Americorps Stories – Crew 2012 by wuyunyi

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									                The AmeriCorps Pledge
           I will get things done for America
   To make our people safer, smarter, and healthier.
            I will bring Americans together
            To strengthen our communities.
        Faced with apathy, I will take action.
    Faced with conflict, I will seek common ground.
        Faced with adversity, I will persevere.
         I will carry this commitment with me
                 This year and beyond.
I am an AmeriCorps member, and I will get things done.


                               JOEL M. HAUBRICH, PAST CHAIR, WE ENERGIES
                                 SONDRA LEGRAND, PUBLIC REPRESENTATIVE
                                     THI LE, STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE
                                  MAIA PEARSON, YOUTH REPRESENTATIVE
                                 RACHEL GRAHAM, PUBLIC REPRESENTATIVE
                                   THOMAS DEVINE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
The State of Wisconsin, The Wisconsin National and Community Service Board, and the Federal Government, its
agents, instrumentalities, officers and employees, make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy of
the information and data contained in this AmeriCorps Reflection Book

Furthermore, make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy or usefulness of any translation of the
information written in this Reflection book. Furthermore, make no representations as to the availability of the
written material and accept no liability however arising for any loss resulting from the use of the printed material
and any information and data or reliance placed on it (including translated information and data); Furthermore,
make no representations, either expressed or implied, as to the suitability of the said information and data for any
particular purpose. Nor are the materials represented as being all-inclusive, correct, complete or up-to-date.

Serve Wisconsin holds the right to edit and withhold submitted pieces for content,
materials. Serve Wisconsin holds the right to use and publish materials submitted to this publication.

*Compiled by Gloria Nikolas, Serve Wisconsin-Program Officer
June 2012

                                                                   TABLE OF CONTENTS

ARC WISCONSIN .............................................................................................................................................. 4-8
BELOIT FRESH START PROGRAM ........................................................................................................................ 9-27
Boys and Girls Club—Greater Milwaukee ............................................................................................... 28-71
UW-Eau Claire: Blugold Beginnings ....................................................................................................... 72-148
Cap Services Fresh Start Waupaca ...................................................................................................... 149-161
Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project ................................................................................................. 162-1765
College Possible Milwaukee ................................................................................................................ 176-221
Department of Public Instruction WI................................................................................................... 222-246
Easter Seals Wisconsin......................................................................................................................... 247-267
Eau Claire Fresh Start........................................................................................................................... 268-271
ECLIPSE-U.W.-Eau Claire ...................................................................................................................... 272-318
Wisconsin AmeriCorps Farm To School ............................................................................................... 319-334
Indianhead Community Action Agency ............................................................................................... 335-345
Marshfield Clinic AmeriCorps .............................................................................................................. 346-419
Milwaukee Christian Center ................................................................................................................ 420-429
Milwaukee Teacher Education Center (MTEC) .................................................................................... 430-443
North Central Community Action Program-AmeriCorps Team Greater Wausau ................................ 444-473
Operation Fresh Start .......................................................................................................................... 474-479
PARTNERS FOR COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT.................................................................................................. 480-496
Partners for After School Success (PASS) ............................................................................................ 497-534
Project Grow-Board of Regents of the UW System ............................................................................. 535-546
Renewal Unlimited, Portage Fresh Start ............................................................................................. 547-556
United Way of Dane County Schools of Hope ..................................................................................... 557-579
Sixteenth Street Community Health Coop........................................................................................... 580-589
Teach for America................................................................................................................................ 590-619
United Way of Dane County Mobilizing Skilled Volunteers................................................................. 620-641
Urban Education Fellows Program-Mount Mary ................................................................................. 642-673
WAHRS-Direct Service Outreach to Runaways .................................................................................... 674-695
Wausau Fresh Start-Wausau Area Hmong Mutual Association .......................................................... 696-698
Western Dairyland Fresh Start-Jackson County .................................................................................. 699-706
WISCONSIN PRIMARY HEALTH CARE ASSOCIATION.......................................................................................... 707-718
WISPIRG ............................................................................................................................................... 719-721

           ARC-WI Volunteer

Volunteer Partnerships AmeriCorps Members serve to develop and support volunteer
opportunities for high school and college students as well as adults with disabilities. Volunteer
Partnerships combines the philosophy of inclusion with the spirit of volunteerism by seeking
members with and without disabilities. Beyond impacting the broad needs of community
volunteerism, members help create volunteer opportunities that have a positive impact on:
Health habits of individuals with disabilities, needs of veterans in our community, economic
opportunity for people with disabilities and educational opportunities for students and young
adults with disabilities. Members are responsible for planning, recruiting, and supporting
volunteers with disabilities for volunteer activities.

                                      Personal Benefits of Service
                                            Barbara McGrath
                                     ARC-WI Volunteer Partnerships
                                              Senior Center
                                             Henry Vilas Zoo
                                      U.S. Congressional District 2
                                       State Assembly District 48
                                        State Senate District 26

In 2010, I was involved with Vocational Rehabilitation. I was hoping to find a better employment
situation. I was working a part time job in home health, which did not pay well and was physically
taxing. My job counselor, Tammie Murray, told me about the ARC-WI AmeriCorps program. At first I
had some doubts, but after getting additional information, I decided to give a try. I went to Tenney Park
for an introductory park clean-up and information session. We all got submarine sandwiches for lunch,
and cleaned that park area. I found this relaxing. I decided to sign up.

I have chosen to complete the majority of my service hours at the West Side Senior Coalition helping
with meals. I had kind of a slow start because I only went there two days per week in the beginning. I
got to know the supervisor, and she consented to my being there more hours. I enjoyed eating lunch
with the seniors after everything was prepared, and found the supervisor, Mary, to be very nice and
comfortable to work with. She is a good boss.

I did talk to Pat about getting more hours and found out about several opportunities, helping with house
work for people with disabilities to help them stay in their homes. I met Cindie, who I now consider to
be a friend. I also did a second food drive last year at the Dane County Mental Health Center, and
several workers helped me. One lady even gave me a ride to Second Harvest to deliver the food. They
were very supportive.

I also found out about Savory Sundays, which is a meal for homeless people, but will feed everyone that
shows up. I hope to participate this spring and summer with that program.

This year I also decided to volunteer at the Vilas Zoo. AmeriCorps has helped me meet some people I
probably would not have met otherwise and is giving me the chance to feel productive and work toward
a better future. I hope to continue these positive experiences beyond this year. I am part of a walking
group that meets on Thursdays, and have met several people that are interesting there, too. I hope that
this organization continues to get grants in the future, because I think it has helped a lot of people, as
well as me.

I am a woman with a history of mental health and addiction issues who has found that serving as an
AmeriCorps member is as good for me as those I help through my role as a member.

                                        A Companion and a Friend
                                                Kathy Theis
                                      ARC-WI Volunteer Partnerships
                                      Warner Park Community Center
                                         Downtown Senior Center
                                       U.S. Congressional District 2
                                        State Assembly District 48
                                          State Senate District 26

I first learned about AmeriCorps from my program manager, Mary Jacobs. She thought since I already
had a strong service commitment that this would be good for me. I trust Mary and found that my
AmeriCorps leaders were very supportive which helped me feel more comfortable to participate in
AmeriCorps. Through AmeriCorps, I have been able to expand my volunteer commitment to the
community and grow personally.

Right now I serve at Warner Park community center. I set tables and help serve food to the elderly who
come for a nutritious meal at noon. I help clean up afterwards. I really enjoy my co-workers whom I
have gotten to know well. I do not just have a relationship with my co-workers but also with the seniors
who come for lunch. I get to see the same people every day, so one can’t help but to form friendships.
After the meal and clean up there is a few of the seniors who like to go for a walk either outside or
inside. I often join them for the walk not only for the exercise but for the companionship.

This past year I applied to serve at the Downtown Senior Center. There is a dance every Thursday where
a live band plays big band music. My job is to make the punch and prepare the snacks for the 2pm
break. I also clean up afterwards. I did not know if I wanted to do this at first but now I find that it is my
favorite time of service all week. Another area I serve is as a companion for a gentleman with a
disability named Dennis several evenings a week. I find that I have a good listening ear for him and am
able to give him advice when he asks for it.

Being an AmeriCorps member has been good for me. I not only have expanded my service to the
community but have participated in some AmeriCorps outreaches that have stretched me personally.
For example, we all meet in committee groups. I don’t always feel comfortable meeting in a group like
that. My staff supervisor, Pat, has helped lessen the anxiety I sometimes feel. She picks me up and
brings me back home from the meetings. We recently had a program food drive. I did not want to hand
out flyers to my neighbors and collect food. Pat helped me participate but in a smaller capacity. Instead
of handing flyers to my neighbors in my apartment complex, I handed them to people I knew either at
Warner park community center or support people who work with me. I still was not excited to do this
but felt more comfortable with this alternative plan. What I found was that people were glad to help,
and I collected quite a lot of food to donate to Community Action Coalition. Being an AmeriCorps
member has been a good experience for me.

My name is Kathy Theis, and I am a woman with an intellectual disability, and an AmeriCorps member.

                                A Second Year of Serving – and Loving It!
                                               Rick Petzke
                                     ARC-WI Volunteer Partnerships
                                     Watershed Community Center
                                            Henry Vilas Zoo
                                              Hospice Care
                                      U.S. Congressional District 2
                                       State Assembly District 48
                                        State Senate District 26

As a Second year AmeriCorps member, I have to say that my favorite place to serve is at a story the
Henry Vilas Zoo. I had one of the best supervisors at the zoo that I have ever had in my entire life. In my
twelve years doing custodian work I never had a supervisor like the one at the zoo. His name is Bob and
he is the supervisor for the carousel and the train. Last year, when I was the train engineer and
occasionally the train conductor I made a lot of people happy, including Bob because he would ask me
to pick up shifts or fill in for openings. Plus, Bob was also there as a personal friend to me when I
needed it which was helpful to me.

In my second year, I’m doing more administrative work for a Community Center in Stoughton. The
working relationship and personal relationship that I have with Jeff has been as good as the zoo, if not
better. We share ideas, have conversations, and he’s there when I need to talk about something. It has
been amazing to me to see and work with the people at the different sites that are in the Volunteer
Partnerships network. It seems like the service sites in the network are a lot more considerate, friendly,
and compassionate and there is a real willingness to work to understand people with disabilities. They
seem to really get how to work with them, understand them and relate to them. Let me tell you as a
person with a disability who has been in the work world and now serving as an AmeriCorps member,
there is a big difference in the treatment that I have received between the work world and my service.
Not only attitude wise but the personal treatment differs a lot too. Through Volunteer Partnerships, my
supervisors are a lot more conscious of people with disabilities they treat them gentler, with a lot more
understanding in regard to schedules. It has been a very nice and a deserving change of pace for me. I
have come to love serving and would like to continue as long as I am able to do so. It gives me
personally such an overwhelming sense of worth that I have never felt in my entire life.

I am a man with a learning disability and a passion for helping others.

                                       Stay Busy, Stay Successful
                                             Adam Walther
                                     ARC-WI Volunteer Partnerships
                                      Community Action Coalition
                                            Second Harvest
                                             Cat Sanctuary
                                      U.S. Congressional District 2
                                       State Assembly District 48
                                        State Senate District 26

I have been an AmeriCorps member with Volunteer Partnerships for two years. AmeriCorps is a national
service organization that addresses community needs. In my two years of service, I have served at many
community centers and nonprofit organizations, and worked with other members in their service work.
I have spent many hours at Community Action Coalition and Second Harvest Food Bank, both food
distribution centers that provide food to local emergency pantries in Madison. Volunteer Partnerships is
an AmeriCorps program that focuses on including members with disabilities. Recently, I went with two
other members to help at a concessions stand run by a nonprofit organization for their Cat Sanctuary.

That Saturday night we arrived at the hockey game ready to help for the evening, but had little idea of
what we were going to be doing at the concessions stand. The other two AmeriCorps members who
were with me have developmental disabilities and can struggle with staying focused. The moment we
arrived at the stand all three of us were put to work. We joined a team of four others. At the stand our
duties included preparing the food, filling soda cups and putting together orders. We had one hour to
get the stand stocked and ready before the crowds arrived so there was no extra time standing around
wondering what to do. When the stand opened for service we had many patrons and had to work
diligently to keep up with the food and beverage orders. Throughout the game we continued to be busy
and remained that way until it was time to close the stand down and clean up from the night. In total
we spent five hours in the concessions stand with a 20 minute break in the middle. During the whole
activity the three of us worked very well together. We were all challenged with the amount and
intensity of the work and were all successful. This service project was especially challenging for the two
members with developmental disabilities. It required them to remain focused for a long period of time,
to carry out requests from others, and to physically exert themselves more than normal. I found that
the more challenged they were to utilize their skills the more they were able to accomplish, and the
more consistently they were required to focus the longer they were able to maintain their focus.

While serving at the hockey game I learned some things I can apply to future service opportunities.
When I am having difficulty maintaining focus or serving with people who have difficult focusing, it is
better to keep busy and not allow for time to drift. Also, the more you challenge yourself and others
with activities that utilize your skills the more likely you are to work to your maximum capacity. I look
forward to continuing my service and exercising what I learned from this great opportunity.

I am a man with a history of mental health issues who enjoys the chance to act in ways that help others
and support others to succeed.

Beloit Fresh Start

                                 From the Hood to AmeriCorps
                                          Da’mon Simms
                                    Beloit Fresh Start Program
                                 U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                 State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                      State Senate District 15

Hello, my name is Da’mon Simms and I am 20 years old. I moved to Beloit, WI in June 2011 from
Milwaukee, WI to change my life around. I was having a hard time with my family, getting a job,
and the hood. My life before AmeriCorps was definitely not the best. I lived day by day, doing
nothing, so I knew I had to change. The AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program is helping me get
my life together by learning new skills and traits. As I learned these new traits, I can use them in
my future when needed.

At my AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program, we rehab houses. We had to insulate the outside
of the house and put siding up. The siding was easy to do, but it took a lot of work. After
putting up siding, we built the porch and worked our way into the house. It was time to start
putting the floor down and putting up walls and so on. We also do other community service
projects. At the ECHO Mobile Food Market we give away food for those who have none. We
also helped out the community by going to the Stateline Boys & Girls Club to do activities with
the children.

The other AmeriCorps members and I are doing a lot for our community by helping to rebuild
the torn down homes in the hood. After the houses are done, we make them available for low
income families to own. All the projects that I’m doing to help rebuild my community are
wonderful and I like working with the people in my community. I enjoy helping at ECHO Mobile
Food Market by giving away loads of food to those who don’t have any food at the time. I’m
impacting someone’s life by building a roof over someone’s head and giving away food to put in
people’s stomach.

I have grown a lot by doing these volunteer projects. I’m learning new traits by working on the
house and learning how to be a better citizen by helping at ECHO Mobile Food Market and
Stateline Boys & Girls Club. I think community service is very important especially to those who
receive these services. No matter what the service is, we help our community in a lot of ways
and you can see the improvements each year. These volunteer projects can really help my
future because we bless others, so we can be blessed the same way down the line sometime.

                               My Life Journey with AmeriCorps
                                        Deontai Turner
                                  Beloit Fresh Start Program
                               U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                    State Senate District 15

Hi, my name is Deontai Turner and I am 21 years old. I am in the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start
Program. I have been in this program for six months. Before I started this program, I was in the
St. Louis Jobs Corp Program. That program did not work out for me, so I moved to Beloit, WI. I
joined AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program because I need an education.

In the community, I volunteer my service to help people. For my community service project, I
am helping to rebuild a house for families with low income. I love working on the house. I also
volunteer my time by being a worship leader and keyboard player for my church. I have been
helping my church for five years. Before I get up on Sunday, I practice on my keyboard and
practice singing. I love to sing and I love God. I think it’s very important to go to church.

I help people in my community by refurbishing a house for low income families, tutoring and
mentoring young people at the Stateline Boys and Girls Club, and hand out food on a monthly
basis to low income and homeless people in Rock County.

I have grown a lot at an adult by learning how to build the house. I have also grown through
helping others in the community. These volunteer projects have shown me how I have
impacted others by helping in my community. By doing all of these volunteer projects, these
experiences can help me in my future.

                                 Growing Through AmeriCorps
                                        Shaina Wasmund
                                   Beloit Fresh Start Program
                                U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                     State Senate District 15

Upon the start of my AmeriCorps journey at the age of 19, my eyes were closed to all the
opportunities set before me. Before this opportunity, life seemed to have come to a dead-end.
Not knowing where to turn, left me unmotivated and unwilling to put forth any further efforts
towards something. I felt I was already lost. Joining AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program was
the eye opener I needed.

In the last few months, I have taken the opportunity to give back to the community by
contributing in the building of a house that will someday become someone’s home. Through
AmeriCorps, I have also volunteered for ECHO, a mobile food market. It’s always a positive
experience being able to see the smiles on people’s faces when I hand them their food.

Being able to help out low income families by providing a roof over their head, or just
tomorrow’s sandwich bread, impacts me in a positive sense. I have learned that exuding a
positive attitude can cause a chain reaction. In turn, this leaves an impact on these families to
look at things in a more positive light.
Participating in community service has encouraged me to continue towards growing. I have
grown through AmeriCorps, my community service, and my experiences through this program.
In the future I plan on taking all these experiences and continuing my growth in college.

                              What I have Learned in AmeriCorps
                                      Kenyatta Wortham
                                  Beloit Fresh Start Program
                               U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                               State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                    State Senate District 15

My name is Kenyatta Wortham and I am 19 years old. I am currently a student at the
AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program. My life before I joined AmeriCorps was pretty simple. I
was in an alternative school program. The alternative school principle recommended me to the
AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program. Truth is told, I joined this program based on the
opportunities that are offered including getting my high school diploma. Other experiences
include working to rehab a house and the opportunity to get a Presidential Service Award for
putting in at least one hundred volunteer hours. I also get the opportunity to earn a scholarship
once I have completed nine hundred hours for participating in the AmeriCorps program.

When it comes down to community service, I help rehab a house which has been a great
experience for me. I got to know what it’s like to be a construction worker. I also help pass out
food for ECHO Mobile Food Market. I enjoy this experience because I am giving back to the
community by helping out those who need it. I also have helped community members during
the winter, shoveling driveways and sidewalks that have snow on them, cleaning up their
houses, and helping set up for parties. All of these volunteer projects were great experiences
for me. I was helping people out and that is something I have a passion for when it comes down
to people.

During community service, I help people who are in need of help or those who had wanted
help. These people have been impacted by my hard work, because they are thankful and
grateful. They are happy to see that there are people out here in this cruel world that actually
care and take the time out of their day to help volunteer to serve them to the best of our

I have grown by doing community service, because it has given me a different view of the things
I took for granted in my life. Volunteering has given me the opportunity to help others that are
in need and that is what I’m interested in doing in my future. Community service fills in gaps
between an individual and a community. It also benefits the volunteer because you gain
practical skills and experience, build a strong networking base, and gain opportunities to
explore new career tracks.

                                 What AmeriCorps Mean to Me
                                         La’Quann Kendall
                                    Beloit Fresh Start Program
                                 U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                 State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                      State Senate District 15

My name is La’Quann Kendall and I am 18 years of age. Before I attended AmeriCorps Beloit
Fresh Start Program, my life was pretty complicated. I had been living in a struggle as long as I
can remember. I have a son, I am single, and I live with my parents. The reason why I applied
for this program is because I felt like it was an opportunity for me to do just a little more with
my life instead of just attending regular high school. This program has benefited my life, in so
many ways, and has helped relieve a lot pressure in my life. AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start
Program is a really good program that should never be shut down.

My major volunteer project is being a construction trainee at my program. We are currently
rehabbing a house in the Merrill neighborhood. I have learned a lot of new skills from putting
up siding on a house to using power tools and hand tools. We are building a house basically
from the ground up to roof top. I also volunteer with a mobile food market called ECHO. We
volunteer by helping pass food out, pushing carts, and cleaning up afterwards. I also volunteer
at the Stateline Boys and Girls Club. There I get to mentor and help out with the kids. I do fun
activities with them and show them a good time.

I help the community when I am doing my volunteer service projects. I help people who are low
income or people who live in poverty that can’t afford a house to get a chance to buy one of
our houses that we built. It benefits the neighborhood as well by making the community look
better. If community members see young students trying to build the community in the rough
neighborhood they live in, maybe it will show sympathy in a good way for others.

I have grown by helping the community where there are a lot of people who really need it.
Doing things for others has been a good impression on myself but also shows other people who
are in our neighborhood too. It’s important to volunteer, because somebody in our community
has to step up and put in the work to build our society and build our community. I think this
program will help me in my future with a job and also improve me. I now know I have it in me
to help others out. I also know now that I need to try and make an impact in the most positive
way for our community.

                                    Life through AmeriCorps
                                       Christopher Dawson
                                   Beloit Fresh Start Program
                                U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                     State Senate District 15

My name is Christopher Dawson and I am 20 years old. I live in Beloit, WI. I had hard times in
high school and making it though classes. I was kicked out of school and that left me with no
high school diploma. I heard about the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program and I felt that
this was what I needed to get through high school and get my diploma. I also wanted to learn
life skills and construction trainee skills from the house we would build.

For my volunteer project, I help at ECHO, which is a mobile food market, every month and help
give out food to the people who need it. I also volunteered at the Stateline Boys and Girls Club.
There I got to play with the kids and talk to them about how important it is to stay in school and
be good while you are at school. I also help rehab a house and make it into a brand new house.
We put all the windows, insulation, new wood for the floors, and all new appliances into our

We help the whole Beloit community by giving food to the ones that need it, talking to the kids
and trying to guide them the right way, and by cleaning up the community by building new
homes. By building this new, nice house in the Beloit community, it makes the neighborhood
look nice.

I have grown to like helping others and doing volunteer service projects. I never knew how
many people where in need and how much they appreciate the help. It is important to me,
because I think about what these people would have to do to get food if ECHO didn’t give it to
them. These experiences will help me in the future when I need help. If anyone asks me if I
have volunteer, I can say yes that I have done a lot for my community.

                                      Being a Better Person
                                         Mandy Lippert
                                   Beloit Fresh Start Program
                                U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                     State Senate District 15

I’m a 20 year old young single mother through the beautiful yet difficult life of being a mother.
Before the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program, I was going nowhere fast with my life. I was
having troubles finding faith in myself to succeed. Last year, my brother was a member of the
AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start program and made something of himself. After watching my
brother go through his experiences with this program I thought to myself that could be me. It’s
very hard for me to see myself anywhere other than the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program.
It’s a privilege for me to be here and to have gained success through the AmeriCorps Beloit
Fresh Start Program.

This program has taught me to multitask through things. For instance, I am building a house
through the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program and, at the same time, building and helping
a not so fortunate family afford a home. I am also making the neighborhood a more attractive
place at the same time. I am learning how to build a home and the difficulties of doing so. My
OSHA certification, which I gained through the program, has taught me a lot about safety and
the severity of injuries that could happen if I was being unsafe.

I feel that through helping others has been a great experience. When I go to Echo Mobile Food
Market, I am supplying people who are less fortunate so they do not have to go without food
for the month. Also, when I go to the construction site, my peers and I are rehabing a home to
supply a family with warmth and the ability to have a roof over their heads. By doing volunteer
projects I know that I have done something good for someone. I am happy that I have done
good deeds for others and that’s the best feeling of all.

I have grown from these experiences in so many ways. From OSHA to Odyssey, to construction
to all the volunteer opportunities I have gained new skills that I can use in my future. I have
learned how to be safe, do things right, how to build a home the less expensive way, and have
gained new doors of opportunity from this program. The doors of opportunities have opened
for me and running with the opportunity allows me to have so many job options and
experiences for my future. I have learned that helping others is a rewarding experience. From
my experiences with the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program, I will be able to support my
daughter and myself from here on out. AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program has helped me
learn to stand on my own two feet. I am so thankful for every moment and experience in this

                                     AmeriCorps Reflection
                                         Anthony Smith
                                   Beloit Fresh Start Program
                                U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                     State Senate District 15

My name is Anthony Smith and I am 19 years old. I’m writing this paper to give everyone a
clearer view on the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program. Before I came to this program, I was
a student at Beloit Memorial High School. I was in 11th grade when I was kicked out for having a
bad history of being a “skipper”. Luckily I had a chance to talk to my counselor who
recommended me to sign up for AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program.

Once I was in the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program, I learned that there is a lot that could
be done throughout our community. Some things that need volunteers to help with are
different food shelters, pick-up trash around the community, and help our elder people in the
community with yard work and house work. Most of the people who I help are so grateful for
some assistance. It makes my volunteer service so much easier to do and it is such a relief to
just know I made a difference in someone’s life.

For some people, things in their life might not come easy or they might not have someone to
help them with things or any type of assistance. Volunteering allows you to help out your
community in some way. By volunteering, you can clearly see that in the future you will have a
better outlook on your community and your life.

                                  My journey in AmeriCorps
                                         Vontasia Travis
                                   Beloit fresh start program
                                U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                     State Senate District 15

Hello, my name is Vontasia Travis and I am 20 years old. My life before AmeriCorps was being a
single teenage mother of a child. I had to raise a new born daughter starting July 5, 2011. I
heard about the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program from a friend that attended the
program last year. The program sounded very interesting because they said you get your high
school diploma and help your community at the same time. The local public high school that I
was attending was not very supportive towards helping me get my high school diploma since I
had a child.

One of the volunteer services that I do for my community is help rehab a home for low-income
families. My peers and I build a house that was ragged and torn down and making it new. I also
volunteer my time at the ECHO Mobile Food Market. There I help people in need of food that
cannot afford it at times. I also helped volunteer with children at the Boys & Girls Club. There I
get to be a mentor by doing activities with them like reading books and playing games. For
another volunteer project, I help clean my church every Saturday. I do this to have a clean
church for Sunday service.

When I volunteer my time, low-income families are very appreciative of all the hard work I put
into rehabbing a home for them. The different people at the ECHO Mobile Food Market like to
see students, of our age, give back to them and help our community. I put smiles on their faces
every month when I take the time to help pass out food. At the Boys &Girls Club, the children
look up to me as role model and as a mentor. I encourage the kids to make smart choices in
their futures as they grow-up. I encourage them to stay in school and to not do drugs.

By volunteering in my community, it makes me feel like I’m doing a good deed in life. I love
taking time out from my life to help people in need. I think by doing these volunteer service
projects, it has helped my community turn out to be nicer and cleaner place. I like being a
positive leader to the younger youth. I like being the biggest person. Being in the AmeriCorps
Beloit Fresh Start Program has really motivated me to be successful in my life and my child’s

                                What I have Gained From AmeriCorps
                                           Devontee’ Faulk
                                     Beloit Fresh Start Program
                                  U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                  State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                       State Senate District 15

My name is Devontee’ Faulk, and I am 18 years old. I am a member of the AmeriCorps Beloit
Fresh Start Program. I have been a member since August 2011. I came to the AmeriCorps Beloit
Fresh Start Program because I needed a fresh start on my education since I was expelled from
Beloit Memorial High School. Before I came to this program, I was out of school for a year and I
didn’t want to go back to the high school for multiple reasons. The AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh
Start Program had a more teenage tolerance education system for students who need more
one on one attention. At the public high school there are too many students and the help is
low. The main reason I joined this program is so I can achieve my high school diploma and move
forward with help and guidance in my life.

As an AmeriCorps member, I do a lot of volunteer service projects. For an example, once a
month I volunteer my service to the people at the ECHO Mobile Food Market Program. There I
assemble and pass out food to people in need of it. As a member of the AmeriCorps Beloit
Fresh Start Program, I work on reconstructing homes for low income families who dream of
owning a home. Mondays through Fridays the program, as a team, works on this home. We do
everything from framing to putting on the last finishes on the house. The home is my main
volunteer service project that I will accomplish. By working on the house, I learn new skills in

The people that I impact from my volunteer service projects are the people at the ECHO Mobile
Food Market. They really enjoy my presences and services when I pass out the food. I interact
with the people by getting to know them, laughing with them, and having fun. The hard work
that I do for others puts food in their homes and smiles on their faces. I also put in a lot of hard
work on building the house. Restoring the house is a wonderful contribution to the community.
My volunteer service project brings a home that was ready to be torn down to transforming it
to be ready to be bought for a low income family. By restoring the house, it also cleans the
neighborhood up and brings nice homes into the community. Another volunteer service project
that I work on individually is working with the youth at my local church. Every day after school I
tutor kids and play with them. To me, it is a huge impact to have somebody who is still in
school, that the kids are familiar with, help them with their school work.

Doing volunteer service projects has helped me realize I can still help many people while I am getting
help too from the program. When doing volunteer service projects you might feel like it is boring
sometimes, but you have to remember that volunteering can help you get a job and it helps build your
résumé. Working for your community is a great way to get involved and meet people. I think that
everybody should do a little volunteering every now and then because every little bit counts.

                              Improving My Life with AmeriCorps
                                         Andrew Hauck
                                   Beloit Fresh Start Program
                                U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                     State Senate District 15

My name is Andrew Hauck. I was 17 years old when I found out about the AmeriCorps Beloit
Fresh Start Program. I was struggling in school and getting in trouble with the law. I joined
AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program hoping they could help me. Many people have told me
no and that I couldn’t make it at the high school. At the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program
they told me I could achieve my goals.

Through the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program, I have helped the community and myself
by: staying out of trouble, cleaning up trash, and helping out people, friends, family, and
neighbors by volunteering. I never say no when someone needs help. I volunteer at ECHO
Mobile Food Market by passing out food to those in need of it. I also help rehab a house, so it
makes the community look better and provides a place for a family to live. I also work hard to
help improve our community by cleaning up trash. I have helped my friends, family, and
neighbors by giving them a hand with moving things, driving them to places, fixing things, and
handing food out to older community members.

By doing volunteer service projects, I have grown by becoming more responsible and
independent. I have been able to get a job, moved out of my parent’s house, rent my own
apartment, and have been able to take care of my girlfriend and myself. I have been able to
obtain a job that pays more than minimum wage and I have been able to purchase my own car.
Volunteering in my community has made me happier and has made me feel better about

                            Experience in the AmeriCorps Program
                                           Tesia Hill
                                  Beloit Fresh Start Program
                               U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                               State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                    State Senate District 15

Before hearing about the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program, I was a pregnant teenager. I
had just failed my senior year of high school because I never went to school. At that time I was
pretty distraught. My mom worked at Community Action, Inc. and she knew about the
AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program. She had me talk to one of her coworkers, who knew
even more about the program, and soon after I was convinced I was going to do join the
AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program. I needed to do something with my life since I was 18
years old and had no high school diploma.

For my volunteer service project, I hand out food at the ECHO Mobile Food Market. It is a good
experience because all the people really appreciate my help. They always say, ‘Thank you for
helping us out!’ or ‘What you are doing is so sweet!’ Volunteering is rewarding because it
makes you feel like you could really make a difference. I want to continue volunteering at ECHO
Mobile Food Market even after the program is done, that is, if I stay in Beloit.

The people that come to ECHO Mobile Food Market are low income families. There is a lot of
food at this event, so it is a good opportunity for people to get the food that they need for the
month. The people who always thank me have been impacted by me because I am always very
nice to them. I have conversations with the people and make jokes with them while they are
going through the food line. They really enjoy talking with me. In an economy that is so bad,
free food and good conversation seems to make everyone in a better mood.

I have grown by doing volunteer service projects, because I am more aware of the fact that
other people are struggling too. Every teenager thinks the world is out to get them, but by
seeing that other people have problems in their lives makes me more appreciative of my life.
Volunteering is an eye opening experience and it is also a fun way to help my community.

                            What I have Learned From AmeriCorps
                                      De’Quon Holliman
                                  Beloit Fresh Start Program
                              U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                              State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                    State Senate District 15

At the age of 18 years old, I came to the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program because it was
a good opportunity for me to get my high school diploma. At the public high school, I had a lot
of problems with the teachers not being very supportive of me. It was very hard for me to focus
when I was at school. I had too many friends in all my classes that did not want to work. I let
others influence me when I was at the high school. At the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start
Program, I was able to get the one-on-one attention I needed to help me stay focused with my
life. I also got a trade doing construction as well at the program. At the program, they taught
me jobs skills and showed me how to prepare for college. I have also learned a lot of life skills
like how to budget my money and how to be a smart renter for when I get my own apartment.

For my volunteering service project I work on a construction site where I build a house. It was
an old house that should have been burned down, but we make it new again. I am learning how
to put in new floors, doors, windows, and more. I am learning a lot of new skills and I will be
able to use what I have learned on my own house some day. I also volunteer at the ECHO Food
Market. I hand out food to people who can’t afford it. I also put food in the carts and load
people’s cars with the food.

When we build the house, we are building it for low income families. These families can afford
the house because we sell it for a low price. We are giving these families an opportunity to own
their own home and we are able to provide shelter to them. At the ECHO Food Market, I am
helping many people who might not have enough money for food. Some of these people are
also disabled, so I feel good about helping them.

From volunteering, I have learned how to work with all types of people. I learned we need to
work as a team and get along, no matter our differences. I have learned that it is good to help
others and give back to the community. When I help people, I can tell that they are happy that I
am helping them because they say “Thank you!” to me. Everything I have learned from the
AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program will help me in my future. I know now I can be successful
as long as I work hard for what I want and put my mind to it.

                                 My Experience in AmeriCorps
                                         Antwon Taylor
                                   Beloit Fresh Start Program
                                U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                     State Senate District 15

Hi, my name is Antwon Taylor and I am 19 years old. I live in Beloit, WI, but I am originally from
Chicago, IL. I moved to Beloit to start fresh with my life and AmeriCorps has given me a way to
do so. I tried to go to several different high schools, but they did not work for me. At those
schools, the atmosphere was too big and very distracting. If you were from a different
neighborhood, there were certain parts of the high school that you could not go to. The
different gangs had a lot of influence on the schools, and you did not want to mess with them.
At lunch, everybody was sectioned off so people would not fight with each other. I felt like we
were treated like animals since they had to separate students from each other. At the
AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program, I get to be an individual and receive the help I need
with my education and life.

The volunteer service projects that I have taken part in have changed my views on life
drastically. I have helped by doing construction on a house to better the lives of low income
families .The house that I work on was in bad condition. It looked like it was on the verge of
being torn down. My peers and I completely re-did the house from putting up siding, to
framing, and even building stairs. I volunteered by working with kids from the Boys and Girls
Club. I helped put on a puppet show and tried to teach them to say no to drugs. I also talked to
the kids about the importance of education in life.

The house that we are working on is going to be sold to low income families. That means that
possibly younger families will get the opportunity to own their own house. We are also making
the community look better with the house that we build in the hood. By doing volunteer service
projects, it has kept me off the streets from doing something dumb or illegal. If I wasn’t in this
program, I would be in the hood getting into all kinds of trouble. This program has pretty much
saved my life and has put me in a better situation.

I have grown a lot from volunteering my time. I have learned how to cherish and appreciate the
things that I have now. Another way that the program has helped me is that I can finally tell my
mom I stayed in school. I have been working hard to complete my schooling and I was also able
to get certified in CPR/first aid that I can add to my resume. I enjoy learning how to build a
house and have gained construction skills. I have been able to get a job where I can support
myself by being more independent. I can say that the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program
has kept me off the streets and has helped me work towards having a successful future instead
of going to jail or death.

                            How I have Benefited from AmeriCorps
                                        Brandon Kelsey
                                  Beloit Fresh Start Program
                               U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                               State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                    State Senate District 15

Hi, my name is Brandon Kelsey and I am 19 years old. My life before I came to the AmeriCorps
Beloit Fresh Start Program was ok but now it has become better for me. At my old high school, I
was not attending, so it didn’t work out for me. I didn’t go to school because I didn’t fit in with
the type of teenagers that attended at that school. I would always get into fights and get into
trouble with the teachers. I joined AmeriCorps because I had a lot of friends that joined the
program and said it would change my life. And so far it has helped me improve my life. I have
not been in a fight with any of the other participants or program staff. I am still getting use to
following directions from the program staff members, but I’m getting the hang of it. I know that
I have all the program staff by my side when I need them. I know that they will help me every
step of the way through the program. I really enjoy being here at the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh
Start Program.

The volunteer service project that I do is helping at the Boys and Girls Club in Beloit. When I go
there, I help by doing plays or helping the little kids with whatever they need. I also explain to
them how drugs are bad and not to do them. I also volunteer at the ECHO Mobile Food Market.
There I help set up tables and food stations, hand out food, push carts for the elderly, load their
cars with the food, and help clean up after the event. Another volunteer service project I do is
going to the house to build it every day. This volunteer service project is really fun. I get to
learn a lot about the hand and power tools that I didn’t use on my last job.

The people I help during my volunteer service projects are the ones that need help the most
because they might not be able to do it on the their own. They are so grateful that I help them.
Many of the people I help have a hard time doing things and it would take them even longer to
get it done without me helping them. Knowing this makes me feel good about myself when I
help them.

I have grown a lot by doing volunteer service projects because I have learned that I should not
just do things for myself. It is good to think about other people who need help and it is nice to
help them. Volunteering is important to do because its helping the community by helping
others. This will help me in the future because of the fact that if my job requires me to do
volunteering, it will not be such a big problem to get me to do it. I want to thank the
AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program for helping me get my life on the right track and for
helping me get my high school diploma.

                                    My Third Chance in Life
                                           Travis Lund
                                   Beloit Fresh Start Program
                                U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                     State Senate District 15

My names Travis Lund and I am 19 years old. I love cars and trucks and working on them. I want
to go to college after the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program and study to be a fire fighter.
My life was really rough before I came to this program. I got kicked out of school because I was
caught with possession of drugs that someone put in my backpack. That person put those drugs
in my backpack and then reported it to the teachers on me. I didn’t know what was going on. I
was really upset at that point and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life without a
high school diploma. I was confused on what to do to get my life back on track and didn’t know
how I could go back to school. After this situation, I found the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start
Program. It was everything I needed to get everything straightened out in my life.

For my volunteer service project, I participate at the ECHO Mobile Food Market. I help out a lot
by passing out food to people who need it. I also work on the program’s construction site
where I help re-build a house with my peers. I have a lot of fun working on the construction
site. I love working hard and learning new skills. It makes me feel good about myself when I
work hard. When I volunteer, I know at the end of the day I have accomplished something not
only for others but for myself too.

I love helping build the house and volunteering at the ECHO Mobile Food Market because I am
improving the community. I like knowing that when I volunteer I am helping people and making
the neighborhood a better place to live. At the ECHO Mobile Food Market, I get to see how
happy the people are when I am passing out the food. Many people thank me for my hard
work. I love this so much. The feeling is amazing to help others because you know they are
thinking of you when you are helping them out.

My personal goals, feelings, and strengths have grown by doing volunteer service projects. I
have really enjoyed working on the house and attending the ECHO Mobile Food Market. It
makes me feel good about everything I do now. All of this is so important to me because I know
someday I am going to be able to use some of the skills I have learned to help more people. I
want to be a positive role model to the youth that want to be where I am at now so they can
better themselves for their future.

                                      My Life in AmeriCorps
                                         Jasmine Lockhart
                                    Beloit Fresh Start Program
                                 U.S. Congressional District 1 & 2
                                 State Assembly District 43 & 45
                                      State Senate District 15

My name is Jasmine Lockhart and I am a 19 year old single teenage parent. Before the
AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program, my life was crazy. I attended Beloit Memorial High
School. It was a nice school but there was a lot of drama caused by students. I hated it. I got
pregnant at the young age of 15 years old and had my son at the age of 16 years old. My child’s
father had gotten another girl and me pregnant at the same time. This girl always wanted to
fight and argue with me because I had my son first. From this, a lot of drama happened that I
didn’t need and I wish I never got myself into. I don’t regret having my son, but I do regret that I
let the drama influence me which caused me not to graduate from high school. I am glad I
joined the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program because it has given me another chance at
my life. Through this program, I have been able to get the chance to graduate, to help people,
and help myself. I joined the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program to have my 3rd chance at
graduating from high school and to make changes in other lives including my own.

I help the community by building a new house for the neighborhood and by giving back to
people. The volunteer service projects that I like to do are: clean up the neighborhood, build
the house, and give food to people who can’t afford it. Helping others and giving back is great
because I get to see the happy expression on these people’s faces when I give back to them.
This is one of the greatest experiences of my life. I am glad I am a member of a program like this
that helps others. Being in this program is helping me know and realize what it feels like to give
back. I get to put myself in their shoes, while I give back to them, and I try to understand what
they are going through. I will never forget this experience and this program. I am going to
continue to be a volunteer in our community after this program. These experiences have given
me a little change of heart because I already loved helping people.

