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AmeriCorps Provides Pipeline of Talent, Energy

The community development employment pipeline doesn’t run in a straight line. No formal academic trail leads to this type of work, and while everyone entering serves an informal apprenticeship through on-the-job training, it’s hardly well defined.

AmeriCorps members show off a tiny trophy from a "Jeopardy"-style game played during orientation. Rayberth Alarcon, Genesis Diaz, Christine Keifer, Zachary Coulter (standing left to right), and Meagan Washington-Sims, Paul Kopp and Luis Concepcion (seated left to right)

Clarence Hogan

But for LISC Chicago, one of the most consistent, dependable sources of motivated community development practitioners has been the AmeriCorps program, in which members learn community development skills while working with neighborhood organizations.

Over the last 15 years, LISC Chicago, in partnership with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), has supported about 250 AmeriCorps members who have completed one- or two-year terms of service. “AmeriCorps is a critical element in creating future community development leaders,” says Susana Vasquez, LISC Chicago’s executive director. “It’s a pipeline of talent and energy that really makes a difference in the neighborhoods we serve.”

About 240 AmeriCorps slots are available each year to LISC offices nationwide. LISC Chicago typically recruits and manages 10 or more of them. The program has a 10-month service term that starts in October and ends the following July. Often, graduating members are offered full-time employment with community partners.  

Clarence Hogan, the assistant program officer who administers LISC Chicago's AmeriCorps program, with LaTyra Shavers, a new member.

Gordon Walek

The initiative provides stipends for up to two years of service, along with an education award up to $5,500. 

“As a former AmeriCorps member, I know how important the work is in the community,” says LISC Assistant Program Officer Clarence Hogan, who oversees AmeriCorps members in Chicago. “Our members work very hard with the community organizations and the community at large to make this experience meaningful, and to have an impact in the neighborhood.” 

Digital skills, education

For the 2014-2015 program in Chicago, 12 full-time members are working as digital literacy instructors at LISC’s Centers for Working Families, where residents can learn about public benefits, employment opportunities and methods to boost their money-managing skills.

The AmeriCorps members help participants learn computer skills so they can prepare resumes, apply for jobs online, and have the digital savvy that even the most entry-level jobs now require. Each center offers a schedule of classes ranging from computer and internet basics to the use of Word, Excel and Powerpoint. The computer labs are open for unstructured work as well, so that participants can practice new skills and update their online resume or other materials, stored in the cloud.

“We’re a one-stop shop to help people get online,” says Hogan. “With more than 250 places in Chicago where you can use a computer for free, our centers stand out with; a full-time instructor, access to other resources within the Centers for Working Families and a network of community partners and resources.”

AmeriCorps members Faith Ramey, Arturo Alarcon, Diane Reasnover and Star Bush (left to right).

Clarence Hogan

Many of the AmeriCorps members go on to get full-time jobs, either at the agency where they worked as a member or at one of the partners they met in the process.

Over the years, LISC Chicago’s AmeriCorps members have collectively:

  • Served nearly 340,000 hours.
  • Tutored and mentored 13,000 students.
  • Counseled 800 clients for public benefits/employment.
  • Engaged nearly 1,500 volunteers in service projects.

For more information, contact Assistant Program Officer Clarence Hogan, 312-422-9569. 

AmeriCorps members at Centers for Working Families

Member  Host Site Site Address Phone
Star Bush St. Sabina 7907 S. Racine Ave. 773-783-3760
Zachary Coulter Chicago Commons  3441 W. Chicago Ave. 773-826-0739
Genesis Diaz Greater Southwest Development Corp. 6155 S. Pulaski Road 773-735-6727
Arturo Alarcon Instituto del Progreso Latino - Pilsen 2520 S. Western Ave. 773-890-0055 x4561
Daniel Barrios Instituto del Progreso Latino - Back of the Yards 2520 S. Western Ave. 773-890-0055 x4561
Christine Keifer Jane Addams Resource Corporation 4432 N. Ravenswood Ave. 773-751-7108
LaTyra Shavers Metropolitan Family Services Kennedy-King College, 747 W. 63rd St., Building V, Room 106 773-371-3611
Meagan Washington-Sims North Lawndale Employment Network 3726 W. Flournoy St., #1000 773-638-1813
Diane Reasnover The Cara Program 4655 S. King Drive  773-924-2205
Paul Kopp Center for Changing Lives 3051 W. Armitage Ave. 773-342-1751
Luis Concepcion Central States SER 3948 W. 26th St. 773-542-9030 x1235
Faith Ramey Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH) 830 E. 63rd St. (773) 966-5583

Posted in Civic Tech, Education, Financial Opportunities

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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