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New Class of LISC AmeriCorps Service Begins

Stacy Rapp, who directs the AmeriCorps program for the national LISC office, goes over the history of LISC's involvement with AmeriCorps.

Photos by Annie Grossinger

The 21st class of LISC AmeriCorps members have begun working with Financial Opportunity Centers (FOC) across Chicago. The 11 volunteers, three of whom are entering their second year of service, are embarking on a 10-month long program to run the Digital Literacy Programs. 

The AmeriCorps program is a 10 month-long service in community development, created to provide the members with the same unique and challenging experiences as a full-time employee. This year, there are 140 members across 12 LISC offices. LISC believes strongly in developing the next generation of nonprofit leaders, according to Stacy Rapp, Director, AmeriCorps - LISC National Programs. Through the AmeriCorps program, LISC can train passionate, mission-driven individuals in a safe, collaborative setting.

“The main goal is employability. We want them to continue in the field,” said Rapp. Last year, 41 percent of members returned to the nonprofit sector in full-time roles. In Chicago, many returned to their Financial Opportunity Centers.

During orientation on November 1st, Rapp was keen on explaining how the service year rolled into the larger picture. 

“We want these communities to be self-serving – places where people can live, work and play. Our goal is to eventually not be here, to not be needed,” she told the members. “You are part of that comprehensive community development plan. I see all of you as part of my hope.” 

According to Leticia Salinas, a new member, the idea of being a part of something bigger is precisely why she signed on to participate. “I want to make a bigger impact by helping people get out of whatever situation they’re struggling with.”

The year is also the beginning of a self-journey. “My goal is to create opportunities for others, but also myself,” said Salinas. “I’m figuring it out as I go, but the sky is the limit.”

First and second-year LISC AmeriCorps members come together at orientation to discuss the year ahead.

For Daniel Barrios, it’s a matter of continued exploration. He signed on for a second year because he realized how much more he had to give. “I think about why I returned every day and there’s no concrete answer. I kind of felt incomplete. I have more to do.” 

A former client of a Financial Opportunity Center, Barrios felt that not only did he make an impact in the community his first year, he too was changed. “People are telling me that they see me having more confidence. I used to be much more of an introvert.” 

Throughout the orientation, Barrios chimes in with his first-hand experiences. It’s an open discussion and the members take advantage of their opportunity to ask questions. Everything from daily “how-tos” to suggested group meet-ups are discussed.   

“I’m here for you. I have your backs,” Rapp tells them. “We want to make sure you are successful.” 

According to Sheryl Morris with the Jane Addams Resource Corporation (JARC) also a Financial Opportunity Center in Ravenswood, this support has been essential to elevating the program. Her site has been participating in the LISC AmeriCorps program for nearly a decade. 

“LISC provides this amazing support system. It makes the process better and more digestible for community organizations.” 

Morris sees the opportunity to gain an AmeriCorps member as a way to build capacity for the site, but also grow the individual. “As they grow, we all kind of grow,” she said.

Jackie Guzman cracks a smile during the first day of AmeriCorps orientation.

JARC will have two members this year. One of the second-year members, Christine Keifer, will transition to a job developer role, which is new for the organization. Morris is excited – the change will give Keifer a new learning opportunity that also fills a need for the organization. 

“As our agency has grown, we want to tailor the programs to the needs of the community,” Morris said. “Each year we are building and the AmeriCorps members are brilliant people who can do something new.” 

As Rapp tells stories of former AmeriCorps members during orientation, Morris bears the proof. Four out of the six AmeriCorps members that she has worked with personally have returned to full-time positions within the organization. 

“We really see the value of teaching and developing these people. It just makes sense. They have real experiences and they are passionate about the work that they do,” Morris said. 

AmeriCorps was founded in 1994 and has contributed over 1.2 billion hours of service across 900,000 AmeriCorps members. LISC began offering AmeriCorps members through participating local offices the same year. 

For more information about the LISC Chicago AmeriCorps program contact Clarence Hogan, or (312) 422-9569.

Posted in Economic Development, Financial Opportunities


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