During these volunteer service projects, I have helped the community, people, and myself. All
the people I help smile at me and tell me thank you. Some of the people have told me I’m a
great young woman and I will receive blessings from GOD. For example, I was giving food to an
old woman and she grabbed my hand and smiled at me. She told me I am an angel from God
and I will always be blessed. She said I will be receiving many blessings from him really soon.
When I heard her say that it made my day because I know I made hers. It touched me in so
many ways because she didn’t know at that moment, I wasn’t the angel but she was mine. I
know I have changed a lot of people’s condition and situations that they were in by just helping
everyone that I could.

I see myself growing so much more from this opportunity. By volunteering through this
program, it has driven me to help and give back to those who are less fortunate than I am. I
really have helped to change these people’s lives just by volunteering my time. To them, I have
been a blessing of some type. I have made an impact on others people’s lives. This experience
has impacted me because I know I helped somebody in need. My future is better because of
the AmeriCorps Beloit Fresh Start Program. It has opened my eyes more to see how blessed I
really am. My future is better now because it is important to me to succeed and help others,
including myself.

Boys & Girls Clubs of
Greater Milwaukee

                               National Service in Consideration
                                       Christopher Mallas
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                     Brown Street Academy
                                  US 4th Congressional District
                                   State Assembly District 16
                                     State Senate District 6

Going into service, one never really knows what they are going to get. Having previously done a
year with a different AmeriCorps program, I thought I had a pretty good idea of what to expect:
being flexible, living hard with low pay. My time with SPARK has furthered my understanding of
AmeriCorps and service. Specifically, it has revealed how important national community service
is. Working with an army of tutors has shown just how many people out there are willing to
make sacrifices to help others. As a college graduate, I realize that I could be out making a lot
of money pursuing other ventures. Instead, I, like many others, have taken the call to help my
community. Without national service organizations, this would go uncultivated. Every day I go
to that school with the realization that service is an essential part of American citizenship.
Where would these students be without our help, our dedication, and our sacrifice? Questions
like these get service members through the day. Not a lot of twenty-somethings can say their
dedications and sacrifices are exercised daily to help those who really need it. All it really takes
is for one student to say “I like SPARK,” and your ability to realize that they are reading
significantly better now than before they met you, for you to realize your purpose and
importance. After doing a previous year in AmeriCorps I questioned where people would be if
they did not receive help from national service organizations. After a considerable time with
SPARK, I began to ask a new question: Where would I be without national service? Having had
the will to serve without the means to pursue it would be an unforgivable misfortune for me
and all who serve. After all, there is nothing worse than wasted talent.

About the Author: Chris joined SPARK after serving a term with the National Civilian
Community Corps and will be attending Marquette University Graduate School in the fall.

                                         Ellis Stephens
                      Art Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                 4thU.S. Congressional District
                                   State Assembly District 16
                                     State Senate District 6

The experience of sharing the beauty of art through flowers with young people, who
increasingly lack access to the transforming experience of art creation in school, provides me
with an experience that builds motivation to reach even more young people through floral
artistry. The more skilled I become in floral artistry through my own artistic involvement in the
medium, training and education and most importantly through the experience of sharing the
process with young people, the higher I am able to elevate the curriculum design and
experience for those I serve. Viewing success through the accomplishments of participants ages
4 to 18 enables continual motivation and improvement of my ability to provide new
experiences within the art program. Each new idea and accomplishment provides ideas and
methods of reaching other boys and girls through floral design. I learn new ways from those I
instruct. The “blossoming” of young people provides additional ways to assist others.

Haiku is an ancient reflection process that very often illuminates the beauty of nature. The
following Haiku represents the nature of floral artistry creation and its transformative effect on
the world of the youth of the Boys & Girls Clubs and at the same time the “blossoming” of the
youth as they learn how to improve their world through flowers and art.

                            Diverse flowers join, embracing change

                          Working in unity to develop singular beauty

                         Creating powerful, uplifting, shared existence

About the Author: Ellis is a twenty-eight year old Social Work graduate student who includes
floral arts education in his college work. He has volunteered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of
Greater Milwaukee for the past ten years and developed the Floral Arts Program through the
agency Art Department during his three terms as AmeriCorps Arts Advocate.

                                          Sweet Smiles
                                            K.C. Dix
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. School
                                  US 4th Congressional District
                                   State Assembly District 10
                                     State Senate District 4

Over the past two years as a SPARK tutor I have come to realize that the cure to a bad day lies
simply on the face of a child. A smile from a student has the power to turn the hardest day
around for me. The spirit of a child is something that I wish I could have maintained into my
adult years. Their spirit and resiliency teaches me just as many valuable lessons as I provide for
them. About a month ago I was going through a very hard break-up. I came to school and tried
my hardest to fight back the overwhelming emotions that wanted so badly to just flood out of
me. I went up to the second floor to pick up Janecia, my sweet first grade student, so that we
could begin our tutoring session. As always, she smiled and skipped over to me when I arrived
at her classroom door. The fact that I was able to not only smile, but feel a strong sense of
happiness, is telling of just how powerful her smile is. Toward the end of the session we began
reading a book together. In the middle of a sentence I began to choke up. I did not want her to
hear my voice crack, so I paused. After a few seconds of silence she innocently looked at me
and said “Ms. K.C., what word are you stuck on? I’ll help you, just sound it out.” Hearing her
ask this so sweetly made my heart melt. She helped me through the rest of the sentence and
we were able to finish the book. Moments like these are not rare, which makes my experience
full of smiles and laughs. I will forever be grateful for the happiness that these children give to
me every day.

About the Author: K.C. is a senior at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, majoring in
Community Studies and Education Policy and sub-majoring in Child Care. This is her second
year with the SPARK program.

                           “Will you tell Miss Madison ‘Hi’ for me?”
                                       Madison Solomon
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                          Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School
                                  U.S. Congressional District 4
                                   State Assembly District 10
                                     State Senate District 4

I started tutoring for the SPARK program at the beginning of the fall 2011 school year. One of
my students in particular, a kindergartener by the name of Jaybre, has made a very big impact
in my life. At the beginning of the school year, Jaybre was struggling immensely with his
alphabet letter recognition, sounds, and writing. It was challenging and sometimes frustrating
at first to work with him, as he is incredibly energetic and full of life. Along with my frustrations,
Jaybre was also getting frustrated with himself. I could see he truly desired to learn his letters,
like the majority of his peers. It wasn’t until one day in December when I noticed a change in
Jaybre. We sat down as usual to go over the alphabet and it was as if something “clicked”- he
knew all his letters AND sounds! I was astonished and so proud of him! Jaybre was smiling ear
to ear and he has been progressing daily since that moment. Typically when I arrive at King, the
first thing I hear from another tutor is “Jaybre says hi”, and my day has already been made.
Jaybre is also my last student I tutor at the end of the day, and I always know I will be going
home with a smile. Jaybre is a constant motivator and reason why I love working with kids and
will continue.

About the Author: Madison Solomon is a first year SPARK tutor and a junior undergraduate
student at UWM studying psychology.

                                      Teachers Being Taught
                                             Aaron Vierck
                                    SPARK Early Literacy Program
                               Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary
                                     US 4th Congressional District
                                      State Assembly District 10
                                        State Senate District 4

                           “Do you know what hot dogs are made of?”
                             “Mustard!” said one child declaratively.
                             “Bears?!” another child said hesitantly.

Besides possessing an unmatched knack for comedy, students, even if they are incorrect, can
make you think in ways you might have never thought before. The common belief is that
teachers teach and students consume, but what if students have something to teach? When
they are given a platform to speak and influence a teacher’s approach to thinking it may lead to
a change in the teacher’s approach to teaching, so that it is unique to the student. The SPARK
room is an ideal environment for this kind of interaction to take place.

The above discussion may be extreme but it illustrates how students think differently and, in
turn, can cause a teacher or tutor to think differently also. When a lesson is planned out, when
the brilliant writing activity is set aside ready to go, and the colored, magnetic A’s and B’s and
C’s are patiently waiting to be arranged into new words, and the student suddenly takes the
lesson in a separate direction, that is when my favorite part of the day begins. When they lead
their own discovery and I’m able to help them through it, that’s exciting. Their questions and
thoughts are teaching me as much as I am teaching them; gaining that knowledge also allows
me to create lessons that will be more valuable for them in future sessions. But learning from
students isn’t the only positive that comes out of this service.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to write this without it sounding cliché, but it is encouraging to walk into
the room every day and spend time with people who are so dedicated to the students. Not all
of us have the same methods of instruction, we don’t all interact with the students in the same
way, but the varied means lead to the same end; we are all there for the same reason.
Regardless of outside influence or situations beyond one’s control, it is always the students’
betterment that takes priority, even at the expense of one’s self. Whether it is spending time
and taking action not required by the job description, or bearing emotional and/or physical
burdens, it is all so that students have as fair of an opportunity to develop as possible. So, at the
end of the day, it is easy to recount the events and be encouraged by what I see others do. I
think that experience would make anyone feel privileged to be involved in service.

About the Author: Aaron is a graduate of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at UWM and is
now pursuing a Master’s degree in Middle Childhood-Early Adolescence Education at the university. He

had an opportunity to work in the SPARK program a few years ago but instead decided to focus on
school. If he were faced with that decision again, this wouldn’t be the first reflection he has written.

                                      The Little Things
                                       Jim Hilgenberg
                SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                               Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary
                                   US 4th Congressional District
                                    State Assembly District 10
                                      State Senate District 4

I found out about the SPARK program with about a month of summer vacation left. At this
point I was willing to take any job that did not include unloading trucks at Boston Store. Once I
heard about what the Boys & Girls Clubs had done with the program I couldn’t say ‘no.’ What
the kids receive from SPARK runs deeper than improving reading levels. The time away from
class is like a vacation with all inclusive stickers, occasional treats, and five star treasure chest
prizes. It makes me feel even more important to notice a child having a bad day, and see their
faces pull a one-eighty after thirty minutes of reading and writing. The progress in reading and
vocabulary is easy to follow through test scores and running records. But as the personal tutor,
you get to visually see your child remember the word they couldn’t pronounce the first ten
times around. These moments bring a smile to my face and the impressed comment that
young students crave to hear from adults. However my favorite part of the job is unrelated to
running records and sorts. It is great to meet new kids in the halls, or after school, and find out
their interests. It is even better to continue seeing these kids and talk about our favorite sports
players, video games, and books. I call this “guy talk” although I have similar talks with the girls
too (I just don’t read as much Junie B. Jones). There is a kindergartener that I thoroughly enjoy
talking about WWE wrestling with; although I’m sure he believes it’s as real as Christmas. The
fact that I’m in college and have a car makes me a folk legend to a particular third grader who
shares the interest of drawing Batman. A second grader is counting the days until June, when I
predict my hair will be long enough for her to braid (lucky me). Perhaps part of me is still five
years old, as my mother tells me. But I believe that these relationships make it much easier to
convince students that what is being taught is important, and doesn’t have to be boring. While
I continue to work on improving my lesson planning skills, the core of my teaching lies within
the relationships I build with students.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” -
Robert Brault

About the Author: Jim is a sophomore studying education at UWM. He loves reading books of
all different genres. Though he still dreams of playing pro sports, he will happily enjoy his
future of teaching at the elementary level.

                                Serving Others to Serve Myself
                                         Lauren Brzeski
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                              Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. K-8 School
                                   US Congressional District 4
                                       State Assembly 10
                                         State Senate 4

By serving as a member of AmeriCorps for a second year, the benefits of this experience are still
astonishing, and never cease to amaze me. Each and every single student I have worked with
has moved me into a different direction of life. I appreciate all of the small things in life and
feel so very privileged that these young individuals let me into theirs. It is my duty to serve
these children with their literacy abilities but at the end of the day, I walk away with more than
I would have ever seen possible. The opportunity that I have been given to work with these
students is something I wake up every day lucky to have. It is something that I will carry with
me for the rest of my life. For every rough day, there is always one student who can make one
comment to turn it around. Watching these students start to turn their light bulbs on at this
point in my service makes every single struggle worth it. By helping these students, I am
helping myself become a better person. These ways of bettering my life do not stop with the
students I work with.

Attending various AmeriCorps events, working daily next to service members, getting together
at SPARK events and just surrounding myself with individuals who are making a difference is
such an exhilarating feeling. To see all of these individuals going out of their way to make
someone’s path in life easier is something I wish every individual could experience. This
movement of individuals working together, supporting one another side by side, and standing
up for what is right touches me in a way that I do not think anything else ever will. We work
together to get things done, and that is a lot more than I think most people can say about
themselves. I am so grateful to have such an opportunity.

About the Author: I am a current education student who feels privileged to serve in
AmeriCorps and I intend to take my service further to the Peace Corps one day.

                           Anthony Meyer
SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
             Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School
                     U.S. Congressional District 4
                      State Assembly District 10
                        State Senate District 4

                           Given everything
                    Given life, love and inspiration
             Given a perpetually transforming thought
                       Given family and friends
                      Community and education
             Freedom to explore, question and imagine
                   Given nature, nurture and home
                         Brothers and Sisters
                             Mom and Dad
                     Strong, caring, sharing place
                          Beautiful beginning
                        Movement from Home
                              of Wisconsin
                Difference and deeper understanding
                    Through contrast and compare
                    Given different circumstances
                     Different communities grow
                          Given opportunity
                               Given time
                                 To give
                        Give everything to life
                      With love and inspiration
              Transforming thought and understanding
                             Of differences
                            Is fundamental
                                   I am
                                 We are

About the Author: Anthony Meyer is a first year SPARK tutor and senior of Architectural Studies at the
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee

                                   Why I Work at Camp
                                      Randy Tuescher
             AmeriCorps Program Specialist Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                  Camp Whitcomb/Mason
                                US 5th Congressional District
                                 State Assembly District 99
                                  State Senate District 33

I have loved being a part of the camp experience all my life. I have been going on camping trips
since I was born. My family went camping at least four times a summer including other various
outdoor activities. I joined Cub Scouts when I was in first grade and loved it. Ever since then I
looked forward to going to summer camp, even though it meant missing the county fair. At
camp there are caring counselors, fun programs and lots of camaraderie. I loved it so much
that I could not turn down the chance to work at Camp Whitcomb/Mason.

I worked at Camp Whitcomb/Mason for three summers while I attended college. After
graduating, I applied for the AmeriCorps Program Specialist position. This position is giving me
the chance to continue my service to children in a camp setting. I have a lot of drive to provide
fun, educational programs at camp because of my experiences when I was a child. Outdoor
education and the skills you learn along the way are very important. I want everyone to love
the outdoors and share my enthusiasm.

The things that I like most about this position are the variety of programs we teach and the
various populations of children we serve. During the Fall, Winter and Spring months a large
chunk of the children we serve come from the surrounding school districts or the greater
Milwaukee area. We also have bi-monthly campouts for our Boys & Girls Clubs kids. It gives us
a broad range of ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. We really pride ourselves on allowing
everyone the chance to experience the outdoors and all that it holds.

I have the chance to teach many different programs and activities throughout the year. During
the months of Fall I teach canoeing, archery, team building, high ropes, orienteering, fire
building, lake study and many others. I spent the months of January and February traveling into
Milwaukee to the clubs and CLCs for our Forestry and Adventure Clubs. At Forestry Club we
teach about Wisconsin forest history, tree anatomy and conservation. At Adventure Club we
teach team building, fire building, tent set-up, backpacking and knot tying. We have recently
finished up both clubs and have started our Lumberjacking season. We have Lumberjack
themed days where groups come out and learn about Lumberjacking and Maple Syrup. They
do activities to learn about Lumberjack history, how maple syrup is made and how to

determine the type and age of different trees. They also get a chance to use cross-cut saws to
make tree cookies.

Through my service in this position I have gained more self confidence in my ability to become a
teacher. We are constantly with groups providing various programs and teaching
environmental education. I have had to step out of my comfort zone on many occasions.
Learning from these experiences is giving me the confidence to continue to step out of my
comfort zone on a weekly basis.

About the Author: I am a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin Whitewater. After my
service I plan to return to school for a post bachelorette teaching licensure. My goal is to be a
High School math teacher.

                                   An Unexpected Experience
                                              Katie Fredricks
                 SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                            Cass Street School
                                      4 US Congressional District
                                        State Assembly District 9
                                          State Senate District 7

What began as a random midsummer email check (a rarity for many college students I know)
and panicked desperation for legitimate résumé points, has transformed into one of the most
unexpected experiences of my life. Reading, “Early Childhood Literacy Specialists Needed,” this
email notice sounded like a decent offer to me. In search of a job, and confident of nothing
more than my own ability to read, I attended the SPARK information session, very skeptical of
my capacity to teach little kids necessary literacy skills. A few weeks later I was hired, and as I
anxiously awaited the beginning of the school year I was unsure if I was prepared to immerse
myself in such an unfamiliar situation.

Though my time as a SPARK tutor has taught me a great deal, one particular lesson repeatedly
reveals itself—never expect anything. I had no idea what experience might grow out of taking a
chance on that mass email, but any vague expectations I may have had immediately fell apart. I
thought I was just going to teach these kids to read, easy-peasy-mac’n’cheesy (a choice phrase
of a couple of my students), but my time with SPARK has meant a lot more than that slim
expectation. Of course, I do my best to help my five students improve their reading skills. But I
never realized how invested I would become in these kids, and how much they would value
their SPARK time with me.

All the time, my students bust down my presumptions and I am continually amazed. My most
struggling reader, a kindergartener who seemed stalled in the AA level until the beginning of
January, has finally advanced to level A and seems to be breezing through her books with an
ease I never would have imagined a few weeks ago. When I’ve found a word that I think might
finally stump my J-level kindergartener, he always seems to prove me wrong with a story of
how he learned about “tentacles,” or “environment,” or “amphibian” at a Zoo Class or on a trip
to California.

I mentioned that one lesson I’ve really internalized is “never expect anything,” but now that I
reflect on that, maybe it should be, “expect more.” All of my students are five or six years old,
and though I did not walk into my classroom in September believing that children so young are
completely ignorant of the world around them, I’ve realized how much more knowledgeable,
observant, and engaged they are than I thought. Sometimes I just have to laugh when they
astonish me with some fact or insight I never could have expected out of the mouth of a K5 or
first-grade kid. Every day, I feel proud that I am helping kids gain skills crucial for academic

success, but I also feel humbled by the fact that though I have a lot to teach them, I have even
more to learn from them.

About the Author: Katie Fredricks is in her fourth year at the University of Wisconsin-
Milwaukee, majoring in Sociology and pursuing an English minor and a certificate in Childhood
and Adolescence Studies.

                                      Learning Experience
                                         Samantha Little
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                 Cass Street Elementary School
                                 4th U.S. Congressional District
                                   State Assembly District 19
                                     State Senate District 7

I became a tutor because I wanted to work with kids while still paying my bills. I went in with an
open mind, not really understanding what I was getting into. It definitely was overwhelming at
first because of all the information I needed to learn. For example: how to make lesson plans,
manage my time, get kids involved in the lessons, what to do in my lesson plans, and how
actually help them learn and become more successful. It was scary but exciting at the same

I don’t regret taking this job one bit. I have learned a lot from this experience, from learning
about myself and also learning more that will help me as a teacher. I have gained a lot of
patience that I never had before. I learned the importance of patience; if I became frustrated,
the kids would feel like they made a mistake or I that I was mad. I have also learned how to
constructively encourage my kids. If they make a mistake, I don’t yell at them or put them
down. When they make a mistake, I explain why it is wrong, correct it, then, I give them
encouragement to let them know that everyone makes mistakes, and hope that they will learn
from it.

I have also learned how much kids look up to us. They want to impress us with their talents and
knowledge. My kids love coloring pictures for me. For instance, one of my kids, Josiah, will
always make me little artsy cards and pictures on his free time. In Kids lit, he will make a project
and the next day he will want to show me. I show them I care by displaying their work, whether
it is a card, a picture they drew, or even a crossword puzzle we did together, all over the room.
They enjoy seeing their work displayed because they know we care.

One of my most valuable and important things I learned from this experience was actually
seeing the results of their success. People will tell you about it, but you can’t really relate to
them unless you experienced it with one of your own kids. I have a Kindergartener, Islaw. He

was one of my most difficult children to get to open up to me in the beginning. He was very shy,
didn’t want to come to SPARK, and never participated or talked in our lessons. Now, I can’t get
him to stop talking! He is progressing very well, and is now at the level where he can sound out
each letter in a word!

About the Author: Samantha Little is a 20 year old UW Milwaukee student who is majoring in
elementary education, and hoping one day to work with 3rd graders and to teach for the Peace
Corps in undeveloped areas in Africa.

                                  A Life Changing Experience
                                         Meredith Malo
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                       Cass Street School
                                 4th U.S. Congressional District
                                   State Assembly District 19
                                     State Senate District 7

Community engagement has been part of my life since grade school. I volunteered at the local
library (Forest Jackson Public Library) where I assisted librarians with various children’s
programs, dressed as a giant turtle for the annual book fair, sold books at local festivals to raise
funds, and worked game booths at the annual Tree Town Festival. Also, as part of the Riverdale
High School choir, I went Christmas caroling at local nursing homes. More recently, I donated
my time as a park ranger picking up trash in Riverside Park for the Urban Ecology Center. The
SPARK Early Literacy Program has given me the opportunity to continue to give back to my

As an educated and enlightened individual I know that if students don’t learn to read
successfully and appropriately for their age, detrimental consequences may follow. They’re
more likely to drop out of high school; if they manage to graduate, it is with an elementary
reading level. All students deserve the opportunity to succeed in school, and literacy is
fundamental. I have always valued education greatly, as it is a large part my undergraduate
degree in college—Community Engagement and Education—and I understand the need for
children to become good readers at an early age. After taking classes which address the causes
of at-risk youth and possible solutions for educating students at-risk, I believe SPARK to be part
of an effective solution for helping these students succeed.

I titled this reflection “A Life Changing Experience” because my experience as an AmeriCorps
volunteer and SPARK literacy tutor for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee has been
just that—life changing. I have learned immeasurable lessons and consequently changed the
direction of my own life. Before joining this program I planned to attend graduate school for
nursing to fulfill my desire to improve my community, but I am now committed to enriching the

lives of children on a daily basis through youth work instead of just healing their ills on an
occasional basis. Going into this experience I knew I would be helping children with their
reading skills, but what I didn’t expect was that the littlest thing can mean the world to a child.
The one-on-one attention given to our students truly is invaluable. SPARK has created
opportunities for people like myself to brighten children’s lives in more ways than one. Children
are the greatest value in our society and SPARK realizes this.

About the Author: Meredith Malo is a senior at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
studying Community Engagement & Education.

                                    The Influence of SPARK
                                     James Van Den Heuvel
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                         Cass St. School
                                 4th U.S. Congressional District
                                   State Assembly District 19
                                     State Senate District 7

When I first joined the SPARK program, I knew it was going to be a great opportunity for me to
interact with children, learn life lessons and have something that would look great on a resume.
When I first started in SPARK, my major was education and I planned on becoming a school
teacher. My major has since changed to Athletic Training, but my love for what I do in the Early
Literacy Program has not changed. I actually come to work looking forward to what I will being
doing that day, which is definitely a surprise compared to previous occupations. The students,
my supervisor and my co-workers all make my time in the SPARK Early Literacy Program an
excellent one.

I have four different students that I work with. I look forward to seeing them every day. They are
all a joy, but one in particular stands out to me the most. He comes to SPARK with a smile on his
face every single day knowing that I am there for him and he is ready to learn. This young boy is
very special, for he is many upon many reading and writing levels above his normal 2nd grade
level. There are points during my lessons where I feel like he can outsmart me himself and it
really amazes me how much he can learn/ has learned. I love working with him because there is
never a moment where he is not happy and he comes with a great learning attitude. He also
works very hard and has much fun with my lessons too. I get a little bit more room with this 2nd
grade student since he is at such a high learning level, so we get to make games, write pen pals,
look up words in the dictionary, read chapter books and do all sorts of things I never thought a
2nd grader would be doing at his age. We also have special conversations where we talk about
his day and he has even said that he loves having me as a SPARK tutor. According to him, “I want
to have you as a tutor next year!” Overall, my experience in SPARK and with this student will
never be forgotten. It is something I will bring with me as a carry on in life and will become

useful for when I someday have children or possibly towards my profession. I plan on being in
SPARK for as long as I possibly can because it makes a difference on me and on the young
children. SPARK rules!

About the Author: James Van Den Heuvel is an Early Literacy Tutor at Cass Street School in
Milwaukee, Wisconsin and he is currently a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-
Milwaukee as an Athletic Training major with four younger brothers and two sisters, which have
influenced him in being part of the SPARK program.

                                   SPARKing a Life Change
                                        Alysha Zoeller
            SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                     Clarke Street School
                                 US 4th Congressional District
                              Assembly District 16 (formally 18)
                                       Senate District 6

When I was little, I always knew I wanted to help people. I just didn’t have any idea who I
wanted to help or how. My mom always told me I should teach. I batted the idea around for a
while and decided that I was best suited to teach high school aged kids. Being an only child, I
had very limited experience working with young children, and the prospect of being in a room
full of them absolutely terrified me.

I first applied to be a tutor with the SPARK Early Literacy Program because I thought it would
give me good teaching experience and would really boost my résumé. Just because I made the
choice to take a position working with kids didn’t mean I was any less frightened when that first
day rolled around. I was so scared that I considered calling my supervisor and quitting instead
of having to walk into that school and all the way up to the SPARK room.

Looking back, I’m really glad that I didn’t quit. The SPARK room was such a friendly, welcoming
and accepting environment to walk into and it was always filled with people willing to help me
over any obstacles I encountered and to calm my fears. SPARK provided me with an
opportunity to work with children that I would not have otherwise gotten, and I was given the
training and support to make that opportunity a positive one. I enjoyed it so much that I
decided to serve for a second year. As a second year tutor, my happiest moments are when a
student finally understands a concept that they’ve been struggling to grasp or when a student
moves up another reading level. I have the SPARK program to thank for that.

I can honestly say that these two terms of service have changed my life. Because of my
incredibly positive experience, I’ve decided to change my major from high school education to
elementary education. I never thought I would come this far.

About the Author: Alysha is currently a second year SPARK tutor and a student at UW-

                                          Marcel Sain
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                      Clarke Street School
                                  US 4th Congressional District
                               Assembly District 16 (formally 18)
                                        Senate District 6

For the first time, I was given a child who was considered learning disabled. He would never
look at me, no matter how much I tried to engage him. Distraction came easily to him and it
was a struggle to keep him interested. All I could think of was that I was not trained to deal with
this. I was nervous about being given a child that was such a challenge with no one around to
give me proper guidance or training in how to deal with the situation. He tested my resources
and my resilience constantly, and most of the time it seemed as if he retained nothing of our
previous lessons. Consistently, I would ask how he was doing or try to make conversation but
he never made eye contact and would not answer. He simply would not speak, and I became
accustomed to having one sided conversations.

Although I was initially concerned with the state of affairs between us; I did not know if he
disliked me, or if that was simply his demeanor. After having gone over letter sounds for so
long, I knew that he must have been retaining something and that there must be a gap in our
communication. So, I steadily began to incorporate more tactile tools for him to use so that he
could better show me what he learned. As well, I began to give him opportunities to teach me
how to do certain sorts or explain letter sounds to me. And as I allowed our roles to become
reversed, he showed me that he could find his voice. He began to be able to tell me where
certain pictures went. If I acted confused, he would explain in his own way about the sounds.
Now he is talking and laughing and I no longer have to worry about one sided conversations on
our way to the SPARK room. He even holds my hand as we walk.

So even though I may not have felt fully equipped, I could overcome these obstacles with the
knowledge of my past experiences, patience and enthusiasm.

About the Author: Marcel is a 2nd year SPARK tutor from Milwaukee.

                              The Bridge to a Better Education
                                        Laura McNelly
            SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                     Clarke Street School
                                 US 4th Congressional District
                              Assembly District 16 (formally 18)
                                       Senate District 6

As a future teacher, I can’t tell you how much this program has gone above and beyond my
expectations. SPARK not only improves the children’s literacy skills, but it also improves my
skills to teach literacy to children. They really don’t emphasize enough in education programs
how much you need to adapt to children’s learning mechanisms. SPARK has proven that if you
try and try again, you will succeed! In the beginning of the year, I had a student who was very
hesitant of SPARK. She didn’t want to miss the fun in her classroom to come up to SPARK, but
over time I realized it wasn’t that she was missing her classmates – she was embarrassed of
making a mistake in front of me. She is such a bright and charismatic young girl, who has so
much potential, but what holds her back is her fear of looking “stupid”. She used to completely
shut down if she made a mistake, but I told her that being “stupid” isn’t not being able to
understand the problem – being “stupid” is not even trying at all. I think for a lot of young
students where reading is a difficult subject, courage is often needed. My student surprised me
with all of the obstacles she has overcome – she even surprised herself! All it took was a little
bit of courage. It makes me so proud to see how confident of a reader she is! SPARK has taught
me that patience is a virtue when teaching and you can certainly see it through the reward. I
am so happy that I joined SPARK as a tutor. It has given me more real-life situations teaching
than I could have ever learned within my 4 years of college in an education program. It is
wonderful to have a job that you love going to every day and are proud of all the work you have
put in – because when your students are as enthused with reading and learning as you would
like them to be, every bit of hard work pays off!

About the Author: Laura is a junior at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, majoring in
early childhood education.

                                      The SPARK at Clarke
                                        Jessica N. Butler
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                Clarke Street Elementary School
                                  US 4th Congressional District
                               Assembly District 16 (formally 18)
                                        Senate District 6

This is my second year as a SPARK tutor, and I am glad that I decided to come on board for a
second term. I am completely astounded by the progress that my students are making thus far.
Everyday that I come through the front doors of this school, I am grateful to be able to make an
impact on these kids’ lives. Each child that I am able to serve shows me that my work is worth

I have a student that I am working with who is having the hardest time learning his letters.
There have been times where I get frustrated, and he will smile and tell me,
“ Ms. Jessica, I will learn them all one day.” When the child is so optimistic, I have no other
choice but to be optimistic as well.

It is only through working with SPARK that I have afforded such a wonderful opportunity to
make a huge impact on a child’s life. No matter where I go in life, I know that I will never forget
the wonderful progress made in a place where people expect the children to fail.

About the Author: Jessica Butler is 24 years old and hopes to be either a teacher or a social
worker in the near future.

                                         Closing the Gap
                                         Jamie Wenzlow
                     Art Advocate Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                            4th U.S. Congressional District
                               18 State Assembly District
                                      6th State Senate District

At Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee we have three programs that utilize AmeriCorps
members, the art program, SPARK Early Literacy Program, and Camp staff. As I started here as
an Art Advocate, it seemed as though all the AmeriCorps members only worked within their
respective programs and may not have been able to see the whole picture and mission of the
organization. Through special events I have tried to close that gap and bring us all together.

I put on a Local Fine Arts Exhibit and I asked for SPARK volunteers to help set up the event and
help out at the event. I had a large response and received help from over 10 SPARK tutors.
Having their help with the Exhibit not only helped me in a large way, but allowed them to see
some of what goes on with the Art programming in the Clubs. While they learned what our Art
Programs can do for kids, I think they were quite impressed with the artistic ability of our kids.
In return, I had the opportunity to ask them questions about the SPARK tutoring program and
learn more about their interactions with our kids. It has been a pleasure getting to know the
SPARK tutors and I think it has been very beneficial for us all to learn about each others
programs. We are all helping kids in very different ways, different places, different methods,
but with the same mission!

I also had the pleasure of attending the AmeriCorps opening ceremonies with all of the SPARK
AmeriCorps tutors. It was another opportunity to get to know them and the SPARK program.
Although I do not get to see them or their program on a regular basis I know they are out there
in our Clubs doing amazing work. I believe they have a better idea of what I am doing as an
AmeriCorps Art Advocate supporting our Art Programs which greatly benefits our youth.

I look forward to working with all the AmeriCorps members in our organization on future
projects. Anything we can do as AmeriCorps members to “close the gap” and work together on
our mission will only benefit our kids and our community. And I believe that is the goal of all
AmeriCorps members here at Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee.

About the Author: I am a young woman with 8 years working experience in Boys & Girls Clubs
who is passionate about empowering youth!

                                   Learning from Each Other
                                       Marijana Brinkman
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                     Brown Street Academy
                                  US 4th Congressional District
                                   State Assembly District 16
                                     State Senate District 6

I have not yet completed my full term of service as a literacy tutor and already I can say with
confidence that I have learned more about myself and others than I ever have, whether it be in
my past job experiences or my own schooling. Although I have enjoyed all the children I have
worked with, one student in particular stands out.

When I first started working with Armani he was not yet able to identify all the letters of the
alphabet or their sounds. As we began our time together I was quick to realize he was not the
type of child who enjoyed simply sitting and was very curious. I knew he was going to need
truly engaging activities if we were going to make any sort of progress. I found that I had to
think outside the box and leave my comfort zone and try new activities that would engage
Armani and make his time with me worthwhile. After many sessions of “fishing” for letters and
playing letter sound bingo he no longer had problems identifying letters and sounds. In fact, he
is actually reading now! When we read a book named Big together he started to use picture
clues to read text and beginning letter sounds to sound out small words. I said to him, “look at
that, you just read that whole book on your own!” He responded by asking me to report this
new accomplishment to his teacher, I could see he was very proud of himself. I wanted him to
know he owned this accomplishment, so when we walked back to his class after our session I
told his teacher he had something to tell her. He looked at me with a huge smile and said,
“Guess what I learned today, I can read. I can spell big”. To this, his classroom teachers said,
“Well, let’s hear it!” I believe he stood a little taller just then and with pure self-confidence he
spelt it out, “B-I-G big!”

These types of moments are what stand out to me when I reflect on my service in the SPARK
program. And I do not mean simply working with a child and helping them to read. I mean
working with a child and helping them realize and access their full potential. Watching a child
take pride in what they have learned and seeing that being able to read the word “big” is an
accomplishment and that is what it is all about.
I may have helped Armani to learn his letters, letter sounds, and to begin to read but, what he
taught me is equally important. He taught me to be patient, creative, and to compromise. I am
beginning to see the great things that can happen when people come together to reach a
common goal and for that I am so very thankful.

About the Author: I am Marijana Brinkman, a student at UW-Milwaukee studying Education
and I serve in the SPARK Program.

                                         More than Just a Tutor
                                            Sarah O. Woods
                         SPARK Early Literacy Boys and Girls Clubs of Milwaukee
                                         Brown Street Academy
                                      US 4th Congressional District
                                        State Assembly District 16
                                          State Senate District 6

I am a proud AmeriCorps member and have really enjoyed my time serving my community. I currently
work for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee as a tutor through the SPARK Early Literacy
Program. I create individualized lesson plans to meet the needs of each child. I love my students and will
do anything for them, and that is why I consider myself more than just a tutor.

Since beginning college in the spring of 2008 I have been involved in many different volunteer
opportunities. I believe in the saying, “as little as one hour a week can change a life forever.”
Volunteering has provided me with different opportunities to get involved in my community and help
others. My community service experiences help to build not only my character but also the character of
the students whose lives I have impacted. I wanted to promote self-determination and motivation; to
ensure that each child whom I mentored has hope for a more promising future. I believe in encouraging
children to accomplish all their goals, to pursue their dreams and make them into a reality.

Although my length of service is being cut short because I have to follow my own dreams, I will always
hold my students dear to my heart. I know that I have impacted each and every one of them in a
different way. From standing up to a bully, buying my student a cake because her parent forgot, to being
a friend to my student who didn’t have any or simply just listening to them talk. It’s the little things that
matter and I have gone above and beyond to become more than just a tutor.

                                          More than Just a Tutor

                                            I am more that just a tutor
                                I am that push when my students want to quit
                             I am the tissue when the tears fall from their eyes
                               I am the ears when no one else wants to listen
                                  I am the mouth when everyone else is silent
                             I am the eyes when others pretend they don't see
                                   I am the voice that tells them they’re great
                                I am the inspiration that nothing is impossible
                                    I am the friend for my student who does not have any
                           Since they are the reason I smile and come to work everyday
                                        I will always be more than a tutor

About the Author: My name is Sarah Woods; I recently completed my B.S. in Social Work with a
concentration in Sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

                                         Jamie Groark
            SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                       81st Street School
                                4th U.S. Congressional District
                                 13th State Assembly District
                                   5th State Senate District.

This is my first year with the SPARK program. I learned about the SPARK program from an email
and jumped on the opportunity. I believed it would be a good way to get contact hours for the
teacher education program. I thought it was just your standard tutoring gig. Help the kids with
class work, reading skills, some hooked on phonics and play games. Was I ever wrong! I may
do some of those things like work on reading skills and phonics but this wasn’t your average
tutoring gig. It is an amazing tutoring opportunity that has changed lives, including my own.

I love tutoring with the SPARK program. I like the fact I am making a difference, it may be the
seven children I tutor or the hundreds that are in the SPARK program. I know that the kids are
learning because I see their light bulbs going off, teachers telling me how well the students are
doing on spelling tests, reading and comprehension tests, and the kids are just excited to see
me. Whenever, I see or hear these things, I feel like I have accomplished lots. It’s the best
feeling in the world to know that I have had an impact on someone that will last a lifetime.

About the Author: Jamie Groark is a full time wife and mother. She also attends Carroll
University in pursuit of an Environmental Science degree with a Secondary Education minor.

                       Life’s Most Precious Moments are with Children
                                         Faten Hamdan
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                        81st Street School
                                 4th U.S. Congressional District
                                  13th State Assembly District
                                    5th State Senate District

I’ve always had the desire to work with children. I didn’t know how much I loved it until I came
to work for SPARK. Over the past ten years I’ve worked with children in a traditional classroom
setting. This is my first experience working with them on a one to one basis. I'm enjoying the
job and look forward to seeing the children each and every day. I've bonded with them in a
way I didn't think was possible in the short time I've been with them. I never had this feeling in
the traditional classroom. Given the class size it was very difficult to form such close
relationships. When returning to the school after one of the days I was absent because I wasn't
feeling well, I was surprised at the reaction of the children. Their concern for me was so sweet
and genuine. It made me feel so guilty for not being there knowing how much my presence
meant to them. I've been reconsidering my career goals ever since this day. I'm leaning
towards something in which I can work one on one with the children instead of a traditional
classroom setting. Just the feeling of knowing that I’m able to make such a difference in the
lives of children is what motivates me even more to pursue my career in education. More
important than the academics that children receive during their schooling are the care and
kindness that I believe they are entitled to in order to promote a sense of well being both
emotionally and mentally. After a child’s parents, I will most likely be a person of influence.
As an educator I don’t take that role lightly. I am consistently reevaluating my methodology in
order to provide the best education I can for the future of our children.

About the Author: Fatan Hamdan is a Palestinian-American and a native of Wisconsin. She is a
junior at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee majoring in Middle Childhood and Early
Education. Her philosophy is that we are all lifelong learners. One is never too old to learn.
The world is full of exploration.

                                     The Power of Learning
                                         Colleen Lesnjak
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                        81st Street School
                                 4th U.S. Congressional District
                                  13th State Assembly District
                                    5th State Senate District

When I first heard that there was program to help kids learn to read I was thrilled. I knew I had
to be part of it. I called SPARK and expressed my enthusiasm to be part of this neat program.
When I went for my interview I was so nervous because I really wanted to be part of the team.
When I got hired I was so happy and so excited to start tutoring students in reading. I knew that
what I would be doing would be amazing but I had no idea the effect it would have on my

This program is so amazing to me. I feel lucky to have gotten this chance to help the children in
my community. I live in the great city of Milwaukee and I am very proud of my city. When I
tutor I am at my happiest because it encompasses two things that are very important to me,
reading and kids. I feel as a mom, teacher and individual that reading is the most important skill
that we need to survive as humans. Reading encompasses everything we do. Reading
encompasses all the subjects in school. Words are communication and our lifeline to learn new
things, go places, buy things, etc... I feel so happy that I get to be part of my students learning
and better them for the future by enhancing their reading ability. SPARK is a program where I
not only get to see kids getting better at reading I get to feel it. I feel it every time a student
smiles because they know that they are learning and becoming more knowledgeable.

I have often been told that I am changing the lives of the children I tutor, when in fact they are
changing mine.

About the Author: Colleen Lesnjak is a first year tutor working on her certification for Early
Childhood Education at UW-Milwaukee.

