Dec 18, 2014

Networking Social with the Heller School

On November 11, AmeriCorps Alums Connecticut welcomed representatives from Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management to the greatest small city in America, New Haven. There, the Heller School shared their goal of “preparing the next generation of policy analysts, managers, public leaders and scholars to tackle society’s most pressing social problems” with over 30 alumni and current members.

Attendees had the opportunity to listen to the “two Michaels” - MPP program direct Michael Doonan and MBA assistant director Michael Appell, as well as AmeriCorps alums who are now current students of the programs and our very own chapter leader Tina Lindstrom who gave her perspective as a licensed clinical social worker with the VA. Perhaps the greatest bit of advice for the night came from VISTA alum and current MPP/MBA student Dan McConvey, who told the crowd that the most important thing is to be “friendly and helpful and listen to people.”

Representatives from the Heller School MPP program talk
with alums and current members after the panel.

In addition to offering incredible programs, the Heller School honors AmeriCorps service via a 50% tuition discount and additional incentives for alumni who matriculate. One of the top ten schools for social policy in the U.S., 36% of their new students come from national service programs. The Heller School also boast at least one alum whose name most AmeriCorps alums will recognize - Ed Segal, the first CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service under President Clinton and eponymous hero of the end-of-service educational award.

The night was made possible through partnerships with the CNCS state office and AmeriCorps program directors. We were also fortunate to receive support from the Study at Yale, which provided the space to us at no-cost and ensured that there was plenty of delicious food for all.
Know someone who would like to speak to our network of over 300 alumni? Have someone who you would like to hear from? Share your thoughts with us on future networking social topics at!

Nov 22, 2014

'Tis the Season to Serve!

AmeriCorps Alums are no strangers to giving back year-round, but there's something about the cold in the air that reminds us of how lucky we are to be able to share our time and love with our fellow community members. We've highlighted a few opportunities below to do just that - if you know of any more, please let us know at

City of Bridgeport Tree Lighting
Thursday, December 4th: Set-up from 2-4:00 PM, event 4-6:00 PM, clean-up 6-8:00 PM. Volunteers are asked to commit to at least one two-hour shift
Missed Boo Bash? Ready for another event at the Arcade?  Come help out at the City of Bridgeport's Tree Lighting Ceremony. Volunteers will help with set-up, crafting, staffing the photo booth, and serving refreshments at the FREE public event.

One very special volunteer will also have the chance to play the part of Santa, walking the Arcade and posing for standing pictures with young and old alike - costume will be provided. Contact to volunteer or for more information (tell them we sent you!)

Wrap Holiday Gifts to Help the Homeless in New Haven 
Weekend and weekday shifts are available. Volunteers are asked to commit four hours. See link for shift selections.
From Black Friday to Christmas Eve United Way of Greater New Haven will be leading a Holiday Gift Wrapping drive to raise funds to continue the work of housing our region's most vulnerable people and continue the progress made through the 100-Day Challenge to End Homelessness. Holiday cheer, T-shirts and training will be provided. Register now at to secure your spot!

Eat For Equity Stamford is hosting their final community feast and fundraiser on December 6th to benefit Kids Helping Kids CT. Do you enjoy cooking for large crowds, talking to awesome people or just generally having fun? Check them out at and let them know if you want to make this night even more awesome -

Have a holiday service opportunity you want to see highlighted? Email us at with details and we'll spread the word to over 300 alums right here in Connecticut!

Nov 13, 2014

Spooky, Scary Service - Connecticut Celebrates #MDDay!

AmeriCorps Alums, members, and Raven 1 with Boo Bash
organizers Gabby F. and Natalie Pryce (kneeling)
It’s the question that’s been on all our minds. Who will win Halloween of 2014—Princess Elsa or the Ninja Turtles?

We got a sneak peek when, on a beautiful fall day in New England, eighteen AmeriCorps alums and members sprayed ourselves down with glitter and strapped on cat ears to be a part of the 5th annual Boo Bash Bridgeport in honor of Make a Difference Day.

