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OCT
30
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Welcome Marisa Paipongna, our new Field Outreach Assistant

By Marisa Paipongna

Hi! I’m Marisa Paipongna and I’m very excited to be the new Field Outreach Assistant at the Afterschool Alliance.

I became interested in the Afterschool Alliance due to my own afterschool experiences. Upon entering high school, I knew that I wanted to go to college but because I was a first-generation college student, navigating that pathway was fairly unclear. I heard my teachers emphasize the importance of being engaged outside of the classroom, so I decided to join an afterschool community service organization. That experience not only made me realize this passion I had for helping the communities around me, but it also opened my eyes to the fact that I could actually pursue this passion in college.

The values that I had gained and my motivation to positively impact communities only grew throughout my time in college, both inside and outside of the classroom. I recently graduated from the College of William & Mary with a B.S. in Kinesiology with a Concentration in Public Health, and a minor in Sociology. Throughout college, I served as a Health Outreach Peer Educator, creating and facilitating health programs for students throughout my campus. I interned at the USDA Rural Development California State Office in Davis, Calif. and also interned at the School Health Initiative Program throughout Williamsburg-James City County elementary schools in Williamsburg, Va.

While my degree and many of my experiences are related to health, I am passionate about pursuing efforts regarding afterschool programs because of the strong correlation that exists between education and health outcomes. As the Field Outreach Assistant, I will work closely with the Field Outreach team in recruiting and providing assistance to AmeriCorps VISTA members working on afterschool programs throughout the country!

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learn more about: Inside the Afterschool Alliance Vista
JAN
19
2017

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy through service

By Guest Blogger

By Ronni Nelson, a My Brother’s Keeper VISTA working to increase access to high-quality educational, enrichment and mentoring opportunities for young men of color in Tennessee.

Volunteers get ready to volunteer at Lonsdale Elementary School.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the day set aside to commemorate one of our most revered civil rights leaders and activists, is also a day that we should strive to live out the values of justice, peace, and service that he believed in so deeply and manifested so profoundly.

Each year, the Knoxville-Knox County Community Action Committee (CAC) AmeriCorps program and Emerald Youth Foundation coordinate a joint MLK Day of Service project to serve the local community in honor of this day. For this year’s Day of Service, approximately 60 AmeriCorps and community members, including myself, spent this past Saturday volunteering at Lonsdale Elementary School to work on a variety of beautification projects. Service projects included community cleanup with several litter street teams, landscaping work around the school, and organizing some outdoor and indoor storage spaces.

My group worked to organize the school’s basement, a task that seemed daunting at first sight, but our efforts resulted in a much more organized and usable space.  The litter street teams worked diligently to remove more than 75 bags of trash from the surrounding area. After a morning of hard work, the volunteers refueled with some well-earned pizza and learned a bit more about the diverse school and community they had served, including background on Lonsdale’s very multicultural community—most of the school’s student population is composed of Guatemalan and Honduran immigrants and African refugees.

As a My Brother’s Keeper VISTA working toward closing the racial achievement gap in reading proficiency, it was so meaningful to me to honor one of our greatest champions of racial justice at an elementary school that exemplifies the type of interracial and intercultural community to which Dr. King dedicated his life. In one of his last sermons, Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed the hope that someone would say he had spent his life trying “to love and serve humanity.” Let us all continue working towards his dream of a united nation by continuing to serve our local communities throughout the rest of the year as well. 

DEC
23
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Celebrating our AmeriCorps VISTAs' 2016 accomplishments

By Andrea Szegedy-Maszak

Members of the VISTA team gathered on the National Mall in September.

For the last five years, the Afterschool Alliance has been a proud sponsor organization for nationwide AmeriCorps VISTA projects. VISTA, which stands for “Volunteers in Service to America,” is a 50-year-old service program with the central mission of alleviating poverty through capacity building for nonprofit organizations. VISTA members are considered full-time federal volunteers during their one-year term of service.

Our VISTA program—and the scope of our VISTAs’ work to support the afterschool field—has grown significantly over the past five years. Most recently, we’ve added VISTAs dedicated to supporting the STEM Ecosystem Initiative, as well as VISTAs focusing on mentoring opportunities for young men of color. Read on to learn more about our VISTAs’ work and a few highlights from 2016.

