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Shirley is Writing for Huffington Post!

by Zach Maurin

Shirley is now a regular contributor to the Huffington Post!  She bringing her vast knowledge of service, nonprofits, policy, and innovation to a larger audience.  Here are two of the latest installments:

“Could the School Science Fair Offer a Model to Repair our Democracy?”

As an antidote to the vitriol of the election, I have been imagining what our democracy could be if we baked civic skills into our K-12 curriculum — if every student learned tools and tactics for working together to solve problems big and small in their own communities. Might that mean we would one day have more informed voters, and maybe even more appealing candidates?

Read entire article about the power of service-learning.

“Summer in November — Can a Summer of Service Battle Summer Slide?

As the days get shorter and the last of the leaves fall, summer seems far away. But this week, hundreds of experts and educators are meeting in Indianapolis at the National Conference on Summer Learning to talk about what happens to too many kids over the summer — they slide backwards in their academic skills.

Read entire article.

Sagawa Talks to Baltimore Sun about Service

by The Way to Change Team

Baltimore Sun

Success through service

Baltimore‘s “chief service officer” can help unlock vast opportunities for involvement

By Shirley Sagawa

July 19, 2010

For decades, Maryland has led the way in promoting volunteer and national service. The first (and still only) state in the nation to require service learning for high school graduation, Maryland has laid the groundwork for an engaged population. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who for decades has quietly ensured that programs like AmeriCorps receive funding, has led the Maryland delegation in making service a national priority. And now Baltimore steps onto the national stage as a recipient of a highly competitive Cities of Service grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Rockefeller Foundation, which will enable Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to appoint a “chief service officer” to become part of her senior team.

At a time when needs are great and resources are limited, service offers untapped potential to address Baltimore’s most pressing problems. As I researched my recent book, “The American Way to Change,” I found hundreds of highly effective organizations using volunteers and AmeriCorps members to produce extraordinary results.

For example, Playworks, a national organization featured in the book, sends trained, full-time coaches, many of whom are AmeriCorps members, to 24 public schools in Baltimore, where they transform recess into a positive experience that helps more than 10,000 local kids get more out of their school day. Teachers in schools that partner with Playworks report they reclaim up to 36 hours of class time each year as students are able to stay focused in the classroom as a result of these activities, which include physical games at recess and conflict-resolution tools.

Experience Corps, another national organization, partners with Greater Homewood Community Corporation and the Johns Hopkins Center on Aging and Health to utilize the time, skills and experience of adults 55 and older in elementary schools. In Baltimore, students in schools with Experience Corps had improved math and reading standardized test scores in first, second, and third grade, and increased percentages of third graders scoring at the advanced and proficient level on the MSA reading tests than in the comparison schools, as well as fewer suspensions and principal referrals.

Despite the opportunities programs like these represent, it’s the rare leader at any level of government who incorporates service into plans to lower the dropout rate, or other challenges such as increasing financial security, lowering energy consumption, or revitalizing neighborhoods.

The new Baltimore chief service office will have no shortage of challenges to tackle with the help of volunteers. Fortunately, the CSO will also have strong organizations to build on, in addition to Playworks and Experience Corps. The Baltimore City Public Schools’ new volunteer matching system is a promising tool that can expand school-based service. Civic Works, an urban service corps, tackles environmental and other challenges by engaging area youth. Habitat for Humanity, Rebuilding Together Baltimore, and Baltimore CASH (Creating Assets Savings and Hope) Campaign all use volunteers as key parts of their efforts to assist low-income residents become financially stable. And Business Volunteers Unlimited Maryland connects 25,000 individuals to service opportunities each year.

In addition to helping to change Baltimore for the better, those who step forward to help may well find that they themselves also benefit. Studies document that students who serve do better in school and in life, and that adults who volunteer can advance their careers. Those who serve others have better physical and mental health, live longer and are happier. In fact, a study of Baltimore Experience Corps volunteers by Johns Hopkins researchers found that compared with a control group, the older volunteer tutors had better overall health, including strength, cognitive ability, and physical activity levels. They also watched less television and had a bigger social network than seniors in the control group.

Ironically, it is often those people who could most benefit from volunteering who have the fewest opportunities to serve. Disadvantaged youth, the unemployed and people with low levels of education volunteer less than others. The new chief service officer should be sure that Baltimore’s plan includes those who are not typically asked to serve.

In accepting the Cities of Service grant, Mayor Rawlings-Blake commented that “to move the city forward, we need everyone to be involved.” If the chief service officer is able to bring that about, we can expect to see not just better schools and safer streets, but stronger communities and healthier citizens as well.

