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Shirley Speaks at Press Conference for New Nonprofit Legislation

by The Way to Change Team

Yesterday, Shirley delivered remarks introducing new legislation, called the Nonprofit Sector and Community Solutions Act, H.R. 5533, to strengthen the nonprofit sector’s relationship with government.  The bill looks to establish a new council and inter-agency working group meant to produce annual reports and facilitate coordination between governmental leaders respectively. This bill also looks to charge more agencies with the task of collecting data and researching the work that nonprofits do.

Here are Shirley’s remarks:

I am thrilled to be part of this event and to be partnering with the  National Conference of Nonprofits.  We deeply appreciate Representative McCollum‘s leadership on behalf of nonprofits, including supporting innovation.  We especially appreciate your efforts to see that the Social Innovation Fund is fully funded.

I am here to represent America Forward, an initiative organized by New Profit, which includes more than 90 results-oriented, entrepreneurial nonprofit organizations with programs operating in 1000 American communities. Together, these organizations serve more than 10 million people per year and have a collective budget of more than $400 million. Coalition members and the America Forward effort focus directly on the toughest domestic challenges facing our nation in education, public health, poverty and economic mobility, workforce development, crime prevention, and civic engagement.

America Forward’s vision is that one day, our leaders and citizens will work together to foster innovation in the social sector, identify what works, and grow the best solutions to wherever they are needed. Our objectives are two-fold:
1) to introduce social innovation into the national dialogue, helping to fuel a discussion about new, more effective ways to solve domestic problems; and
2) to advance a policy agenda that will create an infrastructure for innovative nonprofits and government to act together to scale the impact of solutions that work.

We see this legislation as an important part of this policy agenda and are pleased to be working with Rep. McCollum as well as the partner organizations that have helped to frame this ground-breaking proposal.

With rare exceptions, the nonprofit sector is invisible to the federal government.  We have entire agencies devoted to supporting small business, trade, commerce, and other industries.  And yet, the nonprofit sector is just as vital to our economy, employing one out of ten individuals and delivering critical human, social, educational, and cultural services.  Innovation in the social sector is as important as it is in the business world.  This legislation will help the federal government do a better job supporting innovation in this realm.

We look forward to continuing to work with you to move this legislation in the next Congress.

How Service Can Tackle the High School Dropout Crisis

by The Way to Change Team

Where are you going to do your year of service? This was the question that Alan Khazei and Michael Brown had in mind when they founded City Year in 1989.  Their goal was to prove that a diverse group of young adults, 18 to 24 years old, could use their varied experiences along with their common-held energy and idealism to improve communities.

City Year quickly attracted funding from the Commission on National and Community Service along with other private foundations and individuals.  With this money, City year grew to nearly 1,000 corpsmembers.  Originally, these volunteers served at all types of nonprofit organizations that would benefit from the help of a team of young adults, but eventually they discovered that City Year’s greatest impact was on urban schools.

City Year aims to help students from lower school to high school build the skills they need to graduate from high-school and go on to college.  City Year has found “off-track” indicators that can predict which sixth graders are most likely to leave school without a diploma, these include poor attendance, unsatisfactory behavior, and course failure in math and English.

In their effort to help students stay on tract, with funding from Pepsico Foundation, City Year has partnered with Communities in Schools, the largest dropout prevention organization in the US, and Talent Development, a program at Johns Hopkins University that specializes in school reform models, to run Diplomas Now.

The program works to combat the drop-out crisis that many schools around the country, particularly in urban areas, are experiencing.  Research shows that the graduation rate in America’s 50 largest cities is 50 percent.  Nearly 2 in 5 African American, Hispanic, and Native American minority students fail to graduate on time.  And, 50 percent of the yearly high school dropouts come from just 12 percent of the country’s high school.  It is these high schools, and these students, that Diplomas Now works to serve.

The program partners the most challenged middle schools and high schools in the country with national service teams that can provide tutoring, mentoring, monitoring, and engagement activities at a scale that the schools would not otherwise be able to provide for their students, particularly for those that are having the most trouble.

The Diplomas Now model consists of whole school reform with research and evidence-based support factors, a teacher-friendly early warning system that gets proper intervention to troubled students in time, a team of adults that works with the administration and faculty to to support students at a scale and intensity that they could not otherwise provide, and a collaborative work environment that makes the job manageable.