Started by friends and local business owners Gabby F. and Natalie Pryce, Boo Bash is an opportunity for youth from across Bridgeport, CT, to celebrate the Halloween season with games, face painting, and plenty of candy. Every year the event has grown, spreading to include partners and local businesses from across the city.

This year over 500 community members joined in the fun, spending the afternoon exploring the city by trick or treating at local establishments, decorating pumpkins on McLevy Green, visiting the BookMobile, and having spooky scary fun with us in the Arcade Mall.

Oct 27, 2014

You're Invited! Continuing Education with the Heller School of Social Policy and Management

As part of our continued effort to help AmeriCorps alums get things done personally and professionally, we are excited to announce our upcoming event - Continuing Education with the Heller School of Social Policy and Management!

Join us on November 11th for an evening of connecting with your fellow alums and hearing about the exclusive scholarship opportunities for AmeriCorps alums offered by Heller School. You will also have the chance to talk to an all-star panel of leaders in non-profit and social policy. Light refreshments will be served and a cash bar will be available.

Registration is open to all AmeriCorps alums, current members, and Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV). Register today for free at

AmeriCorps Alums Connecticut would like to thank the Study at Yale and Brandeis University for their support in bringing this event to Connecticut alums!

Sep 28, 2014

Celebrate #MDDay with us in Bridgeport!

Started over 20 years ago by Points of Light, Make a Difference Day is the largest national day of community service in the US. For the second year in a row, we are partnering with Boo Bash Bridgeport to provide spooky fun for young and old alike on Saturday, October 25th!

We need volunteers to help with set-up, run the games, give out treats, paint faces, and keep the party going from 12 - 6 PM! Volunteer for a couple of hours or the whole day - contact Colleen at for more details and to RSVP!

As a thank-you for letting us know you're coming ahead of time, we will be giving away one of our brand-new AmeriCorps Alums Connecticut t-shirts to one randomly chosen volunteer who RSVPs by the 20th! 

What: Boo Bash Bridgeport
Where: Arcade Mall, 1001 Main St, Bridgeport CT
When: October 25th from 11 AM - 6 PM
RSVP: Colleen at by October 20th

Can't make it to Bridgeport to volunteer with us? Find out more opportunities to serve on Make a Difference Day at! Remember to tag us while you're out and about @AC_AlumsCT and #AmeriCorpsCT!

Sep 21, 2014

AmeriCorps 20 - Connecticut Celebrates Our Local Leaders!

In honor of AmeriCorps 20 we would like to recognize the following local alums (and alums who served in Connecticut) who live the pledge to get things done -
 "this year and beyond"!

Noor Al-Ghanem 
NCCC, Pacific Region 2010 and VISTA, 2011
Graduate Student – Elementary Education and Teacher
of Students with Moderate Disabilities, Leslie University, Boston MA

Michael Boswell
Connecticut Campus Compact VISTA, 2010 and Massachusetts Campus Compact VISTA, 2011
Foundations Relations Coordinator, America SCORES New England

Nicole Berube
Hartford AmeriCorps, 2000
Executive Director, City Seed, New Haven CT

Ginny McCalmont
AmeriCorps - Iowa Legal Aid, 2010 and 2011
Student, Yale Law School, New Haven CT

Danielle Correa
Connecticut Campus Compact VISTA, 2010
Special Project Assistant, Massachusetts Service Alliance, Boston MA

Tina Lindstrom
NCCC, Sacramento - Gulf Coast Recovery, 2006
Clinical Social Worker, Errera Community Care Center, West Haven CT

Monica Maccera Filppu
Teach for America – Washington, DC, 1995 and 1996
Executive Director, Great Oak Charter School, Bridgeport CT

Brian Mezzi
AmeriCorps - Boys and Girls Club, Mississippi, 2011 and VISTA, 2012
Community Engagement Manager, United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut, Hartford CT

Kjerstin Pugh
VISTA, Dwight Hall at Yale - New Haven, 2011
Director of After-School and Summer Programming, Co-Op High School, New Haven CT

Oscar Robles
VISTA – Our Piece of the Pie, Hartford, 2010 and Public Allies Connecticut, 2011
Manager of City Learning Networks,, New York NY

Is there an alum you know who didn't make the list? Contact us at to help us share her/his story!