Shirley Sagawa is a visiting fellow with the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C., and the author of “The American Way to Change: How National Service and Volunteers are Transforming America.” Her e-mail is

Craigslist Foundation Bootcamp!

by The Way to Change Team

Will you be in California on August 14th?  If so, be sure to check out the Craigslist Foundation Bootcamp taking place at UC Berkley campus!  At this event, you can chose from nearly 40 workshops, visit exhibits, and meet new people who share your passion.

You will also get the chance to hear from Chip Conley, the opening keynote speaker.  Chip is the founder and CEO of Joie de Vivre, California’s largest boutique hotel company consisting of over 40 award-winning hotels, spas and restaurants.  He is also the author of PEAK: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow. In addition, there will be more than 70 other speakers who will share innovations and success stories that are improving the quality of life for many in communities and neighborhoods at home and globally.

The bootcamp will also be featuring multiple learning sessions every hour.  You can learn how to strengthen neighborhood organizations, how to get your non-profit organization to effect local and national change, how to utilize new innovations in community and civic engagement, and much more.  With so many opportunities to learn, this is a great chance for you to gain the tools necessary to help your community and the world at large.

Register now if you want to be one of 1,500 passionate people gathered together to strengthen their communities and neighborhoods!

Weekly Round-Up of Featured Organizations: AA LEAD, Give an Hour, ManaTEENS, The Mission Continues

by The Way to Change Team

A weekly look at the accomplishments, rewards, partnerships, and news of some of the non-profits mentioned in The American Way to Change:

AA LEAD works to promote the well being of Asian American youth through education and community building.  Their staff provides after-school programs and one-on-one mentoring to provide a healthy and nurturing environment for young Asian Americans in the DC metro area.  Recently AA LEAD was honored by being one of 5 finalists for the Best Practice Award  at The Washington Post and The Center for Non-Profit Advancement‘s Annual Excellence in Nonprofit Management Award ceremony.  According to Rick Chen, Manager of Development, “Although we were not chosen to be the winner, it was the entire process that proved to be the most rewarding – being able to concretely identify and list the many best practices we are currently using, which has helped us become the successful organization we are today.”

Give an Hour‘s mission is to create a national network of volunteers that can respond to both emergencies and long-time problems that America faces.  Their current priority is to help the troops who are currently serving or have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as their families.  The non-profit is currently taking part in a a new coordinated approach to military care outlined by Michelle Obama in an address to the National Military Family Association’s summit.  Part of her plan calls for stronger civilian-military ties.  According to Dr. Barbara Van Dahlen, founder and President, Give an Hour is eager to heed this call to service.  “Our volunteer mental health professionals represent the civilian community.  By offering free counseling to members of the military and their loved ones and by working to educate communities on the psychological effects of war, we are recognizing the sacrifices our service men and women and their families are making.”

ManaTEENS promotes the youth voice and volunteerism in Manatee County, Florida.  They believe that all of Florida’s residents have the resources and the power to help address local needs.  They are working to make service a way of live, especially for the young.  Innovations in Civic Participation recently received a grant from The Corporation for National and Community ServiceLearn and Serve America Program.  ICP is going to work with three non-profits, one of which is ManaTEENS, to focus on environmental education and disaster preparedness.  Thanks to this partnership, teens in Florida will get the chance to help their community while learning more about how to care for and preserve the delicate environment of Manatee County.

The Mission Continues developed on the premise that many veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan still don’t feel like their work is done.  The returning wounded should be honored for their sacrifices, but we should also recognize that they still have a lot left to give.  According to one wounded veteran, “I lost my legs. That’s all. I did not lose my desire to serve, or my pride in being an American.”  Recently The Mission Continues has expanded into San Antonio, Texas where they opened a new office just last week.  According to their website, “With the nearby Brooke Army Medical Center caring for wounded warriors in transition, we have a great opportunity and responsibility to work with these veterans.”

Stay tuned next week…

Weekly Results Round-Up: Project Health, Grid Alternative, NYC Coalition Against Hunger, and SF Education Fund

by The Way to Change Team

A weekly look at the accomplishments and results of some of the organization mentioned in The American Way to Change

Public Health

For many low income families prescription drugs and antibiotics are not enough alleviate an illness or keep them healthy.  Founded in 1996 at the Boston Medical Center Pediatrics Department, Project Health works to fix this problem.  The non-profit allows doctors to “prescribe” food, fuel assistance, housing, and other resources to patients who need them to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Over a five month period last year, Project Health’s help desks secured housing for 205 families, child-care and after-school programs for 154 clients, and access to food for 135 clients.  By providing staples like these, they help low-income families and individuals become and remain healthy.