                               Bringing About a Better Future
                                       Leah Defenbaugh
            SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                              Sherman Multicultural Arts School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 4
                                  State Assembly District: 17
                                    State Senate District: 6

Last year, when I first stepped into the SPARK classroom at Sherman School, I was terrified.
Besides an occasional babysitting gig in my teenage years, I had never really worked with
children. I remember being in a kindergarten classroom my first day at the school. I was trying
to explain how to make the letter ‘a’ to a boy. After I finished, he looked at me and said, “You
talk funny, what’s up with that?” Another girl touched my stick-straight, dark blonde hair, then
rubbed her hand against her curly black hair and said, “Your hair is greasy!” I started to think
I’d made a huge mistake.

Fast forward eighteen months. I still talk funny, according to my students, but I’ve learned to
tailor my vocabulary to their experiences. My hair, still ‘greasy,’ is a jumping off point for
discussion about African American history. We talk about how great it is that everyone’s hair is
different, and their wonderful parents and grandparents who decided that everyone was equal,
no matter what their hair or skin looks like, and fought for years to be recognized as such.

The best part of my second year here has been watching how SPARK kids past and present
continue to achieve academically. I have one very energetic student, now a first grader, who I
have been working with since day one. Last year I had one goal: teach her how to listen. I
knew that rhyming, letter sounds, and the rest would come, but she couldn’t learn unless she
could listen and understand what her teachers and tutor said to her. For the past couple of
years we have been experimenting: we jump through the hallways while reciting letter sounds,
read on the floor instead of at a desk, and talk to stuffed animals on days she will not talk to
me. This year, she won a “most improved” award and got to accept it in front of the whole
school. Seeing where she’s come from, and where she’s now headed, is both incredibly
rewarding and incredibly encouraging. If this program works for her, who knows what it could
do for someone else?

About the Author: In May I will graduate with a degree in English. I am not sure what kind of
job I will end up taking, but I am confident that the patience and perseverance I learned from
SPARK will help me no matter where I end up. As proud as I am of my students, I am just as
proud of how this job has helped me to grow. In the end, I think a “most improved” award is
mine, as well.

                                  Heart Warming Experiences
                                        Stephanie Rosado
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                               Sherman Multicultural Arts School
                                  U.S. Congressional District: 4
                                   State Assembly District: 17
                                     State Senate District: 6

Working for the SPARK program has opened my eyes to many great and wonderful people and
a new learning experience every day I am at work. Watching my students’ faces light up when
they figure out a word they didn’t think they knew, getting excited about a new story we’re
about to read and having fun while learning are some of the great joys I get to experience every
day while helping these children learn.

But one of my favorite things about this job is getting to know my students on a one on one
basis, learning their dislikes and likes, comforts and sometimes about their home lives which
are not always a comforting secure place to be in. When I was with a student working on our
new lesson plan she began to talk off topic, which she tends to do because I think she enjoys
the girl talk but this day it was a lot more than just girl talk. She said “I know you don’t like me”.
Feeling shocked, I replied, “Why do you think that?” She said, “Because I’m black and you’re
white and sometimes white people don’t like black people”. I went on to explain to her that
some people do feel that way but I was not one of them. We even talked a bit about Martin
Luther King Jr. and all of the changes he made in the world so that people of different races
could live in harmony. She seemed to understand what I was talking about but still responded
with “I wish I was white, so that I could be your daughter.” My heart melted when she said that,
we talked about being proud of who you are and where you come from but the conversation
ended quickly and turned right back into the lesson we had been working on.

I can’t help but think she found some sort of security and happiness when she was with me,
working, in SPARK. When working with these children I at times lose sight of the fact that I
really am affecting their lives in a big way, this just brought me back to feeling even better
about the job I do every day. I love being a positive role model in my students’ lives everyday
and letting them know that someone cares about them and wants them to succeed in
everything they do. It is a pretty amazing feeling to know that I can have such a big effect on
someone’s life and I feel so blessed to be a part of something so great.

About the Author: I am currently going to school at UW-Milwaukee pursuing a degree in Early
Childhood Education, and hope to be done within two years and working in a school
permanently. This service is a great gift, helping me prepare for a future in education.

                                      The Gift of Reading
                                          Emily Barbeau
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                           Vieau School
                                 U.S. 4 Congressional District
                                    State Assembly District 8
                                     State Senate District 3

I have vivid memories of reading as a child. I read picture books, like Officer Buckle and Gloria,
and then chapter books, like The Boxcar Children. I loved “getting to know” the characters of
the books I was reading and imagining myself in the characters’ world. I did not love reading
solely because of the characters and story. Reading was part of the relationships I had with
special people in my life. I remember my mom reading Little House on the Prairie to my family
on Friday nights. My two favorite teachers, in elementary school, read aloud to my class. Each
day, I could not wait to hear the next chapter of The Trumpeter Swan or Because of Winn-Dixie.
As I think back, I realize what a wonderful gift my parents and teachers shared with me---the
gift of reading. As an AmeriCorps member, I have the privilege of sharing that same gift.

I serve as a literacy tutor at Vieau School. One of my first grade students, John*, knew very few
letters of the alphabet at the beginning of the school year. Now, John knows most of the
alphabet and can put together letter sounds to read words! It would be easy to evaluate his
progress by measuring the number of letters he has learned since the beginning of the year.
Yet, data cannot fully represent the transformation of his attitude towards reading. John is
excited to open a book, whereas, at the beginning of the school year, he showed no interest in
books. At the start of each lesson, John eagerly asks me, “What are we reading today? Can I
read this by myself now?” And at the end of the lesson, he asks to take home books to read to
his little sister. As John’s reading improved, he became more confident in himself. I have the
great privilege of seeing this student’s view of himself transform from negative to positive.

I hope all of my students learn more than just reading skills this year. I hope they associate
reading with positive relationships in their lives. For me, reading reminds me of the people who
believed in me. I am thankful for the opportunity to see my students grow as confident readers
and as confident people.

About the Author: Emily is a Community Education student at the University of Wisconsin-
Milwaukee. She works for the SPARK Early Literacy Program in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

*Name changed to protect student’s privacy

                                   An Experience in Tutoring
                                        Ashlie Baumann
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                          Vieau School
                                 U.S. 4 Congressional District
                                    State Assembly District 8
                                     State Senate District 3

I was drawn to this position because I want to teach and SPARK provided an opportunity to not
only get experience, but reaffirm that teaching is truly what I want to do. I assumed that, being
a tutor for the SPARK program, I would get an edge when it came to doing course work for an
Education Degree, not to mention my resume. I got so much more. I have a mentor, not that I
have conveyed that to her yet. I have friends that have such a wide breadth of interests, that
conversations and insights are always new. They also have other aspirations than teaching, so
we won’t all be in competition for the same job five years from now; this is a huge relief
because I am not competitive at all. Every day I go to work looking forward to what I will learn,
and teach, and the progress made not only by my students, but by me as well.

About the Author: I am 27 years old, living in Waukesha, Wisconsin and am attending UW-
Milwaukee for a degree in Early Adolescent Middle Childhood Education.

                               A Mutually Beneficial Relationship
                                            Ian Beck
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                          Vieau School
                                 U.S. 4 Congressional District
                                    State Assembly District 8
                                     State Senate District 3

“It matters to them;” words that have echoed through my head, said by the AmeriCorps staff.
At times I will think, “It is just elementary tutoring. It’s important, but not life changing. I might
have a little impact on them right now, but will they remember our partnership later on?”
Because essentially, that is what our relationship is, a partnership. We teach and learn right
alongside them. We grow when they grow. The success and shortcomings we experience are

As a SPARK Early Literacy tutor, I work with multiple young students, at varying levels of reading
and writing proficiencies. These kids, who are still impressionable and have somewhat
uncultivated ideas of themselves, show up almost every day, more than willing, but rather
eager to be a part of the program. And a job’s a job. I am being compensated for my service, so
I owe it to the students and the AmeriCorps to try and provide some substance to the kids I
tutor, to serve as a vessel of inspiration, to instill some intrinsic value of a well-rounded
education and all the doors that open as a direct result of it.

Yet it is seldom easy, often times being arduous and draining. When tasks become routine,
ideas dry up, ideologies become standardized, work becomes repetitive, responses turn
automatic, and service seems mundane, the “pull” I feel, that brings me back, isn’t internalized.
I can’t take credit for it because it does not come from me. Although it continues to stun me
every time, it stems from the kids I work with. The very same ones I learn with. Whether it’s
their consistent inquisitiveness, impossibly positive demeanor, or the sheer intuitiveness I
would not expect from a child, it always brings me back, and I am pleasantly surprised by it
every time it comes my way. I find myself revitalized, reinvigorated, and inspired.

They breathe life into the school, into us tutors, into the atmosphere itself. Their genuine
interest in what we are teaching, fuels my ambition.

When I look at the kids I tutor, my kids, the truth is I don’t have much of an idea as to what I’m
looking at yet; but I am excited for them to show me.
A job’s a job, and this is not one. AmeriCorps isn’t a paycheck. It transcends my previous
conceptions of duty and service to my country.

About the Author: Ian Beck believes his experience at Vieau School will is mutually beneficial to
himself and his kids, as he aspires to one day publish his children’s novel.

                                     A Lifetime of Service
                                          Rachel Tripi
            SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                         Vieau School
                                U.S. 4 Congressional District
                                   State Assembly District 8
                                    State Senate District 3

Ever since I was a child, my parents instilled in me the importance of service. We often went to
soup kitchens across Milwaukee and served those who needed food. We participated in many
volunteer efforts for various causes working with the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and Venture
Crews throughout my teenage years.

In my college years it seemed difficult to find time for service as well as something that
interested me. That is, until SPARK came along. I learned about SPARK through my brother who
was in the education program at UWM. I tried applying in my sophomore year at college but
scheduling was an issue. So when my junior year began, I made sure to have room in my
schedule for this great opportunity to serve.

Through AmeriCorps I have been able to do something that has felt so natural since my
childhood. I never thought that I would find something that I would be so passionate about. It is
through the SPARK program that I feel that I am making an impact in my community by sowing
the seeds of excellence in education for these young, impressionable minds.

About the Author: Rachel Tripi is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee studying
Comparative Literature and the Liberal Arts.

               The Quest for the Holy Grail: Chicken Soup for the SPARK Soul
                                       Hannah Monthie
            SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                         Vieau School
                                U.S. 4 Congressional District
                                   State Assembly District 8
                                    State Senate District 3

SPARK a fire
Ignite the PASSION
Instill a DESIRE to learn.
HELP the little man
Reach out to the MISUNDERSTOOD.
Be the CHANGE you want to see.
BELIEF enables a sense of BELONGING
Lay the FOUNDATION for FUTURE generations
HOPE without despair, LOVE creates POTENTIAL
Take the road less traveled...
Promote INDIVIDUALALITY not symmetry
Walk a mile...
HONOR cultural traditions
Fail, fall, try again, PERSERVERE
Embrace the BEAUTY of SUCCESS
Little things, make big differences

About the Author: Hannah Monthie is a student studying World Languages Education- ESL,
Spanish minor at UW Milwaukee.

                                       Lack of Confidence
                                        Nettie Robinson
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                               Holy Redeemer Christian Academy
                                 4th U.S. Congressional District
                                  11th State Assembly District
                                    4th State Senate District

“No Child Left Behind” brings a reflection to my mind of a third grade student that I’ve been
tutoring for some time now. Never can I say the word, “wrong”, and look into her eyes and see
the pain as she sits there straight faced without a smile. Instead, I say, “That’s okay, you’re
doing just fine, just give it some time.” She wants to do well, I can tell. But with the lack of
confidence, the tears in her eyes swell. Lesson after lesson - reading, spelling and a sentence or
two - with words of encouragement we always make it through.

Watching knowledge grow has been a very rewarding experience for me.

About the Author: Nettie Robinson is a loving mother, retired postal worker and caregiver.

 Progress is Not Measured by the Level Attained but by the Retention of Knowledge and the
                                 Recognition of Achievement.
                                        Catherine Murphy
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                          Holy Redeemer
                                  4 U.S Congressional District
                                   11th State Assembly District
                                     4th State Senate District

        Becoming a tutor for the SPARK Early Literacy Program has awakened my perspective on
the needs of literacy within the urban community. Throughout my time tutoring I’ve come to
know that no matter how small the service, or how limited your time may be, every minute
spent sharing with a child is a valuable asset to him/her as well as yourself. Those assets:
academic, building character and self concept, leadership, or practical life experiences, are the
groundwork of building strong trusting relationships that continue on to be the blossom of our

About the Author: Catherine Murphy is currently studying sociology at the University of

                                  A Home Away From Home…
                                         Brittany Y. Cullin
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                               Holy Redeemer Christian Academy
                                  4th US Congressional District
                                  11th State Assembly District
                                     4th State Senate District

I was once told that “the greatest violence in life is ignorance” –Unknown
     “To be conscious that you are ignorant is a great step to knowledge” -Benjamin Disraeli

Working within the SPARK family has allowed me to change harsh times in a special group of
youth through the power of reading and writing. It is with this knowledge obtained that they
are privy to a new world of excellence. Many of my students enjoy coming to SPARK because
they are never judged, they can let go and truly be themselves which allows them to shine.
When they allow themselves to let go, they are uplifted and find that they could do it all along:

                                  Drifting off into distant land,
                             I see the eyes of youth with demands.

                                    They call to me -Ms. Brittany…
                                Please teach me more than my ABC.
                                  I want to learn to read and write,
                              Combat ignorance with words not fists!
                                I promise to open my ears and heart
                         Fill it with caring words, diagraphs and charts.

                                     Story-time is always best.
                             You never stop teaching, even on walks.
                             I have a new goal to rise above the rest.
                           I can’t get enough of all the amazing things
                           I experience in SPARK even with my family.

                             I’m overjoyed with the love you show
                                     This is why SPARK is…
                                  My Home Away from Home!

About the Author: My name is Brittany Y. Cullin, I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin-
Milwaukee, majoring in Community Engagement and Education. My career path encompasses

social work through community action with underprivileged youth in the community as well as
foster care settings.

                                   The Best Service of My Life
                                        Jacklyn P. Everage
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                               Holy Redeemer Christian Academy
                                  4th US Congressional District
                                  11th State Assembly District
                                     4th State Senate District

My service as a tutor with Holy Redeemer has strengthened my resolve to become an educator.
Every time I tutor, I witness the great impact that I make in the personal and academic success
of the students I am responsible for teaching reading and literacy skills. It is greatly satisfying to
see a student progress from having a lack of confidence in one self and struggling with simple
letter sounds to developing a positive self-concept and fluently reading. It gives me a good
feeling inside to know that I am positively making a difference in the lives of the students I

My experience as a tutor has taught me the importance of establishing a positive relationship
with the students as a foundation for teaching. Listening to them, speaking to them using
positive and uplifting words, setting high expectations and demonstrating that I care about
them as people has been very important in the success of the tutoring sessions. The students I
tutor have made a great impact in my personal development in so many ways. They have
taught me how to master the qualities of patience and persistence. Furthermore, I am better at
communicating with young children. Moreover, I have developed an even stronger concern,
compassion, and love for children who are disadvantaged or considered “at-risk”, and I have a
better insight on the hurdles in their way that prevents them from receiving the best quality
education. Thus, this experience has stirred within me a great desire to become an advocate
for the education of disadvantaged children. It is so easy for “at-risk” children to be dismissed
as future societal failures when in fact they are untapped reservoirs of intelligence and talent.
In summary, my experience as a tutor at Holy Redeemer has been a powerful experience where
I have learned a lot and have personally grown. I intend to use my experience to be an agent of
positive change in the education of young children.

About the Author: Jacklyn Everage is a native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a product of the
Milwaukee Public School System. She has a B.S. in Sociology from Grand Valley State University
in Allendale, MI. Jacklyn intends to pursue a Master of Library Science degree and receive
certification as a School Library Media Coordinator. Currently, she is an AmeriCorps volunteer
as a SPARK tutor teaching reading and literacy skills to children in K-3 grades.

                                            Passing the Torch
                                             Noah Bernhardt
                SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                         Rogers Street Academy
                                    4 U.S. Congressional District
                                       9th State Assembly District
                                         3rd State Senate District

Throughout my time as a SPARK tutor, I have witnessed a common thread that is deeply woven
into the fabric of all of those who are involved in the program. When I first began to pull at the
string in hopes of unraveling what exactly it was about those who so generously donate their
time, it brought to mind a number of characteristics. Among the first to pop up in my head
were thoughtful, caring and nurturing.

While these words are certainly excellent descriptors of my colleagues, it would be doing them
a great injustice to simply leave it at that. And sure enough, as time has passed, more and more
words have come to mind. For instance: creative, compassionate, dedicated and engaged; just
to name a few. However, after passing the midway point of my term of service, I believe I have
found the one thing that every person who participates in SPARK has in common—love.

Love is evident every single time that I walk into the SPARK room. It is evident in the incessant
laughter of the tutors and students that echoes throughout the halls. It is evident in the
infectious joy of the site manager that can brighten even the darkest of moods. It is evident in
all of the extra time and energy that is put into creating a warm and stimulating SPARK room
that welcomes and embraces you like an old friend the moment you enter.

But it is most clearly evident in how excited the students are to be a part of it all. The way they
can hardly contain themselves from sprinting to the SPARK room. The way they look up to their
tutors. The little cards and candies that they give you to reciprocate their sense of belonging.
And those tiny little smiles that let you know that they, too, feel that love.

Author Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “Someday, after we have mastered the winds, the
waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness the energies of love. Then for the second time in
the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.” I feel the SPARK program is living up to
its name by being a catalyst for change in the way we treat our fellow human beings. By
empowering children with the ability to read, we are not only giving them a necessary skill to
help them live their lives, but we are also passing along the torch of love and compassion.

About the Author: Noah Bernhardt is a first year SPARK tutor and a graduate of Carroll
University, he also served a year with VISTA.

                                      The Best Breakthrough
                                          Laura Gorichanaz
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                      Rogers Street Academy
                                 4 U.S. Congressional District
                                    9th State Assembly District
                                      3rd State Senate District

As a SPARK Early Literacy Tutor at Rogers Street Academy, I have encountered children in all
stages of development with their reading and writing skills. While reading and writing skills may
come easy for some of our students, for some it can be very difficult. One of my first grade
students stuck out to me in particular when it came to her struggles with the “sh” and “ch”
digraphs. For weeks and weeks, I tried to give numerous examples of words and meanings
between the two different digraphs, but nothing could seem to help her comprehend that the
“ch” and “sh” sounds were very unique and different from one another. I was stumped on what
I could do to help her. It wasn’t until one of my fellow tutors gave me the idea to use Spanish
words such as churro to use, since my student is bilingual and was previously in a bilingual
kindergarten class. It was to my surprise that this was all I needed to help her distinguish
between the two sounds. After weeks of continuously working on the same concept, it was
great to see that there finally was a breakthrough. As part of our warm up every session we still
go over these digraphs, and she continues to differentiate between the two. With the
collaboration of my fellow tutors, we were able to allow her to master her digraphs.

About the Author: Laura Gorichanaz is currently a UWM student working towards a Sociology
Degree and Child and Adolescent Certificate. This is her first year with the SPARK Early Literacy
Program and she is dedicated to the children she helps serve in the Greater Milwaukee Area.

                                         Growing Kindness
                                           Katie Majewski
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                        Rogers St. Academy
                                 4 U.S. Congressional District
                                    9th State Assembly District
                                      3rd State Senate District

One of the most touching, inspiring events that I have had the opportunity to experience
happened with a first grade student of mine. While we were focusing on pronouncing “ch”
digraphs, we came across the word “chest,” which she promptly sounded out, just like many
other students do. However, she then said something that I found to be incredibly insightful
and clever, particularly because it came from the mouth of a six year old girl. After I asked her
to explain to me what a chest is, thinking of the many possible answers she could give (i.e. a
part of your body, a large box-like piece of furniture, a treasure chest, etc.), she replied by
putting her hand on her chest, and saying “My heart is in my chest. I grow kindness in my
heart.” I was completely taken aback by her response and told her that she was absolutely
right, and that she was a very smart young lady, to which she again amazed me with her reply
of, “My heart is always learning.” This wisdom was an incredibly surprising, but very memorable
and touching, experience for me that I will never forget. Her innocent, incredibly sweet,
insightful statements have really stuck with me ever since, and have inspired me to encourage
the growing of kindness and a desire to learn in the hearts of all the other children I tutor, and
has taught me a valuable lesson about life as well. Going into the SPARK tutoring program, I
initially thought that I would be the one to teach children valuable skills and lessons, but as it
turns out, they are the ones who are continually surprising me with their wisdom, innocence,
and enthusiasm towards learning that has truly made a positive impact on my life. I stumbled
into the tutoring position by chance, but have thoroughly enjoyed my experience, and hope to
continue on by helping to inspire (and be inspired by) the youth of our generation.

About the Author: Katie Majewski is a recent graduate of UW-Milwaukee. She is hoping to
continue her studies in Hawaii next year, and she loves working for the SPARK Program.

                                      Making the Difference
                                      Cassandra VanWormer
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                      Rogers Street Academy
                                  4 U.S. Congressional District
                                    9th State Assembly District
                                      3rd State Senate District

Working for SPARK has been a life-changing experience. I came into this program with
absolutely no background in urban schooling. I didn’t know what to expect or how to approach
the change. I grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin with a population of 9,000 people.
Shifting my residency to Milwaukee, with a population of 950,000 people was a huge culture
shock for me. The average class size in my elementary school was 12 kids. In Milwaukee, the
average class size is 30 children per teacher. This factor alone makes it hard for teachers to help
the children that are struggling.

 Although Milwaukee’s schooling is unlike anything that I have ever experienced before, I have
to say it is the best experience I have had. There are children within this school district that are
deficient in literacy and need significant help to stand a chance succeed in the real world. That’s
where SPARK comes in. The tutors within the program are not here to make money or to earn a
name. They are here to make a difference. The tutors are here for the children. They are here
to give them the help outside the classroom that they need. SPARK is about being a part of
something bigger than yourself and that’s one of the many reasons why I love it.

One of my friends asked me why I liked SPARK so much and why it was such a big deal to me. I
looked at her and said, “where would you be right now if you couldn’t read efficiently?”
Pondering the outcome of your life without a satisfactory reading level is terrifying. However,
this happens to people all the time. Just a half hour with a child three times a week is all they
need to start enhancing their reading and comprehension skills. An hour and a half a week of
them feeling like they are not just a child in a classroom, they are a SPARK student, is all they
need. The satisfying feeling of helping someone accomplish their goals makes my job worth
every second.

Overall, feeling like you are making a difference in a child’s everyday life is the most gratifying
feeling in the world. I can’t explain how it felt the day one of my students wrote his ABC’s and
told me the sound that each letter made. Knowing that he completed the first step in learning
to read efficiently was heartwarming. This program has not only allowed me the opportunity to
work with children in an urban setting, it has also given me the confidence and education I need
to successfully help these children.

About the Author: Cassie VanWormer is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-
Milwaukee with her intended major as education. This is her first year in the SPARK program.

                              A Life Changing Experience
                                       Shannon Fitzgerald
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                 U.S. 4th Congressional District
                                   State Assembly District 17
                                      State Senate District 6

My service experience has overall been a positive one. It has really taught me a lot of things
about myself, and has made me more confident that this is the profession for me. Having a
student finally understand something because of you is truly such a rewarding feeling. Seeing
their faces as they get excited because they have figured a word out or have mastered a skill, is
such a great feeling to a tutor. These are the kind of things that make me really anxious to
become a teacher. This profession is something I’ve always wanted to do. Working at this job
has taught me a lot about myself and what it takes to be a teacher. I have also grown a lot from
working at this job. I have learned what it takes to be effective at this job. You really learn that
children are all developmentally at different levels and you need to alter your teaching for

The experiences I’ve had with the students at Sherman have been such great experiences.
Building relationships with them and having them trust you is a great feeling. I’ve had students
really open up to me about their family and about their lives. This really makes me realize they
trust me. Having trust from students really helps you have a bond with them and helps you
become a better teacher. These are the kind of experiences I hold close to me. Once you get
that relationship built with them, they gain so much respect for you. The students really look up
to you. They really trust you and feel like they can tell you anything. These are the moments
that makes me sure I want to be a teacher. Working with young children you learn that
everyone is going through something no matter what age. Having lost my mother while a
teenager, I feel like this has brought me to this job. She loved volunteering and working with
children. I am very grateful too because this has been a life changing experience. I’ve had
students lose grandparents before and having gone through this in my life really helps me able
to talk to young children about this kind of thing. When one of my students opened up to me
about their father being in jail it really made me realize that even young children have to go
through hard things like I did in my life. Experiences like these really change a person and give
them a whole new perspective for life. Working at this job has taught me so much about my
future as a teacher. It has taught me I really need to be flexible, because things will not always
go as planned. It has given me practice on lesson planning which I really appreciate. I am so glad
I have gotten this opportunity, and look forward to the great experience I will have as I continue
this job.

About the Author: My name is Shannon Fitzgerald. I am studying early childhood education at
UW-Milwaukee. Since UWM has an urban focus, my classes and this job actually really tie into
each other and I am able to use my experiences from SPARK in my classes. I am truly grateful
for this opportunity and will remember this job as I become a teacher.

                                       Lifelong Learning
                                         Katie Gengler
            SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                        Metcalfe School
                                4th U.S. Congressional District
                                 18th State Assembly District
                                   6th State Senate District

Last spring I found myself missing something more than I ever had: working with children in the
inner-city. I had heard about SPARK through a friend and in the fall and decided to apply; for
that decision I am eternally grateful.

Tutoring at Metcalfe has reminded me why I want to become a teacher. The opportunity to
witness a child learn and grow is truly priceless. While I see my elementary students discovering
something new every day and growing from it, I also find myself learning- whether it be a new
word from a flipbook, a better approach to teaching a concept, or what one of my students did
over the weekend- learning is always taking place.

Tutoring has also enabled me to come to the realization that the skills I am developing now will
transfer over when I teach English to middle and high school students. Prospective secondary
teachers often assume that because they will be teaching older students illiteracy will not be an
issue they have to face. However, I have come to realize that not all of my middle and high
school students will be reading at their grade level and some may even be struggling to read at
the most basic level. Because I now have a strong foundation in tutoring struggling readers, I
will be better prepared to assist such students in the future.

 I know all that I have learned amounts to a mere stepping stone compared to the information
and lessons that are to come. I am excited and eager to discover and learn more- from the kids,
the trainings, my peers and my site manager, emulating what I hope to one day remind my
students- that learning is an ongoing process.

Let the learning continue.

About the Author: I am studying Secondary Education with an emphasis in English at University
of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and will be student teaching next year.

                                       The Poetry of Work
                                           Carly Vitrano
            SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                         Metcalfe School
                                4 U.S. Congressional District
                                 18th State Assembly District
                                     6th State Senate District

Tough times and bad grades
get yourself a SPARK of change
make a brighter day

Hard work and struggle
the frustration that comes with
melt before the result

Feeling like nothing
can be fixed by a small SPARK
of encouragement

About the Author: Carly Vitrano is currently studying Early Childhood Education while she is at
college. She is also a literacy tutor for the SPARK program and enjoys seeing each and every one
of her students flourish into a young, independent reader.

                                        One Day at a Time
                                         Cassandra Byars
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                                         Metcalfe School
                                  4 U.S Congressional District
                                   18th State Assembly District
                                     6th State Senate District

Since my journey has begun, my outlook on education has expanded to include the time we
take out of our day to read our child a book as he or she lays to sleep and starts another school
day, and to children learning new things and being able to show their parents what they did
with their reading and writing. It amazes me the things kids can do if only they can put their
minds into it. I laugh and smile at the kids I see, as they become excited when it’s time to read.
No need to beg or plead now, they just do it automatically. I like to see the students grow not
just from head to toe, but from their reading and writing to their vowels and sounds. I know
change takes time but I’m willing to provide 30 minutes of my time every day to make sure that
change comes alive…One day at a time.

About the Author: I am 22 years old. I’m very caring, with the heart of gold, just preparing for
One day at a time…what my future has to hold.

                                     I Live for that Moment
                                           Sandra Austin
             SPARK Early Literacy Program Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee
                               Holy Redeemer Christian Academy
                                  4th US Congressional District
                                  11th State Assembly District
                                     4th State Senate District

Working with young people, children, is very uplifting for me. To know that I am making a
difference in a child’s life brings me joy. The struggles to get them to trust you enough to allow
them to make a mistake, and then to trust you enough to allow you to help them, I live for
those moments. The times when they are experiencing chaos in class, but work so very hard
for you, I live for those moments. The times they ask, “Can I write two sentences?” or they say,
“Give me a test, I’m ready. My mom helped me study,” I live for those moments. Bright eyes,
trusting eyes, and trusting hearts. The children of SPARK depend on caring individuals that are
not afraid to give a little of themselves, and national service gives us that opportunity.

Being a part of AmeriCorps SPARK has brought me personal joy. Education is so very
important. To be a part of helping children understand and grasp a concept or sound, which
seems so small to some, is so very important at this juncture in their lives. That is a privilege.

About the Author: I am a servant, serving is my Middle Name.

           UW-Eau Claire: Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness

                                              Giving Back
                                              Elora Leene
                             Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                        Northstar Middle School
                                     U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                       State Assembly District: 93
                                        State Senate District: 31

I believe we are all obligated by civic duty to actively participate in our communities, by voting,
volunteering, running for local government, or simply being a good neighbor. The best part of my
AmeriCorps service has been that I can do something that I think is making a difference and turn it into a
job, therefore allowing me to devote a lot more time to it than I could otherwise.

My service has been to work with Middle School students who are of low income, of minority race, and/
or would be the first generation in their family to go to college. My experience has taught me a lot about
kids that come from very different backgrounds than mine, but whom I can also relate with on different
levels. As someone who is already in college and had a lot of support in getting their because of my
family and circumstances, I feel the best way I can give back is by helping others achieve higher
education as well.

My name is Elora Leene and I am a junior at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. I am pursuing my
bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science, with a minor in French. This is my second year working
with Blugold Beginnings, funded through AmeriCorps.

                                       Blugold Beginnings: Service Story
                                                 Benjamin Harris
                                 Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                              Memorial High School
                                          U.S. Congressional District: 3
                                           State Assembly District: 93
                                             State Senate District: 31

During my time as an AmeriCorps intern, I have had the privilege of helping middle and high school
students achieve their goals and provide instruction. The program has shown me the differences in how
each student learns and approaches problems at an individual level. One of the greatest strengths I’ve
noticed in our program would be the tools we as mentors have at our disposal to help our students. The
binders, college coaches, ACT prep courses, and financial aid planning meetings are just some of the
ways Blugold Beginnings helps make a difference to students endeavoring towards secondary education.

My weekly duties as an intern entail mentoring sessions at Memorial High School and volunteering at
the AmeriCorps Safe and Sound program at the Eau Claire YMCA. During mentoring sessions, I
predominately work with the Blugold Beginnings binder instructing high school students valuable
skillsets needed for the future. More specifically, setting S.M.A.R.T goals for projects and using the
timeline mapped out in a series of yearly binder’s help mentees understand what is expected of them
and what they will need to accomplish to achieve the dreams of their future.

The second responsibility I help provide students with is homework assistance and future planning. As I
stated earlier, the program has shown me differences in how students learn and approach problems
differently. As a result, my role as a mentor has become more defined and challenged me on how to
best approach them. Many skills taught in the binder such as paper outlining, mnemonics, and other
learning or planning tools are universally helpful in a wide range of situations. But by far my most
favored method of teaching during mentoring sessions is incorporating the skills from lessons into
homework and planning.

The Safe & Sound program at the Eau Claire YMCA is another service I help provide by interacting with
the youth who attend. The program is designed as a safe area for youth grades 6-8 to attend for free!
With limited access to the facility as well as other accommodations such as homework help and
transportation from South, DeLong, and Northstar Middle Schools Monday-Thursday. One of the
advantages of the program is the students may participate in a variety of activities of their choice every
day. These activities include: swimming, basketball, volleyball, racquetball, foosball, break dancing, and
a community room with access to various other activities as well as popcorn and snacks. I believe the
program is most beneficial because it not only allows students access to a safe place for physical activity
but provides a positive atmosphere free of drugs and alcohol.

As I continue pursuing my current and future goals, I will remember the experiences my services has taught me
with Blugold Beginnings. I believe there is and always will be a need for supplemental instruction and specific
guidance for students that this program provides. I would encourage for more community outreach regarding this
program and what the services provide to our youth. Furthermore, I sincerely believe this program has the
capacity to become a national supplemental program in conjuncture with our current standing education system.

Ben Harris is a Cell and Molecular Bio major at Winona State University. He hopes to work as a Physician Scientist
in the future.
                                      Blugold Beginnings
                                        Lacey Struensee
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Arcadia Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I work at Arcadia Middle School with 5th through 8th graders on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a
couple hours. I have been working with these students since October, and I feel like they have
been positively impacted by the program. They enjoy talking about what they want to do when
they grow up, and they really enjoy the time we spend together. We work on homework, go
through a section of the college knowledge binders, and then have a bit of free time where we
really get to know each other. For example, one of my mentees really likes fishing, so I always
ask them if they have gone recently and try to incorporate it into the lessons. I feel like
incorporating the student’s interests into the lessons has been very beneficial with making the
lessons more fun and relevant.

I think national service like the mentoring I do is important because it helps better the
community and society as a whole. Not only do we help those who benefit from us directly, but
others in the community benefit from our example. They may see what the kids are learning
and want to apply some of those things to their lives, but they might also see what we do and
want to also perform some form of national service.

I have personally grown from my service in the Arcadia community. I have gotten to know the
kids well and have learned much from them about the experiences of middle schoolers from
low-income, first generation or diverse families. I also have become a more patient and
organized person because those were necessary skills for me when working with children in this
age range. I also have special responsibilities as the site coordinator (such as connecting with
school faculty, disciplining students if necessary, and maximizing my time with the kids) which
have helped me grow as a responsible, effective leader.

Lacey is a Junior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire majoring in Spanish with a minor in
Global Studies.

                                 A Much-Valued Experience
                                        Karen Warner
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Throughout my hours of service for the AmeriCorps Blugold Beginnings Program, I am honored
to say that not only have I been given the opportunity to touch the lives of other students but
my life has been touched through each and every one of the students that I have helped as

Throughout the duration of the three hundred service hours, I have been spending time on
educating high school and middle school students about the importance of college, the aspects
of college, and of course, sharing great experiences that I have had during college with them. I
emphasize the tools and the strategies that are useful in order to create college successes and
tips that will help them through the many changes that are experienced in college. In addition, I
supply them with tips and tools that will help after their graduation for college in the
professional world. I not only encourage them to pursue their dream careers but I help them
along their journey to their college of choice by providing them help with their homework in
addition to giving them tips on how to successfully achieve success with each benchmark that is
to be reached before and after their admissions to college. However, throughout this time, I
have also have had the privilege to get to know each one of my students at a personal level. I
not only present to them an abundance of knowledge about college, but I take the time to get
to know them as a person and about their likes, dislikes, hobbies, dreams, and about their
educational as well as personal goals. By forming these relationships, the students are more
comfortable with sharing aspects about their lives and futures with me and this not only allows
me to enjoy the fact that I am getting to know spectacular students, but this also allows me to
help them on a deeper and more personal level when it comes to offering them tips and
suggestions about questions they have about college. I can direct my answers towards their
personalities and provide them with scenarios and experiences that they will more than likely
encounter based off of who they are. I value the relationships that I have with each of the
students that I work with because I am not just passing on tools, strategies, and tips that will
allow them to access post-secondary education, but I am taking this opportunity to meet and
discover each special and unique student. Furthermore, in the future, I will be able to look back
and see how I helped make a difference in that student’s life and helped them achieve their
future career goals by guiding them on their way to post-secondary education.

Being a mentor for the Blugold Beginnings Program has given me the opportunity to learn more
about myself and how much I value the opportunity of providing students with the materials
they need in order to become successful individuals through attaining post-secondary

education. This program has allowed me to form and cherish each relationship I have with my
students and it has affirmed my personal and educational goal of wanting to become an
educator to middle and high school students in the future. I truly enjoy working with each of my
students and I will never forget my experiences that I have had working with each of them
through this AmeriCorps program.

My name is Karen Warner and I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I am a
double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Teaching and would like to teach middle
and high school when I graduate. This will be my fourth year with the Blugold Beginnings

                                       AmeriCorps Service Story
                                            David Schreiner
                             Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                           North High School
                                     U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                       State Assembly District: 93
                                        State Senate District: 31

As an AmeriCorps member and a blugold beginnings member I have learned the value of service to my
community. I have been serving at North High School in Eau Claire, WI. In this high school I have been
mentoring and tutoring students as well as advising them on their college aspirations. I have learned just
as much as I have taught during this time. These students have college hopes for far different reasons
than why I had college hopes. Most of my students are going to be first generation college students and
know very little about what it means to go to college. I have said it many times to my students that
when I was in high school I wanted to go to college just because that was what I was supposed to do. My
students however, want to go to college for a multitude of reasons including to bring a brighter future to
their family.

During my service at North High I have had no less than 20 mentees. Each one has come from all walks
of life and each one has had their strengths and weaknesses. It has been a challenge to reach each one I
must admit, but it has given me great experience in the field I hope to soon enter.

Service is an important part of being a well-rounded person. Not only does it reflect positively on
yourself, but it is invaluable to the community that you live in. It gives me great pride to serve at this
high school and talk with students just like myself 4 years ago. I made so many mistakes in my pre-
college schooling that I hope I can reach the students and guide them away from the ditches I found
myself in. It is important to note to those who want this job primarily for experience in the teaching field
that not all the students you encounter will be exactly like you were in high school. I loved going to
school and learning in high school and would have loved to hear from a college student; not all of your
students will feel that way, it is important to prepare yourself for that fact.

My name is David Schreiner, I am a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I am a hopeful
teacher someday and that is why I jumped at the chance to get experience teaching students. I plan to
graduate from UWEC and then head to graduate school in History and then hopefully on to teaching.

                                        Blugold Beginnings: My Beginning
                                                 Sarah Herrmann
                                  Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                               Delong Middle School
                                          U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                            State Assembly District: 93
                                             State Senate District: 31

Throughout my past three years of service to Blugold Beginnings, I have gone through several transformations that
have shaped me into who I am today. It is safe to say that joining Blugold Beginnings was my beginning as a service
oriented individual.

Blugold Beginnings is a college access program that serves 5th through 12th grade students in schools in the
Chippewa Valley. My specific area of work is with the middle school program, specifically at Delong Middle School
in Eau Claire, WI. I love every minute of working with the students at this school. Throughout the years my job
descriptions have evolved from a tutor/mentor, leader, and finally to intern. Even though the name of the
positions that I have held has changed, one thing has remained constant: working with and inspiring these
students to achieve higher education is the reason that I do what I do and is the driving force behind all of my

I began working with Blugold Beginnings three years ago as a sophomore in college. I joined Blugold Beginnings,
quite frankly, because I was in need of a job. After learning the mission and values of the program, I began to see
my work as more than just a job. I was beginning to see the bigger picture and the effects that I could have on my
community. I began to become more of an advocate for preparing students for college and developing successful
skills for lifelong learning. My second year in the program, I became even more involved, and took on new
leadership roles. I had transformed into a huge believer of the importance of teaching our students about college
and providing them with caring and knowledgeable mentors who serve to inspire them to dream big! This year, I
have seen the program transform in its structure and vision. In my opinion, we have become more effective in our
delivery of instruction in college knowledge and successful academic skills and behaviors. I have seen our students
benefit from these changes, and it makes my heart swell with pride when I see our students developing real goals
and dreams for their future and I know that they realize what needs to be done to make those a reality. When
working with our students, I often think about what kind of adults they will become in the future. I can truly say
that I see bright futures ahead of these students, and I feel privileged to have had so many opportunities to work
with and get to know them.

Service has always been important to me, but Blugold Beginnings has transformed my views on service. I now think
of service as a commitment that affects not only you and the recipients, but the greater community. By being
involved with the program for three years, I have been able to observe effects of our work with students,
something that really inspires me to continue this service work. Seeing the long term effects of this program gives
me hope for the future of our community; I see these students becoming successful and productive members of
the community and hopefully changing the face of higher education into a community of diverse populations.

Author’s bio: I am a senior at UW Eau Claire working towards a degree in Special Education: Cognitive Disabilities &
Learning Disabilities. I will be student teaching in the fall and graduating in December of 2012. I hope to get a job
teaching at a middle school after graduation.

