AmeriCorps

Five things Friday: Early Edition

I’m posting a bit early because I have to be at the office at 6:30 am for a physical service day. Hope ya’ll don’t mind! 

1) Physical Service

Me and my buddy Nick mulching at the 2010 Great American Litter Clean Up.

Today marks the last time I will be doing a physical service project with City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley. After two years of working into the night to trace murals and showing up super early to set up paint stations and greet volunteers, I can’t believe its over. Physical service is one of my absolute favorite aspects of the City Year program. I really hope that I can participate in service events with City Year Boston in the coming years.

If you’re interested in checking out some of the amazing service projects our site has done this past year, check out our Flickr collection.

2) Literally Unbelievable

So I love The Onion. I even showed it to my students last year as part of newspaper club to explain to them what satire was. One of the funniest (or saddest depending on how you look at it) things about The Onion is that people are stupid enough to think that it is actual news.

I just started following this Tumblr account that shows when people post Onion articles on their Facebook as truths. If you need a good laugh or a reminder of how idiotic people can be, check them out and follow them. I get at least one good laugh a day.

3) All Stats

Speaking of Tumblr, two of my buddies created a really awesome account called All Sats. Basically it takes two of my favorite social media personas (The Creative and Information Sharer) and puts them together in a really clever way.

Oh, you should follow them on Twitter too.

4) Romney 2012

It’s official. Mitt Romney is running for President of the good ‘ol US of A.

If I was a betting person (which I’m not… I wasn’t allowed to bet on sports when I played college soccer due to NCAA rules and still haven’t shaken that fear) I’d say he has a pretty decent shot.

I’m actually a fan. I mean, hell, the dude even looks like a president. I’m even impressed with his website; which is saying a lot for a Republican candidate. If he wins the nomination, it will be one heck of a presidential election. That’s for sure.

5) Twitter Upgrade

According to an article in the Mercury News, Twitter is planning some pretty awesome (and long awaited) upgrades in terms of photo sharing. Pretty soon, you will be able to upload photos right through the site and soon after that, they will roll out the feature for aps to be used on the iphone (which I reaaally need to purchase… my Blackberry just isn’t cutting it anymore).

I’m excited for this. Now if Netflix would expand their library, all of my Internet needs would be met.

How YOU can Save Service

What if I told you there was an organization that provided jobs for thousands of young Americans. Some of the jobs include: tutoring children, cleaning parks, running afterschool programs and building affordable housing. In exchange for their work, these young people receive a monetary award to help them finance furthering their education.

What if I told you that this organization currently exists but is in serious danger of being shut down?

It’s true.

In the reckless Republican backed budget that was recently passed by the House, billions of dollars are being slashed. Money is being taken from nearly every area of government, including the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is the umbrella organization of AmeriCorps.

Without government funding, it will be impossible for City Year and many other AmeriCorps programs to continue functioning at capacity, if at all.

But we can help stop this.

Here’s how:

1) Contact your Congressperson or Senator and ask them to “reject the version of H.R. 1 that passed House. Restore funding for Corporation for National and Community Service. Do not eliminate programs like AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Learn & Serve America, Volunteer Generation Fund or the Social Innovation Fund. These are cost-effective, critically-needed and highly-leveraged programs.”

2) Attend a Town Hall meeting and vocalize your concerns.

3) Write a Letter to the Editor to your local paper. Most newspapers have instructions on how to do this on their website.

I’m contractually obligated to tell you that I am not saying any of this on behalf of City Year or AmeriCorps.

But I am morally obligated to tell you that I am saying this on the behalf of the eighth grade students I tutored last year who were reading at below a second grade reading level. And the second grade students who live in dangerous gang-ridden areas that will have no safe place to go after school. And for the young people in our nation who desperately want to serve but will not have the means to do so should AmeriCorps lose its funding.

Please visit Save Service and join the fight to keep the spirit of service alive in this country.

Five Things Friday

This is a new series I’m doing on my blog inspired by City Year New York’s blog. It’s called Five Things Friday and it means that every Friday I am going to write about five things that have either directly happened in my life, I’ve found interesting on the news, or pretty much anything else I feel like writing because hey, it’s my damn blog so I can do what I want!

Here goes…

1. Apple Cares

So I’ve been having issues with my Mac just shutting off on me and it has been stressing me out a lot because I’ve been working on a couple important projects for work. Since I have Apple Care, I took it into the Apple store for a date with a barista on Valentine’s Day. While my battery didn’t “qualify” for a free replacement, the (super awesome) barista decided to replace it anyway. Not only that, but they replaced my keyboard because there was a chip in it due to a design flaw. And they did it all in about 20 minutes. Best Valentine’s Day present ever.

2. No Hot Water, I Cry

We haven’t had hot water at my apartment complex since Saturday. I never knew how much not having access to hot water would affect me emotionally. I literally broke down and cried when I got home last night and not only didn’t have hot water, but not even the cold water would work in the shower. I haven’t showered in a few days and it is really getting to me. I honestly can’t take it anymore. Thankfully they are supposed to replace the boiler today. If they don’t, I’m seriously going to freak out.

3. AmeriCorps Funding Threat

As most of you know, I have been an AmeriCorps member since I graduated from college. The experiences I have had serving in AmeriCorps has forever changed my life.  Unfortunately, the Republican party is proposing to slash AmeriCorps from the budget. I encourage you to read this article about why AmeriCorps deserves to be saved. If you agree, please sign this petition and help keep this incredible program going strong.