Sep 17, 2014

Twenty Years Later...Still Getting Things Done!

AmeriCorps Alums celebrate after the ceremony at the
Capitol in Hartford on September 12th, 2014.

This past Friday, we were so excited to join AmeriCorps members from throughout the state of Connecticut in celebrating AmeriCorps 20 and re-committing to a lifetime of service - this year and beyond.

Over 100 members and alums gathered to hear from members of the Connecticut Commission on Community Service as well as those who were there when the first class of AmeriCorps members was sworn-in at the White House in 1994.

Connecticut Chapter Leader Tina Lindstrom also spoke, encouraging the members who are just starting their journey to stay committed and continue to carry the ethos of service and community with them.

One person who definitely took his pledge to heart is Brian Mezzi, who joined alums on Friday evening at Barcelona Wine Bar as he was honored as one of ten Local Leaders here in the state. After serving as a VISTA at Boys and Girls Club in Mississippi, Brian has continued to support community empowerment and engagement in his current role as Community Engagement Manager at United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut - where he still spreads the word by talking about his service on a daily basis (us, too!). Visit our blog post for a full list of our AmeriCorps 20 Local Leaders.

The next day, we continued to celebrate AmeriCorps 20 and recognize September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance by serving alongside current members of PAVE New Haven and the Veterans Recovery Project, performing crucial invasive species clean-up in the Long Wharf Nature Preserve. Led by Urban Resources Initiatives, over 20 volunteers cleared the way for new tree plantings along the Long Island Sound in New Haven. Once completed, this area will act as a crucial learning spot for the urban students to learn about nature and science.

Tina Lindstrom serves in honor of
September 11th Day of Recognition.

Sep 11, 2014

AmeriCorps 20 is (Almost) Here!

Here's everything you need to know about the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary celebrations taking place here in Connecticut! Did we miss something? Send us an email at!

Friday, 9:30-11:30 AM: Join members and alums from throughout the state at the Capitol Building in Hartford to re-commit to a lifetime of service! Forgot to RSVP or can't make it? Join us by pledging virtually at!

Friday, 6 - 8 PM: Wouldn't be a birthday without a party! We will be at Barcelona Wine Bar in New Haven to share stories and eat marinated mushrooms. All are welcome!

Saturday, 9:30 - 1:00 PM: In honor of September 11th Day and the 20th Anniversary, we will be joining current VISTA members and community volunteers for a day of service with Urban Resources Initiative. Meet us at the Sound School (60 S. Water St, New Haven), and bring your friends (and closed-toe shoes!).

BONUS: Stay tuned tomorrow as we announce the Connecticut's Local Leaders, alums who exemplify the meaning of getting things done this year and beyond!

Aug 29, 2014

Join us as we recognize September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance

UPDATED 9/8/2014

We are excited to partner with PAVE New Haven and the Urban Resources Initiative for a day of service in honor of September 11th Day of Service and Remembrance. Launched in 2002 by family members and survivors, this day offers us all the opportunity to honor those we lost through coming together to create positive change.

Details are below - please RSVP to Shannon at or via our Facebook event at to secure your spot! All alums, current members, and friends-of are invited to join!

Date: Saturday, September 13th

Time: 9:30 - 1:00 PM

Where: Meet at Sound School, 60 Water St New Haven

What we'll be doing: We will be participating in invasive species removal along Long Wharf to prepare for the planting of 100 trees in the fall!

Please wear clothes you don't mind getting dirty in and closed-toe shoes! Water and a light snack will be provided, but please feel free to brown bag it.

P.S.: Don't forget to wear your "A"! Special AmeriCorps Alums 20th Anniversary shirts are still available at their online store for only a $20 donation!