Clean Energy

Grid Alternative works to help communities in need by supplying them with clean and renewable energy sources.  Since its start in 2001, the nonprofit has worked to provide solar electricity and energy efficiency to low-income families.  They identify specific needs and provide solutions that are environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable.  Since 2004, they have installed 487 solar electric systems for low-income families throughout California.  These systems have reduced each families electric bill by 75%, which means a total of over $9.9 million in energy generated over the systems’ estimated life spans.  The systems will also prevent about 39,975 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over the next 30 years.

Hunger Prevention

Hunger is a major problem throughout America, but it is particularly visible in major cities, such as New York City.  To combat this epidemic, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger works to meet the immediate food needs of low-income New Yorkers, and come up with innovative solutions to help them move past soup-kitchens to self-sufficiency.  The non-profit represents the more than 1,200 nonprofit soup kitchens and food pantries in New York City.  Recently, the group has helped 30 agencies increase their food stamps outreach, leading to a 104,167-person increase in Food Stamp Program participation in the last year.


The San Francisco Education Fund focuses on improving the success rate of students in their public schools.  They take a multifaceted approach to the problem that makes use of teachers, volunteers, students, and strategic partnerships in order to make a difference.  The non-profit has been able to place more than 1,900 volunteers in San Francisco’s public schools, engage 757 students to serve 19,000 of their peers through the Peer Resources program, and award 19 grants to teachers to increase student outcomes in literacy and math and increase teacher retention, quality, and leadership.

Weekly Round-up of Featured Organization: Reach Out and Read, HIPPY USA, LIFT, and LISC

by The Way to Change Team

A weekly look at the recent accomplishments, partnerships, and successes of some of the organizations featured in The American Way to Change:

Reach Out and Read promotes early literacy and school readiness of young children in pediatric exam rooms nationwide by providing new books to children and discussing the importance of reading aloud with parents.  ROR teaches 3.9 million families annually about the importance of reading which leads to children with larger vocabularies who are more prepared to succeed in kindergarten.  The non-profit recently received nationwide attention when Earl Phalen was honored at the BET awards for his work with the organization.  Phalen was honored with the Shine a Light / Local Hero Award for his work on promoting education through ROR and Summer Advantage USA.  In his own words, “The best part of national recognition is that it gives us a chance to get more resources to serve every child in poverty and make sure all children enter school ready to learn.”

HIPPY USA helps teach parents how to get involved with the early education of their three, four, and five year old children so that they will be prepared for school and success.  They provide parents with a unique and tested curriculum, books and other materials to strengthen their child’s cognitive skills, early literacy skills, and social, emotional and physical development.  HIPPY USA is committed to making use of the most recent studies and advances in childhood education when forming a curriculum.  In keeping with this tradition, they have recently revamped the Age 4 curriculum.  The major changes will be less use of worksheets and more use of real life problems and exercises.  They also plan to update the illustrations and make the workbooks more environmentally friendly.  These advances help children better connect with the lessons and better prepare them to enter school.

LIFT works to combat poverty and provide opportunities for all people from all backgrounds across the nation.  Clients and volunteers work one-on-one to find jobs, secure safe housing, make ends meet through public benefits and tax credits, and obtain quality referrals for services like childcare and health care.  Their goal is to help all Americans achieve financial security and be able to pursue their goals.  LIFT is currently active in 5 major cities across the US.  Recently, the Philadelphia program reached a significant milestone of providing 2,000 clients with the tools needed to combat unemployment, poor housing, and financial instability.  This feat, which was accomplished in less than a year, highlights Philadelphia’s commitment to expand its volunteer base and promote increased community awareness.

LISC, or Local Initiatives Support Corporation, connects community organizers and local leaders with the resources necessary to revitalize neighborhoods and improve the general quality of life.  LISC gathers public and private resources and funnels them into local initiatives and priorities.  They aim to provide community development organizations with loans and grants, policy support on local, state, and national levels, as well as technical and management assistance.  Recently, the Corporation for National and Community Service awarded the group $2.2 million to support the 240 LISC AmeriCorps members who will help revitalize disadvantaged communities across the nation.  The award represents a 76% increase over the 2009 award and will help LISC make more improvements in more places.

Stay tuned next week…

Sagawa Discusses Service in Pittsburgh

by The Way to Change Team

Serving Pittsburgh: The city can raise volunteering to a whole new level

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

By Shirley Sagawa

The weak economy continues to leave people out of work and in need of help. Nonprofit groups are struggling to keep up with demand, but one piece of good news is that volunteering is up, according to data released last month by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

In Pittsburgh, one in four residents volunteers, making Pittsburgh the 25th out of 51 large cities in volunteering. That’s a good start, but it means that three out of four Pittsburghers don’t give their time.