4. Lil Kim’s Tasteless Album Cover

I don’t really understand the beef between Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj but it is getting a little out of hand for my taste. First there were songs about them pissing on each other and now Lil Kim’s album cover is an artistic rendering of her murdering Minaj, complete with a dead body and a pink haired head that is clearly detached from the body. I don’t even want to honor it by putting it on my blog, but you can see it if you click the link above. She’s going way above and beyond to try to stay relevant. Sorry Lil Kim, you had your time to shine. Stop trying to relive your glory days by tearing other people down.

5. 2011 State of the City Address

Last night I attended San José Mayor Chuck Reed’s State of the City Address. While the radio personalities who were emceeing the event were painfully lame, the Mayor’s speech really hit home. In San José we have a real problem with the high costs of pension plans for city employees (particularly fire fighters and police officers). While it is highly unpopular with the unions, Reed is determined to do a fiscal overhaul of the pension plan system, which will help balance the budget and will make it so the city doesn’t have to continue cutting much needed services. While he didn’t address the recent spike in gang murders, it was an informative and inspirational speech and I trust that he will do what is best for San José.

Hope you enjoyed the first edition of Five Things Friday! Let me know what you think!

Why I <3 City Year

In honor of St. Valentine’s Day, City Year posed this question: What do you love about City Year?

It seems funny to be asked this question because as a member of the village at City Year San Jose/Silicon Valley, I feel like I am constantly being asked to think about how we can make City Year better for our corps members and how we can make their lives seem easier in some way.

A lot of times, people focus in on what is challenging about City Year; what sacrifices they have had to make to be here and how many hours they are asked to serve in a week.

 

This always makes me think of one of my favorite PITW’s:

PITW #158 It is a privilege for all of us to serve at City Year

When I think about my time with City Year, I don’t think about the sacrifices I’ve made. Sure, it is difficult to be 3,000 miles away from everyone I love. And yes, I could be making more money doing something else. But the challenge of City Year is what I love.

Every day I am asked to do something challenging. Whether it is leading a group of six-year-olds in a Starfish Corps lesson or figuring out how I can engage our stakeholders using social media, I am challenged.

As I serve, I not only remember how privileged I am to have the opportunity to be here, but how it relates to my personal leadership mission statement that I was asked to come up with on the beginning of my Idealist’s Journey.

Back in August I wrote,

As a leader, I will inspire others to serve through my actions and words. Not only will I constantly seek to challenge myself and develop, I will support and mobilize others to do the same.

I love City Year because it’s not easy. I love City Year because it has shown me what I am truly capable of. But mostly, I love City Year because it has not allowed me to settle for less.

Why I serve

Today I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to a group of executives from VMware, a Silicon Valley tech company, about why I have chosen to serve with City Year. We partnered with VMware today to brighten up the campus of Linda Vista Elementary School, which is a visual arts school in the Alum Rock School District.

This is what I shared with them before they began their service today:

I came to serve with City Year directly out of college because I was looking for a unique experience that would give me the opportunity to commit to community service full-time. Going into my second year of service, I have found that City Year has empowered me to take pride in the work I do every single day.

Last year as a first year corps member at Lee Mathson Middle School, which is one of our current school partners, I made it my mission to re-open their school library. When I arrived at Mathson, I learned that their library was in shambles. Books were completely out of order, many were simply strewn across the floor and even if students were able to find the book they were looking for, they were not allowed to check the book out because the books had not been entered into the new computer system.

I spent a huge part of my service year putting that library back in order, which meant completely reorganizing the books and putting the books in to the computer system by hand. Opening up that library for this school which a majority of the students read well below their grade level is probably one of the most important tasks I will ever accomplish.

As a recruitment project leader this year, it is my hope that I can bring idealistic young people to City Year and show them that they can be the solution to big problems and that they too can feel that same sense of purpose I’ve found in serving others.

Taking the pledge to serve

On Friday, Oct. 1, 20 City Year sites all across the country celebrated the kick off to the service year with the City Year Opening Day. Sponsored nationally by Comcast, Opening Day is a time for 1,750 young adults across the network to take the City Year pledge and officially declare their dedication to the community they will serve for the next 10 months.

At City Year San José/Silicon Valley, our 56 corps members will serve 2,700 students in five schools in the Alum Rock School District. While not all of us work directly with students in schools everyday (myself included) all of the work that we do is driving us towards the ultimate goal of keeping our kids in school and on track to graduate.

It is a really awesome opportunity to celebrate the kick off to our service year with our team sponsors, community members, service partners, and of course, friends, alums and family of City Year.

As part of this year’s ceremony, each team had a representative share their “Why We Serve” statement. As a member of the senior corps team, I had the unique opportunity to share the same mission statement with 12 other people that I have had the pleasure of serving with for some time now. While we all serve pretty different roles in our service this year, we were able to come around a mission statement that we all felt deeply connected to.

We serve because the legacy of service does not end with those who served before us. We serve to be role models, leaders and champions of the corps both old, new and yet to come. For the communities, the schools and the students that have been served in the past and will be served in the future. We pledge to empower the corps who serve them today.

As part of our Opening Day, we not only publicly shared why our team serves, but we had the opportunity to come together as a corps to dedicate our yellow jackets to a person or idea that inspires us each to go into service and give our all everyday. This year I dedicated my jacket to my grandmother and to all of the corps members who I will be recruiting to serve our kids next year.

The major reason I came back to City Year was to have the chance to spread the word about City Year to as many young people as possible. City Year has really changed my perspective on life and has helped me grow as a leader and as a person. I truly cannot imagine my life without being involved in service and believe that City Year has catapulted me into a lifetime of serving others.

If you or someone you know are interested in City Year, please feel free to contact me at mebaker10@cityyear.org. If you want more information, check out the website, friend City Year on Facebook, or follow headquarters or City Year San José on Twitter. Young people can make a difference and ultimately, change the world. Why not do it with City Year?