Aug 12, 2014

Join us in Hartford on September 12th for AmeriCorps 20!

On Friday, September 12th AmeriCorps alums and members from across the country will be celebrating the 20th Anniversary of AmeriCorps with a nationwide swearing-in ceremony. Details for Connecticut's celebration are below - please RSVP to Anne Ostberg at by August 29th to reserve your spot!

Date: Friday, September 12th, 2014
Time: 9:30 - 11:30 AM
Location: State Capitol, 210 Capitol Ave., Hartford CT

9:30-10:30 AM - Arrival and Check-In
10:30-11:30 AM - Program and Swearing-In
11:30 - Networking reception in the Hall of Flags and North Lobby

Parking and seating are available on a first-come, first serve basis so get there early! Attendees should enter only through the West Entrance.

PS: Remember to wear your "A"! AmeriCorps Alums shirts and pins are available at (or go old school and rock something from your term of service!)

Special thanks to our partners at the Connecticut Commission on Community Service for organizing and hosting this event!

Aug 9, 2014

Join the AmeriCorps Alums Leadership Board!

Want to help us help others get things done? As we grow and formalize our board, we are looking for some new leaders who'd like to hold a position with the AmeriCorps Alums Connecticut Leadership Board!

We are currently recruiting for the position of Treasurer to help us manage and track our funds. While experience working with budgets and fiscal agents is preferred, we want to hear from anyone who has an interest!

  • Must have completed one full term with an AmeriCorps program prior to 9/1/2014
  • Must be able to attend monthly meetings, held the second Tuesday of every month at 6PM - these meetings are generally held in the New Haven area
  • Regular attendance at other AmeriCorps Alums CT events including service projects, professional development, and social networking opportunities
If you're interested, please send us an email telling us a little bit about yourself to, subject line "Treasurer."

Note that we are an all-volunteer board and no compensation (other than friendship) will be provided.

Jul 16, 2014

Annual Meeting Wrap-Up

What do you get when you combine good friends and good food (and maybe a pink flamingo)? AmeriCorps Alums Connecticut's inaugural annual meeting! Held on June 25th, 40+ alums, current members, and community partners gathered at St. Michael Church in New Haven to celebrate service and start planning for the future.
Chapter Leader Tina Lindstrom shares highlights from the past year.
Chapter Leader Tina Lindstrom shared the story of how she came to found our chapter and highlighted some of our greatest accomplishments from the past year, including:
  • Engaging over volunteers in over 9,000 hours of service;
  • Forming partnerships with 11 local organizations;
  • Soliciting $1,355 in cash and in-kind support; and
  • Sponsoring 10 events (almost once/month!) to bring together AmeriCorps Alums, current members, and the community in the name of service. 
For a copy of our full annual report, please contact us at

We were also honored to be joined by our 2014 Champions of Service:
  • Nick Montini, who went above-and-beyond this past year as an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the Errera Center as part of the Veterans Recovery Project and member of the InterCorps Council;
  • Jennifer Turner, a (five-year) VISTA alum who continues to inspire current members and her students at University of Bridgeport;
  • RYASAP, a leading community-connector and AmeriCorps supporter in Bridgeport; and
  • Representative Jim Himes, represented by Tyrone McClain, for his unending support for national and community service both locally and in Washington.
VISTA alum and New Haven mayor Toni Harp was also there in spirit, issuing a proclamation "urg[ing] citizens to join [us] in finding ways to give back to their communities."

Friends from NeighborWorks New Horizons show their best #cookiesmiles, courtesy of Insomnia Cookies
Thank you to everyone who supported us by coming out, buying raffle tickets, and sharing your story with us. We also want to give a huge THANK YOU to Knights of Columbus Council No. 65 for the fantastic space and the other businesses who showed their support through donations: Claire's Corner Corpia, Insomnia Cookies, Barcelona Wine Bar, Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro, The Original Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana, Fresh Yoga, Message by Massage, and Woodside Massage.

