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Posts Tagged ‘americorps’

2cf4ba3e-6649-45c3-bb13-dbaa91e43fe7Photo: Kayana Szymczak/New York Times
Charles Sennott (left) and Steven Walden, cofounders of Report for America. The nonprofit organization modeled after AmeriCorps aims to install 1,000 journalists in understaffed local newsrooms by 2022.

In spite of the fact that local news is under threat from overwhelming economic forces, it’s really important. After all, some of the biggest national stories break thanks to local-news reporting. That’s why some news veterans have started a kind of AmeriCorps for journalists who want to give back to the communities that launched them.

Nellie Bowles wrote at the New York Times, “A group of journalists have decided to do something about the diminution of newsrooms at the local level. They’re making reporting part of a national service program.

“Report for America, a nonprofit organization modeled after AmeriCorps, aims to install 1,000 journalists in understaffed newsrooms by 2022. Now in its pilot stage, the initiative has placed three reporters in Appalachia. It has chosen nine more, from 740 applicants, to be deployed across the country in June.

“Molly Born, 29, was one of the first three selected for the program. She grew up in West Virginia and has the state motto tattooed on her back: ‘Montani Semper Liberi’ (‘Mountaineers Are Always Free’). A reporter at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the last six years, Born applied to Report for America with the hope of covering her home state.

” ‘I felt like I needed to give something back to a place that has given a lot to me,’ she said. ‘And journalism is the way for me to do that.’

“Born now lives in Williamson, a town of roughly 3,000 along the Tug Fork River, and covers the state’s southern coal fields for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

” ‘It’s important to have reporters based in parts of America where some people feel misunderstood,’ she said. …

“Report for America fellowships last one to two years, and the pay is about $40,000, with half covered by the program and the rest split between participating news organizations and donations. Two media veterans, Steven Waldman and Charles Sennott, started the project with funding from sponsors.

“ ‘People are applying for the same reason people want to go into the Peace Corps: There’s an idealistic desire to help communities, and there’s a sense of adventure,’ Waldman, 55, said. ‘They want to try and save democracy. People keep saying that.’ …

“In 1990, daily and weekly newspapers employed about 455,000 people, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. By January 2016, that number had fallen to 173,000. …

“Because [the founders] had seen how Facebook and Google contributed to the destruction of the advertising-based business model that had long kept local newspapers afloat, they asked them to kick in to their project. While Google has committed money and training, Facebook has yet to sign on. …

“For the nine reporter slots, 85 newsrooms applied asking for corps members, describing a crucial beat that needed filling. Reporters who make the cut start with eight days of training before joining their host newsrooms. They must also fulfill a service requirement, such as working as mentors to student journalists, during their stints.”

More here.

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Photo: Jonathan Wilson
ArtistYear Fellow Aqil Rogers explains to Harrity School students in West Philadelphia how to assemble a contact microphone from component parts.

Many people worry about the drastic cutbacks in arts programs in schools. Not that many people do something about it. Pat Zacks of Camera Werks, Providence, is one person who does, as you may recall from this post.

In Philadelphia, another great idea is moving beyond the piloting phase — a kind of AmeriCorps for arts in education.

Peter Dobrin writes at the Philadelphia Inquirer, “With major new funding from a federal agency in hand, a Philadelphia service group in the arts is going national.

“ArtistYear has been operating since 2014, placing a few recent college graduates into Philadelphia schools each year as teaching fellows. This year, the program will expand to 25 full-time fellows who will teach music, art, dance, creative writing, and media arts in low-income schools in Queens, N.Y., and Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, as well as Philadelphia.

“A big boost to the program comes through AmeriCorps, part of the Corporation for National and Community Service, which has awarded ArtistYear a three-year, $1.45 million grant and extended certain benefits to the teaching fellows. …

“The grant is a first for AmeriCorps. ‘This is the first time there’s been a program that allows artists to dedicate a year of service to their country,’ said AmeriCorps spokeswoman Samantha Jo Warfield, citing the innovative model as one criterion for the award.

“Service-year programs for college graduates are common — to build English-language curriculum in Tonga, or to work on food-justice issues in Milwaukee. But ArtistYear may be unique. Its leaders call it the ‘first organization dedicated to national service through the arts.’

“This school year in the Rego Park neighborhood of Queens, storyteller and improviser Jill M. Pullara will put to use skills she learned earning an MFA in writing from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London. Will Brobston, a guitarist and composer armed with a master’s degree from the University of Denver, goes west to the Colorado towns of Glenwood Springs, Carbondale, and Basalt.

“In Philadelphia, Aqil Rogers, a metal sculptor and designer who grew up in Lansdowne, is teaching at Mastery Charter Harrity Upper School at 56th and Christian Streets.

“ ‘What I’ll be doing is helping them create a maker space,’ said Rogers, 22, a Drexel University graduate whose senior thesis was Empowering Underserved High-Schoolers to Engage in Design/Maker Education through Hip-Hop and DIY Electronics. ‘We’ll work our way to electronics, robotics, lots of different sewing techniques — anything that can be done with hands, I suppose, will be learned at some point. And a lot of design-thinking work, which I think is critical.’ …

“In choosing fellows, the group wants artists who see teaching not merely as a space filler, but as a calling. ‘What we’re looking for is what kind of work experience they have that makes them think they are ready for a year of service, and that they want this as a piece of their career,’ says ArtistYear chief program officer Christine Witkowski.”

Learn more about the program and how it aims to supplement (not replace) arts in schools that still have them, here.

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In a Yes! magazine op-ed, reprinted in the Christian Science Monitor, Marc Freedman of Civic Ventures writes about his favorite topic: the potential of older Americans to contribute beyond retirement.

“With big thinking,” he writes, “there is a chance to tap the talents and experience of the ‘baby boom’ generation to solve longstanding social problems, from health care to homelessness, education to the environment. There is a chance to turn an older population into a new workforce for social change.

“Some people, like Gary Maxworthy, are leading the way … [Around age 60] he thought a lot about his old Peace Corps dream and the prospect of returning to it. In the end, he chose a more manageable domestic option, VISTA, part of the AmeriCorps national service program. VISTA placed Maxworthy at the San Francisco Food Bank, where he discovered that—like food banks throughout the state of California—it was primarily giving out canned and processed food. It was all they could reliably deliver without food spoiling.

“Maxworthy knew that California farmers were discarding tons of blemished but wholesome fruits and vegetables that were not up to supermarket standards. He launched Farm to Family, a program that in 2010 distributed more than 100 million pounds of fresh food to needy families in California.” Read more.

For those who are interested in “encore careers,” check out Encore.org, by Civic Ventures, “a nonprofit think tank on boomers, work and social purpose.”

 

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