                                             Tutoring Essay
                                              Joel Patrow
                             Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                          Memorial High School
                                     U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                       State Assembly District: 93
                                        State Senate District: 31

Thomas Hobbes is probably most known for Social Contract Theory. The idea that we are all part of
society and the only reason it works is because we all take the time to do our share of the
responsibilities that are required; we take the time to ensure that our offspring are well cared for, that
we are protected from nouns that could harm us and that we thrive in the future. I don't believe that we
as a group have been true to this social contract. I was drawn to AmeriCorps for this very reason; I
wanted to be a part of something that held the best interests of others as the centerpiece of its table. I
wanted and still desire to impact people in a way that allows them to believe in themselves, to give
something to others that they may not have reached out for on their own. Through AmeriCorps I feel I
have been able to do just this, and in the process gain insight into lessons I would otherwise not have

I spend a lot of time with high school students who hate to do their homework. I run the after school
program at a local high school and Monday through Thursday I spend about two hours working with
adolescents who stay after school. I help them almost exclusively with math and science (everyone's
least favorite subjects). At first I was taken aback by the amount of complaining that was zinging around
the library, where the program is held. "I don't want to take out my math, its stupid," could have been
the motto that every student had during those two hours. My response was normally something to the
tune of "WHAT????!!!! Math is awesome, it explains everything!!" The kids would smile but I mostly
thought they were just laughing at the way I said it, usually jovially. It was more of an attempt to break
down the barrier between an authority figure and a subordinate. But I began to realize that the same
kids were showing up, many of them failing multiple classes and who are considered "at risk" students.
And, regardless of the amount of complaints, I could convince them to take out their homework and
work on it; they never seemed to grow angry with me as I ask them to focus on the work not their
friend, to finish something in a time interval they feel is to short.

I quickly picked up on this and sought to bring more and more students into my circle of acquaintances
because there just had to be more students out there who I could reach and, for two hours of their day,
pick away at their built up walls against accomplishment and self-confidence. A lot of these students did
not seem to believe that they could understand math, that they were and are unable to achieve good
grades; prior to this year many of them had not thought about college either. Where these habits came
from is difficult to pinpoint. Bad parenting probably, but who am I to make such a judgment, I am
twenty years old with no children. All I knew was that someone or everyone was not holding up their
end of the social contract and regardless of origin these habits are poisonous.

After about a week they all knew my name, there were kids who had waited specifically for me to help
them with their homework. It was after about three weeks that I began to realize that what these kids
needed was someone to look up to and someone to believe in them or at least that was part of it. Even
if they weren't saying it, these students were happy to be in that room, even though I made them take

out their despised homework and actually understand the implications of their studies. They showed up
every day. If you ask them why, they would say that a ride is coming and they need to kill some time but
they could hang out in other places and then chose to spend their time with me and a few other
teachers doing their homework.

The more time I spent helping the more it became clear to me that the only homework done was in that
library or in a study hall that had the same atmosphere as the library. None of it was done at home. I'd
ask someone to finish the last two problems of an assignment because we had run out of time and it
would never, ever be done. So the two hours became more and more important. Because it was my
responsibility to assure that what was needed for tomorrow’s classes was finished and ready. My
philosophy "you do what you can, with the time you have, with where you are." That's actually all you
can do. So I would help five students, each at opposite sides of the room all at once. I wish that there
was a better way to handle things because frequently I am not able to help everyone who needs
assistance. In fact, lots of students need one on one help with their studies and there just simply aren’t
always enough tutors to go around.

I am still doing this process, the five students at once and to some extent it is working. There is a specific
student who is looking at stout as a possibility and even though he is struggling with keeping his grades
up, he is excited about his future; he is actually attempting and making an effort, which, at this point is
more important. Overall I have seen some evidence that what I am doing and a few teachers are doing is
working but there is a real lack of good tutors and teachers who are willing to go above and beyond for
students, which is what a lot of them need. And as people of this society it is our duty, implicit in the
social contract, to do whatever is necessary to ensure that our offspring are getting their needs met and
that they will succeed in whatever pursuit they attempt. But I am not unappreciative of the opportunity
I have and have had while working for AmeriCorps. I have been able to give back something real to
others and to be a part of a cause I believe in. I want to thank you, whoever is reading this for choosing
me as a mentor. I have learned that the most important quality to have in this world is to do what is
needed regardless of time and amount of work. To not focus on "me" so much as a an individual but to
focus on "us" as a collective and where I fit in and what my duties are as an individual in society. I hope
that after reading this you have some understanding of what I do and how I feel about what we do.
Again thank you.

My name is Joel Patrow, I am a dual degree physics and engineering student at Eau Claire. I hated high
school because my home life sucked and I didn't have any support from my parents while I was in high
school. Over time I realized that if I tried hard I could do anything I wanted and so I thought, hey, a
doctor would be fun. Then I realized I hated blood but loved math. I also think that people are capable
of anything, most of the time they just try nothing.

                                            A Thank You and a Farewell
                                                      Kou Vang
                                   Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                                Delong Middle School
                                           U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                             State Assembly District: 93
                                              State Senate District: 31

My name is Kou Vang and I work for Blugold Beginnings as part of AmeriCorps at Delong Middle School, the YMCA,
and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
During the week, I work as a TM (tutor/mentor) at Delong Middle School during regular school hours helping
students with their school work. Not only that, I’m also there to lend them an ear when life starts to overwhelm
them (one of my students has health issues and one has had to go through a divorce with his parents). After school
on Wednesdays, I go and open up the AmeriCorps room at the YMCA because Wednesday is the only day in the
Eau Claire School District where there aren’t any planned after-school activities at the middle schools so many of
the students are free and we encourage them to come to the YMCA as something constructive and safe to do after
school. I also work as the historian for our Blugold Beginnings Program at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire,
taking pictures of all the activities we do that range from educational programs to volunteer work. My favorite job
though, is to help give tours to prospective students (high school students) as well as future ones (elementary and
middle school students) because I’m able to give them a lasting impression about how far you can go in life at the
educational level if you really work hard.

My favorite memory of going to college involved being a part of AmeriCorps. Two years ago, we had a student
named Bailey at Delong Middle School whom we tutored. He was a special education student because he had
health problems. Being an only child, you can imagine how his parents had prayed for his well-being and longevity
more than anything else. One night, as he went to sleep, he had a seizure, and was never able to wake up again.
But before he had passed away, he was able to spend his last weekend with Blugold Beginnings with us during our
tailgate and college football game. I was fortunate enough to be the last person to photograph him as he was
having fun, smiling, and living the life his parents would’ve wanted him to. I developed all the pictures I had of
Bailey and the Friday before Bailey’s funeral, all of the TM’s and students got together to make a poster for his

Sometimes I think karma put me here, at the right place and the right time. I only accidentally stumbled onto this
job because one day during my 3 hour painting class, I had forgotten my paint so after an hour of having nothing to
do, I quietly snuck out. Outside, I saw 3 of my college friends across the street laughing and telling jokes. I ran up to
them thinking they were going to a party because they didn’t have their backpacks or books with them. Upon
further questioning, I find out they had met Mary Huffcutt at a restaurant and were going in to apply for a job.
Only they never finished filling out their applications and I did.

If I had never picked up a camera, never snuck out of painting class, I would never have been able to be a part of
Bailey’s last weekend here on earth and let his parents know how much he enjoyed life to his last. I have grown
from this in so many ways. Before, I only took pictures for fun, but after being able to give Bailey’s parents some
closure, I began to look at photography as a gift and a privilege. I try to take as many happy memorable moments
as I can. There was no doubt I would keep on doing this job in college until I graduate because there could be
another Bailey who would need all of us to be there laughing with him. This is truly the best job I have ever had
and I am so thankful to be a part of it.

This is my last semester at UW-Eau Claire, I look forward to watch the future holds.

                                Blugold Beginnings Service Story
                                          Jamie Olson
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      Delong Middle School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

I have grown as a person through being a part of Blugold Beginnings and it has impacted many
students’ lives. It is unique in the way that it emphasizes our responsibility to not only help
them with their homework but to set a good example for them, getting to know them and
developing friendships, talking about college, and helping them figure out what they want for
their futures. I tutor 2 students at Delong and I go to Arcadia high school on Fridays.

National service and community service is something that I wish I would have done more of
when I was in high school. These types of jobs often connect people to the community, helps
them reach out to people in need, and it teaches people a sense of responsibility. People that
participate in national service normally get a lot out of it, impact lives, and their perceptions of
life changes in certain ways. The best part is that they do it out of the goodness of their hearts
for just a small stipend and educational award to live off of.

I have learned a lot by participating in this program, such as my ability to interact with students
of various ages, and my strengths and limitations for a variety of skills. I have learned more
about the Hmong culture in general, which has been really interesting.

Being at Delong and Arcadia has been a really good experience. It’s rewarding having
conversations with my mentees about college life, interests, and possible career choices. It’s so
great that these children have their mentors to help them start thinking about their futures.
One of my mentees was a bit apprehensive about her abilities to go to college when I first
started mentoring her, but now she seems more confident and open to the idea of it. It’s
ultimately a decision that she will make on her own, but it’s nice for her having someone to
encourage her and having confidence in her. Now it’s becoming more and more crucial to get
some form of post-secondary education in order to get a job. It’s programs like this that is
boosting the high school and college graduation rate across the nation!

Author Biography- My name is Jamie Olson and I am a senior majoring in Special Education.
This is my first year participating in Blugold Beginnings!

                        AmeriCorps Service Story: Making a Difference
                                         Jessica Tran
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                 Sherman Elementary School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Being part of AmeriCorps, I believe that I have a made an impact on the people that I have
served. I enjoy going to the elementary schools and mentoring children at different grade
levels. I have set a role model for them to look upon and have shown how getting education is
important. I have served students from 5th grade to 8th grade. I learned a lot about what it
takes to help these kids achieve their goal each day. I want to see them succeed and get them
to be motivated to learn new things. I have worked with these students on their Blugold
Beginnings binder to prepare them for college. What these students get from working on these
binders and have me as their mentor are that they are more aware of where education can
take them and the opportunities that they have in the future when going to college. Also, it
helps them express what they want in life and what they aren’t sure with. I am here to help
them get informed and be their guidance. I think it’s important that these students have
mentors because some children don’t have older brothers or sisters that went to college to look
upon as a role model. I have grown a lot through this service. Working with these students and
attending meetings have helped me see the value of education and how it’s important for
everyone. I feel more confident in working with the students because I have so much
experiences working with them individually. I learn more as I am tutoring them and I feel like I
am responsible for how I carry myself to the students. I feel more comfortable working with
different ages and I learned how to teach students and adjust my teachings so that they can
understand or find meaning to what they are learning. I think this national service is important
because there are students who don’t know much about why they have to go to school or
where they would like to go. I think this service helps them think about the options and get
them to explore what they are interested in and what they would like to be or do in the future.
This national service helps students and community to become a better place for everyone.
Children and College students benefit from being part of this national service.

My name is Jessica Tran. I am currently attending University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. My major
is Elementary Education and minor is General Science.

                           My Experience with Blugold Beginnings
                                         Mike Kosiak
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I started working at Blugold Beginnings in October of 2011 after my friend and roommate,
Jared, recommended that I apply to the program. Before working at Blugold Beginnings I
volunteered with Eau Claire Community Restorative Justice, which placed me at North High
School working with juvenile offenders. I wanted to help out more at North and I realized that
Blugold Beginnings was the perfect way to fulfill my desire to mentor high school students. Last
semester I worked with two students at North and several different students at Arcadia Middle
School. This provided me with a unique opportunity to work with students in both an urban and
rural setting. The main thing I took away from working last semester is that the rate at which
students deal with problems and issues at home and in school is very high. I began to see how
conflicts at school created conflicts at home and vice versa. My goal then became to remedy
these conflicts to the best of my abilities while promoting the student’s academic achievement,
personal development, and drive for future education. My goal has carried over to second
semester where I now work with six students at North High School. I have seen improvement in
their academic achievement, personal development, and drive for future education as well as
my own personal growth. I’m excited to see what the future holds for my mentees and I. As
always, I will strive towards fulfilling my goal.

My name is Mike Kosiak. I am a Junior, Psychology and Sociology major at UW-Eau Claire. I am
active in psychological research on campus and pole vault for the school track team. I enjoy
working with high school students and look forward to working with them in the future.

                                  AmeriCorps Service Story
                                       Jordan Herrmann
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                    Altoona Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I work for Blugold Beginnings as a middle school mentor. I have six different middle school
students that I mentor each week. Each student benefits differently from having a college
mentor. Some benefit because they need the academic help with their homework, while others
benefit because they need someone they can talk to about their future and going to college.
Since joining Blugold Beginnings in October, I have seen students raise their grades and become
more interested in hearing about college. I once asked one of the students I mentor if she knew
what she wanted to do when she grew up and she said, “Yeah, I want to be a doctor.” I then
asked her if she knew where she wanted to go to school. Her response was, “Yeah, I want to go
to the University of Eau Claire like you do.” It is a humbling experience to hear that you made
that big of an impression on someone you only talk to once a week.

I am twenty years old and a sophomore at UW Eau Claire, studying social work and Spanish and
I am very happy to have gotten the opportunity to be a part of Blugold Beginnings.

                                   AmeriCorps: Reflection
                                         Carly Hanson
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Memorial High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I will finish my third term with AmeriCorps this spring. Coincidentally, this is when I will also
graduate from college. I consider both of these to be two of my greatest accomplishments- and
I truly believe serving in AmeriCorps has changed my perspective on many issues.

I remember how frightened I was as a senior about to graduate from high school. I was worried
about balancing schoolwork, extracurriculars and jobs when nothing that pressing had ever
been expected of me before. That is why I am proud to say that I have helped to encourage
and prepare my mentee to enter her freshmen year of college. She is smart, deserving and
driven. As she enters college and I leave, I hope that she remembers the work we did together
this past year and all the progress she made. I plan to take everything I learned from my
experiences with AmeriCorps and apply it to my professional life. I believe I can follow many of
the same moral and ethical guidelines used in the program and integrate them into my adult
I want to thank all the people who believed in me and made it possible to be a member of this
wonderful program. I will truly miss it and expect to hear about all the wonderful things
AmeriCorps will do in the future.

Carly Hanson is graduating this spring 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication-
Public Relations. She has been involved in many other activities the University of Wisconsin-
Eau Claire offers and expects to reside in the Twin Cities upon graduation.

                                      The Joy of Helping
                                           Erik Bang
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                   Northstar Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

For the last few months and beyond I have had the honor of serving my community in various
capacities. One way that I have enjoyed serving is through mentoring students at local
elementary and middle schools in the Eau Claire region. This has included helping them with
their homework as well as utilizing information that has been compiled to get them more
interested in going to college someday. Each of these students that I work with have their own
unique set of personalities, talents, and even challenges. One thing that is rewarding is seeing
when a student has the courage to ask you a question or seek help from you either on school
work or simply to find out more information on what college life is like. At the middle school
level it has been quite different from any other experiences. The challenge there is to get
students to realize the importance of school work and to help foster more motivation in
learning about college. For elementary students it has been a little simpler of a task. At these
schools it is all about merely getting enough information to each student and to get them
thinking about their future in the world we live in.

Some ways that I believe and have personally witnessed my mentees being impacted is by how
much motivation they have to learn about college more and to be successful in school overall.
Other students have simply needed a positive role model in their lives and continually seek out
a mentor like me to just listen to them. For me personally this is the greatest and most
rewarding part of my service. I love helping by simply being a role model for my mentees. It is
not the hardest part of my job, but it is easily the most rewarding.

I am currently a first time member in AmeriCorps. I am looking to continue to work with this
program even after I graduate in May from this university. I am a 5th year student from
Minnesota and have had a lot of experience serving the Eau Claire community through other
service programs connected with the university.

                                         My First Year
                                         Erin Gadient
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

This is my third year as an AmeriCorps member but only my first as a part of the amazing
Blugold Beginnings program at University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. I have had an awesome
experience with the program so far. I work at a couple of different schools working as a
mentor/tutor to help middle school and high schoolers prepare for college and their futures!
This semester I travel to two different schools. I go to Arcadia, Wisconsin to mentor in a middle
school. There I generally work one on one with students to help them with their homework
and on lessons preparing them for their years ahead in high school and in post-secondary
education. I also make the trip three times a week to North High School in Eau Claire,
Wisconsin. Here I work with four mentees, each twice a week for an hour. It is so amazing to
see the progress that all of my mentees have made academically and in their knowledge and
ambitions for post- secondary education.

I am now a junior at University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire. I am majoring in Elementary
Education and have a minor in Mathematics. This program really compliments my educational
goals. I use the skills I am learning in my program to help mentor and tutor my mentees!

                                      Blugold Beginnings
                                          Karen Her
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Delong Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I mentor at three different schools and have impacted many different lives in many ways. I
started working with Blugold Beginnings fall of 2011. I was first assigned at Delong Middle
School with two mentees. My mentees were so productive that most of the time I didn’t get to
see them, but when I did get to mentor them, we had a blast. I connected well with my
mentees. The next semester my schedule didn’t fit so well for me to mentor at Delong. I then
started working at Delong, Altoona and Chippewa Falls. When mentoring some of my students,
it can be a struggle with their behavior. But slowly, my mentees and I connect very well and
understand each other that we can have fun but we still must get our work done. As a mentor, I
serve my mentees, their schools and families and I impact their lives by encouraging and
showing them the importance of education. I also get to connect with my mentees, by being
another adult in their life whom they can trust.

I am Karen Her, sophomore majoring in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire,
from Green Bay, Wisconsin. I am the second eldest child out of seven; my mother and father
both were born in Laos raised in the Unites States. They raised me, teaching me that I can do
whatever I want to do.

                               Blugold Beginnings Service Story
                                        Sarah Newman
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Throughout this year working as a college mentor with Blugold Beginnings. I have worked with
students in high school and middle school. I hope that the work I have done with them has
helped to improve their lives, as I know all of my students have improved me.

I am from a largely Caucasian, middle to upper middle class suburb in Minnesota. As you may
have guessed, this means I have not been exposed to very much diversity throughout my
childhood. This program has given me the opportunity to work with more diverse populations
and see small snapshots of other cultures.

In Blugold Beginnings we work with students who, in some cases, have complicated home lives.
As I mentor, I hope that throughout the year my students have learned that they can rely on
me. I hope the impact I have had on them is even something as small as knowing their mentor
will always come and pick them up from their classroom on their scheduled day. In the best
scenario, I hope that my mentees know they can talk to me and I will try and understand to the
best of my abilities. I hope they can see me as an example of what they can accomplish and feel
comfortable asking me questions about college and how to get there.
Service has helped me grow by making me more responsible and confident. Our students look
up to us and trust that we know what we are talking about. Even as a junior in college, I don’t
always feel like an adult but service has helped me to learn how to take on that role and be
confident in my knowledge.

Sarah Newman is from Eagan, MN. She is a junior year Social Work major at UW Eau Claire.

                                  AmeriCorps Service Story
                                         Tou Za Xiong
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                 Chippewa Falls Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Throughout this semester while working for AmeriCorps I have learned a lot from the training
hours about young students that I haven’t before. I also learned a lot from students while
working with them. Some students are easier to work with then others, but you just have to do
it differently with each of them. This past semester I’ve been working at Northstar middle
school and Chippewa middle school. I believe I have helped some of my students become more
organized and helped them out with their homework. This program has taught me to be more
open-minded and allowed me to gain more knowledge while working with kids and how to
handle certain situations better. I believe it’s good for national service because it helps bring
people together despite race.

My full name is Tou Za Xiong and I was born back in Thailand. I am the youngest son in my
family, so everyone wants me to graduate from college to help out the family. My major is
undeclared as of now.

                                      My AmeriCorps Experience
                                             Serena Wagner
                             Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                            Northstar School
                                     U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                       State Assembly District: 93
                                        State Senate District: 31

In working through the AmeriCorps program in unison with the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire’s
Blugold Beginnings mentorship program, I have discovered many things about myself as well as the joys
and struggles of mentoring teens.

This past semester I found myself smiling during multiple mentoring sessions, whether it be through
normal interaction and conversation, or smiling because I witnessed a mentee start turning the wheels
in their head. There is no better joy than helping a child realize their potential and having them work to
achieve that potential. Another point that I find rewarding is the fact that I attended the schools that I
currently mentor at, and it is amazing giving back to the institutions that raised me.

One mentee of mine in particular has really impressed me. She had been struggling on finding time to
complete her homework. After working through a schedule she deemed appropriate, we found two
hours every night and called them “power hours”. These “power hours” were two-hour chunks
designated for studying and homework only. I never knew if she’d actually follow through with the plan
we came up with, as she had not completed her homework in the past. One day at a mentoring session
(some weeks after the discovery of “power hours”), I had to check my mentees’ planners to see if they
had a plan of attack for the week. I was taken back when I saw “power hours” blocked out in my
mentee’s schedule, and then I felt a sense of pride. I was proud of her for realizing that she needed to
designate that time for studying only and I was proud of myself for guiding her to make the decision to
study on her own.

I feel that connection with most mentees that I mentor. I love helping them work through homework or
let them know about the benefits of college, but moreover, I love just talking with them. I love being
that figure that they look up to but also feel comfortable enough to be real with. I like keeping a level of
professionalism and seniority right alongside a level of understanding and being relatable. I feel that for
me, that kind of relationship with my mentees yields in the greatest results from guiding them
educationally as well as just simply growing into young adults.

I also really appreciate Saturday campus connections, as we get to interact with the kids for a longer
period of time. Campus connections are great because I get to converse with students about homework,
college knowledge, or life in general. They remind me to keep my mind open, as the bunch that I’ve
worked with have very diverse interests and are proud to share them with the mentors.

I am currently of junior status at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. I am a BA with a Graphic Design
emphasis and I love the arts, but also deeply appreciate all disciplines. I am from Eau Claire, WI.

                                      Sophomore Service
                                      Jared Drahonvosky
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                       North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

This year was my second year with Blugold Beginnings which is ran through AmeriCorps. I was
looking forward to seeing my past mentees at their high school, and see how they were faring
this year. Fortunately, I got to work with one of my past students who was excited to do so. It
was relieving to hear that I had influenced a student to the point that they wanted to work with
me, and only me, so it was great that I had that bond with someone. My goal this year is to
keep forming those bonds with students in the form of a role model that can help get them on
the right path. I never had anyone helping me out in high school the same way that they do, so
it’s a great opportunity to see how an older individual can help out youths. I have learned
about myself through the process as well, and Blugold Beginnings helps me grow as an
individual and a student which every session that I attend.

My name is Jared Drahonovsky, and I am a junior at UWEC. This is my second year with Blugold

                     Bringing Bright Futures to Underrepresented Students
                                          Monet Barnes
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                         Northstar School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                     State Senate District: 31

I work in an AmeriCorps program called Blugold Beginnings. The main goal of Blugold
Beginnings is to bring college knowledge to students who come from underrepresented families
or homes. There are many students that feel that they cannot go to college, and it is my job to
inform them and let them know they can go! I am excited to be a part of this program because
from personal experience, I know how hard it is to make college an option when you don’t have
any support or guidance. Being a mentor to someone really means something to me because I
don’t want anyone to think there is anything stopping them from being exactly who they want
to be. There are students who have questions about college, about school, and about life in
general. I have gotten to know many of the students and am overjoyed watching them grow.
Along with their growth, I have seen myself grow too. I truly feel it is my place to help students
understand that they have a future. It took me a while to see the impact that it can bring, and
some students are easier to reach than others, but when I see a student becoming excited
about college or about coming to workshops to do homework because of me, it is an
indescribable feeling. Once I understood how much of an impact I could make on someone just
by providing stability in their life, I was excited to see what else I could do.

I also feel that I have grown in the sense that I am more confident in who I am. It is quite sad to
see students that are struggling to understand themselves or are self-conscious in middle
school. It is especially hard to see this when I know how great of a person those students are. In
order to let them know that who they are is perfect, I have to be confident with who I am as
well. Having a diverse family background made it hard for me to relate with a lot of my peers
growing up, and I was often too ashamed to open up about my own family traditions. Now, I
am proud of who I am and I want the multicultural students I mentor to feel the same way.

Originally from the Twin Cities, Minnesota, I am a Junior at the University of Wisconsin- Eau
Claire. I am studying Elementary Education with a minor in Language arts and have wanted to
be a teacher for as long as I can remember. I love to sing and am a huge book worm when I
have spare time.

                                     My AmeriCorps Service Story
                                           Nicholas Freitag
                            Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                         Memorial High School
                                    U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                      State Assembly District: 93
                                       State Senate District: 31

When I first heard about the College Mentor positions available through AmeriCorps and the University
of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I was very interested to learn more about it. I had many questions about it,
including: Who would I be working with? What age level? Would I be focusing on helping plan for
college, or serve more as a tutor? I felt that this was the perfect opportunity for me, as I had just
completed a year of teaching English as a second language in Busan, South Korea, and was enrolled at
UW-Eau Claire for Social Studies Education. Mentoring students would be a great experience for me.

I have now been a College Mentor for high school students at Memorial High School in Eau Claire for
over five months, and I honestly believe it to be one of the best experiences of my life. I have worked
with students between 9th and 12th grade, helping them with questions about college planning,
assisting with homework and offering extra help in after school programs. I feel connected to a
community which I am new to, as well as being active in an extremely beneficial service. I have talked
with some of my mentees from last semester in passing in the hallways, and they always seem to have
something positive to say about our time together. On one occasion, a student whom I was mentoring
recently thanked me for my help with concepts in American history, and said that they have improved
their grades and understanding of important events, people and terms.

Although I never was against national service prior to my time as a College Mentor, I never really felt
that it was that important to me. Other people I know have been a part of AmeriCorps and other
community and national service programs, but I had never thought about serving myself until I heard
about Blugold Beginnings. I am extremely thankful that I gave it more than passing consideration,
because, as I stated above, I think that this has been one of the most positive and beneficial experiences
of my life. Working with my mentees has given me a different perspective on life as well as service. I
now believe that service, whether on a national or community level, will bring out the best in people,
and allow people to better understand each other as well as themselves. I have already highly
recommended not only the Blugold Beginnings program and AmeriCorps to friends and family members,
but any sort of community or national service programs or organizations.

My name is Nicholas Freitag. I am currently enrolled in the Broadfield Social Studies Education program
at UW-Eau Claire, with an emphasis in History. I enjoy travelling, music, cooking and countless other

                                   Service for the Students
                                          Katie Olson
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Memorial High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I mentor five students at Memorial High School. Every single one of them has had a background
story that may not be as pleasant as what we think ninth or tenth grade students should have
but they all have the potential to succeed. This is what Blugold Beginnings College Readiness
program does; we show these students that we are here for them and we believe that they can
succeed and we can help them with that. In my experience, my mentee and I have laughed until
we cried over a simple math problem. I have shown my mentees how to write a resume and
achieve their goals. Doing homework with them can feel like you’re pulling their teeth out but
they also smile as you walk into their classroom. These students are all very talented; they
strive to get good grades but don’t always know the right ways to study. Working with these
students on homework has tested my math abilities at some points and in the binder there are
many things I wish I would have known when I was their age. This past year I have learned
many things and it has been a great experience to have.

Katie Olson is a freshman at University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, studying psychology. She is
hoping to continue her education and work as a clinical psychologist.

                                        Truth Be Told
                                        Nathan Servey
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                   Northstar Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Truth be told, I originally chose to become involved with AmeriCorps and Blugold Beginnings
while thinking about how I was going to pay my tuition this year. Don’t get me wrong, I knew
the job description and deemed it satisfactory in meeting my time restraints, interests, and
level of commitment, however I would be lying if a stated that my motivation was to “Help
Educate the Youth of Tomorrow!”. But like most things in life, my experience working with
something new both challenged and inspired me.

I was assigned to Northstar Middle School and Chippewa Falls Middle School my first semester
this year and immediately gained a sense of what kind of year I was in for. Having little
experience working with early teens I quickly realized how difficult it might be getting them to
stay focused and keeping them interested. It was a rocky first couple of weeks but my mentees
and I quickly established a routine and developed a relationship. Before long, mentoring these
kids turned into a fulfilling and enjoyable experience and I found myself looking forward to the
time each week when I had the privilege of helping them succeed in school.

I believe service learning is an important component of everyone’s education and personal
growth. My experience thus far in Blugold Beginnings has been both rewarding and enriching. It
has developed in me a love for educating, increased my mentoring skills, and brought me to the
realization of how important volunteering and helping others is. I hope to continue to
participate in and take a role in similar organizations for many years to come. The truth is my
time with Blugold Beginning has given me much more than just financial help; it has given me a
new perspective.

My name is Nathan Servey. I’m originally from Waupaca, WI and am currently a Junior Biology
and Chemistry major attending at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire. This is my first year
with Blugold Beginnings and I hope to be more involved with the organization next year.

                                 My Experience as a Mentor
                                     Benjamin A. Cumming
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                       North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I have had a very rewarding experience being a mentor. I decided to become a mentor because
I enjoy working with kids and have an interest in counseling. Right now I work at two schools:
North High School and Delong Middle School. I have worked with 6th, 7th, 9th, 10th, 11th, and
12th graders. All ages bring different needs and challenges. Each age group is fun to work with
for separate reasons.

At Delong I have worked with two students since the time I became a mentor. I find 6th and 7th
graders fun to work with because of their energy and openness to new experiences. With
middle school students, they are good at setting goals, but less good at reaching them. This
becomes a challenge sometimes. I have found that since becoming a mentor, my mentee’s
missing assignments have decreased. I believe this is because they have someone checking
their grades weekly, while having another person to feel accountable to.

At North I have had around five mentees from all grades. High school students are fun to work
with because of their concern for their future and gratitude for someone helping them. I work
with students on the binder which includes many lessons related to important life activities.
Resume building and college applications are what I enjoy working on with students the most. I
feel that my experiences and hindsight are beneficial, especially when relating to college. The
main two goals for my mentees are to accomplish quality grades while getting involved with
extracurricular activities. I always stress the importance of community involvement and
leadership. Much of the information I give my mentees is information that I wish I had when I
was their age.

I am a senior information system, business analysis comprehensive major at the University of
Wisconsin – Eau Claire in Eau Claire, WI. I first came to college in 2008 from Wayzata High
School in Plymouth, MN, when I was 18 years old. I plan to graduate in December 2012 with a
degree in information systems and business communication certification.

                                   The Lessons of Blugold Beginnings
                                               Kevin Black
                             Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                          Delong Middle School
                                     U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                       State Assembly District: 93
                                        State Senate District: 31

My name is Kevin Black and I am a college mentor for Blugold Beginnings. Serving through Blugold
Beginnings has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. As a member of this organization
I have the privilege to work with many young students in middle school and they have taught me so
much. I believe that they have also learned something from me that hopefully they can take with them
for the rest of their lives.

One of the two biggest things I have learned from this job and the kids is patience. Patience hasn’t
always come easy to me, I’ve always felt like I was in a rush and things needed to get done fast. You
don’t always have that chance when working with middle school aged kids. But as time has gone on I
have developed more and more and now I am able to keep my cool through most everything that the
kids can throw at me.

Commitment is the other big lesson that I have learned. Commitment can be a very scary word too
many but because of this job I have found what real commitment is. Commitment is that feeling when
you know you have someone who wants and maybe needs you to show up for an hour a day just to
work on homework. Though some days it would just be easier to hide under my blankets in my bed and
not go to work I do it because I know that the kids need me.

Like what I’ve learned I hope the kids have learned two things from me the first being the balance
between fun and seriousness. I love to have fun with the kids but that doesn’t mean that we don’t have
to get stuff done for the day. So we always try to balance in some time just to talk about fun stuff or do
something fun once we get some work done. I think this is a great skill to develop.

The other lesson I hope the kids learn from me is how to be their self. Today kids are constantly pushed
to be something that they are not. Whether that is one thing or another they need to see that who they
are is okay. I constantly tell my mentees that if they don’t do what’s cool that’s okay as long as they are
doing what is best for them.

Blugold Beginnings has helped teach lessons to both the middle school students that we serve and me.
These lessons for both my mentees and I are lessons we will take with us for the rest of our lives. This is
why Blugold Beginnings has been such an amazing experience for me.

Kevin’s Bio: I am a freshman studying education at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire and I hope to
be a middle or high school teacher when I graduate.

                                      Blugold Beginnings
                                         Victoria Helt
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                    Altoona Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

As an AmeriCorps member and intern for Blugold Beginnings I have truly learned what it means
to serve my community. Seeing the good that I and the other AmeriCorps members do makes
me better understand the term “community service.” We work hard to make differences in the
lives of fifth graders through twelfth graders. Working at Altoona Middle School especially has
given me some great experiences that include helping kids get better grades, educating them
about secondary education, and acting as a positive role model. Having worked with Blugold
Beginnings previously, it’s great to walk into Altoona Middle School and get high-fives and
smiles from kids I’ve been working with for over a year. Knowing that I have impacted their
lives in a positive way has given me a satisfaction that I haven’t had previously from prior
service experiences. AmeriCorps is a great program that gives college students, members of
the community, and professionals the opportunity to give back to their community, state, and
nation. Participating and serving through AmeriCorps has given me new friendships, stronger
ties to my community, and the great feeling of having helped children who need it.
Victoria is a Senior at UW-Eau Claire majoring in Business Administration and History.

                                  College: Affordable and Achievable
                                              Austin Kiraly
                             Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                          Memorial High School
                                     U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                       State Assembly District: 93
                                        State Senate District: 31

Since starting work with Blugold Beginnings I have had the privilege of working with many different high
school students from very different backgrounds. I have worked with young adults ranging from football
players, to art enthusiasts, and students from different countries such as El Salvador. I have had to
overcome some hurdles while working with each student such as language barriers, disciplinary
boundaries, and learning curves. The most challenging aspect of my job has been convincing the
students that college is attainable, affordable, and overall important to their future well-being. Many of
the students have expressed interest in attending college after high school, but few are aware of the
steps necessary to apply, enroll, or even effectively search for colleges. Also, very few students that I
have worked with are familiar with the FAFSA and the process that is required to apply as well as the
overwhelming benefits of doing so. It has been exciting and interesting work, while still demanding and
challenging. I have found that working for Blugold Beginnings and being a part of AmeriCorps has been
very rewarding.

My most recent and relevant interaction with a mentee has had to be my work with a student named
Camille. She is a Sophomore at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, WI and while college is a seemingly
long ways away she is passionate and sincerely interested in her options for the future. She is an art
enthusiast and is interested in attending an Art Institute for her secondary education. Since becoming
her mentor I have been able to help keep her focus on class success and attaining her future goals. It
was immediately important to me that I help her research, compare, and contrast different Institutions
that she is interested in attending. I have also made it a point to make sure that her research is
thorough, that the schools are legitimate, and that she understands the importance of cost evaluation.
There is nothing more rewarding about my job then helping students reach their highest potential and
allowing them to understand that their hopes and dreams are attainable and affordable.

I have made it a priority to inform my students about the importance of using the resources available to
reach their highest potential. In my opinion, the most significant tool for success in college is being
resourceful. Some students believe that you must be “really smart,” or be a “genius,” to do well in
college, and I constantly put an emphasis on the value of available resources to answer questions, give
guidance, and help with their academic and personal success.

My name is Austin Kiraly and I am a Junior at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. I am a History Major
with a Coaching Minor and I want to make a career coaching at the collegiate level. I am interested in
education and find that Blugold Beginnings and AmeriCorps have offered me the perfect job to actively
learn skills that I will use in my future career.

                         Blugold Beginnings: Not Just Any Ordinary Job
                                          Sam Omelian
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                       North High School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

I am Sam Omelian, a Blugold Beginning mentor. In this program, I go in to middle schools and
high schools to tutor students in areas that they are struggling in, but also improve their
knowledge of college preparation. Through Blugold Beginnings, I have met many talented and
motivated students. Some of the students that I work with have struggled to make it where
they are today because of personal or family struggles. These students amaze me every day by
pushing on and by wanting to better themselves through higher education. They inspire me to
never give up on things when they get tough, because these students have not given up at all
when things got tough for them. They truck on through whatever is thrown at them on a day-
to-day basis, but have dreams of achieving their dream job by continuing their education. One
of the students that I work with, will be the first in their family to go to college, others will be
one of the few in their families. It is intriguing to see what they use as their motivation, such as
not wanting to end up with the financial issues like their parents, not stuck at a dead end job, or
just going for what they truly want to do no matter what they have to go through. When I was
first hired for this job, I thought it would be an ordinary go to work and come home job, but I
feel that I have made a giant impact on these students as well. Many of the students that I work
with, especially who are juniors and seniors, had no idea about the steps that needed to be
taken before applying for college or financial aid opportunities until we had talked them
through. I feel that through this program, students will be more prepared on what is to come in
their lives and will feel more comfortable taking the steps needed for college because of the
work done through Blugold Beginnings.

I am Sam Omelian, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin area, and am in Eau Claire for school. I am a
psychology major, hoping to one day obtain my dream job as a military psychologist. I enjoy
trying new things, meeting new people, and also playing sports.

                                  My AmeriCorps Life Story
                                       Roy Tianran Gao
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

My name is Roy Tianran Gao, I am a Junior in University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. I am an
AmeriCorps member and this year I became one of the interns at North High School. I do
mentoring sessions at high school and give my mentees enough knowledge to help them
prepare for college. I do the weekly one on one meeting with my mentors. Even though I do
variety of things as an intern, I spent most of my time on mentoring my mentees. I have six
mentees in total; they are Karrack, Mark, Sam, Courtney, Devyn, and Grace. All my mentees are
high school students from 9th grade to 12th grade. Due to many mentoring sessions since last
semester, the mentees have gained a lot of knowledge about college, and all of them are now
looking forward and getting excited about attending college. I personally feel really happy to
help these students. I have not only taught them many of my experiences in college, but also
learned a lot of things when I was mentoring. Many communication skills and teaching
experiences were gained since I was involved in this program. I think that the national service is
important because it benefits both mentees and mentors to get knowledge through their life,
and it pushes us to look forward to our future.

Roy is a Junior at UW-Eau Claire majoring in geography, with a minor in global studies.

                                      Fruitful Beginnings
                                        Emilie Carlson
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Memorial High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

My chosen career path is in education. I believe that one of the most valuable ways to spend
my time and energy is by serving people, and specifically, by providing skills and knowledge for
individuals to create their best life.

In college I worked and volunteered in positions that facilitated community. One afternoon,
while working an office position at a community oriented health facility, I spoke with a co-
worker who was a part of a growing campus organization made possible through AmeriCorps,
Blugold Beginnings. As she told me about the tremendous opportunities that this program
created, she seemed to be speaking directly to my dreams. I marveled at the prospect of
creating relationships with individuals and speaking directly to the barriers, perceived, and
social, which prevent some children from breaking into the realm of higher education.

In every education course I have taken, and every personal experience I have amassed, I have
been led to this point: the facts are clear, but the causes are complex. Access to college is an
enormous boost in changing the destiny of an individual, and their family. That is the cold, dry
fact. The joyful, colorful fact cannot be so easily packaged. Within the program, each day I
served was filled with these facts. I witnessed sixth grade students marvel at the wonders of
Geography, reach out through the invisible walls between social groups, and most importantly,
approach all of these things with joy and a thirst for more. For the students, this program is a
glimpse into their future, and a scaffold to attain their dreams. For me, this program is
inspiration. It is a reminder that this world is packed full of beautiful, dynamic people.

Like every generation, I dream for the next. I believe that as a form of national service,
equipping America’s youth for the future will yield the most impactful result. With the right
tools and support, students learn that they never have to stop dreaming, and I am inspired to
believe that neither do I.

Emilie Carlson attends the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. She is currently student teaching
in a 9th grade English class.

                                 Helping youth and myself grow
                                       Madeline Williams
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                  Chippewa Falls Middle School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

During my first year working for AmeriCorps, I have spent my service hours mentoring the
children in Chippewa Falls. I go into the schools twice a week and talk about a different topic
pertaining to college. I help them learn study skills, do better on tests, manage their time, and
many more things that can help them through high school and put them on the right track to
college! I have been able to help more than just my mentee's as well. I’m in a class room with
20 of the eighth graders in the school and can help them with homework, or questions about
high school and college during my time there. I also am able to help parents learn about
sending their kids to college. For many this is their first time with a child who may go to college
in the future. It can be something new and scary, especially if one or both of the parents didn’t
go to college themselves. By giving the student worksheets to take home and letting them
know crucial information that all parents need to know, they can be more than ready when the
time to send their child to higher education comes!

Serving my community makes me feel like I am helping out the town of Eau Claire! They have
been so generous in allowing me to go to college there and this makes me feel like I am
returning the favor. Not only that, but I feel if this type of program were around when I was a
student, I would have a lot more knowledge on what college is all about. I would have applied
for more scholarships, helped my parents with the FAFSA, studied more efficiently for the ACT,
and much more! This program will benefit children now, and generations to come!