Now, with a grant announced late last month by Cities of Service, an initiative of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Pittsburgh can flip that percentage. With this grant, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has funds to hire a chief service officer — an innovative new position that will help the city raise its volunteer rate and use volunteer service strategically to attack the city’s toughest challenges.

Volunteering is a longstanding American tradition. Volunteers played a critical role in building this country, from the early pioneers who raised each others’ barns and quilted each others’ blankets to those who ran the Underground Railroad and built the Appalachian Trail.

Volunteers were often pioneers whose work led to whole professional fields or American institutions. Public libraries, fire departments and social work began with volunteers. So, too, did broadcast radio, adult education, Morse code and professional baseball. Pro bono volunteer lawyers argued the historic Supreme Court cases that created the right to counsel and the right to “Miranda” warnings when you are arrested. Volunteers bought Bill Gates his first computer.

Although many people think of volunteers as nice but not necessary, that’s just not the case. While researching my recent book, “The American Way to Change: How National Service and Volunteers are Transforming America,” I found hundreds of examples of contemporary organizations that are achieving significant, measurable results against key challenges.

Among them are a volunteer tutoring program that eliminated racial gaps in reading in an urban school district, a youth-led energy-saving effort that has reduced CO2 emissions by tens of millions of pounds and a program where volunteer MBAs teach business skills to prisoners, reducing their recidivism rate dramatically. These are just a few examples of efforts that any local leader could adapt to almost any community.

Today’s volunteer workforce is changing both in the types of service needed and how people want to serve. Gone are the days of “least common denominator” volunteering when the task had to be something that anyone could do. Many volunteers today are looking to use their skills, not engage in a rote activity. Pro bono service is not just for lawyers, but for PR specialists, technology experts, systems engineers and many others.

Volunteers can offer many pairs of hands to undertake tasks that seem beyond our grasp and community knowledge that can power outreach efforts and sustain a neighborhood turnaround — or build the bridges that help people find their way out of poverty.

Yet despite this potential, it has been the rare policy maker who has included service in any comprehensive plan to address an issue. Instead, most nonprofit organizations work in isolation, scraping together the resources they need to engage volunteers productively, with their work often out of the view of other public problem solvers.

Pittsburgh’s new chief service officer will have a good base to build upon. Jumpstart, for example, pairs University of Pittsburgh student volunteers with Head Start students for one-on-one attention. The result: The tutored students improved their school-readiness skills by 29 percent above those of their peers. Similarly, Literacy• AmeriCorps members and the volunteers they recruited in Pittsburgh are helping thousands of adults learn to read or to speak English. And Pittsburgh Cares matches nearly 20,000 volunteers with positions each year.

With its new chief service officer, Pittsburgh joins California and New York City in this innovative new approach to public service. In 2008, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger became the first state leader to give his service commissioner a seat at the cabinet table. The next year, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed the nation’s first chief service officer. In both cases, the profile of service as a strategy was raised so that other cabinet secretaries and senior staff began to recognize its power to address the challenges they faced.

Now Pittsburgh has the opportunity to put its own stamp on this new way of doing the people’s business — by leveraging the power of the people themselves.

Shirley Sagawa is an author and a visiting fellow with the Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.

Read more:

Shirley Sagawa’s upcoming San Francisco Appearance

by The Way to Change Team

Thursday, July 15, at 6 pm, San Francisco Education Fund and Books Inc. co-host author Shirley Sagawa to discuss The American Way to Change: How National Service and Volunteers Are Transforming America, which tells the stories of real people who have dedicated themselves to service and the nonprofits that engaged them.  Books Inc. Opera Plaza location, 601 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco.

Weekly Results Round-up: Education, Community Development, Civic Involvement, and the Environment

by The Way to Change Team

A continuing series demonstrating the positive results achieved by the service organizations mentioned in this book through their hard work and perseverance.


Education Works helps connect schools with community partners to help aleviate current needs and pioneer new programs and services.  AmeriCorps members and community volunteers work to help students stay in school, inspire a love of learning, and take some of the pressure off of already overworked teachers.  From their founding in 1994 to 2008 Education Works showed much progress.  Students who benefited from the programs during the year showed more than one year’s academic growth on standardized tests.  In addition, teachers reported 90% of their students improved academically.  However, the benefits exceeded academia.  Teachers and principals rated more than 80% of students in our programs as having improved classroom behavior and engaged in less fighting.

