by Sierra Baril
This year, AmeriCorps members and alums celebrated AmeriCorps Week March 9th – 17th. This annual event is an opportunity to not only thank these members and their partners but also to show the community what an important impact AmeriCorps has. The best way to get the word out there about KEYS Service Corps happens to be the way we celebrate most events – with service! There were many opportunities for members to serve a number of neighborhoods in Pittsburgh. We kicked off AmeriCorps Week with four service projects on Saturday, March 9th. Some members participated in a beautification project downtown, picking up trash and weeding. Others helped with a Habitat for Humanity project or the Garden Work Day at the Rosalinda Sauro Sirianni Community Garden of North Hills Community Outreach.
I chose to work with Tree Pittsburgh in Southside. Everyone showed up at around 10 am, split up into teams, and took their tools of the trade (rakes, garbage bags, gloves) to the area we were assigned. We spread out a lot of mulch and picked garbage out of the tree pits. My group stumbled across a staggering amount of garbage in a long line of shrubs by the Tenth Street Bridge, so after we took care of the tree pits, we spent about half an hour collecting that. As we were working, a man pushing a stroller stopped to ask us why we were doing this. Did we have to or want to? We explained we were choosing to, and he thanked us because he walked by this trash all the time and was glad to see it being picked up. Most people we passed looked pleased to see us working on the trees.
In addition to the optional service projects KEYS participated in, members served at the Braddock Carnegie Library and around the Pittsburgh Allegheny K-5 School the following Friday. To prepare for the installation of the National Historic Landmark plaque on April 20th at the library, I helped clean woodwork and repackaged many large boxes of books that the library was planning on donating. Other projects at that site included cleaning carpets, windows, and the pool area.
To cap off AmeriCorps Week, some AmeriCorps members wore both green and their stylish AmeriCorps gear and marched in the Saint Patrick’s Day parade on March 16th.
Yesterday was the last day of AmeriCorps Week, a week when AmeriCorps Programs are supposed to spread the word about what we do and get together with other regional AmeriCorps members. This latter part is important. KEYS Service Corps currently has 80 something members who don’t always know each other let alone the people from the other programs in Pittsburgh. We do make an effort to bring all the programs together several times a year and this year’s AmeriCorps Week activities were really designed to create interaction between members of different corps. The Service Crawl created teams that were a mix of members from different groups. AmeriCorps’s Got Talent let us mingle again and really showed the variety of skills, talents and interests in the group. The St. Patrick’s Day Parade was lovely with people cheering for up and thanking us. It is nice to have a public venue once in a while where you can literally walk down the street yelling about what you do.
So now AmeriCorps Week is over and we are planning the next service project or interviewing candidates for next term. And we keep on serving. Hopefully some of our new found friendships will flourish. Hopefully a few more people understand what we do, why it is important and why we need support. Goodbye AmeriCorps Week, til next year.
Below is the link to an interesting article about the role the growing income gap plays on the achievement gap. There are a lot of theories and potential remedies but the fact is that lower income children need more than they are currently getting to reach their full potential and become productive and healthy adults. This is why organizations like KEYS Service Corps are so important. Last year KEYS members mentored:
- 2375 youth
- For at least 4 hours a month
- For at least 2 months
- 82.8%showed improvement in at least 2 of the following areas:
- Improved self esteem
- Team building
- Goal setting
- Dealing effectively with conflict
By allowing these disparities to grow we are hurting our chances of having a strong and productive society which affects all of us. We are all in this together.
For information on what you can do to help KEYS help our youth please visit http://www.aokeys.org/Support_AOK.html.
To view the article click http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/03/07/23poverty_ep.h31.html?tkn=QUWFVLx3XFRXh6JaT%2F2KSdl1WptSngfwU8Qt&intc=es
I do care about my kids. They honestly drive me crazy sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t care about them. After all, I live with me, and I drive myself up the wall too. Besides, if the members of AmeriCorps weren’t driven up the wall at one time or another by the youth we serve, we wouldn’t be human – and we wouldn’t care so much.
You know that feeling, the one where the world seems out of control? There are so many problems in our lives and in the world around us it just seems hopeless. You see a homeless guy and you look away because how can you help, really? You hear about cuts in education and think about how wrong that is, but how far away it is from something you can influence. You see a film that shows you how bad the lives of children can be and you want to do something but what can you do? We all see things we want to change about the world but we feel helpless. Then we start to insulate ourselves, why is our problem, really? If people really wanted to change they would help themselves, right?