My Name is Madeline Williams and I am a freshman Business Economics major here at UW Eau
Claire. I am from a small town just outside of Madison Wisconsin.

                            AmeriCorps Service to the Community
                                          Phong Lor
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

As a member of AmeriCorps, I have made a positive impact on the community. I am an intern
for Blugold Beginnings, I feel like I still have a tremendous amount of impact on the program
itself. From scheduling our AmeriCorps and volunteer mentors to our program schools to
planning 5th Grade Tour Day, I have felt that my service is important. The planning of 5th Grade
Tour Day will hopefully impact the lives of 1,600 5th Graders around the area. Hopefully, all the
months of planning for Tour Day will make a difference in a 5th Grader’s life.

I have had opportunities to go out to the schools and mentor. In Arcadia, I have had a chance to
build some relationships with the students, while also providing them guidance and assistance
in their schoolwork. In Arcadia, I’m known as the history guy. Also, I love going back to
Sherman. I was a site coordinator last year, and it is always a joy to go back and have some of
the students give you hugs or have them ask you to work with them. It is moments like that,
when you realize that you’ve made an impact on these student’s lives that they’ll remember
you for a long time.

Throughout, my service time I have learned that I do make a positive relationship within the
community. Before, I knew I made an impact at Sherman but now as an intern working with
multiple schools and also coordinating Tour Day I have emphasize that my service matters to
the community. That is why national service is so important. Without these people taking their
personal time to help out others, there would be so much left unaccomplished. There are a lot
of needs out there in the community. Blugold Beginnings is just one of these programs that
address these needs of a higher education. There are many more programs that need
volunteers or support from the community. To see the positive impacts and relationships built
during this time is totally worth the hard work put into services.

My name is Phong Lor. I’m from Eau Claire, Wisconsin and I am a Political Science major. In my
free time, I like to play basketball and soccer.

                                     How AmeriCorps Impacted Me
                                             Kao Zoua Yang
                             Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                         Altoona Middle School
                                     U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                       State Assembly District: 93
                                        State Senate District: 31

My job is to get middle school students to start thinking about college and ultimately provide them a
pathway that helps lead them there. I work for a UWEC campus organization called Blugold Beginnings.
Having the privilege to work with this program, I have experienced many new things. Talking to middle
school students about college was a new experience for me. Before I joined Blugold Beginnings, I always
had thought that college was only introduced in late high school; however that is not the case. Another
new experience I had was mentoring a different age group. In my past experiences I only mentored high
school students, having the opportunity to mentor middle school students required me to work with
these students differently from high school students. Through this program, I had impacted the
student’s life, student’s parents’ life, schools, teachers and other mentors. I feel that not just their
grades were improving, but their knowledge of college and learning skills on how to get to college was
also improving. To get the students motivated about wanting to become successful and pursue post-
secondary education makes me feel good and also impacts the parents greatly. Specifically I had an
experience where I talked to the parent and she wanted me to work with her child on her math as she
could not help her. Knowing what the parents’ concerns are, and being able to fill in that role gives
parents the ability to feel better knowing their child is not falling behind. After experiencing the
challenges and rewards of working through this program, I knew that I grew as a better person and gain
better skills in mentoring students. It feels good when you mentor a student and they are actively
engaging in the subject. It allows me to see that they do care about their future and they are thinking
early to explore the best possibility of attaining that future. To be able to give students the ability to
know more about colleges and help them succeed was an opportunity I was not able to take; therefore
to be able to tell students and give them the opportunity was a chance I would not miss. I believe one
person can make a difference. Being that one person making a difference in their lives is very rewarding.
I believe National Services offer these people the chance to make a difference and also an opportunity
to get together and work towards their goals together. For that reason it is very important they we have
these National Service. We need more people to give our community a chance to succeed and I believe
through Blugold Beginnings and AmeriCorps has given me and other people a duty where we can serve
back to our community.

My name is Kao Zoua Yang. I was born in Eau Claire, WI and a student at UWEC. Currently I am a junior
and a Materials Science major. Looking back in my life, I knew the challenges of being at a financial
disadvantage, but that didn’t stop me. I have learned how to find help and ultimately use my resources
to my best and that is why I am here.

                              My Blugold Beginnings Experience
                                         Jenna Fossey
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                    Altoona Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Currently I am working at Altoona Middle School, Notre Dame Middle School as well as
Chippewa Falls Middle School. Well working at these schools I have gotten to know many
students, there is one student who I have gotten to know very well. All of his teachers had
warned me when I started working with him, how difficult of a student he is. He is two years
behind in school and struggles every day with focusing. I have learned that each student learns
in different ways. At the beginning of the year it was frustrating having him interrupt all the
time with random questions and barely finishing 4 math problems in the 45 minutes we have
together. I have learned though, to answer all his questions, because when he gets to hear the
answers, he is no longer thinking about it and can focus on homework better. Just this past
week he was able to complete two whole assignments. I never thought this was possible and
the teachers were just as amazed as I was. With being able to complete these assignments he
had a more positive outlook on the day, because he rarely gets positive attention at school. I
think it has been extremely important for this student to create relationships outside of his
family. He is a great student and I believe that having him participate in Blugold Beginnings,
both he and I were able to grow and benefit from these experiences.

My name is Jenna Fossey; I am a senior at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire. I am from
Lino Lakes, MN where my parents and 2 sisters live. Currently I am studying Business
Marketing, and working for Blugold Beginnings.

                                   Life as a College Mentor
                                       Hannah Von Bank
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                       North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

As a college mentor with the Blugold Beginnings program, I’ve had the opportunity to help
make higher education possible and affordable for underprivileged high school students. In my
service I play many roles; I am a tutor, teacher, role model, and confidant for a variety of
students from many different cultures and backgrounds. My AmeriCorps experience has taught
me so much about the importance of national service, even in relatively small communities like
mine. From the outside Eau Claire, Wisconsin may not look like a place where poverty is a
pressing issue but, as I’ve learned, need exists everywhere. Many students do not have access
to basic educational materials or homework help outside of school so their only opportunity for
assistance is through our program. The job can be challenging at times, but I feel so proud as I
watch my students learn about their interests and educational options, gain confidence in their
skills, and get accepted to the programs they’ve applied to. A quality education opens many
doors and for some students, college may be a ticket out of poverty for themselves and their
families. I am so grateful that I’ve been able to help these students on their educational

Hannah Von Bank is a senior at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire majoring in Public
Communications and Spanish. She enjoys making a difference in her community and is looking
forward to graduating college in May.

                                       Making a Change
                                         Ana Thesing
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                    Altoona Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Entering the first year of college can be scary. Being a freshman is challenging, new things are
happening, life is changing, and new opportunities present themselves. I have had the
opportunity to work for AmeriCorps as a middle school mentor with Blugold Beginnings. This is
the first time that I have had an opportunity to do this, and I am glad that I took it. I work with
students in middle schools around the Eau Claire, WI area. While working with these students, I
get the chance to teach them about different aspects of college. We work on worksheets with
students that introduce subjects that help them get prepared for college such as resume
building and studying skills. There are also special days set aside during the week to introduce
these middle school students to a college campus. At these events, students get a chance to
walk around the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire and see the campus, they get the
opportunity to enjoy a free meal in the cafeteria, and most importantly they get assistance with
any homework they may have to work on. Blugold Beginnings has created a wonderful
program that allows me to work with middle school age students to learn more about college.

As I have been working with the five students that I help on a regular basis, I have noticed some
changes. Since learning about college, I have noticed more interest for college. More questions
are asked of me about college when I work with these students. In the beginning of the school
year, the students I work with didn’t seem to ask many questions, but now I get a new question
each session I see them. There are always the “Do you get to leave campus for lunch time?” or
“Do you have to be back to the dorms at a certain time?” These students have shown interest
and excitement about college. I have enjoyed seeing each student grow into a curious young
role model for their classmates. AmeriCorps has allowed me the opportunity to get into the
community and give back in the form of knowledge and assistants to students that look up to

My name is Ana Thesing and I am attending the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire for Special
Education. I am currently in my second semester of my freshman year here at Eau Claire.

                                 My AmeriCorps Experience
                                         PaZong Thao
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Memorial High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

AmeriCorps has helped me to join and experience so many more activities than I could imagine.
I am experiencing how to help middle school children learn how to prepare for college and help
them with their homework. I really enjoy this experience because it makes me feel like I am
making a difference in someone’s life. I mentor middle school students at Delong, Chippewa
Falls and Notre Dame. It’s really exciting because these children always have so much to say
and have lots of fun. I enjoy helping them with their homework and any kind of questions that
they have. My mentees have experienced what it is like to be a college student. I tell them my
college experience as a freshman. I told my mentees positives and negatives that they can
learn from. I have grown through service because this is an unforgettable experience for both
my mentees and me. We grow and learn together. We are learning something new each day
and by that we understand the world better and what we want to do in life. National service is
important because we have to lend a helping hand to those that need it and with our help we
can make such a big difference in other’s lives.

My name is PaZong Thao. I am a freshman at the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire. I am
majoring in Biology for pre-Optometry. I plan to pursue further education somewhere in
Chicago. I have learned that no matter how hard the obstacles are in life there are always
second chances so take that chance and do better the second time.

                                          College Connections
                                          Katherine O’Halloran
                             Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                          Delong Middle School
                                     U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                       State Assembly District: 93
                                        State Senate District: 31

Throughout high school, service was a very important part of my life. I was involved in campus ministry
team where I mentored new freshmen in my high school. I also volunteered at Mary’s Place, a shelter
for underprivileged children. When I came to Eau Claire, I knew I wanted to be able to serve the
community here and work with kids like I did during my high school career. I found out about Blugold
Beginnings and knew I wanted to be a part of it. I have been very impressed with this organization and
have had a fantastic experiences working with kids in the middle schools and elementary schools.

One of the things I really have enjoyed about working in the middle and elementary schools is having my
own mentees that I am able to build a relationship with. I really enjoy being able to see them every
single week. It is great to watch them improve in the skills we work on during our sessions. It is also
great to be able to be a supportive role model to them. Whenever one of my mentees is having a hard
day, they are able to work out their problem with me rather than just stressing about it. By keeping up
with their grades and interacting with their parents during monthly evaluations, I have seen lots of
academic improvements. By helping them develop organizational skills, keeping up with their grades,
and offering them emotional support, Blugold Beginnings truly is making a big difference in the

Another great opportunity I have had through Blugold Beginnings is working with the kids during our
Saturday programming right on campus. When I arrived for my first on campus Saturday event, one of
the things I was most impressed with was the enthusiasm from the kids. At least twenty of them had
showed up and they all seemed very happy and excited to be there. We did a variety of activities that
provided them with college knowledge and got them excited for college. We also toured the campus
residence halls and talked about what life on campus is like. All of the kids were very excited and already
were talking about which schools they wanted to see and what residence halls appealed to them. We
also helped them with their classwork and talked about how college can be affordable and the benefits
that higher education provides.

Blugold Beginnings has been a fantastic part of my year and continues to impress me. The kids love it
and gain a lot of benefits from it. I have had such a great time being there for them and continue to
enjoy the privilege of working with them and look forward to working with this program in the future.

Biography – I am from Burnsville, Minnesota and chose to come to Eau Claire because it is a great size,
has a beautiful campus and offers a great education. I am a freshman majoring in marketing with a
professional sales emphasis. I have always wanted to be a business woman and I am forever grateful for
my family and friends who have always offered me amazing support in pursuing my dreams.

                                  My time with AmeriCorps
                                       Rachel Eckhardt
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I work as an intern for Blugold Beginnings at North High school, but the majorly of my time is
spent at Arcadia High school working with high school students. I work with many students
throughout the school day at Arcadia High School, many of which are first generation students
or in great need of support on the way to higher education. The most beneficial impact that
Blugold Beginnings has had on me is the opportunity I have been given to learn more from the
students I work with. I came into the program last fall with an open mind but had no idea how
much I would change along with the students that I mentor. Mentoring in Arcadia as allowed
me to learn from a diverse population of students, all with different backgrounds and skill sets.

Working for Blugold Beginnings at Arcadia has allowed me to see how tutoring in a 1 on 1 and
group setting can impact a student for the better, even if it is for one hour a week. Working
with these students has showed me how a positive attitude can affect everyone around you
and motivate and inspire others.

Working for Blugold Beginnings has expanded my viewpoint beyond what I have been taught in
a formal classroom setting. As a future teacher, I have taken classes focused on building
community with students, cultural acceptance and working with students of different abilities,
socioeconomic backgrounds, and lifestyles. While these classes have taught me a lot, nothing
has prepared me for my future as a teacher more than working with the students at Arcadia.
The students I work with have taught me to be more open, understanding, patient, and a better
person overall.

Rachel Eckhardt is a senior at UW Eau Claire and this is her second year with AmeriCorps. This
year she is an intern, which has provided her with many new opportunities. She is majoring in
Elementary Education and Spanish and has had many chances to better herself in both areas as
a result of working for AmeriCorps.

                              Making a Difference for the Future
                                         Sheina Wind
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Delong Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

The majority of my service has taken place at Delong Middle School in Eau Claire, WI. I have
four mentees that I assist with homework and go through our “College Knowledge Binder”.
These binders are filled with skills and knowledge that will help my mentees get into college. A
few examples of the binder are organizational skills, resume making, financial aid, and time

My favorite experience with the binder was when I worked with one of my mentees on the
personal statement section. When I asked if he had any idea of what a personal statement was,
before we looked at the worksheets, he said he did not. At the end of the section, he
understood what a personal statement was and had written one with the help of a fill in the
blank worksheet provided in the binder. I walked away that day feeling like I made a
difference. Understanding what you need to get into college is essential to getting into college,
being introduced to things like personal statements while still in middle school will make the
application process in high school easier to navigate.

This program has also had a huge impact on me. As a future educator any experience, I have
with students will make me more prepared for my role as a future education. The Blugold
Begging program helps underprivileged students that fall under the category of low-income,
first generational or multicultural. Being in the program has made me more aware of the
struggles that these students might face in the pursuit of higher education. It is important as an
educator to realize things such as every student in your class might not have a computer to
work on projects at home. My experience working with students in the program and going
through AmeriCorps training has opened my eyes to important issues I might not have thought
of otherwise.

Autobiography: Sheina Wind is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, majoring
in Elementary Education.

                                    Making Time for Others
                                          Ali Dykhuizen
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                 Longfellow Elementary School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

Making a difference in the lives of students has been my service this last year of my college
career. Working as a Site Coordinator and mentor with multiple 5th graders has turned out to
be a really fun time! They are so willing to learn and are interested in what it’s like to be an
adult. They participate in activities and love to tell stories. Because of Blugold Beginnings, these
students have been introduced to many new topics that they don’t learn about otherwise;
including: goal setting, organizational tips, history, test taking skills, etc. But not only do these
students benefit and grow through this interaction, I continue to learn and grow each day with

On top of working with these 5th graders, I am a mentor at a middle school working with a 7th
grade boy and an 8th grade girl. This experience has been both challenging and rewarding for
me. As students’ progress through school, junior high is a time of change and development
which for me is very apparent when working with these students. Again, working with these
kids not only broadens their knowledge on a wide range of topics, but mine as well. I learn with
them every day, especially when working on their homework. The challenges I face come about
when trying to encourage the 8th grader to care about her grades and doing well in school. I
continue to inform and support these students each week with a positive attitude and a
willingness to help them at any level. The relationships created with all of my students are
important to me and I hope that I have made a beneficial impact on their lives in some way,
shape, or form.

Being an AmeriCorps mentor has really added a sense of contentment to my life, even with my
busy ‘senior in college’ schedule, making time for this extracurricular activity has been, and is
well worth my time. I feel that national service is important for everyone to partake in because
it provides us with more meaning to our lives and makes us take a step back and make time for
Ali Dykhuizen is a senior at The University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire studying entrepreneurship
and marketing.

                                       Learning to Lead
                                         Gina Vetsch
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                   Manz Elementary School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I am a Site Coordinator and mentor for Blugold Beginnings. I have grown through my service
with AmeriCorps in so many ways. I have learned what it takes to be a leader. During high
school I had never been a leader and I never wanted to be a leader. I would have rather faded
into the background than be in the limelight. As I came to college I began to help lead different
activities. I learned how to be an effective leader quickly. When I found the job for the position
of Site Coordinator I hesitated, still unsure that I wanted to be a leader of a site. My sister
eventually talked me into the position and I cannot thank her enough. I have learned how to
stay organized while taking my classes along with being a Site Coordinator and Mentor. I have
had challenging weeks where I haven’t always had the easiest time but that is when working
with the students always keeps me going. Each student brings joy to my life. I have had nothing
but good experiences leading the group of mentors and students at Manz Elementary. As I have
said there are times that aren’t always easy but I always manage with the help of the other
mentors to get through and keep things on track. I have learned a lot about how being a leader
I have to learn how to delegate tasks when I have too many things to do. I have also learned
that I need to take time to enjoy being with my mentees rather than organizing and
coordinating the entire time. Overall, my experience serving the community through this
program has been amazing. I would suggest to any student in college to get involved with their
community in any way that they can. Being involved with your community not only changes the
life of the people you’re serving but it can change your life and help you in so many ways.

Gina Vetsch – I am a junior at University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire, majoring in Early Childhood
Education and Early Childhood Special Education. I am from Minnesota, and I have a big family.
I have been working with children since I was in high school and I have loved serving my
community through my high school and college.

                                            Making It Happen
                                                Emily Veto
                              Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                   Chippewa Falls Middle School School
                                      U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                        State Assembly District: 93
                                         State Senate District: 31

Blugold Beginnings is an organization that has really impacted my life. My experience with Blugold
Beginnings is continually changing as I step into different leadership roles and meet new students and
coworkers. I first joined the Blugold Beginnings team at the recommendation of my roommate and I
started out mentoring/tutoring two students at Delong Middle School. There became a need for an
intern at two schools in Chippewa Falls and I was asked to fill that role. I also got involved with campus
connections where students would come to do homework on Saturdays at the university’s campus. I
now work with other interns to plan the campus connections and it is my favorite part of Blugold
Beginnings. It is so fun to see middle school students comfortable on the university’s campus and to see
how excited they are for when they will be old enough to attend college.

The students I serve are very diverse. I have worked with students whose families come from various
income levels and whose parents never went to college. I have worked with Caucasian, Hmong, African
American, and Mexican American students. It is such a joy to see all of these students coming together
for the common desire of learning about college; dreaming big and making it happen. I am always so
impressed when I meet a new middle school student in our program and they are able to ask me
college-based questions such as “what is your major?”. It is especially touching when I notice how the
students really look up to their mentors. At the 2010-2011 banquet last year one of the students who I
had been working with ran up to me and was so excited to introduce me to her grandma and show her
grandma that this was the college student that she had been telling her about. Some of our students
come from unstable home lives and it is great that we can be support in their lives.

The longer I work for Blugold beginnings the more committed I become to my service. I have invested
so much into this program and I want to see it thrive. I am constantly looking for ways to improve the
experience of the students in our program and I look back on the leaders that made this college access
program a reality and it is thanks to their leadership that I am so invested in Blugold Beginnings. Mary
Huffcutt was the program coordinator when I first joined Blugold Beginnings and she set the stage for
the devotion that is needed in order for our program to succeed. She was and still is an inspiration in
my life. Her commitment to the future of our students made me realize how important national service
is. National service is very important because in order for our society to progress we must help people
that may be marginalized with fewer resources than privileged others.

Author Biography: I am currently a senior at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire working towards a
major in Social Work and a minor in Political Science. In the fall of 2012 I will be interning at a child and
youth center in King Williams Town, South Africa and then graduating in December of 2012.

                                     Making a Difference
                                       Alayna Spengler
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Memorial High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Through Blugold Beginnings College and Career Readiness, I serve Memorial High School in Eau
Claire, WI. Without this program I doubt that I would have had as many opportunities to
interact and impact high school students.

One of my favorite students from this past year was a high school senior. In mid-October, she
came into a weekly meeting upset. Over the past few weeks, she had been working on college
applications and was becoming frustrated. She was finding the process more time consuming
then she would have thought and no one at her home could answer or help with any of the
questions she had about the application or essays. Over the next few weeks, every time she
came in, we would log on to a computer and work on college applications.

The essays were by far the worst for her. She wrote lovely essays that represented her well but
lacked confidence in herself. By the beginning of November, all her applications were in and we
just had to play the waiting game. I was so proud and happy when, in mid-December, she came
squealing into the office saying she had gotten her first acceptance letter.

Through all of this I have learned how much of an impact just being there can have on
someone. A lot of my mentees do well in school or most do not have a major problem every
week but I think that all of them benefited just from having someone there for them; someone
who is a parent, teacher, or friend from class. Someone that does not get wrapped up in the
drama of their home life or in their schools’ gossip. Someone is just there for them and their
success. Sometimes I feel like I am cheating. To me, it does not seem like I am doing all that
much. I am just going in and being a nice person, but some of them seem to really appreciate it.
I have learned that one person can make a difference.

Alayna Spengler is a sophomore secondary education student hoping to major in Public and
Environmental Health.

                                     National Service: A Benefit to All
                                                Aisha Ray
                              Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                           Delong Middle School
                                      U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                        State Assembly District: 93
                                         State Senate District: 31

Overall, I believe my service experience so far has had a large impact on not only the students I work
with, but also on myself. I am a site coordinator and mentor at two different elementary schools, so I
work with a variety of different 5th graders. I also mentor two middle school students. At these schools
not only do I help these students with homework, but I also teach them about college opportunities and
general information. Many of these students don’t know much about college, and some never even
considered college as an option for them.

Through my work with these students, I’ve begun to see a change in the student’s perspective.
Compared to the beginning of the year, the students seem much more interested in higher education.
When discussing various subjects such as goal setting and organization, the students are able to
recognize and explain how these skills will assist them in reaching their full potential.

Not only have the students grown through this experience, but I also have. Working towards becoming a
teacher, I’ve had prior encounters with students, but never worked on helping them understand more
about future options and higher education. I’ve learned that many of these students we’re unaware that
college was even an option for them. This has made me realize that students need to be educated on
future options available to them. For example, one student I’ve worked with discussed their hopes of
becoming a dentist. They had no idea what kind of school they would be required to complete, and
resources that were available to assist them in getting there. Without knowledge of these resources,
many of these students may become lost, and unable to reach their full potential.

I believe that national service is very important. In particular, I’ve seen the service I’ve been contributing
to help students believe that resources and options are available to them, providing them with hope.
This hope that is instilled in these students will hopefully stick with them throughout their lives, always
pushing them to strive to do and be their best and succeed. I believe that this national service is
important to its recipients, but it is also important to everyone in the surrounding community.

My name is Aisha Ray and I am an elementary education major, with a math minor at the University of
Wisconsin- Eau Claire. I enjoy traveling, and got to partake in the amazing opportunity of studying
abroad to Ireland last year. I truly enjoy working with students of all ages and cannot wait to become a

                                   Working in AmeriCorps
                                        Ashley Lightner
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Working in AmeriCorps allowed me to work directly in the line of field that I want to someday
go into. I have had the opportunity to work with middle school and high school aged kids and
this has helped me gain a broader field of teaching. I mentor and tutor kids from the grades of
7th to 12th and hopefully make an impact in their lives. I do believe I have done so by the
progress the students have made in their test scores and their overall grade. I have grown
through this program in the mentoring and teaching aspect. I am glad I am able to be a part of
this program. This national service is important to the education system and I can see why
when I work directly with the students. Most teachers do not have time to pour into these
students and because of this, they start to fall behind. A lot of the kids I have worked with come
from troubled or ethnic backgrounds where either the parents cannot help their children or
they simply do not care to help. The schools may be aware of what is going on in their students’
lives, but they do not usually have the time to do something about it when they have hundreds
of other kids lives to worry about.

I am Physical-Chemistry Science Secondary Education major, and I plan on becoming a High
School science teacher. Working with these kids helps me gain a heart for my future students
and helps me learn to accept and relate to multiple different backgrounds.

                                      Blugold Beginnings
                                         Abigail Jones
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Delong Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

This year, I began a job with a group on campus called “Blugold Beginnings”. When I started, I
thought I would be working with elementary to middle school students and encouraging them
to go to school. I thought I would always be the one helping the younger students. What I did
not realize, however, was how much knowledge/help I would gain from the students. Someday,
I hope to become an elementary or middle school teacher and the experience through Blugold
Beginnings has helped me see what I still need to work on as a student, and I believe I have also
helped the students a lot as well.

I know that I have personally grown a lot as a mentor. I now realize that there are days in which
I can focus a lot on college knowledge and inspire them to do a lot with their futures. However,
there will also be days with the students in which we can only work on homework/late work. As
a mentor, it is important for me to ensure that students are succeeding in all areas including
academics and preparation for the future. I have learned how to better manage my time, and I
have learned how to talk with my mentor better. Overall, I feel like I am a much better mentor.

I have seen my improvement as a mentor through each of my mentees. One of the students
that I work with has constantly been struggling with organization and turning assignments in on
time. This student has been completing these assignments, but loses these assignments or
forgets to turn them in time. Recently, I have been working with this student on organizing his
homework assignments, and he has successfully turned in all of his assignments. His grades are
steadily increasing, and his parents have noticed his work ethic has gone up. He works harder
on his assignments now and he is more organized. To me, seeing these successes is the best
evidence of why national service is important. Some people need a little more help, and there is
no reason to deny them this help. I love helping students because it is clear that I can make a
difference. These students are the future, and I should help the future in any way that I can!
My Name is Abigail Jones, and I work at Blugold Beginnings at the University of Wisconsin Eau
Claire. I am an Elementary Education major, and I cannot wait to start my life as a teacher! I
love working with Blugold Beginnings!

                              The Impact of Blugold Beginnings
                                        Kayla Andrews
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Memorial High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Since September I have been serving AmeriCorps through an organization at UW-Eau Claire
called Blugold Beginnings. It is an amazing program that enters local schools to help
underprivileged children learn more about how they can not only succeed in school now, but
reach higher education themselves! Due to their socio-economic status and home life (in most
cases) these students really struggle when it comes to school. Many of them feel that going to
college is out of their reach academically and financially. It is completely rewarding to not just
tell them that it is possible, but teach them how they can get there AND how it is financially
conceivable, even for them. The program is important because it gives our local youth a sense
of empowerment. They can walk away from having spent any amount of time working with any
of our mentors and know that they have the tools to better themselves and their future. It is so
vital to pass this empowerment on to our youth, because they are our future. In today’s world
it is not always enough just to graduate from high school, and we are helping these
underprivileged students get ahead. As mentors we become a safe place for them to voice their
concerns, ask questions, and get help when they feel they have no one else to turn to. Through
my service I have grown to appreciate not only everything I have been lucky enough to have in
my own life, but also the things I can do for others, no matter how small it may seem to me. For
some students, just having a mentor they can look up to and see two times a week really does
mean the world to them.

Kayla Andrews is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire. This is her first year
participating in both Blugold Beginnings and AmeriCorps.

                                   An Inspiration Continued
                                        Jennifer Saunders
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      Memorial High School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

As a peer mentor at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, I have the privilege of
working with talented high school students in hopes of inspiring them to continue education at
a higher level. The girls that I work with are bright, talented, and hard working. They do their
best every day although school does not always come easy to them. They look up to me, and
they know that they can come to me for help, whatever the subject may be.

At Memorial I work individually with students checking grades, tutoring, providing knowledge
of higher education and scholarship information. I also work in a more general sense as a
student tutor for the schools after school program. The way my schedule works out with
Memorial, I also often serve as a representative of the Blugold Beginnings Program at events
such as parent teacher conferences. There I answer any questions people may have about our
program, and our jobs as student mentors. I find mentoring enjoyable and consider it to be
great experience for my future career. Through working with the students at Memorial, I
decided that in the future I would like to be a High School social worker. I feel I am good at
what I do right now, and I know I will make a difference in the lives of many if I continue on this

Volunteering through AmeriCorps is an opportunity I find extremely valuable and rewarding. I
am so lucky to have had this chance, for the second year in a row, to make a difference in the
lives of others. I recommend to anyone who has the opportunity, find an AmeriCorps program
that suits you, and get involved!

Jennifer Saunders is a 20 year old sophomore student at the University of Wisconsin—Eau
Claire. She is studying French and Social Work.

                                  AmeriCorps Service Story
                                          Christy Fox
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Memorial High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with some amazing students in my past
experiences in education. This AmeriCorps position has been just as, if not more, rewarding.
This experience has provided me the opportunity to work with an amazing group of high school
students as well as the fantastic college students who mentor them. I have truly enjoyed
standing back and seeing the impact that these college students are having on their mentees
life. Many times they don’t even realize how much of an impact they are having.

As I mentioned above, the AmeriCorps position has provided me the opportunity to work with
some amazing students. One student that immediately comes to mind is Laura. She is a senior
at one of the schools that I am at. Just the other day I walked into my office and found a note
from her in bright exciting colors. She had indicated that she had gotten accepted into the
university of her choice (UWEC). If that wasn’t enough, the next class period she stopped into
the office and we celebrated with a lot of jumping and screaming. How exciting to be able to
assist someone in taking a step toward a new chapter in her life and to actually be able to
celebrate it with them. All the celebration was necessary and deserving! Laura, her mentor,
and myself had worked diligently to make sure that her application was in perfect condition.
She probably had ten rough drafts of her personal statement and I read each of them. Now
that she has been accepted, we are working on scholarship applications to help her pay for
college. So, I guess this story is to be continued....
Christy is a College Coach at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, WI.

                                          Story with AmeriCorps
                                               Larrnix Moua
                              Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                            North High School
                                      U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                        State Assembly District: 93
                                         State Senate District: 31

Having worked alongside with Blugold Beginnings for two years, I have found myself captivated with
being able to help other students who were in the same situation as I was when I was in high school. I
have learned many of things while working with Blugold Beginnings and now that I had a little work
experience under my belt, I felt confident taking the next step in working with AmeriCorps.

One major skill that I’ve learned with being in AmeriCorps is, showing professionalism. Having
professionalism is one way of getting our organization’s name out there. Not only has AmeriCorps
helped me in becoming more professional on my appearances, but they have also taught me the works
of dealing with real people in everyday situations. Learning how to critically analyze and comprehend
certain conditions has given me the knowledge of making the most suitable choices. By being in this
National Service Program it has helped bring awareness to the community of the successes of what
college can offer to them.

On a session to session bases, what AmeriCorps entails me to do, is to work with the students, who mine
are in high school, on a binder that incorporates all the details of getting into college and the success of
being in college. With my mentees we usually spend approximately about 15-20 minutes on the binders,
then afterwards we work on either a homework assignment of theirs or help them answer any questions
that they may have about school in general.

I serve under Kristi Herbenson who is the high school coordinator for AmeriCorps and Astri Gerdes who
is the North High’s on school college coach in Eau Claire Wisconsin. Serving as a mentor in this program,
I serve the community and its younger generations of soon to be college students. By approaching these
future students we are preparing them for what is in store for them in college. I believe that the best
way to introduce this program to the community is by word of mouth and action. One way AmeriCorps
is showing why they are a beneficial program to the community is by having their mentee’s take surveys
after each semester of working with the binders. From my experience thus far, I feel that students who
want to go to college will want to learn and retain the information that this program offers them.

As you can see I take pride in what I do. There are many students out there who come from low income
families, just as I was, that dreamed of going to college. I believe that with this program it will help those
students in achieving a possible dream.
Larrnix is junior at UW-Eau Claire majoring in Kinesiology.

                                      College Knowledge
                                        Kayla Trimborn
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

For the case of many people, college was a frightening topic because no one knew what it was
all about. Not in the case of the fortunate students in the Eau Claire School District. Through the
program AmeriCorps, Blugold Beginnings provides college knowledge for students from the
elementary level to the high school level. From information about how to prepare for college
and how to pay for college, these students are going to be ready to dig deep into their college
experience. I am lucky enough to be able to be involved in this process. Mentoring for students
of all ages is not only beneficial to the mentee but also the mentor. The mentee gains
information to help prepare them for college and get that extra help and support on their
assignments. Also, mentees have the opportunity to ask a current college student any questions
they have that may not be answered on a college campus tour, such as how is the cafeteria
food or the dorm life experience. The mentor receives benefit through helping the students and
giving them advice and support that they may need.

My name is Kayla Trimborn. I am a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a
major of elementary education.

                               AmeriCorps Service Story: Maribel
                                         Shelby Johnson
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Altoona Middle School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

Through my experience with Blugold Beginnings, I have been able to mentor a significant
number of students with their success of college knowledge and educational endeavors. A
student I have been working with this semester, Maribel, has thrived through the program and
the opportunities it has given her. Being of Hispanic background, Maribel had a difficult time
adjusting to an all-day, everyday learning atmosphere of English in kindergarten. We have had
so much fun working together and learning from one another throughout this semester. So far,
she has learned to recognize all letters of the alphabet, as well as spell all of the colors. Maribel
continues to be encouraged to learn and do well through all this program has offered and learn
through her experiences with Blugold Beginnings.

My name is Shelby Johnson and I am a student at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire. I am
majoring is Organizational Communication and I am minoring in Psychology. I began the Blugold
Beginnings program this year and have had amazing experiences through it. I had no idea I
would have learned so many applicable life skills as well as help others in the process.

Shelby is a senior majoring in organizational communication with a minor in psychology.

                                   Learning through Service
                                       Jackelyn Peterson
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                       North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

As an AmeriCorps Blugold Beginnings mentor, I have been given the opportunity to learn and
grow from a new experience. As a mentor I have been able to help kids of all ages succeed in
school and aspire for a secondary education in the future. I have worked with high school age
adolescents who are preparing, applying, and researching college opportunities and
experiences. I have also had the opportunity to work with middle and elementary age children
who I have been able to help discover possible career paths of interest to them. All of the kids I
have worked with have benefited from the services I have been able to give through the
resources provided by the Blugold Beginnings program. My mentees have benefitted by having
another resource who is knowledgeable about secondary education and having one on one
tutoring by someone who wants to see them succeed. I have seen my mentees become more
organized, confident, and excited about school.

As a mentor, I have been able to grow in my service opportunities and learn through teaching. I
have been able to help people of many different diversities and from all different backgrounds.
I have grown in my service, learning through mentoring children and collaborating with other
mentors. The new experiences I have been given through the Blugold Beginnings program have
opened the door to many different opportunities. I have been given the opportunity to learn
through service.

My name is Jackelyn Peterson, I am a junior at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire, majoring
in communication sciences and disorders. This is my first year working as a Blugold Beginnings

                                     Serving and Learning
                                          Giney Rojas
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Memorial High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Ever since I began my community service at the Eau Claire, Wisconsin communities, I have
discovered how little things like attending your regular service hours with your mentees can
provoke so much joy. Every time I service thru AmeriCorps, I feel great pleasure knowing that I
am making change in this world and that even though I might not be able to see change happen
from one day to the other, I know that at the end everything will be worth it not only for the
people I am serving but also for my own persona. When I began my service with AmeriCorps, I
was not sure how the program worked or how much I would like being part of the organization.
Once I began to get involved and realized how powerful AmeriCorps is I would not change the
whole year that I am serving with them.

I am a college mentor at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Serving students that
come from similar racial, financial, and emotional backgrounds as me has given me the
opportunity to share my experiences with others. I am a native speaker of the Spanish language
and always took this skill for granted. In fact I used to be embarrassed to speak my parent’s
language. I did not want to have this feeling of hatred but when I was growing up society
brainwashed me into thinking that being a person of color was a negative factor in my life. Now
that I have realized that thanks to the “negative” factors I have, I have had the chance to
change or put meaning into other people’s lives I give thanks to AmeriCorps that has allowed
me to experience this moment in my life where I have learned to help others, but in order to do
so I had to learn to love myself and AmeriCorps has allowed this to happen.

I know that my hard work will have a reward at the end. Seeing the faces of gratefulness from
my mentees are priceless. These kids are not “bad” kids as they are sometimes called. All they
need in life is the help of a person that can be a leader for them. Thanks to AmeriCorps we as
college students are able to help students like this. As I walk down the hallways of Memorial
High School, I look around me and see all of the good we are bringing into the lives of children
with big dreams. I even have had moments that I feel tears building up in my eyelids and they
are not tears of pain or sadness, they are tears of happiness. I am a very emotional person and
seeing the results of our contribution to society makes me very proud of the organization I
represent, AmeriCorps.

Autobiography: Giney Rojas, sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, majoring in
Spanish for Business and minoring in Business Administration.

                                    Working for the Future
                                         Sheng Yang
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                    Altoona Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

This is my first year working with Blugold Beginnings. My very first semester with Blugold
Beginnings was spent as a mentor at Altoona Middle School. I worked with designated mentees
on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Each week, I, as a mentor, helped my mentee on their homework,
projects, and grades. Also, I shared some knowledge about college and why it is important to
attend college with my mentees. In this process, I also tried my best to improve my relationship
with my mentees. Often times I doubted that my mentees were understanding the importance
of college; however, I also felt that even though to them it may not matter much yet they
would at least be familiar with the information when the time came for them to really start
thinking about it.

For second semester, I was given the opportunity to step into a leadership role as a site
coordinator. I was excited to have been given this opportunity. When I became Altoona Middle
School’s Site Coordinator my role in Blugold Beginnings changed slightly. Instead of helping
mentees when I can, I also had to build relationships with all the mentees in the program, keep
things going smoothly, make sure everyone is enjoying their time and learning, and being the
communication between the school, the program, the mentors/mentees, and the intern for
Altoona Middle School.

I think that I have mostly definitely grown through Blugold Beginnings. I’ve learned to work a lot
harder with children at a younger age. I’ve learned to turn off my frustrations when working
with mentors and mentees and I’ve learned how great the feeling is to impact students who
may have not had the chance to learn about college otherwise. It has been an honor to work
with other college students who, like me, want to change the life of children.
My name is Sheng Yang and I am from Wausau Wisconsin. I am a sophomore and a Health Care
Administration Major. I like to listen to music, hang out with friends and family, and have fun.

                                  A Worthwhile Experience
                                          Clark Etten
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Memorial High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I have learned more than I ever thought possible through my experience serving at Memorial
High School as a mentor and tutor. I have learned to not only better appreciate the upbringing
that I was fortunate enough to have, but also gained a firsthand understanding of the
hardships, struggles, and barriers that numerous children face on a daily basis. It’s an incredible
feeling to realize that I may have the ability, however seemingly small, to make a group of
children’s lives a little bit better, and to try to bridge some of the opportunity gaps that exist
between first generation college students, and those born into families who possess, value, and
promote education.

One story stands out particularly well in my memory. I was working with one of my mentees,
and helping him prepare for an upcoming test. We were going through a group of review
problems, and although he struggled at first, he quickly began to grasp the material and started
figuring out the exercises on his own without my help. When I told him I was impressed with
the progress he had made, he thanked me and said that he appreciated the help and support.
He went on to describe that whenever he would mention any sort of academic improvement or
success to his parents at home, this would elicit responses of complete indifference, and would
instead often be followed by a remark to spend less time staring at books, and more time
pulling some weight around the house. Both of his parents believed that college was a waste of
time and a group of organizations that sought only to steal people’s money. Remarkably, this
student had taken the initiative on his own, and with the help of the program to pursue college.
About a week after this incident, the student was accepted to his first choice school.

Experiences like this make working with Blugold Beginnings less like a job, and more like an
opportunity for both college mentors and the mentees they work with. I have no regrets about
choosing to participate in the program and no doubt that I will leave having gained valuable and
rewarding experiences.

Clark is a Senior Biology/Chemistry student hoping to attend medical school after graduation.

                                      AmeriCorps Service Story
                                             Kaitlin Besser
                            Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Sherman Elementary School
                                    U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                      State Assembly District: 93
                                       State Senate District: 31

I am a site coordinator for the elementary schools in Eau Claire, and the surrounding areas. Since
working with Blugold Beginnings I have met many different 5th graders and I have also worked with
some younger grades and some middle school children as well. These children are mostly first
generation students and qualify for free and reduced lunches.

I have worked with two different types of mentoring. For two schools I go to the lunch and recess time
for the 5th graders. During this time I and my other mentors spend time bonding with the students. We
sit at lunch and eat with them, talking about their lives, our lives, and their future plans. The point of
this time is to make connections and to start talking about healthy habits and ways to get them
prepared for college someday. Then after lunch, we go out to recess with the children. During this time
the Mentors and I facilitate non-competitive games that includes everyone. This is to help the children
have some fun and to make new friends.

For two other schools that I have worked at I have been helping my mentees with their homework and
going through binders that help prepare them for college. For the beginning of our after school sessions
we go over the binders. I explain certain topics that are already laid out for the week and then help
them fill out a few worksheets on the subject. After the binders I help them with their homework, quiz
them on topics they are learning, read with them and go over flash cards.