Together we raised over $600 to support AmeriCorps Alums-led initiatives and service projects (stay tuned for one exciting mini-grant opportunity to be announced soon!)

For more pics, check out our Facebook album at

2014 Leadership Board (l-r): RJ Mercede, Noor Al-Ghanem,
Tina Lindstrom, Shannon Mykins, Colleen Mattatall, and Sam Rigotti
We'll see you next year!

May 16, 2014

Join us at the inaugural AmeriCorps Alums Connecticut annual meeting!

The AmeriCorps Alums Connecticut Leadership Board is excited to invite area alums, current members, and friends of service to our inaugural annual meeting, taking place from 6-8:00 PM on Wednesday, June 25th at St. Michael Church (29 Wooster Pl., New Haven CT).

At the meeting, we will be sharing highlights from the past year and honoring the 2014 Champions of Service Award recipients. Light refreshments will be served and we will be having a raffle to raise money to benefit future service projects.

Please RSVP via eventbrite:
  • Current AmeriCorps Members: $5
  • AmeriCorps Alums: $15
  • Friends of AmeriCorps Alums: $20
Special thanks to Knights of Columbus Council 65 for donating the space and to the generous organizations providing raffle prizes: Caseus Fromagerie & Bistro, Barcelona Wine Bar, Pepe's Pizza, Message by Massage, and Woodside Massage.

May 12, 2014

Who are your Champions of Service?

Every year around this time, AmeriCorps Alums Connecticut celebrates individual and organizations who go above and beyond in serving our state with our Second-Annual Champions of Service Awards.

Awards will be presented at our inaugural annual meeting on June 25th in the following categories:

"Above and Beyond Member" - awarded to one current AmeriCorps member serving in Connecticut for their outstanding commitment to getting things done.

"Alumni Champion" - awarded to one alumni for their continued dedication to advancing civic engagement in Connecticut even after their service term!

"AmeriCorps Advocate" - awarded to one Connecticut legislator for their unwavering support for service throughout the state.

"Community Connector" - awarded to an outstanding not-for-profit organization or community member for their sustained efforts in providing impactful and rewarding service opportunities for AmeriCorps members and alumni.

Help us share the story of service by nominating an individual or organization using the online form at Nominations will close on Monday, May 26th so nominate early and often!

May 1, 2014

Spring (and service) is in the air!

As we get ready to announce details for our upcoming (spoiler alert!) annual meeting, we wanted to share a couple of great service opportunities going on throughout the state:

May 12-14: Help canvass New Haven as part of the 100 Day Challenge to End Homelessness! This is a more aggressive count with a push to get 70% of the chronically homeless individuals housed by July 30th. Registry Week includes a walking canvass May 12 -14th (4 - 8 am). All Registry walking canvass volunteers must attend training on either May 5, 7, 9 or 10th or the training webinar on May 5 or 7th. For more information or to sign up, go to or contact Jan McCray at

July 27- August 1: Serve as a camp counselor in Andover with the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Counselors will be responsible for assisting them with adaptive sports, activities, eating, toileting, etc. Our campers have a wide range of abilities. Some can walk unassisted, some use braces or other adaptive equipment, and others use wheelchairs. Note that all counselors will be given free training beforehand and there will always be MDA and medical staff at camp for its entire duration. Contact Nicole Ginolfi at for more information!

If you have an upcoming service project happening in Connecticut that you’d like us to highlight, please send along a brief description to us at!

Apr 9, 2014

Service, and Networking, and Advocacy! Oh my!

AmeriCorps Week may have been short on days this year, but it certainly wasn't short on fun! Thank you to everyone who came out to serve, advocate, or connect. We want to especially thank the InterCorps Council of Connecticut and Anne Ostberg, state program director for CNCS, for their continued partnership and support.

SERVICE!: Over 50 alums, current members, and community members were engaged in service projects over the weekend. Together we were able to renovate spaces for Columbus House and Peter's Retreat as well as collect over 5,000 book donations to benefit New Haven Reads!