Harlem Children’s Zone, first began in the early 1990′s when they ran a pilot project offering a range of support services to a single block in Harlem.  They wanted to address all the problems that poor families in the area were facing from health issues to education.  Today, the organization serves over 100 blocks in Harlem, which includes over 8,000 children and 6,000 adults.  Last year, 197 students from the program were accepted into college, representing 90% of their high-school seniors.  As for their younger participants, 100% of third graders at Promise Academies I and II tested at or above grade level on the math exam, outperforming their peers in New York State, New York City, District 5, and black and white students throughout the state.  The New York Times rightfully labeled the project, “one of the most ambitious social-service experiments of our time.”

Civic Involvement

Project SHINE is an initiative which works to join college students with elderly immigrants and refugees so that they can build relationships through language, literacy, and citizenship tutoring.  The project helps young people learn from people of diverse backgrounds, and it helps immigrants and refugees connect with their communities in meaningful ways.  SHINE has partnered with 31 colleges and universities and over 200 ethnic, community and faith-based organizations in 18 cities across the country.  Many professors incorporate service learning through SHINE into over 1000 courses.  SHINE students demonstrated statistically significant increases in civic skills and knowledge of U.S. immigration when compared with students who had not participated in SHINE.  Not to mention, they provided over 150,000 hours of service to almost 40,000 older immigrants.

Environmental Protection

Growing Native evolved out of a need for native hardwood seedlings to support expanding reforestation and restoration efforts in the Potomac River watershed.  Today, it is a program in which volunteers of all ages collect native tree seeds and plant them along streams and rivers in the region.  They are helping to create forests for the future which will help to keep water clean and healthy.  Since its beginning in 2001, nearly 30,000 volunteers collected more than 94,000 pounds of acorns, walnuts, and other hardwood tree seeds. These seeds have generated seedlings that will be used to restore sensitive stream side lands.

Stay tuned next week…

Weekly Round-Up of Featured Organizations: YouthBuild, Big Brothers Big Sisters, American Youth Work, and Equal Justice Works

by The Way to Change Team

A weekly quick look at the recent accomplishments, partnerships, and initiatives of a few of the organizations featured in The American Way to Change…

YouthBuild helps youth volunteers aide in community development, specifically addressing issues in low-income neighborhoods.  The organization helps low-income young adults work toward their GEDs or high school diplomas, learn job skills and serve their communities through building affordable homes, and transforming their own lives and roles in society.  Recently, Bank of America gave Youthbuild a grant of $500,000 to help them expand educational services to underserved youth.  The work of the youth in question will focus on building environmentally friendly housing in low-income areas.  With this partnership, Bank of America hopes that it is creating a path to success and career-readiness for at risk youths.

Big Brothers Big Sisters believes that every child, despite their background has the ability to succeed.  For over 100 year, the organization has made meaningful and fulfilling mentoring relationships with adults and children ages 6 to 18.  Last week, the Philadelphia branch of BBBS announced a partnership with the African Methodist Episcopal Church.  The partnership is focusing on helping children of single, low-income and incarcerated parents succeed, and is especially beneficial because many BBBS agencies are facing waitlists that disproportionally represent African American Boys.  According to AME Director of Christian Education Reverend Daryl Ingram, ”We can become Big Brothers or recruit volunteers, and we can help Big Brothers Big Sisters raise funds to grow their quality programs and provide the kind of ongoing support that makes their mentoring matches successful.”

American Youth Works, a group based in Austin, Texas, works to improve the lives and futures of at risk youth through education, service, and green jobs training.  They run a public charter high school, a GED program, and green jobs training and service programs.  Last week, the organization hired a new CEO, Parc Smith.  Smith started with American YouthWorks in 1995 as a teacher and crew leader for the Environmental Corps and later became Director of Environmental Corps and part of the Senior Management Team.  In addition, he has 17 years of trail design and park construction experience.   According to the Board President, Margarine Beaman, “The Board announces a new era at AYW. With the energy, dedication and integrity of Parc Smith as our CEO, we can only move forward to continue changing the lives of young people.”

Equal Justice Works wants to develop a just society by mobilizing the next generation of lawyers committed to equal justice.  They provide programs that begin with new law school students and extend into later careers in law. They provide the nation’s foremost public interest law fellowship program and offer more postgraduate, full-time legal positions in public service than any other organization.  Recently, the organization announced that it has chosen 43 law students and recent grads to be a part of the 2010 Equal Justice Works Fellowships.  The recipients will spend 2 years providing legal services for underserved people and causes.  The Fellows design projects with the help of nonprofit organizations to provide legal services in low income communities for a range of issues including homelessness prevention, immigration, criminal defense and Native American rights.

Stay tuned next week…