I have found that both the children and I have greatly benefitted from participating in Blugold
Beginnings. The children have told me that when I am there at recess with them, no one else picks on
them. I have spent time with children trying to make them happy and feel comfortable with other
children as well. The most important thing for me is to see that they are making friends with their
peers, because school can be really hard if you do not have friends your age to help you through it.
Seeing my mentees grow throughout the year has been something that is truly heartwarming to watch.
I think that not only have the children grown, but also I have changed for the better.

I think that the AmeriCorps service that is going on through the Blugold Beginnings organization is
important because it betters the community as a whole. The children are our future, and as most
people know firsthand, growing up can be really hard. Having someone there to help you through the
hard times and to talk to about your issues is really important. AmeriCorps is bettering the nation by
providing services such as this throughout the nation.

Biography: My name is Kaitlin Besser. I am a junior at UWEC and I am currently studying Business.

                                          Luke Otto
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                   Northstar Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

With the addition of more mentees, it is frequently a daunting task perceived by the
tutor/mentor and it was no different for me. Throughout the past couple of months, I have lost
one mentee and gained two. More parents to call, more paperwork to fill out, more time that I
thought I didn’t have.

I pick up my kids from each of their classrooms and we meet in the library. My first day walking
through the cold locker-infested cemented hallways, I was lost. I tried to take my time walking
to the library hoping my mind would conjure an objective for the kids that day which wouldn’t
leave them whining or complaining. But to my surprise, I entered the library to witness my
boys helping each other with their binder material. I was flabbergasted. It was then that I
realized Blugold Beginnings is more than an organization that revolves around tutor/mentors
convincing their mentees that it is possible for anyone to get a secondary education, but
Blugold Beginnings fosters the achiever and helper in everyone. Team work, companionship,
camaraderie still exist in a world where everyone is fighting to be number one and everyone
else is terrified to try because they believe they never can be number one. Blugold Beginnings
changes that.

Since then, I have never been lost or terrified to guide the numerous students that I have
because it is apparent to my mentees that they can do anything and that they do not have to
look to an adult for the answers, but they can work together to achieve their dreams.

Luke Otto is a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He is a Bachelor of Music-
Voice Performance major with a certificate in Fine Arts Administration. Luke has worked with
kids for several years in the capacity of Music Director at the Wisconsin Lions Camp as well as
two years with Blugold Beginnings as a tutor/mentor.

                                      The Best Service of My Life
                                             Pakou Xiong
                            Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                         Memorial High School
                                    U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                      State Assembly District: 93
                                       State Senate District: 31

As an AmeriCorps member for Blugold Beginnings, I have encountered several aspects to helping
students as well as the community. The main objective of the program is to focus on students who need
help in school. This need expands from grade school guidance all the way to college entrance.

Students of different age need different assistance. As a college mentor at Memorial High School, I have
experienced students who believe that they aren’t capable of going to college when they exceed the
requirements of college already. These students tend to have a lower support from their family. As part
of my service, it is my duty to support them. By doing this, I converse with them about college. I inform
them about financial issue, college entrance, and any other questions that they need to ask. On top of
that, Bulgold Beginnings also hosts college visits for students. This predominately persuades students to
apply for college. Also with the information received, students become more aware of their post-
secondary plans which increase the student rate of going to college.

A student may have family support, but lack in school work. Some of the students I work with already
know that they’re going to college. They know that they have family support, but their main struggle is
school work. As a mentor, I help students achieve good grades by meeting one on one with them during
their study hall. During this one on one, I review their daily schedule to see what homework they have
for each class. From there, I tell them to pick the assignment they struggle the most and guide them.
Knowing that you’re able to help a student with school work makes you feel good. Believing in them
and motivating them increases their desire to want a better future for themselves.

In addition to helping students, AmeriCorps also involves community activities. One of the most
memorable events I recalled was “Earth Day”. Hence the name, we raked leaves, picked up trash, and
assisted Phoenix Park with their gardening from 9 a.m. to approximately 4 p.m. It was a lot of work, but
with almost a hundred of volunteers made it fun and faster.

In conclusion, being a part of AmeriCorps has impacted me a lot. It showed me how important it was to
educate students about college. Helping students also creates a better environment. It makes you feel
good that you can help someone and in return, the student is happy knowing that someone cares.
Working with schools also means working with the community. “Earth Day” was a great experience; not
only to help out the community but also to interact with new people.

Autobiography: Pakou Xiong is a sophomore majoring in Health Care Administration.

                                       AmeriCorps Service
                                          Nicole Staab
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                        North High School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

During my first year serving with Blugold Beginnings as an AmeriCorps member, I have learned
a lot about the program, and the impact of mentoring students. During my service, I worked at
North High School, Arcadia Elementary/Middle School, and Arcadia High School. While in these
schools, I built trusting relationships with many students, and hope I positively impacted their
lives as much as they have made an influence on mine. While helping these students gain,
“College Knowledge,” working on homework with them, and getting to know my mentees on a
personal level, I have a greater appreciation for what I have in my own life. Though many of my
mentees were less fortunate than me (i.e. came from lower income families, never met their
mother/father, etc.) the amount of dedication and passion these students have to succeed and
go to college is inspirational. While learning about the personal struggles my mentees have
faced, I found myself coming home at night and being grateful for everything I have been given,
because many children don’t have the privileges I was given growing up. My mentees never
ceased to amaze me, and I am always so proud of the work they’ve done, and the happiness
that they’ve brought to our meetings. The most enjoyable part of my service was getting to see
how happy my mentees were when they reached one of their many goals.

When one of my senior mentees was accepted to the Chippewa Valley Technical College, I think
I was jumping and yelling for joy more than she was! I was so happy to see this brilliant,
motivated, and hard working girl continue forward in her journey to becoming a welder. When
this mentee passed the Compass Exam, I was even more excited for her! To see these students
succeed and be so proud of themselves made my day happier every time I met with them. It
didn’t matter how bad of a day I was having in my own classes, as long as my mentees were
smiling and happy, so was I. Through my first year in the program, I have learned how much
perseverance, hard work, and dedication pays off; because I see it every day in my mentees
hearts. As a future teacher, I am excited to be constantly learning from my students, just as I do
in the Blugold Beginnings program. I hope that I can continue to inspire children to reach their
goals, the way that they have inspired me.

Nicole Staab is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and graduated from Germantown High School in 2008; she is
a senior at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire. Nicole is majoring in Elementary Education with a
minor in general science and an emphasis in biology, and will student teach and graduate in the spring
of 2013.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams”
-Eleanor Roosevelt
                            Experience in Blugold Beginning Program
                                             Tian Liu
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      Memorial High School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

This is my second straight year in the Blugold Beginning Program. As a mentor, I like what I did
in the past year; working with high school kids, attending a lot of events, joining more activities
and meeting different people. Getting experiences and learning new skills are two impacts for
me through the service.

Last year, I have served two Chinese kids at Memorial High School. It was a great time to work
with them; I helped them with their homework and talked to them about college. They liked to
talk to me about their life as well, we became friends. During the school year, their grades went
up; I was really happy about the results, it showed my work has impacted them.

I have grown as well, learning how to work with different people, be consistent and patient
were two most parts that I improved. I remember one time I tried to explain my mentees a
math problem, they could not get the idea, I was not mad at all; instead, I went step by step
with them and gave them more details on the problem, eventually they figured out the answer.
It really gave me more confidence about teaching and talking with my mentees.

Also, I brought my mentees to some Blugold Beginnings activities; such as bowling, running and
watching baseball etc. They liked to be involved more into the program and meet more people.
I always encourage them to go to college, it will benefit their life.
Time passed fast, both of my Chinese mentees moved to other states this year, I am sad to lose
them as my mentees, but I like to help more kids to learn and get more experience in working
with people. So, I decided to join the program again. I have different mentees and am involved
more in the school events and activities.

I am currently a sophomore at UWEC, majoring in accounting. I really like to work with people,
especially high school kids, it makes me think about myself a couple years ago and worry about
going to college. I am enjoying what I am doing now; it is a good experience for me and a great
opportunity to improve myself.

                                      Blugold Beginnings
                                       Kristina Boucher
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Blugold Beginnings gives me the opportunity to work with kids in Eau Claire and in surrounding
areas. I help them with homework, teach them about college, and take time to get to know
them as individuals. I give them the tools required to be successful students and the
information and motivation to learn about college. I not only serve the kids but also schools and
the community. It is great to spend time with kids outside of school by taking them to activities
such as UWEC basketball games. This allows kids to see a small part of what college life is like.
The Saturday programming also gives us more one-on-one time to help with homework and
gives more kids college knowledge.

The students have been impacted the most out of this whole experience. Kids who are a part of
this program have a mentor that they feel safe with, are able to get homework help, and learn
about college. This gives them the initiative to do well in school and gets their minds geared
towards college. Kids have a supportive role model that can help them grow into more
successful and motivated students.

Blugold Beginnings has also helped me grow as a person. Working with kids is, in my opinion,
one of the most gratifying experiences. They motivate me and get me excited about what I am
doing in college and what I am doing in Blugold Beginnings. Blugold Beginnings makes me feel
like I am genuinely helping the community and making a positive impact on these kids’ lives.

National service like this is important because what we are teaching kids today can greatly
impact America’s future. Giving them the knowledge and tools to be successful will not just
dissipate as they become adults but result in hard working, prosperous, and motivated adults.

Kristina Boucher is a freshman at UW-Eau Claire and looks forward to being in this program
throughout her college years.

                                   AmeriCorps Service Story
                                         Alyssa Phillips
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                       North High School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

My service story involves working the Blugold Beginnings program at the University of
Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I worked with 6 different mentees last semester, tutoring and mentoring
at Eau Claire North High School. This semester, I have 5 different mentees. I meet with each of
them twice a week and every meeting time we talk about how their day is going, how they are
doing in classes, and then do binder worksheets. After all of this is completed, we move onto
any homework they need help with. Each one of my mentees if very different from the next, so
it’s important to me to try and understand how each works best. Meeting with them on a
consistent basis to help to gain insight and form a positive mentor/mentee bond. I believe that
the work that I do has had a positive impact on the mentees grades and also with them
developing more self confidence in their work. I have also tried to pass along valuable college
insight, and why furthering one’s education after high school is important.

I have personally grown through my service in numerous ways. For one, I’ve learned valuable
time management skills. Using my time efficiently and wisely is a must when trying to balance
classes, homework, working for Blugold Beginnings, and all other aspects of my life. I’ve also
learned how fortunate I am to have a strong role model in my life to help me with college and
had helped me get into college. College applications, FASFA, and other related college
processes can be very confusing, especially for first generation college students. I would like to
think of myself as being a role model in helping those students who need guidance in applying
for college. I think that doing this work has made me become a better person. I have come to
realize how fortune I am to be in college. I want to help my mentees be able to realize how
education can be beneficial to their futures.

My name is Alyssa Phillips and I am from Stone Lake, Wisconsin. I am a sophomore at UW-Eau
Claire majoring in Business Management.

                                      Blugold Beginnings
                                         Caitlin Keller
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      North High School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Fayth taught me many things in this past year. Such as, she may appear to be shy but she is very
outspoken once you take the time to get to know her. She has plans for herself and if you listen
she will tell you exactly what she wants to be and how she is going to accomplish that dream.
From the first meeting this year she has always wanted to be a photographer. She will tell you
all about the pictures she has taken and the many cameras that she possesses. I was not able to
understand all that she was telling me but her excitement was contagious. I knew how
important photography was to her so I decided to bring in someone who could speak with her
about photography. She was able to speak with a college photography student who shared her
excitement for the topic. She was able to learn more about her future career than I would ever
have been able to tell her in a single day. Now she is even more driven towards that career.
She knows exactly where she wants to be, she just needs a little help to get there.

I learned that if your approaches are not working that sometimes it is best to ask the student
what they want to try. This was my best idea during my time with Blugold beginnings. Fayth
was struggling with her math, we needed to improve her grades but I was not finding a way to
motivate her to continue with math through the struggling. One day Fayth told me that she
loves to use the whiteboard. An idea started to take form. I spoke with her mother and she said
that Fayth has her own personal whiteboard at home to do school work on. So, we went out
and bought brightly colored dry erase markers. From then on we always did math on the
whiteboard. She loved it, to the point where she would choose to do math if she had nothing
else to work on. I am proud to say that she was able to increase her grades to continue along
her path to become a photographer.

Caitlin is a senior at UW-Eau Claire from Medford, Minnesota. She is majoring in special
education with an emphasis in cognitive disabilities and learning disabilities.

                                         Service Story
                                          Katie Gorell
                        Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                     Delong Middle School
                                U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

I have been working with Blugold Beginnings for over three months. When people ask me what
I do for a living, I usually cannot stop talking about Blugold Beginnings and end up rambling
about all of the opportunities we provide for students in the Chippewa Valley at all levels of
education. I have seen some amazing transformations of students I work with, and also
transformations of mentors who work with those students. I have seen the program affect
everyone involved whether it is professionals, mentors, students, parents, or community
members and I know that Blugold Beginnings has been an encouraging program for all

My most memorable story so far working in the program involves a middle school student that
is in the Blugold Beginnings Program. She is an eighth grade student, who has the maturity level
of an adult. From the first moment we met, I remember thinking to myself that this girl is not
going to be our typical eighth grader. Academically she does well; she has average grades that
have been increasing with the help of her mentor. She is a first generational student, who
already has decided that she is going to college but she isn’t sure which one yet. But the most
evident characteristic about her is that she has the best attitude each time I see her.

One day she came to talk to me with her mentor and a new student that I had not met before.
She explained to me that this new student was her cousin and she should join our program.
She continued telling me that her cousin does not have good grades and she needs help with
her homework. I told her cousin to stay for the day and we would get her started with a
mentor. After school, my mature eighth grade student stayed a few minutes after too
additional inform me of her cousin’s background and how she told her cousin’s mom that she
would talk to me. I told her that was a nice and responsible thing she did for her cousin, and I
assured her that I would make sure her cousin would get some homework help.

I can equate other students who have recently joined Blugold Beginnings to my mature eighth
grade student, but her voice carries further than her student peers. A few weeks later I had a
teacher email me about speaking to her reading students about Blugold Beginnings. After a few
correspondences over email, we had set up a time and day I could come to her class and speak.
The morning I went to speak to this teacher’s class I was instantly greeted by my mature eighth
grader. She told me she was glad I was there because her reading teacher had been asking her
all these questions about Blugold Beginnings, but she couldn’t answer them all. She told her

teacher to talk to me and I could answer the questions she didn’t know. I couldn’t help but have
the biggest grin on my face. I told my mature eighth grader that it was a good thing her teacher
was talking to her because she does know a lot about our program. Throughout my
presentation my mature eighth grader enforced all my information to her class with head
shakes and raising her hand to comment on our program. At the end of the day my mature
eighth grader found me and told me the kids in her class were asking about me when I left, and
she told me not to worry because she told them all I was cool and that they should join Blugold

 Since then, I have been seeing increasing amounts of eighth grade students wanting to join
Blugold Beginnings. Whether she has had a large part in the increasing amount of eighth
students or not, I couldn’t have asked for a better student voice for our program than her. She
loves her mentor and our program, which reinforces to me that Blugold Beginnings is a positive
program that touches students in a constructive way.
Katie is a college coach at Delong Middle School in Eau Claire, WI. She graduated with a
bachelor’s degree in social work.

                                   AmeriCorps Service Story
                                          Astri Gerdes
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                       North High School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

As a College Coach at North High School, I come in to work every day with a positive attitude
and interest in whatever challenges the day may hold. My position involves overseeing college
student mentors who work with the underrepresented population of high school students.
Certainly, some days are hectic and challenging. In my first year in this position, I’m realizing
how important communication and persistence are to the effectiveness of our program.

For example, one of our newest students was nominated by her counselor as a low-income,
first-generation higher education student that qualified for the program, who had
demonstrated her hard work with a strong GPA. I was especially busy at this time with
scheduling, so instead of doing my usual routine (going to her study hall to explain the program
and meet her myself), I sent a new mentor to get started with her right away.

This student was, as are many high school students, insecure about being singled out and was
worried that she was in trouble. She said everything she could to get rid of the college student
mentor, claiming to have straight C’s and that she couldn’t go to college. She succeeded in
dissuading her mentor from coming back, who reported to me that the student was strongly
against participating in our program. Participation is a privilege, not mandatory, so I didn’t
pursue it.

One week later, this student’s counselor came to my office and told me there was a girl that
was interested in the program. I asked her name and was surprised to hear that same student’s
name again! It turned out she was going through her senior year conference with her mother. I
went and talked with her myself. She was very embarrassed when she realized that she’d
already turned down the opportunity, which of course I offered her again. Just that week, our
program was going to take a free campus tour field trip to UW-Platteville, this student’s school
of choice! The timing couldn’t have been better.

This experience made me realized how vital it is that I fully investigate each student’s situation,
communicate thoroughly and persist in connecting students with any opportunities that I can.
I’ve also realized what a huge difference a simple conversation can make in a students’ life.

One student who didn’t have time to have a mentor still came to talk with me one day. She
wanted to know more about what else our program offered. We chatted about the events we

offer, such as scholarship workshops and college information events, when she mentioned that
she might not actually go to college, because although she wanted to be a geologist and can
identify ‘any rock you put in my hand,’ a teacher had told her that she wouldn’t be able to
because she had difficulty walking.

I was taken aback by this; as a teacher-in-training myself, I can’t imagine discouraging a student
from following their dreams due to a physical disability! I told her that although her teacher
was an expert on whatever subject he taught, he was not the expert on her future; only she
could decide what she could and could not do. I encouraged her to pursue her dreams and
passions, and to look into which universities had strong geology programs, and that just
because something is difficult does not mean it is impossible; it will just take extra
determination and hard work. Her face just lit up!

These are the moments that energize and inspire me. I love making connections between
students and great opportunities, and it is a privilege to watch someone realize that their
dreams are attainable.

Astri is a research intern and academic year college coach at North High School in Eau Claire,
WI. She has degree in French and teaching English as a foreign language from the University of
Wisconsin-Eau Claire.

                                       Truly Making a Difference
                                           Merribeth Schrimpf
                             Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                          Memorial High School
                                     U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                       State Assembly District: 93
                                        State Senate District: 31

Imagine how it would feel to be a high school student and be unsure if you are going to be able to go to
college. Perhaps this student does not have the means or the resources to be able to realize this dream.
This student may be in the underrepresented category of students who typically attends a four year
university. Race, income, and parents' education can all be factors that can contribute to the likelihood
that this student will be attaining post-secondary education.

 As a mentor and tutor of the AmeriCorps program, Blugold Beginnings at the University of Wisconsin
Eau Claire, helping students who are typically underrepresented in college realize this dream is exactly
what we specialize in. Whether it be in an elementary, middle, or high school, Blugold Beginnings is
committed to helping all students achieve their dream of making it to college. Many times for these
students, their parents did not receive any more education after high school, making it difficult for their
children to get the help they need to receive their higher education. Being a mentor for Blugold
Beginnings means that I can help these students find the resources that will get them higher education.
Whether it be a two-year, four-year, or a military option, Blugold Beginnings mentors will do all we can
to help their students.

One student that I mentor is a senior this year. Neither of her parents went to college and she needed
the direction of someone who has already been to college to help her get the information she needed. It
is now November, and she has already been on a few college visits and is getting more and more excited
that she will actually be able to attend a four-year university. It is amazing to see the progress she has
made in the program. Each time I meet with her, she has more questions about how college works.
Everything from the kinds of classes that she will be able to take to what her advisors will be able to help
her with once she is there.

This is just one of the many stories that a person will come by when they hear about Blugold Beginnings.
As a mentor in Blugold Beginnings, it has made me realize that not everyone comes from the same
background that I did. I always knew that I would be able to go to college, and that it would not be
obstacles that would be in my way. The feeling of helping underrepresented students get to college is
something that is like no other feeling. Knowing that the student is achieving something that they
thought might not be possible for them is a sensation that cannot be replaced. As a future educator, I
hope to continue making a difference in students’ lives through Blugold Beginnings and in the future as a
teacher. Blugold Beginnings has made me realize that one person can truly make a difference.

Merribeth Schrimpf is a junior at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire majoring in Art Education.

                                   Service Story: Advantages
                                          Jack Filipiak
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                      Memorial High School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

I first got involved with Blugold Beginnings about two years ago. I had heard of the program
through some of my friends that were in it. I figured I could really use the extra spending
money, and thought that it would be a pretty fulfilling way to do it. I had no idea what a life
changing experience I would be getting into. The longer I was in Blugold Beginnings the more I
realized how much of an impact this program can be for some of the students that I mentor.

Recently, I had the opportunity to mentor three Hispanic students, all in the high school. It was
a very eye opening experience for me. First, I will start to explain about my own personal
experiences. I grew up in white, middle-upper class America. I had a family that took care of me
and helped me out financially, but not only that, my parents also told me how important
college was. By the time I was a senior in high school my mom was helping me apply to schools,
fill out FAFSA, sign up and take the ACT, and all the other things that are necessary for a student
to get into college. What I am trying to say is that, I personally, did not need to try very hard to
get into a good college. Since this is how I was brought up, I ignorantly assumed that getting
into college was that easy for everyone.

Now let me jump back to my story, I was now mentoring three different Hispanic students who
were all in high school, and I was very quickly finding out that their journey to college would not
be as painless as mine was. I will focus on one student in particular; he was a senior in high
school. He had to work while going to school so that he could help provide for his family. On
top of that, his parents wanted him to begin work right after he graduated from school so that
he could begin making money and help out with supporting his brothers and sisters. His parents
had not gone to college and viewed it as both a waste of time and waste of money. He had not
applied for FAFSA, had no clue how to apply for scholarships, he did not know where he wanted
to go to school, or how to apply to any college.

I just thought to myself if only this student would have found Blugold Beginnings a few years
earlier so he could have had a jumpstart on these essential components to get into college. As
his mentor I helped him fill out his financial aid forms and talked to him about scholarships.
However, the most important thing that I did with him was explain the benefits of college.
Something that I thought everyone should know by the time they start high school. I explained
to him that if you go on to post-secondary education, even just a technical college or

community school, you will be able to get a job far more easily. But also you would have more
options, so you could work in a field that you enjoy, and on top of that you make more money.

I am proud to say that this student applied and got accepted into a technical school near
Winona, MN. When I started mentoring again this year, I worked with a freshman in high school
and told him this same story. He also did not know very much about college and just after
telling this story he seemed more interested, and excited about the prospect of college. Luckily
for him he was still just a freshman and had 4 years to get on the right track for a post-
secondary education.

This program has opened my eyes to students who don’t have the same advantages that I had
while growing up, and given me an opportunity to help them. I am glad to be part of such an
organization, and hope to help more and more kids learn the importance of college.

Jack is senior at UW-Eau Claire from Hudson, WI. He is majoring in Marketing with an emphasis
in sales.

                                       My Time with AmeriCorps
                                            Alyssa Loveland
                             Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                           North High School
                                     U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                       State Assembly District: 93
                                        State Senate District: 31

As an AmeriCorps member of the Blugold Beginnings Program at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, I
go to public schools in the Eau Claire area and work one on one with students during their study periods
to address their concerns and questions about post-secondary education. Currently, I go to North High
School two to three times a week and work with five students. At least once a week, I check each
student’s grades and we talk about ways to improve in certain classes, as well as finding any missing
homework and completing it. Each day I mentor a student, we go through a sub-section of their binder.
For example, the students start out the Blugold Beginnings program by creating “SMART” goals for
themselves. The next time I mentor them we might talk about organization skills, or money issues in
college. Each week has a separate theme that guides college preparatory conversation. The binder is a
great tool, because it gives structure, worksheets, and helps the students generate questions about
subjects that might have previously been ambiguous to them.

Most of my mentees have experienced an increase in their grades since starting the Blugold Beginnings
program. The program is not a magic charm for grades, but it seems that having constant
encouragement and having grades consistently checked by a superior makes students consider studying
more and completing more homework. As mentors create a bond with each mentee, the mentee is
more likely to want to impress that mentor and therefore their grades may increase.

The program also introduces concepts like the ACT to students in a way that is constructive and helpful.
Many students put off learning about the ACT and other college prep issues because they may seem like
daunting tasks, but this program breaks down the general issues into manageable pieces that students
can then more easily prepare for.

Community service is important because it is the responsibility of those more fortunate to extend care
and help to those less fortunate, whether it be through teaching and mentoring high school children or
just working at the food pantry. My experience in this national service organization has taught me the
value of my own education, and has shown me how I can use that education to aid others. I am happy
that I made the decision to be a part of AmeriCorps, because through this organization I was able to
meet many other individuals who have academic goals similar to mine, but also value giving back to the

Alyssa Loveland is a student at UW-Eau Claire who began working for AmeriCorps Blugold Beginnings in
the fall of 2011. She will be graduating early, after three and a half years of post-secondary education,
from UWEC and plans to continue studying abnormal psychology at a graduate school. Her ultimate
career goal is to become a psychologist in a federal corrections setting.

                                 AmeriCorps Service Story
                                     Benjamin Maassen
                       Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                    Delong Middle School
                               U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                 State Assembly District: 93
                                  State Senate District: 31

My role in Blugold Beginnings is to educate two middle school boys that higher education is
possible to them through hard work, planning, and a little determination. The job though, is
much more than just educating students on higher education. It is also helping them with
homework, being a positive role model, showing them that education can be seen as fun and
not just work, and that by working hard in school now will ultimately pay off in the long run,
making them much more successful in everything that they do. It is also positively encouraging
them in everything they attempt, and reminding them that everything that happens now is just
a learning experience for later on in life, so if something doesn’t go your way, use that as
motivation so next time it will. It is also showing these students the ample amounts of
resources that are in place to help them succeed. All in all, my job is much more than just
preparing these students for higher education, but it is helping prepare them for a successful
Benjamin Maassen is a first time mentor for Blugold Beginnings.

                                       Making it Happen
                                         Hannah Moran
                         Blugold Beginnings: College & Career Readiness
                                       North High School
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3rd
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                    State Senate District: 31

I work with elementary, middle, and high school students in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I’ve been
mentoring for about a year now and have seen how much of a difference I can make in the lives
of the students I work with. When I first started mentoring, I thought that it would just be
helping students with their homework but I have found that it is a lot more than that. When
you start working with a student and get the chance to see them grow over a period of time, it
is very rewarding. I mostly work with students that are low income or will be first generation
college students. I feel that it is very important to share my knowledge with them and make
them see that it is possible for them to have a higher education.

I’ve had a very rewarding experience with one of my students in particular. I worked with him
while he was in 7th grade and now he’s in 8th grade and I’m still working with him. When we
first met, he was very shy and I couldn’t get him to talk at all. Now we have grown really close
and he shares everything with me and I can’t get him to stop talking. I’ve helped him improve
his grades and his study skills. It’s been great to see how he’s grown in his school life but as well
as a person.

This experience has taught me a lot about working with kids, such as the ability to be patient. If
they don’t understand something right away you have to be patient and try to think of a
different approach for them to learn. I’m so happy that I’ve been able to help my students
begin their journey to college and be there for them as a mentor and a friend. All my students
are so thankful to be in the program and they are excited to come and learn every day, which
means a lot to me.

Biography: My name is Hannah Moran. I’m a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, Eau
Claire. My major is psychology and my minor is family studies. When I graduate I hope to have a
job where I can help people and make a difference in their lives because I believe that is what is
really important in life.

           CAP Services Fresh Start
                                        Skills for Work
                                       Terry SearVogel
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8 US Congressional District
                             40 Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

My experience at CAP Services Fresh Start has been a helpful one. I have learned how to be
better team worker and how to follow instructions. My carpentry skills have greatly increased.
Part of what we do at CAP Services Fresh Start is volunteer work and community service. My
favorite community service project was volunteering at the Wisconsin Veterans Home. It is
important to show people at the home that we appreciate what they have done for this
country. I enjoy sitting with the veterans and talking to them about what happened during
WWII. They appreciate someone coming and talking with them. If there is another volunteer
day at the Veterans Home I will be there.

When I leave CAP Services, Fresh Start I plan on going to college and putting the skills that I
have learned in the field to work by becoming an electrician. I am hoping CAP Services will be
able to help set up job shadowing through an electric company.

Terry SearVogel lives in Iola, Wisconsin, is the father of two and enjoys working with his hands.

                                        A Second Chance
                                        Keisha Bourasaw
                                     CAP Services Fresh Start
                                   8 US Congressional District
                              40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                               14th Wisconsin State Senate District

Hello, my name is Keisha Bourasaw. I’ve been with CAP Services Fresh Start since November
2011. I’m a 21year old high school dropout that was on a fast track to nowhere. I was homeless
over the summer and finding myself doing nothing but getting drunk and looking for ways to
escape life and the lessons to be learned from the choices I was making. I can truly say I was at
rock bottom.

Since I have been in this program, I have been given another chance at getting my high school
diploma and will be graduating August 2012. On top of that, I am getting work experience on a
construction site! Never in my life did I think I would be building a house, and it feels awesome
to be a part of something like this. I have a big heart for others struggling because of the way I
had to grow up. It makes me very happy to be a part of this program giving back to the
community. I think that’s what keeps some of us going. Nothing feels better then accomplishing
your goals and having the ability to watch it all happen from start to finish. I think we all like
knowing that we’re the ones that did it.

Other than building the house we’re working on, I’ve had the opportunity to help clean up
Ruby’s Food Pantry, help work on the Waupaca Train Depot and learn some of its history, clean
up our local walking trails, and help out at the Vets Home. I’m also now Natural Disaster
Certified and First Aid Certified - just a few things I have gotten out of the program in these few
months. Again, I never thought I’d be in such a good place in life. It has only been a couple
months and I already have gained so much! I can’t wait to see what projects we’ll be doing and
the people we’ll be meeting along the way.

I have this program to thank for helping me find my way when I thought it wasn’t possible. It
has given me hope and the opportunity to prove that I can be a responsible adult, and work on
building myself into the strong person I am today and will be in the future. It has given me the
chance to prove myself to others and now I have a safe home and amazing support system. I
am no longer running from my problems, issues, and mistakes, but instead I am turning and
facing them and dealing with them. This is huge for me.

Keisha lives in Waupaca, Wisconsin and enjoys spending her free time with her younger

                                       A Brighter Future
                                       Eddie Stemwedel
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8 US Congressional District
                             40 Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

The Fresh Start program has given me multiple opportunities. I’ve had a lot of trouble in life up
until this program. I’ve struggled with a major drug addiction and trouble with the law.
Because of Fresh Start, I’ve stayed out of trouble. My future is looking brighter. Without it, I
wouldn’t be in school. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work. Volunteer work is important for
young people to become part of the community.

Eddie lives in Waupaca, Wisconsin and is excited that college may now be in his future thanks
to the education and educational award from this AmeriCorps program.

                                          Lots to Learn
                                           Cory Quick
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8th US Congressional District
                             40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

The Fresh Start program is helping me get my GED and is providing me with a job while I finish
my schooling. If it weren’t for this program, I’m sure I would have never gone and finished
school. I would still be jobless. I like how they teach us how to build new houses. I like to be
hands-on, so the home building is something I enjoy doing. I also like everyone I work with and
all the teachers that are here. Our constructions site manager really teaches us a lot about
building homes.

Cory lives in Waupaca, Wisconsin and is excited to finally find success in academics.

                                    Opportunity for Growth
                                          Allen Taylor
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8 US Congressional District
                             40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

I came to Fresh Start for the opportunity to better myself by staying out of trouble and earning
a paycheck. Fresh Start is allowing me to go to school to finish my HSED. I’m also here to
improve on my work ethic.

While at Fresh Start, I have also volunteered at the Vets Home, worked on trails and worked at
the local historical train depot. It is good to be able to give back to the community through
community service.

Alan Taylor lives with his wife and children in Waupaca, Wisconsin.

                                      Hands-on Learning
                                       Brandon Krause
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8 US Congressional District
                             40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

While participating in the home building with CAP Services Fresh Start, I’ve learned how to lay
flooring, carpentry and other things. CAP is helping me get my GED, which I’m close to having.
When my term is done, I’m moving on to work at the Waupaca Foundry.
In this program, we also do volunteer projects. One of the projects that I have done was
remodeling the Waupaca Train Depot by replacing the flooring. Volunteer service is important
because you need those hours for AmeriCorps. It’s required in order to complete the program.
Brandon loves working on cars in his free time and loves being a father to his children.

                                   Reflection On My Service
                                        Danielle Hanson
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8 US Congressional District
                             40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

CAP Services Fresh Start is an awesome program to help kids accomplish goals that they most
likely wouldn’t have. The Fresh Start program motivated me to get my HSED accomplished.

I also enjoy coming to work here even though some of it is difficult to deal with at times. I like
waking up in the morning knowing I’m going to work and I’m bettering myself even when we
are out on the job site. We also do a lot of community service. It’s important for kids my age to
do community service because otherwise they don’t care about their community or anything
that goes on around them.

I also want to go to college when I’m done with my HSED. I never thought that was possible
before I joined this program. The Fresh Start program motivated me. Now I know I can do
anything I set my mind to.

Many of the kids that are in the Fresh Start program would not be anywhere without this
program. I talk to a lot of the people in my Fresh Start group and we can all say we’re happy to
have a job and a chance at straightening our lives out. It’s amazing that they even have options
out there like this for troubled youth.

I am Danielle from Weyauwega, Wisconsin. I enjoy hanging out with friends.

                                     Life Changing Experiences
                                          Krystal Pynenberg
                                      CAP Services Fresh Start
                                    8 US Congressional District
                               40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                                14th Wisconsin State Senate District

The Fresh Start program is a great program. I joined the Waupaca Fresh Start crew in August
2011. When I walked in, two houses were towards the finishing process. During my time with
Fresh Start I have done a variety of things ranging from volunteering to construction. I have
volunteered at the Red Cross, the historical train depot in Waupaca and The King Veterans
Home. They were all great volunteering experiences. The construction on the two houses that
I have helped with also comes in handy. To this day I know more now than what I did than
when I walked in the door. When I walked through the doors of the finished houses I was
amazed, because I was like “Wow I helped build this house for some lucky family.” Knowing
that I helped build homes I think later in life I can apply the skills that I gained in this program. I
now know what I can do and that I can accomplish anything if I believe and a little hard work.

Krystal lives in Waupaca, Wisconsin and hopes to someday be a phlebotomist.

                                 What AmeriCorps Means To Me
                                           Taylor Smith
                                      CAP Services Fresh Start
                                    8 US Congressional District
                               40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                                14th Wisconsin State Senate District

With Fresh Start I’ve done trail clean up. I have gone door-to-door for the American Red Cross
handing out fire safety flyers and explaining better fire safety tips. Community Service helps
teach respect and selflessness toward the community. Community service also shows
responsibility on how to be a part of the community. It can help to bring people to work
together even if they don’t like each other. There are many other reasons to why community
service is important, but I’m going to end with it improves people’s drive to help others while
wanting nothing in return.

Taylor lives in the country and enjoys hard, physical labor.

                                What Fresh Start Means To Me
                                         Justin Wanty
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8 US Congressional District
                             40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

The Fresh Start program is helping me out in many ways. First, it is helping me get my HSED.
Second, it has given me a job and job experiences for the future. Last, it is teaching me life

I dropped out of high school my junior year and never thought I was going to get a diploma of
any kind. I talked to my guidance counselor and he introduced me to the Fresh Start program.
He talked about it and it sounded just right for me. I am now attending two classes at the tech
school in Waupaca and I am working with Amanda, our teacher at Fresh Start, to get my HSED.
When I dropped out of high school I started looking for a job. However, it was really hard to
find a job without a diploma. Starting at Fresh Start gave me a job working on houses. I like the
work we do. It is a great learning experience!

Justin lives in Waupaca and enjoys playing video games and hanging with friends in his free

                                      Waupaca Fresh Start
                                           Dan Theel
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8 US Congressional District
                             40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

What has Waupaca Fresh Start done for me? They have given me the chance to become part of
something meaningful. They provided me the time and guidance needed to insure quality
productivity, accountability, and professional conduct on the work site. This training is
delivered through education in class and hands-on to further sharpen construction and high
school or college level advancement.

This is my second year with Fresh Start. I have come a long way! Plagued with a felony at
seventeen, a horrible work history, and no transportation, I felt hopeless. When I found out
that I had been accepted into the program, I was charged and ready to prove my worth to

Along with the construction and education aspects of this program, we are also required to
become engaged with our community. One particular service project we did involved our
group volunteering at the local veteran’s home for their Winter Extravaganza. We all partnered
up with an elderly member and brought them to an activity of their liking. I am looking forward
to our return. We have also partnered with our local Red Cross, historical society, food pantry,
and many other nonprofit organizations.

Through my two years with Fresh Start I have learned a handful of valuable skills. I have been
given a pay raise in return that I step up my responsibilities and promote a positive, yet safe
worksite. I’ve had many opportunities to further my leadership skills and continue my
education toward the career that I would like to pursue. I have been given the chance to write
and present the opening speech for our open house. I have been a guest on our local radio
station, informing the community of what Fresh Start has to offer. And I’ve also written and
composed a song for our AmeriCorps opening ceremony
Everything that I have done through Waupaca Fresh Start is starting to show to my family and
community. This program has literally changed my life for the better. I have just taken my
Accuplacer to enter college. I have picked a very universal degree so that I can pursue my
hobby as well as having job security. Within my two years, it is safe to say that I have become a
well trusted, educated, and fully capable member of society.

Dan Theel is an aspiring musician who enjoys politics and spending time with his family.

                                  Working to Make a Difference
                                           Brian Riley
                                     CAP Services Fresh Start
                                   8 US Congressional District
                              40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                               14th Wisconsin State Senate District

I’ve been working at Fresh Start for a couple of months now. I‘ve learned a lot about
construction in these past months. Fresh Start is helping me get my high school diploma. I
appreciate the help I’m getting. I feel proud about what I’m accomplishing. Right now I’m
saving for a car and a driver’s license. I feel less stressed here than when I was at school. I feel
Fresh Start will help me succeed in reaching my goals in life. So far, I have helped restore
Waupaca’s Train Depot, clear out black locust trees, and assisted at the local food pantry. I feel
it is important for the youth to help out in the community. If everyone helped at least one
week per year to improve the community, we would definitely make an impact. I feel
everyone’s primary goal should be to make the community a safe and healthier place to live.
Brian lives in Waupaca, Wisconsin and enjoys spending his free time with his friends.

                                         Service Learning
                                            Matt Clark
                                     CAP Services Fresh Start
                                   8th US Congressional District
                              40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                               14th Wisconsin State Senate District

Fresh Start is one of the weirdest jobs I ever had, but I learned a lot in the time I’ve been here. I
am way more aware of a simple tool set to build houses with. One of my main goals of the
program is to learn how to use all the tools. As of right now, I am reaching that very goal slowly
but surely. The houses that we build may seem to be the prime subject of Fresh Start. That
statement is wrong. The house is a tool to learn how to build our lives. Sometimes we also do
community service. This always gives me a very good felling after I am done.

Matt lives in Waupaca, Wisconsin and is determined to become a price negotiator.

                                    Opportunity for Success
                                         Nikki Leopold
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8 US Congressional District
                             40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

CAP Services Fresh Start program is a wonderful opportunity, not only for me, but also for
everybody. The program offers many great things, like the opportunity to get some sort
diploma such as HSED or GED. Fresh Start also gives a chance to get involved with the
community and help other local organizations; my favorite being the local historical train depot.
I enjoy volunteering there the most because it’s a historical landmark and has so many stories
behind it. Doing the community service is important because you are helping a group or
organization without expecting anything in return. This helps them out and gives you the great
feeling of helping someone.

The program helps direct you towards your goals and helps you reach them. Fresh Start also
gives you great references and work skills. You get the chance to meet and work with new
people and help to push one another to succeed. Another plus to the program is that while you
are learning new things, helping others and getting your education, you’re getting paid for it.
It’s not so much a job at all. It’s a great opportunity that helps you to success!
Nikki is looking forward to learning machining so that she can work at the local foundry after
Fresh Start.

