Robinson Community Learning Center Welcomes New AmeriCorps Members and Calls for Applications | News | Notre-Dame news


“How do you know you are having an impact? “

To the question posed, Jennifer Knapp Beudert, director of the Robinson Community Learning Center at the University of Notre Dame, scanned the room for answers, landing on a young man with black jeans, a brown knit beanie and a short beard and bushy.

“It’s a little tricky, I guess,” the man said. “Art is more of a subjective type of thing. “

It was the second day of orientation for AmeriCorps’s 13-member group – 12 women and one man sipping water and coffee and picking up leftovers from breakfast – fruit, muffins, yogurt – at the interior of a meeting room in the center.

An off-campus educational initiative of Notre Dame, the Robinson Community Learning Center relies on AmeriCorps to pursue its main mission: to join the community and partners of Notre Dame to strengthen the northeast district, south of the campus, through through building relationships and educational opportunities.

The man in question, Joe Russo, was returning for a second year of service with the Robinson Shakespeare Company, the Shakespeare youth company of the center, which recently returned from England where the members performed “Cymbeline” in Stratford and London.

“I think this is becoming largely anecdotal,” Russo said, continuing to chew on the question. “But a lot of our kids are coming back, so seeing them improve over the years” is a testament to the impact of the program.

Yes, but there is something else, Knapp Beudert urged, “something great that you do at the end of Shakespeare.”

Russo smiles. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “We put on a play. “

After seven years, the Robinson Community Learning Center’s relationship with AmeriCorps, a network of local, state, and national service programs that engage more than 80,000 Americans annually, remains as strong and important as ever.

But as the center welcomes its new group of AmeriCorps members, the future of the program remains uncertain, with the White House proposing to eliminate the agency that oversees it.

The center, meanwhile, is in the midst of a registration surge, looking to fill up to 14 open AmeriCorps positions – full-time and part-time, year-round and seasonal – over the coming months.

Nonetheless, Knapp Beudert remains optimistic about the program, which she said is a “very cost-effective way to provide many services to communities” while investing in the future workforce with skills training and in leadership and educational benefits.

Between members and volunteers, AmeriCorps provides 43,000 hours per year of direct service to the South Bend community at a cost of $ 3.95 per hour – well below the minimum wage of $ 7.25 per hour in the ‘Indiana, said Knapp Beudert.

And thanks in part to the experience itself and the cost of further training, members have grown into teachers, professionals, and managers of nonprofit organizations.

“It’s really investing in the education of AmeriCorps members,” Knapp Beudert said.

The partnership with AmeriCorps was one of Knapp Beudert’s first acts after joining the Robinson Community Learning Center in 2010.

“We had really reached the capacity of what we could do with our existing staff,” she said of the situation at the time. “So I applied that year and, to my surprise, we got a three-year grant. “

Often referred to as the “National Peace Corps,” AmeriCorps engages legions of Americans in intensive service each year in thousands of locations across the country, from nonprofits and schools to public agencies and groups. community.

Members serve for one year and receive a modest living allowance for service and health care. They also receive a scholarship for student debt or tuition which is valid for seven years.

As for day-to-day duties, members develop and oversee programs, recruit volunteers, and attend regular training sessions designed to promote personal and professional development in areas such as leadership, communication, conflict resolution. , volunteer development and resource mobilization.

The program attracts a wide range of applicants, Knapp Beudert said. Robinson has hosted recent high school and college graduates, local residents and even a retired faculty member from Holy Cross College over the years.

Members must be at least 17 years old to apply for the program and at least 18 years old during their term; have a high school diploma or equivalent; be a US citizen or green card holder; and pass a background check.

“What we’re looking for is someone with some sort of background of dedication to the type of work we’re doing, some interest or demonstrated experience,” Knapp Beudert said. “A good team player, but also someone who knows how to take initiatives and work independently.

The Robinson Center recently received its third consecutive AmeriCorps grant, providing funding to 31 members – 10 full-time and 21 part-time members – through August 2020, Knapp Beudert said.

The AmeriCorps grant program runs on a three-year cycle, although funding is subject to annual approval by Congress, which currently has approved funding until August of next year.

Among other things, the program has allowed the center to expand its reach in the community, add locations and programs, and halve its volunteer base over the past seven years, said Knapp Beudert.

Currently, she said, at least one full-time AmeriCorps member, as well as several part-time members, serve in each of the seven program areas – Adult Programs, Youth Development, Shakespeare, Youth Entrepreneurship. Youth, Take Ten, Literacy and Talk With Your Baby. .

As a result, she said, “We have been able to expand our reach, add more sites and reach more young people and adults. Without AmeriCorps, we would have to drastically reduce our programming.

AmeriCorps members Abby Johnson and Lindsay Wilson recently returned for a second year of service with the Robinson Center’s Take Ten program, which teaches conflict resolution and bullying prevention and provides the tools to do peaceful choices.

“I was actually watching the Peace Corps, but there were things going on in my family that made me want to stay in the country,” said Johnson, a Notre Dame de Atlanta graduate. “And AmeriCorps is kind of a national version of the Peace Corps, so I thought it was a good opportunity to serve.”

Also, she said, “the benefits are good for education and higher education. “

Originally from South Bend, Wilson previously worked with Take Ten as a freshman at Indiana University at South Bend, where she received her degree in Psychology.

“I really enjoyed it,” she said of the experience. “And then I just saw that (Robinson was) hiring and I said, ‘I have experience, and that’s something I’ve always wanted to do. I love my community.

She plans to use the education allowance, worth up to $ 5,920, to pay off student debt and pursue graduate studies in psychology and law, she said.

The Robinson Center is not the only beneficiary of the program.

The center shares AmeriCorps membership with like-minded organizations including the Westville Education Initiative, a collaboration between Notre Dame and Holy Cross College to educate inmates at Westville Correctional Facility in LaPorte County, and El Campito, a non-profit child development center in South Bend. .

Members assigned to the Westville program perform a variety of tasks including building and managing the library system, entering and managing data, and physically opening up the academic space in the prison so that students have access to the lab. computer and library.

“Our AmeriCorps member is extremely valuable,” said Alesha Seroczynski, program director. “This is truly a unique opportunity, and few AmeriCorps members can experience it.”

If the program were to go, it would be “a huge loss,” she said.

Returning to the Robinson Center, Notre Dame graduate Abby Johnson spoke of her previous year of service with Take Ten.

“It was awesome,” she said during a short break between workouts. “I had never done volunteer management work before, so I learned a lot. And it was cool to see how I changed. The first semester, I was learning, in a way, to find my sea legs. But in the second semester, I had lost everything.

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