NETWORKING!: 30+ alums and members met up at happy hours in Hartford and New Haven. Thanks again to City Steam and Three Sheets for being such AMAZING hosts!

ADVOCACY!: 18 Mayors from across Connecticut signed on to issue proclamations in support of the second-annual Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service. At events in Hartford, Bridgeport, and New Haven, over 300 members, alums, and community partners attended events to hear the mayors recognize national service. For more information, check out this great interview with our very own Sam Rigotti:!

Thanks again to everyone who participated and make sure to stay tuned in to our next big adventure by "liking" us on facebook and signing up for our chapter emails at!

Mar 17, 2014

This year AmeriCorps Week has something for everyone!

It's the most wonderful time of the year... AmeriCorps Week! Thanks to the help of the InterCorps Council, we are doing it up bigger than ever. A schedule of events is below, and make sure to join the event on facebook for up-to-the-minute updates!

Wednesday, March 26: Pre-AmeriCorps Week Happy Hour at City Steam!
Join us from 5:30-8 PM as we let off a little "steam" and get ready for the weekend ahead! 

Friday, March 28: Kickoff Event at Three Sheets!
We'll be at Three Sheets from 7-9 PM with AmeriCorps trivia and the announcement of the "Your Site in Seven Seconds" Vine contest! Free food, cash bar, and don't forget to wear your "A" all day!

Saturday, March 29: (Still) Getting Things Done!
HARTFORD: Help paint and organize an apartment at Hands On Hartford. Shifts available starting at 9 and ending at 3 PM. RSVP online here!

NEW HAVEN: True to our roots, it wouldn't be AmeriCorps Week without a little service! Join current members to help paint the Columbus House Annex in New Haven by going here or contact for more details. 

SOUTHEAST CT: From 9-1 PM in AmeriCorps will be celebrated at FRESH Farm, on the campus of the Waterford Country School, 78 Hunts Brook Rd in Quaker Hill. Let Sheri know if you can make it at

Can't make it to a service project but want to give back? AARP Experience Corps is partnering with PAVE New Haven to put on a book drive to benefit our friends at New Haven Reads. Come to the Hamden Plaza (2100 Dixwell Ave) any time between 8 AM and 3:30 PM to drop off your gently-used children's books or contact Katie at for more details!

Monday, March 31: #MomentMonday
Share a photo on your favorite social media platform(s) of a "moment of impact" at your service site with the hashtag #momentmonday! Don't have social media? Just email your pictures to us and we'll share it on ours! 

Tuesday, April 1: Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service
Join one of the many Mayors Day events across the Connecticut or contact Sam at for information about how to help us plan one in your own city!

Mar 7, 2014

Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service is almost here!

To spotlight the impact of national service and thank those who serve, mayors across the country will participate in the second-annual Mayors Day of Recognition for National Service on April 1, 2014 (no fooling!).

In Connecticut, mayors and first selectmen from Bridgeport to Windham will be taking this opportunity to highlight the service of the 5,800 members currently serving through proclamations and special events. Events will be held in the following locations:

Tuesday, April 1, 1:30-2:30pm
Remarks by Mayor Bill Finch and service members, presentation of certificates/issuing a proclamation.
City Hall, 999 Broad Street, Bridgeport, CT
RSVP to Perdita at

Tuesday, April 1, 10:00am
Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra will recognize national service programs and participants at a brief ceremony to be held at Hartford City Hall.
RSVP to Anne at

Tuesday, April 1, 1:00pm-1:30pm
Mayor Daniel Drew will read a proclamation at the offices of the North End Action Team, 654 Main Street, Middletown.
For more information contact Meagan at

New Haven
Tuesday, April 1, 11:30am-1:00pm
Mayor Toni Harp will recognize members and programs as we announce a service project to beautify the neighborhood and spread the word about national service in teh community.
Lincoln-Bassett School (Auditorium), 130 Bassett St, New Haven, CT
RSVP to Shannon at

New London
Monday, April 7th, 7:00pm
Mayor Daryl Finizio will read a proclamation at the City Council meeting
City Council Chambers, 3rd Floor of City Hall
181 State Street, New London, CT
RSVP to Sam at

Monday, March 24
Mayor Hinchey will be joining FoodCorps and other AmeriCorps members serving in and around Norwich for lunch at Uncas School.