                                          Tom Best
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8 US Congressional District
                             40 Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

My name is Tom Best and I’ve been an AmeriCorps member since January 4, 2011. I’ve gained
a tremendous amount of knowledge and experience in my time here. I’ve learned the basic
steps of home construction and have been certified in a variety of areas including First Aid,
Child/Adult/Infant CPR and Disaster Relief Training. I have also acquired close to $5000 in
education awards to help me further my life’s goals. In addition to those benefits, I have
learned to be more responsible. I’ve developed a great work ethic, and now take pride in my
accomplishments. I have gained a plethora of things through the Fresh Start Program. It has
had a deep impact on my life and has molded me into the person I am today. Throughout my
time here at Fresh Start, I have had several great experiences volunteering in the community.
We have worked at a food pantry, a train depot owned by the Waupaca Historical Society, a
local hospital, and many other organizations. The experience that stands out most for me is the
work we did at The King Veterans Home during their Winter Extravaganza. I was paired with an
elderly, ex-Naval officer named Russ. He and I watched a movie and attended the band that
was provided for the afternoon. I felt as if I made a difference in Russ’s life even if it was only
for a few hours. This volunteer experience has even influenced my plans for after the Fresh
Start Program. I am currently pursuing a job as an Activity Coordinator at the King Veteran
Home. Without Fresh Start, I never would have had this opportunity or the experience of
volunteering in the community.

Tom Best lives in Waupaca, Wisconsin and enjoys working with senior citizens.

                                       Track to Success
                                       Matthew Schilling
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8 US Congressional District
                             40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

The Fresh Start program has helped me in many ways. Getting on track to succeed is the main
focus of the Fresh Start program. The directors of the program make it their goal to help the
kids in the program with whatever they need to get on track. Here are a few ways that Fresh
Start has helped me.

I dropped out of school during my junior year, but Fresh Start is helping me get my HSED from
the local technical college. They provide me with rides to and from school, money for my tests,
and anything I need in order to graduate. Fresh Start also has the greatest teacher on hand to
help you and push you to graduate. She really makes it her goal for every participant to
graduate on time and with passing scores.

Creating a good work ethic is another way that the Fresh Start program really gets kids back on
track. The participants learn residential construction for minimum wage and begin to form a
pattern of going to work each day. The training you get from the home construction will also
come in handy down the road when home repairs or renovation come into play while owning a
house. You also earn a great reference for when you apply in the job field.

Fresh Start also gets you involved with your local community. For instance, all the participants
and staff got together with the American Red Cross and went door-to-door to talk about fire
prevention and handed out fire safety pamphlets to the Waupaca, Wisconsin area. We also
cleared brush off the nature trails around Waupaca. The projects really brought our team
closer and formed better understanding and listening skills between the participants.

So the Fresh Start program is one of the best decisions I have had in years. I can say it’s made
me a better person and helped me in many ways. If you’re seeking guidance or just want to
better yourself, Fresh Start will mold you into the person you want to be and put you on that
track of success.

Matt is looking forward to getting into a career of graphic design after his AmeriCorps term.

                                      Unique Opportunity
                                      Jacob Schwersenska
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8th US Congressional District
                             40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

I enjoy being at Fresh Start because of my experiences that I have been though and the team
building skills I have learned. I believe that I am a better person now. I have done many
volunteer projects and I believe that CAP Services Fresh Start looks like a good place to be.
I believe that community service is very important in helping out your community. It shows
that you care about others and are willing to help them out even if that isn’t bettering yourself.
I have learned about drywall, painting, making railing for decks, trim, carpeting, and many other
things about residential construction. I am happy that I can go to school for half the day and
then work the rest. If I didn’t have this opportunity, I probably would be short on credits and
have to take summer school.

Jacob is looking forward to starting a technical degree program in import automotive repair
after his AmeriCorps term.

                                        A Helping Hand
                                           Nick Graff
                                    CAP Services Fresh Start
                                  8th US Congressional District
                             40th Wisconsin State Assembly District
                              14th Wisconsin State Senate District

Waupaca Fresh Start is helping me get my HSED because I got kicked out of the local high
school. This program is helping me gain work experience through residential building. Through
Fresh Start, I will earn an AmeriCorps scholarship so that I can get the training to run my own
business. Aside from home construction, we also do community service. I had the chance to
help out a the local historical train depot, taking out the old flooring and putting the new in. I
like to volunteer because people appreciate being helped.

Nick enjoys spending his free time working on and riding bikes.

Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project

                                       Planting Seeds
                                     Lindsie Wallenfang
                  Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                     Serving at University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point
                                U.S. Congressional District 7
                                 State Assembly District 71
                                  State Senate District 24

Here at UW-Stevens Point we are called the “Pointers” but I think the Stevens Point “Planters”
better suits us, because we’re constantly planting seeds of sustainability knowledge and
nurturing their growth. My position as Green Living Associate involves working with the Green
Advocates of UWSP’s residence halls to help them further sustainability efforts within each of
their halls. The Green Advocates’ programs are aimed at educating the residence hall students
about their responsibility as stewards and about the impact we have on our community on local
and global levels. We offer on-going opportunities for students to directly participate in
sustainability efforts such as our Energy Competition and Recycle Mania competition. We are
continuously looking for ways to improve and extend our efforts. Currently we are developing a
composting policy/system within the residence halls which seems to be making students buzz
with excitement.

Our latest big event is introducing the Natural Step (a framework for sustainable community
development which our city has already adopted) to the residence hall students. We are
planning a Natural Step celebration during Earth Week and inviting campus organizations/clubs
to join us in uniting under the Natural Step framework. We anticipate that this newfound unity
will allow us to become an even more powerful force in driving sustainability efforts on campus
and in our community. There are several organizations on campus with similar missions and
goals and we foresee that the Natural Step will become the thread that connects them all. They
say many hands make light work and under the umbrella of the Natural Step we can all join
together and really be the change we want to see.

The Green Advocates as well as the organizations on board with the Natural Step have
demonstrated that “green” is not just a fad but a way of life. The students I have come into
contact with though my service realize you can’t have a community without individual
members, and these individuals are truly committed to spreading sustainability awareness not
only throughout the residence halls but wherever they go.

                                        Katrina Hittner
                   Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                         Serving at Wood County Health Department
                                 U.S. Congressional District 7
                                  State Assembly District 70
                                    State Senate District 24

As I reflect on my experience of serving as Farm to School Assistant with the Central Wisconsin
Resiliency Project, I think about the impact my fellow members and I have had towards our
community. Since October 2011 we have not only been able to expand our AmeriCorps team,
but we have been able to positively impact our surrounding communities.

This impact I speak of is not only about changing the present environment, it’s focused creating
systems and connections that will be in place for the future. One example of this is the Local
Alert program. Along with fellow AmeriCorps members on the Farm to School team, I have
been working diligently on a creating a distribution database for schools, restaurants, local
businesses, institutions, and day-care centers to access local foods. We feel that it is important
to know where your food comes from, thus we look to buy locally grown produce from farmers
within a 200 mile radius. The Local Alert program offers a listing of area wholesale farmers and
details of their products to let local businesses, restaurants and other food programs know how
easy it is to buy local foods. This system is already in use and we look forward to growing it
throughout the remainder of the program year.

In addition to developing infrastructure, I have also spent my service looking for ways to
directly connect students with farmers. Through the Harvest of the Month program, we’ve
been able to feature specific foods like potatoes and cranberries from local farms in school
classrooms and cafeterias. I’ve had the rewarding task of creating informational boards about
each farmer, featuring a photo and some interview information to help the students “get to
know” their farmer even when in-person meetings aren’t possible. Each month when we
feature a new food item, we place the informational board in the cafeteria to provide
additional education to kids about where their food comes from.

Reflecting on all we’ve been able to accomplish for our community in such a short time makes
me excited for the future of the Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps program. I am
proud to have served!

                                 AmeriCorps is Changing Lives
                                          Leon Dulak
                   Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                      Serving at Midwest Renewable Energy Association
                                  U.S. Congressional District 7
                                   State Assembly District 71
                                    State Senate District 24

Helping people and the environment is what the Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project is all
about. Without the opportunities that AmeriCorps is offering here in Central Wisconsin this
would be a different place. My personal example is a testament to this and in this brief
reflection I will describe how AmeriCorps has benefited me directly.

Before the opportunity to serve with AmeriCorps, I had been doing odd jobs that did not
pertain to my educational background. I had graduated from the University of Wisconsin-
Stevens Point in 2009 and had no prospects for doing what I love, which is working to help our
environment. Then I learned about the Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps
program and began applying for positions. I was accepted as the Program Development
Assistant at the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and ever since I have been networking
and meeting new people. All of the people I’ve met are helping me get started on many of my
life goals.

One goal in particular aligns directly with the Resiliency Project mission to educate our
community about sustainable agriculture and energy production methods. Through my service I
am able to connect people from all around the Midwest to educational opportunities and that
is very rewarding. Without AmeriCorps I would not have been able to get my career on the
ground and running in the manner that I have done. AmeriCorps has opened new and exciting
opportunities for me and I am very thankful for its presence here in my hometown. The
projects AmeriCorps is supporting really are helping this community. I’m glad to be part of
making this change!

                 AmeriCorps: Transforming the Local Food Dream into Reality
                                       Hannah Lutgen
                  Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                       Serving with Wood County Health Department
                                U.S. Congressional District 7
                                 State Assembly District 70
                                   State Senate District 24

I am fortunate to have served as an AmeriCorps member for two terms: I started in a seasonal,
food production position with the Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project in the summer of 2011.
In my second term, I have shifted my efforts to food policy and community development.
I currently serve as the Wood County Farmer Community Organizer, in which my main objective
is to connect people to locally-grown food and local farmers. If people know how their food is
grown, who grows it, and the nutrients their foods provide they may be more willing to eat
local foods. Therefore, my service is primarily spent talking with farmers and community
members. First, I try to encourage farmers to grow and supply food products to more
institutions and businesses within the community. Secondly, I promote community members to
consume more locally-grown, healthy products. In this position, I’ve had the opportunity to
work on a very exciting local food project, the development of a Producers Owned Cooperative.
In the cooperative model, farmers work together to create a sustainable local food system by
co-marketing their products through a local food processor for local resale. Creating this system
will both increase capacity for area farmers and allow more families and individuals to access
local foods.

In my position I also work closely with the Wood County Farm to School Program. First, I help
find local food sources to be served as the Harvest of the Month taste tests at all six school
districts in Wood County. Second, I attend taste tests in which other AmeriCorps members and I
hand-out the product to students during lunch and observe the students reactions after tasting
the Harvest of the Month products. Third, I assist with nutrition and agriculture education in
schools via classroom lessons. For instance, I taught a 5th grade class how the health of our soil
impacts our individual and community health.

During my service I have experienced barriers and difficulties when attempting to change the
conventional food system. However, it felt extremely rewarding to find two local, school-
affordable sources of potatoes and sweet potatoes for the January and February Farm to School
taste tests. Then I witnessed K-6 grade students try their first local, baked potato served in hot
lunch and absolutely loving it! In fact, the potato taste tests was so well received by both the
Food Service staff and students that now at least two of larger school districts, Marshfield and
Wisconsin Rapids, are purchasing monthly potato orders from the same local farmer. Farm to
School…now that’s what I call a sustainable food system! Being involved in the whole
experience is like a dream come true!

                      AmeriCorps: Working for Healthier Communities
                                        Ashley Tremmel
                   Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                         Serving at Wood County Health Department
                                 U.S. Congressional District 7
                                  State Assembly District 70
                                    State Senate District 24

My AmeriCorps service has been very rewarding because I have contributed to making the
community healthier and more aware of healthy options. I am the Restaurant Nutrition
Educator and the Fresh Food Distribution Coordinator working with the Get
Active/Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program in Wood County.

In my role, I have recruited several local restaurants to participate in the Smart Meal Program.
In order to be considered a Smart Meal certain criteria must be met: the Smart Meal Program
labels meals that are lower in calories, fat, and sodium and contain 2 servings or more of whole
grains, beans, fruits or vegetables. Recently I worked with participating Smart Meal restaurants
to conduct a customer survey, which showed that most people have heard about the Smart
Meal program and that many would choose a restaurant that is participating in the Smart Meal
Program over a restaurant that is not. I can see that we’ve made progress in making the
community more aware of this program and the healthy options it offers!

I have also been working to involve grocery stores in our nutrition efforts by encouraging them
to feature various produce items through signs that give healthy facts and recipe ideas using
that produce. The produce features are matched to our Farm to School Harvest of the Month
activities in order to supplement the service of my peer AmeriCorps members, connecting the
education that children receive in school with what they witness in everyday life.

Another way that I connect with students is through a partnership with the Boys & Girls Club. I
have helped them to find healthy recipes to incorporate into their cooking show. The
ingredients for these recipes include foods they are growing in their on-site garden. This allows
the children to participate in and learn about healthy choices in their diet.

I feel my AmeriCorps service is a success and that I am making a difference in the community.
By introducing these programs and initiatives I am confident that the obesity rates in our
community will begin to decline, and I am proud to be part of that effort.

                                 The Quiet Power of the AmeriCorps Pin
                                             C. Joelle Groshek
                        Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                Serving at Central Rivers Farmshed and Wood County Health Department
                                       U.S. Congressional District 7
                                    State Assembly Districts 70 and 71
                                          State Senate District 24

I knew AmeriCorps service was about building capacity but there was enough work on my plate for 50
AmeriCorps members. Yet, October 2011 was a thrilling time for me. With the AmeriCorps pin proudly
affixed to my flannel, I was ready to get my hands dirty helping to create fertile ground for the local food
movement to take root in central Wisconsin.

My role with The Central Rivers Farmshed involved supporting the projects the start-up non-profit had
been putting on since the days when everything was run solely by volunteers. I helped to make calls for
our Farm Fresh Atlas: the locavore’s Bible and gateway publication for the green-behind-the-ears
neophyte just beginning to understand the local food hubbub. Ok, easily done. But soon, there was an
uptick in responsibility as I began helping to organize the Beginning Farmer Course. Despite a sluggish
start to our registration period, a couple of well-placed posters and newspaper articles yielded a record
number of registrants. Amidst the hazy rush of the course, I was deep into my biggest project of the
year: organizing the Local Food Fair, Farmshed’s premier community outreach event. Between lining up
restaurant donations, a cooking demonstration by a local food chef-advocate, and inviting local farms
and businesses to display at our informational fair, I had indeed recruited approximately 50 local food
leaders. Another 50 volunteers came to us from the United Way. I was really doing what I had set out to
do: create local farmers, create local eaters, and re-create the community I had watched wither after
the paper mills downsized and Wal-Mart moved out to the TIF district.

And that was just one host site’s litany of tasks. At the Wood County Health Department, I have
successfully filtered local foods into more practical terms for Wood County worksites struggling with the
high health care costs of obesity. Currently, five worksites—predominantly blue-collar—have signed up
to either receive a community supported agriculture (CSA) weekly vegetable box or to become a CSA
dropsite for a local farm. To date, I have written comprehensive local food and “green” policies for two
health care sites and am working on getting a third to consider just how their patient body and
community can benefit from a commitment to local. Our coding of vending items has taken on a life of
its own. Where I had begun the painstaking work of nutritionally coding just one order, one of our
vendors is now impatiently waiting for the completion of his book so that he can organize his store room
according to our nutritional code! I’d venture to say that in the Wood County worksites as well, the
community is now comprised of those green-behind-the-ears local food neophyte types. All of this has
been accomplished while wearing my deceptively light AmeriCorps pin, and my brief reflection on these
successes only hints at the true weight of that pin and the potential force it carries to change
communities for the better.

                          Strengthening Communities Seed by Seed
                                         Torri Bradley
                   Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                         Serving at Wood County Health Department
                                 U.S. Congressional District 7
                                  State Assembly District 70
                                    State Senate District 24

I am an AmeriCorps member serving as part of the Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project. Our
team is committed to strengthening community resiliency by focusing on issues such as food
security and health, energy use and conservation, ground water quality, and so on.

In my role as School and Community Garden Coordinator, I am aiding grant-supported gardens,
assisting with the addition of new gardens as interest arises, increasing the community impact
of the gardens (including donations to area food pantries and meal sites), ensuring the inclusion
of school gardens in school wellness policy, and protecting community gardens in municipal
zoning code.

I am currently assisting several sites with the purchase of new supplies: rain barrels, materials
for raised beds, mini outdoor garden libraries, seating areas, hydroponics and irrigation supplies
for greenhouses. I am providing support for an elementary school that is just getting started
with their garden, and am beginning to work with a couple of parents interested in starting new
gardens. I have worked with teachers on ways to incorporate gardens in the curriculum, and
have discussed the overall importance and effectiveness of youth gardens at wellness meetings.
I am helping an after school YouthNet program procure outdoor kitchen supplies, and
partnering with high school Ag and Tech Ed teachers to engage their students in garden service
projects at local elementary schools. I am setting the groundwork for area school and
community gardens to donate extra produce to area food pantries and meal sites over the
upcoming season and beyond. These are just some examples of the work I am engaged in
through my service.

As an AmeriCorps Alumni, this is my second term of service. I served my first term under very
different circumstances in Chicago, IL. In both cases, however, I was tasked with great
challenges and presented ample opportunities for strengthening both my communities as well
as myself. In terms of education, AmeriCorps has provided me with the most extraordinary
work and life experiences. As a supplement to college, it has been a fantastic transition
between acquiring knowledge and actually practicing it. The fact that I am learning skills which
also translate into serving and strengthening others makes this experience so much more
fulfilling. I am so thankful for the opportunities that AmeriCorps has provided me, and I take
great pride in knowing that my actions are benefiting others as well.

                                 Gaining Practical Experience
                                        Sarah Tanguay
                   Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                      Serving at Midwest Renewable Energy Association
                                 U.S. Congressional District 7
                                  State Assembly District 71
                                   State Senate District 24

After college graduation I struggled to find a full-time job. Without prior experience working in
a non-profit setting, I simply did not have the qualifications that many jobs required. In an
effort to attain these skills, I applied for, and received an AmeriCorps position. Not only am I
gaining experience in a non-profit setting, but I am also making a difference.

As an AmeriCorps member, I have had the opportunity to become more involved in my
community, and with my peers. Rediscovering this sense of connection with others has been
important to me since I graduated from college and lost this sense of community. Being active
within my community provides me with the overall sense of community and connectedness
that I felt while in school.

Learning more about what is going on in my community has provided me with a greater sense
of the importance of community involvement and civic engagement. I am now committed to
remaining active in the communities that I share with others.

I am also lucky to be part of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, an amazing
organization. There is so much positive here, with so much to learn, and wonderful group of
people who are all leaders, and ready to teach. As the Renewable Energy and Sustainable
Agriculture Assistant, I have been responsible for coordinating and leading this unique new
program area. I have had to learn how to manage time effectively, and how to succeed at multi-
tasking. Because of this, I find myself more organized and structured in every aspect of my life.

But perhaps most importantly, the experience that I value most out of my AmeriCorps
experience is having the opportunity to learn from my supervisor. He has been a fantastic
mentor, role model, and motivator. I appreciate his friendliness, patience, and openness that
he expresses with everyone. Communicating with someone that actually listens to what you
have to say, and truly takes the time to understand you, are characteristics that are hard to
come by. I also value his honesty. As the executive director, he leads this organization in a way
that keeps everyone abreast of current issues, and he is always honest in his deliveries. I can
only hope to one day be as patient and strong of a leader as he is.

I am grateful to be in an environment where I am once again learning, and striving to meet
goals. Having had this experience, I am now confident in my ability to find, and succeed in a
full-time position when my term of service is complete.

                   Gaining Experience and Unique Insight through Outreach
                                        Amelia Straub
                   Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                      Serving at Midwest Renewable Energy Association
                                 U.S. Congressional District 7
                                  State Assembly District 71
                                   State Senate District 24

As Community Outreach Assistant, I have had some excellent opportunities that I would never
have had without this position. I have been able to meet leaders in renewable energy industries
as well as network with other professionals working towards sustainable ends. While doing
outreach at various conferences and expos in Wisconsin and the surrounding states, I have had
the opportunity to also learn from those who have been working in these fields for years, and
to hear their challenges and successes. My position has provided me a very unique approach to
a field that is otherwise hard to break into. I have really enjoyed the first half of my term with
the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) through the Central Wisconsin Resiliency

At my placement site, I feel appreciated and as if my input is taken into consideration. I really
feel a connection with the people that work here and appreciate that we are all very passionate
about sustainability and committed to educating people about renewable and sustainable living
choices. It feels really good to be serving with a group of people who are working to make
awesome things happen!

Recently I have been preparing for the MREA’s big annual event, The Energy Fair. I will be co-
coordinating volunteers with another AmeriCorps member. I look forward to applying what I’ve
learned in my service experience to creating meaningful volunteer experiences for others.

I have also had the opportunity to be involved in researching and writing a small grant
application, which we are waiting to hear back on. If awarded, the next AmeriCorps member in
my position will be able to work with students at the University to design interpretive signage
for a self-guided tour of the ReNew the Earth Institute, the grounds of the MREA. I feel this
kind of experience is extremely beneficial, and helps to inform the reality of how it may be to
continue working in a non-profit atmosphere. Having the intuitive desire to make a difference is
an important start, but it’s also essential to get “real world” experience with how non-profits
work in order to understand future career possibilities. I definitely see myself continuing to
make an impact in this setting!

                            Water, and More, in Central Wisconsin
                                           Amy Nitka
                   Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                   Serving at Portage County Planning & Zoning Department
                                  U.S. Congressional District 7
                                   State Assembly District 71
                                    State Senate District 24

My service as the Portage County Groundwater Technician through the Central Wisconsin
Resiliency Project began in January 2012. My knowledge of water resources and chemistry are
being utilized in a number of ways. I have been writing the Town of Hull Water Study Task Force
Report on Groundwater Quantity and Quality.Th is report is important, not only for the Town of
Hull in deciding their management of groundwater, but it could also influence other townships
in Portage County with their management plans.

I am also acquiring new skills pertinent to the field, particularly with geographic information
systems (GIS). My new GIS skills have been valuable in coordinating with Health and Human
Services to update non-community well information in the County system. I am also learning
how to access data stored in the GIS, to create maps identifying key elements, and to export
the data to be used in other formats (i.e., spreadsheets and graphs). This allows for creating a
variety of graphics to educate the public about groundwater.

In addition to my service as a Groundwater Technician, I have also been involved with
promoting the SHARE food buying club. This club helps people in the community to “stretch
their food dollars” by offering discounted food products. The club also promotes healthy eating
with its “fit and frugal” and organic options, as well as assortments of fresh produce. Part of the
promotional activities included contacting past members to determine their satisfaction with
the club, and to encourage their future participation. I collaborated with others to compose a
phone script and to coordinate callers. Most members were very receptive to the phone survey
and provided feedback in areas such as quality, value, and convenience of the service. I was
also able to witness the buying club by assisting with the order distribution. Community
volunteers and AmeriCorps members arrive early on Saturday morning to unload the items
from the delivery truck. Orders are sorted and lined up so when the buying club members
arrive, their food is ready to go.

I am currently coordinating with the Center for Watershed Science and Education to develop
groundwater education programs for youth in the area, and look forward to expanding the
outreach that is inherent to my AmeriCorps position.

                                A learning experience unlike any other
                                             Laura Dickman
                       Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                             Serving at Wood County Health Department
                                      U.S. Congressional District 7
                                       State Assembly District 70
                                        State Senate District 24

When nearing graduation from college I was unsure of what I was going to do when I was finished. Was I
going to look for a career? A full time job? Volunteer with an organization? Trying to figure out where I
was going to be was a bit challenging, but eventually I came across an AmeriCorps opportunity that fit
what I was looking for perfectly.

I serve at the Wood County Health Department as a Media Outreach Specialist. Graduating from college
with a degree in Communication and a year of Art, this position fit me perfectly and has given me a
chance to use the skills I gained while in school.

A majority of what I do is creating creative content for the Get Active grant awarded to our county. I
work on many projects such as: poster creation, website updating, posting content to facebook and
twitter, video creation, running outreach booths, writing newspaper articles, and writing monthly
newsletters. Many of these projects were similar to what I did in school and I could directly apply what I
learned there to what I do with AmeriCorps. There are some projects though that have been a complete
learning experience and those are the ones that I am very thankful for.

Additionally, there are other areas within my service where I and others have been able to serve our
community. One day we spent an afternoon playing games and talking with those who lived in a nursing
home. This was an excellent event, because we were able to connect with an age group outside of our
everyday routine.

Another day I helped out at the Boston School Forest. During this day I and other leaders led 6th grade
students in outdoor activities. It was a great day of learning about the environment and what you can do
in it.

As an AmeriCorps group we have also been helping with a local project called The Greenhouse Project.
This is an exciting piece to be helping with, because we have been there once a month helping renovate
an old greenhouse into a new community food center.

Overall my experience with AmeriCorps has been a positive and great opportunity that has allowed me
to dive right into what enjoy. At times I find my service overwhelming, because there is so much to do in
such a short amount of time. However, I also think that it is good to be put through those experiences,
because they teaches me how to work through challenges.

                                     Giving and Receiving Gardens
                                              Mallory Smith
                       Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                Serving at Hunger and Poverty Prevention Partnership of Portage County
                              Serving at Wood County Health Department
                                      U.S. Congressional District 7
                                       State Assembly District 71
                                         State Senate District 24

I have always had a passion for human health coming from my own intense healing process, which led to
me to wanting to help others from the knowledge and experience I have gained on my own personal
journey through the healing. What I have discovered through my journey is the importance of balance
and that everything is sacred. The giving and receiving of life is something to pay attention to and
understand. I found that one of the first steps to understanding this natural ebb and flow is through
learning about my nourishment. I have been learning about the food I eat, how to grow it, how to
prepare it, how it nourishes me, how it nourishes the whole community and environment, and I have
observed how this understanding of my food has made me healthier, happier, stronger, and full of
energy. This understanding is a gift I want to share.

After graduating college many others like me have ventured into the “real world”, not so sure what to
be done with our degrees, especially those of us in the fields of human health services. With the decline
in accessibility to resources comes the rise in need-based difficulties and vice versa. I myself found it
extremely difficult to find a job, and with my student loan payments amounting to over half of my
income working minimum wage, I was barely scraping by.

This past fall, as my vegetable harvesting gig was coming to an end, a wonderful opportunity presented
itself. Through the Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project, AmeriCorps positions have been delegated to
address issues of community wellness in Wood and Portage counties. I joined AmeriCorps to serve
Portage County’s Hunger and Poverty Prevention Partnership as their Giving Gardens manager. The
Giving Gardens are a collection of volunteer-run gardens that give their bounty to area food pantries.
 My role is to help gather materials needed for the gardens such as donated tools, fencing, seeds, soil
amendments, etc. I also help to coordinate the volunteers for these 12 gardens, reaching out to
community groups and individual members interested in helping throughout the season.

Most recently I have been preparing plant starts for the 2012 growing season. I’ve planted onions, leeks,
celery, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, lettuces, catnip, peppers, tomatoes, all of which are growing in a hoop
house constructed by community members. These seeds will be cared for and nurtured to provide fresh,
healthful nourishment to those in need in this community.

AmeriCorps has made it possible for folks like me to transition from working within the confines of the
university world to sharing our abilities with our broader communities. I am grateful for this

                            Finishing Portage County’s Energy Plan
                                        Dan Mechenich
                   Central Wisconsin Resiliency Project AmeriCorps Member
                   Serving at Portage County Planning & Zoning Department
                                  U.S. Congressional District 7
                                   State Assembly District 71
                                    State Senate District 24

My first two and a half months serving with Portage County as an AmeriCorps member has
been an educational experience and has provided me the opportunity to be a part of several
successes. The crowning achievement thus far has been finishing the development of Portage
County’s Strategic Energy Management Plan, Phase II: Transportation Fuels and, after
presenting Phase II with a UW-Extension Educator to many County Departments and oversight
committees for input and comments, having the Portage County Board of Supervisors pass a
resolution approving the plan. The approval of the plan begins further research on
opportunities for Portage County to reduce transportation fuel expenses and moves the County
in the direction of implementing a number of those opportunities.

I am proud of the plan for several reasons. Because of turnover, development of the plan
paused from Fall 2011 until January 2012, when I began serving. In order to present the plan for
consideration before the County Board of Supervisors prior to spring elections, the plan needed
to be finished in time for the March meeting. Not only was the plan finished in time, it contains
quality information that is applicable to Portage County’s situation. The plan synthesizes a great
deal of information from a multitude of sources; information gathered from a regional
workshop on compressed natural gas (CNG) and a meeting with Cornerstone Environmental
Group, who provided Portage County with locally-specific information on Bio-CNG as a free
service, was even included.

The development process provided insight on the workings of local government: I learned how
a project or idea, like Phase II, moves from oversight committee to oversight committee, being
recommended along the way, until it arrives on the floor of the County Board of Supervisors for
a final vote. Moreover, I expanded my knowledge of transportation fuels and gained much
experience in collaborating with professionals.

My current task is to develop an implementation schedule. This schedule will outline the order
in which the County pursues the steps identified in the plan for studying all of and
implementing some of the opportunities presented in the plan to reduce transportation fuel
expenses. I’m proud that my AmeriCorps service is helping our local government to move in a
positive direction with regard to environmental stewardship. Through these efforts, the County
will be able to lead other municipalities and citizens by example.

College Possible

                                              The Letter
                                            Amanda Wysk
                                           College Possible
                                       Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                              Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                                Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                  Wisconsin State Senate District 7

I have to preface this story by saying that I am absolutely NOT the hugging type. I’ll accept a hug if
somebody hugs me, but I will never hug somebody first. Now, onto an average day during one of
my study hall sessions at Milwaukee School of Languages. “Oh, well that doesn’t matter because
Isaiah isn’t going to college anyway!” This was a typical remark made by some of my students in
session when we were talking about various parts of the application process. The long running
“joke” was that Isaiah wasn’t going to get in to any college, and he frequently said that himself. I
always said no, and that they were all going to college, but these remarks never bothered me too
much until I learned that Isaiah had been hearing his whole life from his family that he was not good
enough to go to college. Even teachers made off-hand comments to me about him. In our office we
have a list of names of all the students in College Possible, and teachers would point to him and say
“good luck with that one, maybe he can get in at MATC.” I then became infuriated every time I
heard students say he wasn’t getting in to college and even though he always laughed and shrugged
it off, I can only imagine the pain he felt inside every time he heard those words again and again.

The first letter he got back from a college was a rejection. “See, I am never going to college,” he told
me. I reassured him this was not the case, and that the college was the one missing out on him. His
next letter asked that he send three additional letters of recommendation to be considered: one
from a math, English, and science teacher. Isaiah had these letters to me within three days along
with an extra letter from the principal for good measure. I knew he was determined, and I hoped it
would work out.

Fast forward to the last day of session before winter break. My students were settling in to the
classroom. Isaiah normally comes during the school day, but he was absent that day so I thought I
wouldn’t get to see him before break. Not thirty seconds later he comes strutting through the
doorway with a huge smile on his face and a big white envelope in his hands. “I have to show you
something!” he said, and produced his first acceptance letter. I was so overcome with joy I thought I
was going to cry, but what I did is even more shocking instead. “Can I hug you?” I asked. He didn’t
even respond and instead gave me a huge hug that was full of gratitude. Isaiah did it. He proved his
family wrong, cynical teachers wrong, and made himself proud. He is going to college and I can’t
wait to see where his future takes him.

Amanda Wysk serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Senior Coach at International Peace Academy
and Milwaukee School of Languages

                                            The Visit
                                         Amanda Wysk
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

My alarm went off at 6 am. 6 am, I thought, it’s Tuesday what the… But within one minute my
phone was ringing and it was one of my students. “Hi Amanda, I don’t think I can go on the La
Crosse visit anymore. My mom said I have to babysit.” Oh no, this can’t be happening! This was
the visit, and I mean THE visit, that we absolutely needed 100% attendance on. I had spent an
hour the previous day in the guidance office working out carpool systems with my students
because for this visit they had to report to the downtown MATC campus at 7 am. “Ok,” I said,
“why don’t you call some friends, other family, and talk to your mom and see if somebody else
can babysit today. Call me back as soon as you know.” Yeah, right. Who is going to answer at 6
am and take a babysitting job? I thought all was lost and proceeded to call the rest of my
students. I woke one up, thankfully, because he was the carpool lead for 3 other students.
At 6:45 my phone rang and it was a number I didn’t recognize. “Hello,” the voice said, “This is
Damone’s mother and I’m calling to get the details of this visit today. I found somebody else to
babysit so I’m letting him go, but I just want to know how long he has known about this visit
because he told me last night.” Well, that explains a lot, I thought. I explained to his mom that
he had known about the trip about a month ago, signed up that he was interested, but that the
spots filled up. However we had some cancellations so the previous Wednesday he had heard
he had a spot and was sent home with a permission slip. “That makes so much sense,” she said.
“You know how he is, always forgetting things and being dramatic!” I thanked her for her
accommodations, thought I was in the clear, and headed to the shower. I looked at my phone
and decided to take it with me just in case and put it on loud.

It’s a good thing I brought my phone because I have never taken so many phone calls and texts
in the shower in my life. Some of my students were lost, others were running late, and the bus
was getting ready to leave. I told the chaperones of the visit that I had one more carpool
coming that was running late with three of my students and asked if they could try to hold the
bus five more minutes. The next text I got caused me to yell a victory shout: all of your students
made it, bus is on the way! I didn’t think it was possible to accomplish so much and go through
such a range of emotions all before 7:30 am!

Amanda Wysk serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Senior Coach at International Peace
Academy and Milwaukee School of Languages

                                 Delivering Permission Slips
                                        Connie Meltzer
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Before the Platteville visit, two of my students were texting me the day before wondering if one
could take the other's spot. I wasn't sure until I called the wonderful, flexible events
coordinator, Hannah, and she said it was a go, I called the student who wanted to go and asked
him where he was so I could get him a permission slip. I stupidly assumed that my student
would be anywhere near the school he attended so when I told him I was still on the Northwest
side he responded, "The Northwest side? I'm nowhere near the Northwest side! I'm on the
South side!" I bounced back quick and said, "Well, still. Tell me where you are so I can get you
this permission slip so you can go tomorrow." He texted me his address, I looked at it and
thought, "Well this is a schlep." But proceeded to get in my car and head to the address. I get
there, his mom is a total sweetheart as his dad grateful that I was able to come and give Justin
his permission slip so he could go on the visit and it turns out, it wasn't even that far away.
Before the La Crosse visit, which was super important to have all of our kids at, I did a similar
thing driving permission slips to 3 different students to make sure that we had a full bus the
next day. Because of that first permission slip drop off, I knew that my kids and their families
would be grateful of the effort I was making to get them to a campus visit.

Connie Meltzer serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Junior Coach at International Peace
Academy and Milwaukee School of Languages.

                         Last Student to Take the Second Practice ACT
                                        Connie Meltzer
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                              Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Pang is a very sweet girl. She is also a very talented Hmong dancer and could not take the 2nd
practice ACT at any of the dates before winter break. When I came to our first session after
break I asked my other students where Pang was because I had a bone to pick with her. She
was my only student not to take the 2nd practice ACT! When I finally saw her after break
because she was constantly practicing for the school talent show, I asked her if she still wanted
to take the 2nd practice test. She responded immediately, "YES". We set a time for Sunday but
forgot to set a place. The Friday before she was supposed to take the test, she texted me having
remembered that we hadn't set a place and asked where she should go on Sunday. I gave her
directions to the office. About 10 minutes before I had asked her to be there, she called me
saying that she and her sister were lost looking for the office. After being on the phone with her
and her sister for about 10 minutes and making no progress in getting them into the right
parking lot, I walked outside on the first actually cold day this winter. I was not wearing my coat
or a sweater, I was just in my Packers t-shirt. I ran toward the entrance where I thought they
would come in started waving my arms and finally there they were. Pang got out of the car with
a smile on her face ready to take a practice test. Sometimes, a little goofiness and a little
perseverance can go a long way in getting a student to a practice exam.

Connie Meltzer serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Junior Coach at International Peace
Academy and Milwaukee School of Languages.

                                     Re-Teaching Radicals
                                        Connie Meltzer
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

On the day that I taught radicals for the first time, my MSL students caught me completely off
guard. After breezing through exponent review, I drew the radical sign on the board. I looked
back at a sea of confused faces and quite a few: "I've never seen that before”s. Probably with
an obvious look of wide-eyed shock on my face, I plowed through the information, nervous that
I was the first person teaching them this math concept I barely understood myself. At the end
of session, students left the room still confused on the concept and I couldn't blame them. I felt
like I had no idea how to explain it and I knew I hadn't done a good job. The next week we had a
review session so I looked up some different ways to explain radicals and walked in to the
review and said, "I think I could have explained this better." I re-taught radicals in a different
way and heard a few, "Oh! Okay!"s. One of my students, Charee, who is great at English related
subjects and frustrated with her math skills, said, "That makes so much more sense. I get it
now!" A sense of relief and gratefulness washed over me because a previously confused
student now understood a difficult concept. Charee made my week by saying that!

Connie Meltzer serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Junior Coach at International Peace
Academy and Milwaukee School of Languages.

                              Be Careful of the Advice You Give
                                         Erin Bennett
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

As coaches we want to get to know our students outside of College Possible sessions, so they
understand that we truly do care about them. I decided that I could support two of my students
by attending their cross-country meet. The two girls on the cross-country team, “jokingly” had
invited me to their sectional meet. They told me they “always finish last.” Now, I was in cross-
country and no matter how slow you are, there always seems to be someone who is way
behind you, so that you are never actually last. Of course, I thought it would be encouraging to
inform them of this rule of thumb.

Two weeks later, the morning of the meet, I was hanging out at Riverside H.S administering a
make-up ACT. Those ACTs are the same length every time, but somehow I lost track of time and
arrived to the meet with no time to spare, in fact the race had already started. I followed the
crowd to where the throng of runners was just emerging from the woods.

I frantically searched for the maroon Saint Joan jerseys, but I did not see either of my students
nor any runners from Saint Joan at all. I must be at the wrong place I anxiously thought. The
runners had thinned by now with just a few exhausted looking girls painfully pushing onward.
The crowds had all rushed to the next curve in the race. I hopefully stared into the woods one
last time, and there, coming around a tree were my two students, looking as tired as ever. I
could not contain my excitement, jumping and screaming as loud as possible. “What the heck
are you doing here?!” Hannah stopped running and stared at me unsure how to react with a
giant smile on her face. “Keep running!” I screamed back at here. We both started laughing. She
didn’t stop running until she crossed the finish line…in last place. Dead last. The three Saint
Joan students got the last three spots in the whole race. My advice, well, they gave me a bit of
hard time about it, but after some raspberry lemonade in the crisp October sun, all was
forgiven between the laughter.

Erin Bennett serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Junior Coach at St. Joan Antida High School
and Morse Marshall School.

                                           Erin Bennett
                                          College Possible
                                      Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                             Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                               Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                 Wisconsin State Senate District 7

I have this internal feature in my mind, when I am very stressed about making sure I wake up on
time, I will automatically wake up about once an hour from 2am until the set wake up time. It’s as if
my body is afraid to fall into deep sleep, afraid I will miss the alarm clock; before a big trip, exam
day, the baseline ACT and last night. 4:50am is what I set my real alarm to but my internal alarm
decided it should give me reminders of that at: 1:52, 2:44, 3:52, and 4:41. Each time I woke up in a
panic as if I had missed my real alarm.

Finally 9 minutes after my last internal alarm went off the real one buzzed. I turned on my light and
called my first student… answering machine… all this worrying and she didn’t even pick up! I left a
message as loud as my pre 5am voice can make “Kaylan! Its Erin if you can hear this, this is your
wakeup call! Wake up! ” My next student did not need to be called until 5:45 and I didn’t need to
get up until 5:30, leaving myself 30 minutes to get up, make coffee and breakfast, and be out the
door by 6am to arrive at MSL at 6:30. I hit snooze for a well-needed 30 additional minutes of rest.
Moments later my little brother came into my room, “Erin I thought you said you were leaving
before me for once this morning?” “I am,” I sleepily yelled back, “well I’m leaving soon...”

I looked at my phone, 6:20! I needed to be at MSL in ten minutes! I needed to call my students a
while ago! Panicked, I grabbed my phone and sent a text that probably read something like “woke-
up late on waya dakflkajdf ahh soon be there.” I grabbed my green polo and within five minutes of
opening my eyes I was in my car backing out. As I turned forward to drive down the street I realized
I couldn’t see a thing, a sheet of ice covered my whole window, I tried to rub it off with my sleeve
but it was useless….so I rolled down my window and stuck my head out and began to drive. Not the
safest, I admit, but slowly a visible hole appeared in the window. I drove as fast as I legally could
and pulled up to a mob of students at MSL. Thank goodness the other coaches were there but even
better, huddled together in a little circle in the cold, dark morning, ALL 8 of my students that I was
supposed to call that morning!

“Ms. E, you never called me!” one of my students called out as I walked up to the group. “It was a
test, you passed.” I smiled back, all of the morning stress falling off my back. Just then the bus
pulled up and we we’re on our way to Platteville!

