Saturday, March 6, 2010

Making Progress

The past few months of work have been a whirlwind of planning, networking, training, and collaborating. It took the first 6-7 months of my term to really figure out what I do (I know many of you are still wondering), what my daily tasks need to be, and what I can accomplish in the year I have been given. Now I finally feel as though I am getting things done, or at least setting other leaders up to be successful. Now that March has arrived, we will be traveling on a weekly basis all across the state, so stay tuned for road trip stories! This blog post will serve to update you all on what i've been attempting the past few months, and a bit of my own processing on where I can go in my last portion of my term.

HERDING CATS: As part of my position as Network Team Leader, I was asked to apply to be on the AmeriCorps Member Advisory Council when I first began my term. The point of the council is to gather members from different programs and areas in the state in order to collaborate on projects and build stronger relationships. It was frustrating at first because most of ACMAC is filled with VISTAs, and there was not a lot of shared knowledge of AmeriCorps state programs. For many of you reading this, you are probably still stuck on figuring out what these acronyms actually mean. Basically, the organization was not quite serving its purpose, and many areas of the state were not represented. Therefore, I collaborated with a friend to work on recruiting members from different programs located on some of the more rural areas that do not get a voice. It may not be the most rewarding of jobs, but it landed me the position as the Co-Coordinator. Now I am responsible for granting money for Global Youth Service Day, and putting my words into action. It has been important to me to work on setting up systems that will allow for success even when i'm no longer present. This is one piece of my job that I felt I could at least affect for now, and possibly encourage some collaboration on the reservations.

ITS ALL RELATIVE: Our first site visit brought me to Browning and Great Falls. Browning is a town outside of East Glacier on the Blackfeet Reservation. It is fairly close to Canada, and at the tail end of the tourism that booms in the summer from Glacier National Park. The campus we work with there is difficult to communicate with, but when projects occur they are extremely necessary. For our site visit, we set up meetings with members, the coordinator, and the team leader for early afternoon last Thursday. It was our surprise when we called to say we would be about 20 minutes late, and the coordinator responded with "oh shit". It seemed to shock us even more when we arrived on campus and realized that the buildings were empty. The coordinator met us willingly, but explained that the leader and members had left for Butte for a high school basketball game. We walked around the building, and realized that actually our coordinator was the only person left on campus. Frustrated and also slightly confused, we went along with the site visit the best we could. The campus was small, and did not have enough office space for a lot of the professors. Yet we had been requesting space for our AmeriCorps members to have a desk and a phone. I finally understood why communication had been difficult, and that there are major cultural differences that affect the work we do.

FLOORS OF SERVICE: Yes, that's right, once again I have found a way to include the Service Learning Community in my daily life. Turns out I don't stop talking about my experiences with the SLC at Elon. Team leaders on several campuses have begun working with departments and university heads to set up service floors / houses on their campuses. There are a few smaller campuses that have bought into the idea of an SLC and will be looking into how they work on their campus. i've given my input where appropriate, but am thrilled that they are going to give it a try. I am doing my best to adjust what I know has worked on the East Coast with the given culture at campuses here in the West. I think passing on service learning communities is the best way I can leave something sustainable to be built upon over the next few years.

So, I guess the lesson over the past few months has been that I have had to adjust my goals, figure out what I want to achieve, and work within the systems put in place here. Do I think that I can make a huge impact in just one year? No. However, I can do my best to provide resources and suggestions of how I think things can improve and create structures for these changes to be successful. Whether they work or not, is up to whoever takes them on in the future. In this business, with the short time i've been given, i've learned it is all about setting foundations for others to build upon and shape accordingly.

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