The full-year pilot results from Feltonville School of Arts and Sciences, a high-poverty middle school of 750 students in Philadelphia, showcases the fantastic effect that Diplomas Now could have around the country.  The percentage of students off-track in attendance was reduced by 52%, the percentage of students off-track in behavior was reduced by 45%, the percentage of students off-track because of failing math was reduced by 83%, and the percentage of students off-track because of failing English was reduced by 80%.  Moreover, the school met Adequate Yearly Progress for the first time ever.  Mid-year results for the program in other cities show similar results.

While City Year’s partnership with Communities in Schools and Talent Development, along with their subsequent launch of Diplomas Now, is an important step in school reform, it is also important to remember that no progress could have been made without the hard work of the volunteers and corpsmembers.  Without them, there would have been no one to call parents to see why their children were not in school, or to spend an hour one-on-one with a student figuring the reasons for his disruptive behavior in class, or to teach a slow-learner how to read.

So, the question stands, where are you going to do your year of service?

Weekly Results Round-Up: Teaching, Exercise, Seniors, and College

by The Way to Change Team

A weekly series highlighting the results of the service and volunteer organizations covered in The American Way to Change.


Teach for America began when Princeton student, Wendy Kopp, questioned why college was so difficult for some students, and so simple for others.  She discovered that this educational inequity could be helped by sending talented graduates to low-income urban and rural schools to teach young students.  By 2009, there were 35,000 grads applying for 4,000 positions.  One study found that students of corps-members made significantly more progress in math during the year than would typically be expected of students, even those taught by certified veteran teachers.  In San Jose, California, the superintendent made first-year corpsmembers half of the faculty.  The school increased its score on the California Academic Index by 34 points, 28 points higher than the state average.

Encouraging Exercise

KaBOOM was started when Darell Hammond read a Washington Post story about two children who suffocated while playing in an abandoned car because they didn’t have anywhere else to play.  KaBOOM works to prevent trajedies such as this by organizing volunteers to build playgrounds, particularly in urban areas where children would otherwise have nowhere to go.  The organization has built over 1,600 play spaces and provided online tools, training, and technical assistance to help communities create hundreds of additional playgrounds on their own.  KaBOOM is well on its way towards achieving its goal of having a great place to play within walking distance of every child in America.

Senior Care

Senior Companions is a program of Senior Corps which works to pair adults 55 or older with a frail person who needs help preforming daily chores and activities in order to stay in their home.  Senior Companions can work up to 40 hours a week giving families or professional caregivers time off, running errands, or just being a friend to talk with.  Today, 16,000 senior Companions serve 58,000 frail adults.  Studies have shown that the program reduces depressive symptoms reported by clients and their families when compared to older adults on the waiting list for services.

College Preparation

Students in the low-income quartile who make A’s on standardized tests go to college at the same rate as higher-income students who make D’s on the the same tests.  College Summit works to increase the number of students who go on to college by providing students with the support necessary to apply for college and financial aid.  The program uses not only adult volunteers, but also “peer leaders” in the senior class to work with students in their own school.  The dramatic results show that schools who are part of the program increase college enrollment by an average of 16 percent over previous years.

Stay tuned for more next week…

Featured Organizations Weekly Round-Up

by The Way to Change Team

This is the first post in a weekly series on service and volunteerism in America by     celebrating the current campaigns, highlights, and news of the organizations featured in The American Way to Change.

AmeriCorps Alums is a national network of Americorps alumni that works to keep past volunteers connected so that they can can use their collective potential as leaders in their communities.  They are currently working on an initiative called We Serve.  Out of the 600,000 Americorps alumni, Americorps Alums has only been able to contact 1/5 of them.  In order to form a stronger and more in-depth network, they are launching We Serve so that more alumni will register and refer fellow alums.  Everyone who registers will be entered to win one of ten Target gift cards worth $100, and the 25 peple with the most referals will be entered to win the celebrity grand prize.  Hurry up and register, because the contest ends at 5pm EST on June 30th!