Our VISTAs’ major highlights from 2016

Oklahoma STEM Ecosystem VISTAs Sabrina Bevins and Aleia McNaney have taken on leadership roles in the planning of a Women in STEM book club and event series surrounding the release of the film Hidden Figures, culminating with a screening of the film. Sabrina has signed on a number of female STEM professionals to mentor young girls in Tulsa over the course of the program.

Thanks to Sabrina’s successful partner outreach, Cox Media has agreed to run four radio campaigns in promotion of the program, and a local theater company has donated a screening room that seats more than 400. Aleia has been spearheading communications efforts for the Hidden Figures program, including designing promotional materials for a book drive held Tuesday, November 29 in support of the book club.

New Jersey Meals VISTA Jaimie Held has been making strides in expanding afterschool and summer meals for kids and families in Newark, N.J. Jaimie created partnerships with local food banks to host afterschool and summer meals open house events in 2017. She also scheduled an afterschool and summer meals open house in January 2017 at Newark’s Bolden Student Center to recruit new afterschool and summer meal sites.

SEP
19
2016

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: AmeriCorps VISTAs encourage unity through service on the anniversary of 9/11

By Guest Blogger

Written by Ligea Alexander, an AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) for Summer and Afterschool Meals Expansion, a project sponsored by the Afterschool Alliance.

This past weekend, I joined hundreds of other volunteers in the AARP Meal Pack Challenge to commemorate the 15th anniversary of 9/11. The challenge, which debuted last year, raises awareness of the increasing number of elderly persons who experience poverty and are food insecure. It also honors all the veterans and retired first responders who have dedicated their lives to serve others.

Along with my fellow VISTAs, I joined volunteers from across the nation and Canada, including Girl Scout troops, members of the elderly community, teenagers, college alums, returning volunteers and those in service to America. This dynamic group of people who united to answer the call of elderly hunger reflected a similar variation of those who united in the aftermath of the attacks on 9/11. Housed under a tent just a few steps away from the WW Memorial, we formed packing tables for soy, rice, beans and essential vitamins combined to form low-prep meals. These specially formulated meals would then meet the nutritional needs of recipient seniors.

With music keeping our spirits high and energized, I paused for a minute to appreciate the momentum of the event. Some of us were dancing to the music, others were smiling for the cameras documenting the event, and everyone was focused on meeting the 1.5 million target of packed meals. Although this was my first time participating in the challenge, I easily became acquainted with many second time volunteers from the year before. At my table alone, all age groups were represented, including a 4-year-old boy whose enthusiasm in packing meals into boxes was incredibly heart-moving.

When two day event came to a close, over 1.5 million meals had been packaged. As an AmeriCorps Summer and Afterschool Meals Expansion VISTA, I appreciate having participated in this challenge very deeply as I continue my advocacy to eradicate hunger from all who experience it.

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learn more about: Events and Briefings Service Vista
APR
13
2016

STEM
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New AmeriCorps VISTA members will strengthen STEM Ecosystems

By Alexis Steines

The Afterschool Alliance is partnering with the STEM Funders Network (SFN) and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) to coordinate, train and supervise a new cohort of AmeriCorps VISTA members who will improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) “ecosystems” across America.

AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) is one of several national service programs administered by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). For more than 50 years, VISTA has been at the forefront of strengthening the capacities of communities and organizations to fight poverty.

VISTA members devote one year of their lives to challenge the root causes of poverty. They achieve this goal by mobilizing community volunteers and building connections between local resources, and by guiding individuals in low-income neighborhoods to make positive change. 

In the new STEM Ecosystem program, VISTA members will focus on building capacity to increase access to STEM education in afterschool and summer learning programs that are connected and coordinated with K-12 schools and districts. STEM Ecosystem VISTA members can achieve this mission by:

  • Creating partnerships with STEM-rich institutions or businesses;
  • Mapping the local STEM out-of-school time space;
  • Writing grant applications;
  • Creating new tools and resources that can be used to increase access to STEM learning; and more.

