overseeing the success of the partnership during the months ahead before I leave for law school in the fall of 2013.

 5.     What are your future plans after your AmeriCorps service year?

I am currently studying to for my Law School Admission Test (LSAT) exam and plan to apply to law schools over the next several weeks. My goal of becoming a JAG officer is clearer than ever and I am grateful for the opportunity that I had over the past year to examine, evaluate and refocus my interest in obtaining a law degree. It is now with great pride and earnest confidence that I aim to pursue a career as a JAG officer and seek to continue my commitment to service that AmeriCorps VISTA helped me rediscover during the past year.