Public Allies works from the central principle that everybody leads.  They work to help new leaders strengthen communities, non-profits, and other areas of civic participation.  They belief that citizens from all backgrounds have the ability and the responsibility to step up and lead.  They recently launched a new Super Heroes fundraising campaign.  Following their belief that everyone has the power to be a Super Hero, they are asking for a donation of $18 to help spread their message.  To donate, visit Public Allies causes page on Facebook where you can also watch a short episode of Integrity Man’s adventures. works to advance national service, AmeriCorps, and social innovation as strategies to tackle our most pressing social challenges and strengthen our democracy.  This is accomplished through building a grassroots infrastructure to organize and mobilize a network for national service and through using social media for service.  Currently ServeNext is working on launching their Field Corps campaign.  They will select and train 10 Field Corps Community Organizers to lead grassroots efforts in their communities. The program aims to develop selected participants into well-trained and well-connected organizers that build and lead local networks of constituents.  These networks will raise the voice and visibility of great organizations in service, AmeriCorps, and social innovation fields so that more people serve and more leaders in all sectors understand their impact and value.  The application is due on June 15th, so apply soon!

Citizen Schools works to provide after-school education to middle school students.  Their programs compliment class-room education by engaging students in hand-on learning projects lead by adult volunteers.  They offer people the chance to apply for a National Teaching Fellowship, a two year leadership development experience that includes service as a leader at a Citizen School campus, professional development with a partner organization, and the opportunity for enrollment in a Master’s program in out-of-school learning.  On May 19th, 29 Citizen School Teaching Fellows earned their Master’s from Lesley University.  In the  commencement address, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised Citizen Schools, saying, “That work is close to my heart.”  He further said that Lesley’s partnership with Citizen School Teaching Fellows program was one of the top innovations in the University’s 100-year history.

Stay tuned next week for more news and updates.

Weekly Results Round-Up

by The Way to Change Team

The first in a weekly series to highlight results from organizations featured in The American Way to Change:

Early childhood education

In a traditional classroom setting, one teacher is put in front of 20-35 young students.  There is no way that each child can receive the one-on-one attention that is so important to early eduction.  However, with the help of 2,000 Experience Corps volunteers, 20,000 students from 170 schools are able to get increased student-teacher interaction.  These volunteers, aged 50+, work closely with individual students or small groups to help reinforce the lessons of the teacher with tremendous results.  A study of over 800 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade students in urban schools showed that students who worked with Experience Corps volunteers made 60 percent greater gains in sounding out new words and reading comprehension than other students.  A similar study showed that 3rd graders who had been served by Experience Corps members scored significantly higher on a state reading test than children who were not served.

Restoration of Polluted Areas

The Anacostia River, on of the most polluted rivers in the country, winds through the poorest part of DC.  Due to sewage, pollution, and trash it’s residents are unable to swim or fish in the river.  The Earth Conservation Corps helps to engage youth, ages 17 to 24, from the crime and drug ridden local area to clean up the river.  The corps cleans the river of debris, reconstructs the shoreline, builds community hiking trails, and plants trees.  In the course of the last decade, they have reintroduced bald eagles to the Anacostia watershed, turned 3 city dumps into city parks, and transformed 2 abandoned buildings into environmental education centers.


Obesity and malnutrition are becoming a common problem in America, particularly within low-income families.  Operation Frontline volunteers teach adults, teens, and children how to maintain a healthy diet and cook healthy meals on a budget.  In 2007, Operation Frontline offered courses to over 5,000 low-income families with a spectacular impact.  Almost 80 percent of participants in the course eat more vegetables after taking the class, the average participant eats a wider and healthier variety of foods and snacks, and 90 percent say that their cooking skills improved.  83 percent of participants directly used the recipes that they learned in class to prepare nutritious meals for their families.

Energy Conservation

Many of us have seen Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”, but few had the same reaction as Avery Harrison.  After watching the documentary and learning about the benefits of compact fluorescent lights, Avery decided to raise money to buy new light bulbs and “relight” New York City’s housing projects, thus forming RelightUS.  By 2009, 94 RelightUS teams had adopted 629 addresses, changed 112,476 light bulbs, eliminated 22,039,251 pounds of CO2 emissions, and saved $5,555,046 in energy costs.  RelightUS continues on it’s mission to conserve energy and protect the environment.

Stay tuned to see next weeks Results Round-Up!

Welcome to The American Way to Change Blog!

by Zach Maurin

In this space we’re going to be profiling the organizations in the book, talking about how citizens in service and volunteerism are a critical way to solve problems in America, and more.

Check  back often and let us know what you think, if you have feedback, or just want to say hello.

-Shirley and The American Way team