The Afterschool Alliance and CNCS will place up to 26 VISTA members at host sites across the country, with the members working full-time on the ground. To support and guide the work of these new VISTA members for STEM Ecosystems, the Afterschool Alliance is seeking a new Field Outreach Coordinator to join our staff in Washington, D.C. Please carefully read all available information before applying.

White House highlights project

As President Obama hosts the sixth and final White House Science fair of his Administration today, on April 13, the White House released this STEM fact sheet lauding the efforts of the Afterschool Alliance, CNCS, and SFN for the new STEM Ecosystems program. You can find the reference in the second bullet under “New Steps Being Announced by the Administration Today.”

In addition to all of the partners mentioned here, the Afterschool Alliance is appreciative of initial support for its national VISTA efforts from the Broadcom Foundation, Samueli Foundation, Schusterman Foundation, and Simons Foundation.

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learn more about: POTUS Science Vista Community Partners
NOV
16
2015

IN THE FIELD
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Guest blog: Connecting afterschool with healthy meals

By Guest Blogger

Saleah Blancaflor is an Afterschool and Summer Meals Expansion VISTA in New York State, working to connect students with afterschool meals to ensure New York’s kids are only Hungry to Learn.

As the Meals VISTA for Afterschool Works! NY: the New York State Afterschool Network, my role is to increase participation in the state of New York’s Child and Adult Food Care Program (CACFP), so that the state’s afterschool programs can receive funding and reimbursements for snacks and meals provided to their children. I’ve focused my efforts for this project on counties such as Broome, Tioga, Jefferson, Nassau and Westchester.

I work closely with the Department of Health as well as Hunger Solutions New York, a nonprofit organization with a mission to alleviate hunger throughout the state. The organization has been instrumental in providing me with information about which areas are in most need of my help and attention. Most of my work consists of conducting phone surveys with afterschool programs to confirm whether they are eligible for meals funding. If they are eligible, I connect them with the Department of Health and help initiate their application process.  

While reaching out to counties across New York, I have noticed that many programs are not aware that they are eligible to enroll for meal reimbursements. This leads afterschool programs to spend money that could have been invested elsewhere, had they received federal funding for the food they provide.  

AUG
12
2015

IN THE FIELD
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Celebrating the power of national service in helping kids succeed

By Rachel Clark

During the month of August, the Corporation for National and Community Service is celebrating the work national service programs do to help kids succeed in school. We’re joining them to celebrate our dedicated team of AmeriCorps VISTAs, who work tirelessly to ensure that all kids have access to quality afterschool, as well as to provide healthy afterschool meals and to increase afterschool STEM opportunities.

To keep kids’ bellies full and minds ready to learn, New Jersey meals VISTA Erin Moran has helped pilot Newark, N.J.’s new “Lunch and Learn” program, giving Newark kids an opportunity to receive a free healthy meal and participate in an engaging enrichment activity to curb summer learning loss. In nearby Jersey City, VISTA member Orlane Baghana had monumental success in recruiting summer learning sites to enroll in the Summer Food Service Program—through her outreach efforts, more than 80 summer learning sites have been approved to receive summer meals. That equates to more than 2700 students receiving healthy meals this summer!

SEP
18
2014

IN THE FIELD
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Happy anniversary! AmeriCorps turns 20

By Alexis Steines

Pres. Obama was joined by Former Pres. Bill Clinton last Friday for a special AmeriCorps swearing-in ceremony on the White House lawn in celebration of the program’s 20th anniversary.  Several thousand AmeriCorps volunteers were sworn into service at more than 80 ceremonies across the country.

The first class of AmeriCorps volunteers were sworn into service on Sept. 12, 1994.  Since that day, more than 900,000 volunteers have worked with community organizations across the country, particularly those providing afterschool and summer learning programs. AmeriCorps currently engages more than 75,000 men and women at more than 15,000 locations including nonprofits, schools, public agencies, and community- and faith-based groups across the country.  During their year of service, AmeriCorps members help communities with a wide range of issues including disaster services, economic opportunity, education and healthy futures. AmeriCorps volunteers are a key part of the afterschool workforce.  They provide essential staffing for many programs, where they mentor, teach skills such as computer programming, and coach sports.  AmeriCorps members make it possible for afterschool programs to serve children and youth in many communities.

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learn more about: Equity POTUS Vista Community Partners