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

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

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…

Welcome to The American Way to Change Blog!

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