Tuesday, April 1, 3:45-5:00pm
A garden building event is tentatively scheduled to take place at 3:45 p.m. on April 1 at Natchaug Elementary School, where Mayor Ernie Eldridge will issue a proclamation.
123 Jackson Street, Willimantic, CT
RSVP to Sally at

A full list of mayors currently committed is below. If you don't see your mayor on the list contact for information on how you can help reach out!
  • Bridgeport
  • Bristol
  • Danbury
  • Fairfield
  • Hamden
  • Hartford
  • Manchester
  • Middletown
  • New Haven
  • New London
  • North Haven
  • Norwalk
  • Norwich
  • Stamford
  • West Haven
  • Wallingford
  • Westport
  • Windham
Note: This post will be constantly updated as more mayors sign on!

Jan 30, 2014

MLK Day: A Teach for America Perspective

Reflections on AmeriCorps’ MLK Day of Service
from Teach For America Teachers

In recognition of AmeriCorps’ Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of service, Teach For America corps members joined their AmeriCorps allies and community partners in service projects across the New Haven community. Below, two teachers reflect on what the experience meant to them.

Carrie Keena (Connecticut Corps ’13)
Served at the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program in New Haven
Apart from working with amazing students, one of my favorite aspects of being a Connecticut Teach For America corps member is being a part of the community outside of school.

There's no greater way to put my work into perspective than to go out and meet people in the area. In honor of Martin Luther King, a group of us got together on January 18 in New Haven to distribute VITA Free Tax Consultation flyers in parts of the community.  In addition to being able to spend quality time with some fellow teachers I hadn't seen in several months, we met up with New Haven citizens where they live, exchanging hellos and talking about braving the cold weather together – and about how nice it is that there is a service to help all of us out when it comes to those challenging tax forms!

The experience was one of bonding with the community and of feeling good about what I am doing. And that's really important when going back into the classroom and working with our Connecticut citizens first hand.

Lauren Koster (Connecticut Corps ’12)
Served at Yale University’s Peabody Museum of Natural History Events
“Welcome! Today is a free day! Here’s a program. Come on in!” This was my script as a greeter at the Yale Peabody Museum on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as an AmeriCorps volunteer and Teach For America corps member. This day off was not just a “day on” for the sake of service – every day in the life of an AmeriCorps member is a day on. There is always more to be done to help our kids succeed, to close the gap, to get just one step, even a millimeter closer, to the day when all students have access to an excellent education.

I was eager to serve. As a Yale alumna, I love heading back to my old stomping grounds, and I was looking forward to greeting children, and possibly even running into a few of my own students and their families as they came to the Peabody for a day of dinosaurs and drum performances, fossils and slam poetry, butterflies and free books.

As the day went on, I was struck by how incredibly exuberant everyone was despite a rather chaotic scene. Yes, the museum was crowded, and no, we could not give out more than one program per family because we had a limited supply and the end was in sight. A group of exceptionally enthusiastic three year olds were so overjoyed at my greeting that they all hugged my legs at the same time and I was certain that I would either topple over or pass out from the sheer cuteness of it all (I’m not a kid person so this is really saying something). I heard gasps and the exclamation, “Wow! Look at that squid hanging from the ceiling!” from more elementary school kids than I could count.

Seeing students outside of a classroom – in a completely voluntary learning – is a joy to teachers. It fills me with pride and hope to witness kids caring about learning for the sake of learning. I remember growing up with a love of sitting down with a book to know more about an alluring topic or heading to a museum to experience said topic first hand. My fear that children’s unquenchable thirst for knowledge has been satiated by shortcuts and social media was put to rest that day.

“Welcome! Come on in! It’s a free day at the Peabody. Enjoy your time here.” What a glorious day off…