Erin Bennett serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Junior Coach at St. Joan Antida High School and
Morse Marshall School.

                                  Baseline ACT (near) Crisis
                                        Hannah Wrobel
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

It was 1:00pm on Friday, October 14th, the day before the baseline ACT. I was making all of the
final arrangements for one of the most important events of the year - preparing nametags,
finalizing bus attendance sheets, and printing off proctor instructions, when I received a called
at my cubicle from Kelly - "Hannah, don't panic, but we may have a crisis on our hands." Against
Kelly's instructions, I immediately started to panic, of course. "Our 200 practice ACT exams have
not been delivered by UPS", Kelly calmly explained to me, "but I'm going to see where they are
and if we can still get them by 8:00am tomorrow morning." After I got off the phone with Kelly,
I walked to the conference room with what I would imagine was a horrified look on my face and
explained the situation to the rest of the College Possible team. After receiving confirmation
from Kelly a little while later that we would definitely not have the exam booklets by the
morning, the entire team went into problem solving mode, or as we later coined it, “CP
Beastmode”. 200 juniors needed to take their first practice ACT exam in less than 24 hours, and
we were going to make sure that that happened. We had one copy of the exam on file, so we
just needed 199 more. Easy, right? With the help of Office Max and 26 dedicated AmeriCorps
and leadership team members, we had those 200 exams five hours later. They did not have
fancy binding and were not neatly packaged, but the only important thing was that the College
Possible junior class was able to take their baseline ACT and begin their journey to college
admission and success.

Hannah Wrobel serves as the College Possible Milwaukee Events AmeriCorps Member.

                               The First Campus Visit of the Year
                                         Hannah Wrobel
                                         College Possible
                                     Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                            Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                              Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                Wisconsin State Senate District 7

I could not sleep at all on Friday night. I was tossing and turning while thinking of every possible
thing that could go wrong on the first campus visit of the fall semester, to small Lakeland
College in Sheboygan, WI. Would the bus be on time? Would any of the students show up??
Would the college representatives like us??? After finally getting a few hours of sleep, I showed
up to Milwaukee School of Languages at 7:00am to meet the students who would be getting on
the bus for the first pick-up. Three female students had beaten me there, and I rehearsed how
to introduce myself as I walked down the sidewalk towards them. Not only was this the first
event that I had planned for the year, it was also my first time meeting any of the students. I
introduced myself to the three girls - "Hi, I'm Hannah! I plan all of the events, like the campus
visits, the practice ACT's, and the college fairs. It's really nice to meet you. Are you excited to
visit Lakeland? I think it will be a really fun day. What school are you from? What are your
names?" After finally convincing myself to stop talking and embarrassing myself, the students
answered: "Dominique", "Vanasha", "Na'Kina", without much enthusiasm. "These students
hate me already, it is not going to be a good day" I thought to myself.

After several more students arrived, we hopped on the bus and headed to South Division to
pick up the rest of the students and chaperones. Throughout the entire campus visit, I chatted
with the students, who were participating very well in all of the visit programs, shamelessly
trying to gauge whether they still thought I was a crazy person. The ruling was inconclusive.
After the visit, we arrived back at MSL and I said goodbye to the same three girls, also asking
them if they enjoyed the visit. Dominique turned to me as she was walking to meet her ride and
said "Yeah, it was pretty cool. You're pretty cool too." If she hadn't already thought I was a
crazy person, she definitely did when I grinned from ear to ear and started to skip down the
sidewalk back towards my car. The first campus visit of the year was a huge success, and I'm
thrilled to say that Dominique and I have been buds for the rest of the year.

Hannah Wrobel serves as the College Possible Milwaukee Events AmeriCorps Member.

                                       Aloof to Surprises
                                          Jaleesa Joy
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Picture this: It's college application season and every student is to do 5 applications before
December 1st and majority of my 35 students reached that deadline and those that didn't I
knew would because one thing was holding them back...all except Sam. He was one of my
students I worried most about because he was barely in attendance last year and did not have
the necessary documents done nor his ACT score in order to apply to college. I stressed the
importance of meeting with me and each time I got an "ok" from him that resulted in him
forgetting our meeting or having an excuse as to why he can't come. I was beginning to get
discouraged as winter break grew closer and we have yet to meet. day I got the
brilliant idea of asking his teacher if Sam can miss the tail end of class in order to meet with me
and he agreed and Sam was released from class! That's not all, we spent 45 minutes together
and he got both his special circumstance essay and his resume done! I was so excited I was near
tears. THEN...the next day we met again the same way and he applied to all 5 colleges in one
sitting!!! I did a dance around my office and could not stop smiling! That was my high of the
week. Even though Sam is still aloof and casual cool whenever I mention anything good he is
still my surprise of all of my students. His ACT score was a 1 point increase over the baseline
that he took over a year ago at a 26! I was so excited for him and of course when I talked to him
he responded casually with "cool". Sam is just...Sam but still my surprise of my students. That
goes to show you that even if things start off rocky and shaky that the most aloof of students
can surprise you and keep surprising you.

Jaleesa Joy serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Senior Coach at Riverside University High

                                      No Matter What
                                         Jaleesa Joy
                                       College Possible
                                   Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                          Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                            Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                              Wisconsin State Senate District 7

When I began my journey as a Senior Coach I believed that everything would be perfect, all of
my students would show up to what they signed up for, on time and prepared for it. But that
was not immediately realized. The day of the National College Fair where it is mandatory for
every student to go to I was worried because not all were showing up. I got a lot of calls the
night before of “oh something came up” or “I just can’t go” or “do I have to?” I was quickly
becoming discouraged that only 10 students will show up instead of the 30 or so that signed up.
It was about 5 minutes before we were to leave for the fair and I received a text message from
my student Sharmelle. I knew the night before that she would not be coming because she was
in the hospital so I was more than surprised to see her name pop up on my phone. Her message
said “I’m on my way, am I late?” I quickly replied back to her and said “you don’t have to come,
you’re sick I know” and she quickly called me and stated with such determination that under no
circumstance would she be missing it because it’s her future, she was released from the
hospital and would be there soon. I was astonished and overwhelmed with this shocked feeling
that she would come to this event when she was sick just hours before. And no sooner had I
said that then she showed up. I gave her a huge high five and she smiled. That moment is
something that I would never forget because it showed how dedicated students are to their
success and how they would do whatever it is in their power to make sure that they succeed.
That is why she’s applied to 8 colleges already and have been accepted to 2 with more on the
way! Go Sharmelle!

Jaleesa Joy serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Senior Coach at Riverside University High

                                      Singing in the Rain
                                        Jenny Wysocky
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

The ACT #2 was just around the corner and I had been assigned to be in charge of making sure
all of the buses arrived at the right location and making sure the students knew where they
were going once they arrived. I had really enjoyed proctoring the first ACT but I was excited to
take on a new role as well; until I read what the weather would be- rain. And not just any rain -
cold rain, like the kind everyone hates to stand outside in. This was discouraging and I was kind
of dreading standing out in the weather for an extended period of time. Then I remembered
how important it is that as our students step off of the bus, I was going to be the first person
they saw. How excited about this practice ACT would they be if I was standing there shivering
and looking miserable? The answer is, they wouldn't be excited. So I decided to have some fun
with it. I bundled up in many layers of jackets, waterproof mittens, my hat, and the most
important items of all, my pom-poms. That's right, pom-poms. Although they were not College
Possible green, the black and yellow pom-poms that my ten year old sister lent me definitely
did the trick. As student stepped off the bus they found me, jumping up and down with pom-
poms cheering and shouting about how excited I was for the practice ACT. I got a few thank
you's from the bus driver's who knew where to go when they saw me acting a little crazy, but
what I loved most were some of the smiles, giggles, and "good mornings" I received back from
our students, who were taking the time out of their weekend by waking up early to take this
test. Their dedication to our program is always inspiring and reminds me that all that we put
into our positions is worth it, even if it means acting a little bit crazy.

Jenny Wysocky serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                   The Real College Experience
                                          Jenny Wysocky
                                          College Possible
                                      Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                             Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                               Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                 Wisconsin State Senate District 7

As a technology-based college coach, I do not often receive the opportunity to meet with my
students in person, so when the opportunity arose for me to attend a campus visit to Lakeland
College, where I have two students attending, I knew I had to be a part of that visit. I was granted
permission to attend the visit as a “special guest,” as I would be breaking off from the rest of the
group to meet with one of my students, Nico. I was beyond excited! As the date of the visit neared,
I realized that I was not only extremely excited, but also terribly nervous and I couldn’t really
explain why. I had a lot of questions running through my head. What if the meeting doesn’t go well?
What if he does not like school but I don’t know how to help him? What if he wishes his high school
coach were still around?

I tried to calm my nerves by thinking about things I had heard about Nico from Kelly and past corps
members. I had always heard about his great sense of humor but something Kelly told me stuck out
in my mind. “Nico is really funny, like, sometimes he will just start talking to you in a British
accent...for no reason at all.” Since I enjoy a good pirate accent every once in a while, this story
made me pretty confident that Nico and I would get along fine, but I was still not sure exactly what
to expect the day of the visit. When it came time to meet him, I broke away from the rest of our
group with Carolyn, our communications VISTA who was going to interview him during our meeting.
Having Carolyn there was awesome because she had met Nico before, making me a lot more
relaxed. We waited a few minutes at the designated meeting spot and then Nico walked up with a
huge smile on his face and gave Carolyn a big hug. I introduced myself and then sat quietly while
Carolyn interviewed him. The next few minutes were truly inspiring, as the comments that Nico
made about college made me proud to say I work with such amazing students, like Nico. I will never
forget the answer he gave to Carolyn when she asked, “What is you favorite thing about college?”
He thought for a moment, smiled and said, “Honestly, the coolest thing is just waking up every day,
because every day is different.” He went on to explain how much he loves the campus, the people,
and how the real college experience is more than he could have imagined.

Since meeting with Nico, I have met with a few more students face to face. With each meeting I am
reminded that, although at times I may become discouraged with not always being to meet in
person with students or not receiving the responses from students I would like, the fact that I have
a chance to work with such inspiring people every day at all is something I am extremely grateful

Jenny Wysocky serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                          ACT Anxiety
                                        Kari Houghtaling
                                         College Possible
                                     Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                            Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                              Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                Wisconsin State Senate District 7

One of the most important goals for junior year in College Possible is to prepare students for
the ACT. It was the second practice test, and I’d recently had some success in getting one of my
students to start attending sessions. Allison is a loud, outspoken, and feisty member of the
cohort. She’s always blurting out a cheeky retort to whoever is speaking in session and
constantly lets me know exactly how she feels about the task at hand. She commands control
when she walks into a room, and I can feel the dynamic shift when she’s present in a session.
Allison has unintentionally been one of the most entertaining members of the group, always
keeping me on my toes.

The second practice ACT was the first of this nature for Allison; her baseline was done one-on-
one with me in a library. She finished every section quickly and got right out of there. Now,
among more than one hundred students at a college campus, Allison became more aware of
the reality of the test. The students got started, and after the first half of the test, I ran into
Allison during the break. She told me she was starting to feel sick and didn’t know if she could
finish the test. Since she sometimes used that excuse to get out of doing something in session, I
thought maybe she just wanted to ditch out early. I told her to try to finish and do her best.
While I was proctoring in another testing room, I received some texts from her proctor, saying
that Allison was sitting at her desk and couldn’t fill out any bubbles. I went to talk to her outside
of the testing room; she was shaking and crying and said, “I just can’t do it!” I had never seen
her so anxious, vulnerable, and defeated, and I couldn’t believe this was the same Allison I
knew from session. She also seemed surprised by how it affected her, saying that she never got
this anxious for any test in school. Not knowing exactly what to say, I just hugged her and
assured her that this was only practice and it would make the real test that much easier. I
encouraged her to go back in the room and just fill out bubbles. She seemed a tiny bit more
confident as she went back. Even though she came out a couple more times feeling ill and
having doubts, she was able to complete the test and ended up scoring 2 points higher on her
cumulative score. I was so proud of her for persevering through a difficult situation, and
although her experience was hard to witness, I’m thankful that Allison is a part of a program
that will really help prepare her for the big day. Simply getting used to the testing conditions is
one of many factors that will help students to succeed on the ACT, and Allison is on her way.

Kari Houghtaling serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Junior Coach at Alexander Hamilton
High School.

                                             Liaj Lee
                                        Kari Houghtaling
                                         College Possible
                                     Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                            Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                              Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Hamilton junior Liaj has been a character since the first day I met him during recruitment in
September. Similar to how he behaves in class, Liaj approached College Possible with a
seemingly careless attitude. He sauntered into each session at least ten minutes late, and as
other students showed some excitement about college-related activities, Liaj would say, “Why
am I here? I’m not going to college!” But always with his signature wacky laugh. His lack of
interest and participation during session started to frustrate me a bit. I thought, why is he
showing up and complaining all the time if he has no interest? Then it dawned on me that he
must have a secret interest that he was too cool to reveal. He was one of the few students I
could count on to show up to session (even if he was often late). He attended all of our events,
rearranging his work schedule for practice ACTs, and even skipping a church service event to
participate in Make a Difference Day. He was one of the first of my students to stop by our
office and make up a session that he had to miss. I found out he has a lot of hobbies such as art
and guitar. “You can take those kinds of classes in college,” I said. “Nah, I’ll just learn about
them on YouTube,” he replied. What a jokester.

I began to realize that Liaj was not only too cool for school, but also that he was perhaps fearful
of the possibility of getting accepted into college. One day I received a text from Liaj saying that
he needed to talk to me about something. He had a more serious demeanor than usual as he
told me he was starting to think about the future and needed advice. He had been in contact
with the marines and it seemed like a viable option for him. We talked through what attracted
him to the marines and also what he could gain from college, and I encouraged him to make a
pros and cons list for both options, while assuring him that he had plenty of time to think about
it. I didn’t hear from him about that topic until our last day of session before winter break. Liaj
wrote me a card stating that he made a final decision about the marines. The card ended with
the sentence, “That talk motivated me to think about how I want my future to go.” I said, “Liaj,
you can’t leave me hanging!” We talked privately, and he shared the news that he does indeed
want to go to college. I was ecstatic, not only that he reached the decision on his own (with a
wee bit of persuasion from me), but also that he admitted it! My experience so far with Liaj has
shown me that a little encouragement goes a long way in helping our students to recognize
their abilities and realize that college is certainly possible.

Kari Houghtaling serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Junior Coach at Alexander Hamilton
High School.

                                          Katy Resop
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

"Katy! I got accepted to Carroll University and they're giving me an $11,000 a year scholarship!"

It was the height of college application season when I received the call. Ashley was the first of
my students to be accepted, and I couldn't have been more proud of the work she put in to
getting that acceptance. Ashley will not only be the first in her family to graduate from high
school, but she's doing so ranked in the top 10% of her class, having raised her ACT score by
two points, and as a cancer survivor.

Ashley is so deserving of her acceptance, and I'm certain she'll make the most of her
educational opportunities. She's determined to become a doctor to pay forward the help she
received from her doctors at Children's Hospital.

I'll never forget the feeling that I had walking home from school that night. I couldn't wipe the
grin off my face. I had faith in my students and their futures that remains unshakable and
sustains me in the work I do everyday. It was beginning: my students were seeing real, tangible
results for all of the hard work they put in throughout all of high school and their time in
College Possible. Witnessing their joy as they heard back from schools and realized their dreams
were coming true is a memory that will sustain me throughout my life.

Ashley's only one of 159 Milwaukee seniors in the class of 2012, and each and every one of
them has a story and a dream. Our students inspire me nearly every day and give me
tremendous hope in the future of Milwaukee and the world. I'm so excited about the talent
that will be going out into the world after graduation this spring.

Katy Resop serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Senior Coach at St. Joan Antida High School.

                                       The Ripple Effect
                                          Katy Resop
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

In the past year and a half that I've served with College Possible, my hope has sometimes
faltered. I work with incredible young people who have big dreams and are working hard to
reach them. But the stories I've encountered and the obstacles I witness to my students'
success can sometimes wear me down despite my best efforts to stay positive, motivated, and
focused on our mission.

But it seems that whenever I'm most discouraged, my students do something remarkable to
remind me why I get out of bed each morning.

At College Possible, we might call this "the Ripple Effect."

Like when Zantaisha, one of my most complex students, attended session earlier this year and
grabbed not one but TWO scholarship applications for herself and for a friend not in College
Possible. Or when a "plus one" student who attended Saint Joan Antida last year but
transferred her senior year showed up to an after school session to get advice and help on her
college applications because my student Alexis told her I could help. Or when I overheard
Jasmin in the hallway explaining--accurately--all of the steps of the college application process
to another senior. Or when Ashley, who has already visited, applied, and been accepted to
Marian University, encouraged another senior to apply and is taking her with on another
campus visit.

The hope College Possible brings to high school students is rippling through the city of
Milwaukee. That's what the mission is all about.

Katy Resop serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Senior Coach at St. Joan Antida High School.

                                         Kelly Diggins
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

“Hi, this is Kelly from College Possible and I’m your new college coach for the year.” Click. I had
made two or three attempts to contact one of my students and every attempt went the same,
as soon as I uttered the words “College Possible”, down went the receiver. As a technology
based college coach, having to depend solely on phone, email, and Facebook to reach students
is challenging enough. We lack the personal relationships other coaches are fortunate to build
with their students. When we have a great conversation on the phone or receive a deep-felt
thank you email from a student, we hang on to it for days. So when a student consistently
hangs up and disregards an offer of help, it can deplete the much needed motivation.
I decided to wait a couple weeks before I tried her again. I found out she had withdrawn from
school in the first month of the semester. Now it wasn’t just an opportunity to highlight
another pink box in my contact log, it was about finding out why she decided to leave and what
I could do, as her coach, to help her get back in school. When I decided to try calling again,
instead of rushing into what I did and where I worked, I asked about her. I knew she wasn’t
enrolled so I asked about her work, her family, what her interests were. When we finally got
around to talking about school and College Possible, she was volunteering information about
how she didn’t feel the school she was at was a right fit for her and she already had another 4-
year university in mind that she’d like to apply to. She even gave me her cell phone number and
new email address. When I hung up the phone I couldn’t help but let out a big “Yes!” from my
cubicle and nearly skipped down to my supervisor’s office to spread the good news. Some
people might think a fifteen minute phone call with an 18 year-old isn’t much to celebrate, but
when it’s a student who really needs your help, it’s incredibly rewarding. After speaking with
her, I realized the hang ups had nothing to do with me or College Possible. I think some
students feel ashamed or embarrassed when they don’t succeed right away in college and they
don’t want people to know it didn’t go exactly how they wanted. What really matters is as
coaches in Coaches Possible, we are there for our students and will help them in any way we
can. They may not understand we’re here simply for support and guidance or they may not
even realize that they need us. What’s important is reaching out and letting them know we’re
here and we’ll always be here.

Kelly Diggins serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                         Kelly Diggins
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

I had been working as a Technology Based College Coach for a few months now, but finally I
was going to actually meet with a student face to face! Her name was Juana and she wasn’t
currently enrolled anywhere for school. She was planning on applying to MATC, but she had a
few challenges standing in her way that many students her age don’t have to deal with. She
became a mom in high school and was working to take care of her son, while still trying to get
an education for herself. Every time I talked with her she would tell me how much she wanted
to go to school. She told me she was interested in being a medical interpreter and I thought
she’d be great at it! She could speak both English and Spanish fluently and MATC offered a
great program for it. This was a career that could provide security in the future for her and her
family. I wanted her to go to school so badly. The day we were supposed to meet, Juana called
me and said she had been called into work and wouldn’t be able to make it. We were so close! I
knew the application was due that day so we were on a deadline. I tried to figure out another
way to get the application turned it, but it didn’t look like it was going to happen. I also began
to sense some uncertainty in Juana’s voice. I didn’t want this to be a hasty decision for her and I
wanted to make sure she was comfortable. She told me she was still unsure about her financial
situation and preferred to wait so she could save up some money. “I don’t want to rush into
this, I want to make sure I’m prepared and I’m okay.” That’s when I knew I couldn’t push her
anymore. As her coach I had wanted to get her enrolled, but if she wasn’t fully prepared to add
school to her work and family responsibilities, I had to respect that. I told her I supported her
decision and I would be here the rest of the year and we could talk about enrolling in the fall. As
coaches, you want your students to succeed and enroll in school, but you have to learn that it’s
ultimately their decision. We can give them all the information and guide them as much as we
can, but we also need to be there just to support them with whatever decision they come to for
themselves. Juana and many of my students have all made me realize how fortunate I was to
receive the education I did. I’ve never had the kind of challenges that Juana has had and I
greatly admire her persistence to not give up on her goal of earning a college degree.

Kelly Diggins serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                         Unspeakable Joy
                                          Kimberly Randle
                                          College Possible
                                      Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                             Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                               Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                 Wisconsin State Senate District 7

The chances of my students’ college success are something that haunts me day by day. I worry not
only if my students can get into the schools they’ve fallen in love with but whether they will get the
support they need in order to thrive, grow, and obtain their degrees. No matter how well they do in
their classes, their educational success is something that my mind is constantly fixated on.

The students who concern me the most are my English language learners. I constantly fret about
whether schools will understand that those students have recently entered the United States and
are still trying to learn the language that not only is the reason their ACT scores being low but that
those scores also don’t reflect how intelligent they are. Even though these students may have
“academic deficiencies,” I’m completely confident that they can succeed in college and their future
careers. I just want all their schools to see that.

All of it came to a head when my student Barwako received a phone call from Mount Mary College
during our workshop. She was absolutely nervous and didn’t want to take the call, scared about
how they would respond. With excitement, I implored her to take the call, crossing my fingers as
she walked out the room to take the phone call in the hallway.

She returned a few moments later with an expression I couldn’t read. Did she get in? Did she not? Is
it a conditional acceptance? What did they say!?

“Well?” I said, my words hanging in the air, my eyes and those of my other students affixed on her,
jaws slightly dropped, longing to know the outcome of the phone call.

“I got into Mount Mary, and I got a scholarship!”

My heart burst with unspeakable joy. Not only was I proud of her and excited for her potentially
going to college, I was even more assured that the rest of my ELL students have a chance of getting
into college.

I couldn’t help going up to her and hugging her, proud that this was only the first of what I knew to
be many more acceptances coming her way.

Kimberly Randle serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Senior Coach at South Division High School.

                                        Kimberly Randle
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

The girl sitting in front of me was not the bright, happy, sassy, and confident student I had
known for the past couple of months. The Cynthia I knew had all but assured me time and time
again that she would get her five applications done soon, with an air of complacency mixed
with nonchalance and a tiny bit of arrogance, a feat at this point she had yet to accomplish. The
Cynthia before me, though, had tears threatening to stream down her face, a look of fright and
insecurity covered her face like second skin. I was taken aback, wondering what could have
caused such a drastic change in her.

“What if I get rejected from all my schools?”

The realization set in for me. The Cynthia I had been dealing with was all bravado, masking the
self-doubt she had inside. Her avoiding my sessions and her college applications was because
she was absolutely terrified of failure. The dejected look on her face all but confirmed that for
“Sweetie,” I said in as much of an assuring voice as I could as my own heart threatened to
break, “your numbers are fine, and you are an intelligent, wonderful, and capable young
woman. You have absolutely nothing to be worried about. You will get into college. I
wholeheartedly believe in you; you need to believe that you can do it too.”

She left my classroom that day with a few tears shed, but a smile on her face. I gave her a hug
before she left, hoping that I had poured into her all the things I saw in her that she couldn’t
see herself.

As I walked to my office to prepare to leave, I was surprised to get a text from Cynthia thanking
me for my advice and for believing in her.

I smiled as I replied with a simple, “Anytime.”

Kimberly Randle serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Senior Coach at South Division High

                                             Handle It
                                          Kyle Nickodem
                                          College Possible
                                      Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                             Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                               Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                 Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Beep, beep, beep, click. It’s 5:00 am on a Saturday morning. I spent my Friday night calling students
and parents to remind them about the Baseline ACT tomorrow morning. So was it really necessary
for me to wake up at the same time my roommate was going to bed in order to give my kids
another call? Nonetheless, I went down my roster. “Good Morning! Are you awake and pumped for
the ACT?” I excitedly asked student after student. I eventually came to Gabriel. Gabriel is not what I
would call the talkative type. When I called him last night I had to press the phone to my ear to hear
him confirm our morning meeting information. As for this morning. . . ring, ring, ring. No answer.

Now at school waiting for students to arrive for the bus and Gabriel is still not here. I give him one
last call. Ring, ring, “Hello.” “Hi Gabriel, where are you?” “Sorry, work went late,” Gabriel responds.
Wait, what? Although I wanted to ask him about this, the more pressing matter was getting him to
the Baseline. “Gabriel, is there any way you can make it to Mt. Mary College in the next 30
minutes?” I ask in desperation. “Hmm, I’ll handle it.” And he hangs up. Handle it? What does that

As we approach Mt. Mary I give Gabriel another call to check his progress. No answer. I silently
mutter all of my complaints and frustrations to myself. The bus opens its doors at Mt. Mary and as I
step out I see Gabriel standing in front of the College’s doors with a calculator held in his hand.
“Gabriel, you made it!!!” I shouted. As I got closer, I noticed that his hands were covered in grease.
When I ask him about it he casually mentions that it was from work. He explains that he works
every Friday night at an auto-body shop from 11 pm to 7 am Saturday morning in order to help
support his family. Work had run late this morning so he wasn’t able to make it to school by 7:20
like he had planned. So what he did was look up the address for Mt. Mary, wake his brother up, and
get a ride to the college prepped and ready to take the ACT.

It was in this moment I realized there is never a reason to complain about the effort I need to put
forth because my students are working just as hard, if not more. Without complaint, Gabriel
sacrifices sleep to support his family, adapts to changes in the plan, and is ready for his next
challenge all while staying calm and focused. As perplexed as I was at the time he said it, Gabriel’s
approach to the situation was right. When a problem arises, there is no need to worry, no need to
get frustrated. Just handle it.

Kyle Nickodem serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Junior Coach at Riverside University High

                                       Session Substitute
                                         Kyle Nickodem
                                         College Possible
                                     Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                            Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                              Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Attendance numbers are the bane of a high school coach’s existence. Why don’t more kids
come to session? Am I not fun enough? Do I not explain information clearly? What is wrong
with me? Since sessions are the primary focus of the High School Program, when I have poor
attendance I feel like I’m failing at my job. No student made me feel worse than Leo. Leo was a
mystery to me. He had the highest GPA of any of my students and never gave me any attitude,
but then never came to session. If I can’t get the high-achieving, well behaved students to come
to session, what am I going to do about the rest?

I would find Leo after his classes, during his lunch, and in advisory. “Hey Leo, you weren’t in
session yesterday?” I ask him. “I’m sorry. I had a test today that I really needed to study for. I’ll
be in session today though.” He responds. When session comes, however, he is not present.
The cycle of me talking with him, his excuse and promise of attendance, and then is inevitable
absence continued for weeks. His excuses varied from schoolwork, to job commitments, to
transportation issues, and to family matters. I started to think he was just lying to me. If he
really wanted to be a part of College Possible like he keeps telling me, then he would make
time for it. Yet, I couldn’t shake my instinct that his apologies and resolve to change his
behavior was genuine.

A sign of hope came after I discovered he could meet with me during his first hour study period.
During our first meeting we didn’t do a single ounce of College Possible work. All we did was
talk about how he was feeling about school, his job, family, and his future. I quickly learned that
Leo never did intend to be malicious or avoidant, but that he is a perfectionist who is unable to
manage his time. He so badly wants to get straight A’s in order to impress colleges that he
forgets that there are other ways to stand out to schools. Furthermore, he gets very little
support from his family, not because they don’t care, but they are often too busy with their
own work. Therefore, up to this point, Leo was on his own to figure out what he needed to do
to secure his future. In doing so, he became fixated on grades.

After that first meeting Leo and I have met regularly during his first period. I’m confident that
our one-on-one sessions are having a positive impact though. As evidence, he improved from a
14 on his Baseline ACT to a 17 on the second practice. I can’t wait to see what the spring brings
for Leo.

Kyle Nickodem serves as a College Possible Junior Coach at Riverside University High School.

                                    Cold Calling for In-Kinds
                                           Lia Stratton
                                         College Possible
                                     Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                            Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                              Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                Wisconsin State Senate District 7

The idea of cold-calling to make requests for donations was not in my job description, and it
definitely wasn't something I was looking forward to. I had spent the last week flipping through
my notes from in-kind donation training, reading through sample scripts and advice, and
compiling a long list of local businesses to call. I'd already passed off a couple calls to Adi, our
Development VISTA. There was no more putting it off, I was going to have to actually pick up
the phone and ask a stranger for a donation. My first call to Walgreen's was dissatisfying, I'd
have to call their district office. That also proved uneventful, I'd have to fax a request. I plugged
on, making more calls, leaving messages for managers, and getting turned down by an
automated system informing me that "Michael's does not take individual giving requests".

Finally, on the phone with a manager of a local CVS (having already been turned down by two
CVS's before), I heard those magic words "Sure, I can do $50". It was like a breakthrough. From
there my confidence grew and I began perfecting my spiel. Over the next couple weeks,
donations grew: barbecue pork, pizza, noodles, Pick 'n Save gift cards, and Olive Garden gift
certificates! We had supplies to ensure Make a Difference Day was a hit, and enough food to
feed the 200-some expected people. In fact, we had more than enough food, I found myself
turning down a last-minute donation, asking for a rain-check.

When I had the opportunity to head out to that CVS, I was so excited to meet with the
manager. He was happy to hear about our organization and helped me pick out various craft
supplies. He even tacked on a few extra packages of paper plates thanks to a great sale! Leaving
with an armload of craft supplies, I was amazed at how far $50 could go. All totaled, I would
estimated that I raised around $1500 in in-kind donations for that event. I was proud of myself
for tackling a task that I wasn't looking forward to and I realized that even though sometimes
this job can throw you curve balls, it can be the unexpected projects that are the most

Lia Stratton serves as the College Possible Milwaukee Workshops/Volunteer AmeriCorps

                                     Make a Difference Day
                                           Lia Stratton
                                         College Possible
                                     Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                            Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                              Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                Wisconsin State Senate District 7

I'll admit, it is a little bittersweet for me to write a Great Story about Make a Difference Day.
The morning started out slow, none of our invitees were showing up and students were
growing restless. Despite the hours upon hours spent calling organization after organization it
seemed like no one was going to come. Although I had envisioned the day's logistics in my head
a thousand times, everyone else seemed confused and we were all unprepared for this
scenario. When Operation Dream finally showed up with a large group in tow, I was beyond
relieved. Even though it meant abandoning the schedule, I encouraged coaches and students to
go with the flow, man their stations and interact with as many kids as possible. As the morning
went on, kids from a few more organizations continued to trickle in. I kept running around,
trying to make sure everyone was engaged and apologizing for the poor turnout of participants.

That was when I was stopped. A trainer at the MLK Center had wandered by and wanted to
take a look at what was going on. He grabbed my attention to tell me what a great thing he
thought we were doing. He was impressed that our students were willing to come in on a
Saturday to provide some fun, educational activities to younger kids. In fact, he suggested we
come every weekend! It was at this moment that I finally got a chance to take a look around. I
saw our students doing math trivia games with willing kids. Kids reading along with our
students. A huge pile of brightly painted pumpkins. Everyone seemed like they were having a
good time.

When the day ended, I was able to let out a satisfied sigh. It may not have gone nearly as well
as I would have liked, but in the end, we gave back to some children who really needed it and
that's what matters the most. I think I gained a lot of flexibility that day, and definitely learned
from the whole experience. Planning and executing such a large event was a crazy way to jump
into a new position and, despite everything, I'm so glad that's the project that kick-started my
year of service!

Lia Stratton serves as the College Possible Milwaukee Workshops/Volunteer AmeriCorps

                                           Mai Chao Thao
                                           College Possible
                                       Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                              Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                                Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                  Wisconsin State Senate District 7

As a technology-based college coach, the majority of my interactions students are either through
the phone or on the internet. Considering how the majority of my students lived in Minnesota, I had
little hopes of ever meeting any of them in person. When my fellow corps member fondly shared
stories of their students, I would secretly envy them and wish I were as lucky. Little did I know, my
luck was about to change very soon.

One day, I was sitting at my desk when I got a phone call from a student. Of the 182 students I had,
only two of them went to school in Milwaukee, and neither of them had responded to any of my
emails, facebook messages, or phone calls. This was my chance! Before I even got past
introductions, my student had already popped the question. She had a few questions and was
wondering if we could meet today.

“Today? At 3pm. Perfect! I can meet you. I’ve got nothing else on my schedule. I’ll see you in a bit.”
I was ecstatic! I couldn’t believe it. My very first in-person meeting with a student! After I hung up, I
double-checked my calendar. Oh no! I realized I was scheduled for reception duty at 2:30pm today.
I will never make it! What am I going to do? I felt hopeless. My first chance and I already screwed
up. Then it the simplest answer dawned on me! I can just switch with someone else! Two emails
later, I had a new reception date and the thumbs up from my supervisor to meet up with my

I got to the parking lot, and my car was nowhere to be found. Oh no! I thought I parked my car here
this morning! Where is it? Did I forget? No, I swear, I parked it in this very spot! Then I remember,
my sister needed the car and we had agreed a couple days ago that she would come by after class
to grab it and then pick me up later. Nothing was going right at all. Back at my desk, I didn’t know
what to do. I couldn’t get a hold of my sister. Now my student’s not going to ever ask me for help
again, I thought, she said she really needed help and I let her down. I began to type out a text
message to my student, explaining the situation and how I can’t get a ride to meet up with her until
tomorrow. Just as I was about to send it, my phone rang. It was my sister! She was done with the
car and was on her way back home already.

In the end, I was only fifteen minutes late to meet up with my student. She was very understanding
and we spoke for almost three hours!! The trouble, stress, and headaches were well worth it.

Mai Chao Thao serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                              A Good Conversation Can Go a Long Way
                                           Mai Chao Thao
                                           College Possible
                                       Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                              Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                                Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                  Wisconsin State Senate District 7

 “Hello, this message is for Sam. Hi Sam, my name is Mai Chao and I am excited to be your college
coach. I’m just calling to introduce myself and to see how your school year is going so far. Please
give me a call back or you can also send me an email. Once again, my name is Mai Chao and I look
forward to hearing from you soon. Have a great day.” For what seems like the hundredth time, but
was really more like fifty times, I left the a message on the voicemail of a student I was not able to
get a hold of. As my very first assignment, I had to call all 182 of my students and introduce myself. I
was stressed, no, I was afraid. What if they don’t like me? What if I don’t sound friendly on the
phone? After countless times writing and rewriting out what I would say when I get a hold of a
student I felt ready for the calls only to find that not many people were actually picking up. Before I
knew it, I was rewriting my speech into a message. By the time I was a fourth of the way through
my student list, I had already memorized this speech to the point where I had to remind myself
while speaking, to seem excited and upbeat.

As the second week in the office dragged on, I became very discouraged in my work. Not only was I
the only college coach left who had yet to reach out to every single one of my 2011 students, but of
the few students who I was actually able to get a hold of, most did not seem excited to hear from
me or engage in a conversation. When my turn at the reception desk came up, I welcome it with
pure joy at the thought of not having to make another phone call and face disappointment.

Ring, ring, “College Possible, this is Mai Chao, how may I direct your call?”

“Hello, I got a call a while ago from someone, my name is Sam—“

“Sam? Sam Drummer?” Woah, I just sounded way too excited and creepy right there, I thought to

“Hi, I’m glad you called, I’ve been trying to get a hold of you, I’m your college coach, Mai Chao…”
before I knew it I was giving life lessons and two hours passed by!! My very first, real conversation
with a student, and it was amazing—no, it was ENERGIZING!! In this single student, I found a new
energy to persevere. I no longer dreaded phone calls. Sam reminded me that sometimes students
are so caught up in their own lives, they forget to return a call, and other times, it can be super
scary on their end to talk with a practical stranger about personal school issues.

Mai Chao Thao serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                        A Dead Cell Phone
                                           Matt Coombs
                                          College Possible
                                      Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                             Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                               Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                 Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Prior to College Possible, I always took pride in the fact that I was not dependent on my cell phone.
Now that I work with high schoolers; however, the amount that I rely on my cell phone has sky-
rocketed. A quick call or text has definitely been the most consistent way to get in contact with my
students. It is because of this dependency that Saturday, December 3rd could not have had much of
a rockier start. I woke up at 5:30, unplugged my phone and began the cycle of wake-up calls to
ensure that my students were ready to go for their second practice ACT. On the drive to school, I
continued calling students who had yet to pick up, and by my fifth or sixth call, the dreaded beeping
began. “No,” I thought, “I just charged you all night long; you can’t shut down on me now.” Sadly,
cell phones don’t take your desires into consideration, and after one more call, my cell phone
abruptly died.

I arrived at the school hoping that all of my students would arrive on time. When students are
supposed to arrive at school at 7:15 on a Saturday morning, it’s not uncommon for them to arrive a
few minutes late. If I know that they are on their way, I can hold the bus for a few minutes to
ensure we don’t leave without them, but without my phone, students who were running a little late
would not be able to contact me. I was worried we would just miss each other: which is what
happened with Khadija. It was time for the bus to leave, but she still had not arrived, so I sadly told
the bus driver that it was time to go. As we pulled out, I scanned the roads for any last sight of her,
but she wasn’t in sight. The bus rolled on, we drove a couple of miles, and having diverted my
attention to the students on the bus, I had completely forgotten about Khadija or any other late-

A couple of minutes later, Pathudu, one of my students who was sitting next to me, nudged me on
the shoulder and told me to look outside. I looked out the window: “Khadija!” I screamed. She was
sitting in the car next to us, waving desperately to get my attention. The bus driver had heard me
scream, and as I rushed up to tell her that one of my students was outside, she was already in the
process of pulling the bus over. “I called you 4 times,” Khadija explained with a smile as she jumped
on the bus, “we’ve been following you for miles,” yet there wasn’t a trace of resentment in her
voice. “I’m sorry,” I explained, “my phone died.” She laughed, shrugged, and sat down in an empty
seat. She took the test like a champ that day. Her score increased by 2 points, and no thanks to my
dead cell phone.

Matt Coombs serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Junior Coach at South Division High School

                                      Sick Aunts and Flat Tires
                                            Matt Coombs
                                           College Possible
                                       Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                              Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                                Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                  Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Aung Kyaw wasn't coming to session at the beginning of the year and after a couple of weeks, he
asked if he could meet with me during study hall to make up for the days he would be missing.
Thinking that he was trying to find a way to avoid after-school sessions, I decided to throw a little
test at him. "If you had to choose between coming to after-school sessions twice a week, or
dropping out of College Possible, which would you choose?"

This was a terrible question to ask; we pride ourselves in our ability to work with students and find
ways to help them stay in the program, and asking one of them to even consider dropping out is not
the route to take. Before he had even answered, his eyes showed me that I was speaking to a
student who would be committed to the program. He glanced quickly to the ground, looked up at
me with a mix of commitment and timidity, and asked: “would we be able to meet on weekends?” I
felt awful. There I was, testing a student because I thought he was being a slacker, and he was
proposing to meet me on weekends.

I later learned that Aung Kyaw is one of the primary supporters for his family. After school he goes
home to grab some dinner before going to work. By the time he gets home it is midnight, and the
next day he’ll be waking bright and early for another day of school and work. Not only do most of
his wages from work go to support his family, he is also the family chauffeur. The night before our
Baseline ACT, he texted me to tell me that he would not be able to attend. When I asked him why,
he explained that his aunt was in the hospital in Ohio and that his mom needed a ride there.

The morning of a make-up test, he called me to ask if he could arrive late. I did not understand why
he would be tardy, but explained to him that it would be better for him to come late than not at all.
He arrived about 25 minutes late, and it was not until he had finished the practice ACT that he
explained to me why he was so late. The night before, his dad needed to go to Chicago, so Aung
Kyaw drove him there and planned to wake up early in order to get back to Milwaukee by 8 a.m.
However, when he walked out to his car that morning, he had a flat tire! Many people may have
given up at this point, but Aung Kyaw’s determination shined through again. He called me to tell me
he would be late, changed his tire, drove his father home, then came to the test, albeit 25 minutes

Matt Coombs serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Junior Coach at South Division High School.

                                           Minh Mai
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Albert is my only C.P. 2.0., a program that College Possible initiated to help students get back
into college. Albert is really challenging to motivate over the phone. He has already filled out his
completed applications for MATC and financial aid. All he has left to do is take his placement
exam. It was difficult to remind him of the things that he needs to go do to go forward with
registering for his classes since they have DEADLINES. Then, there came a point when I got
really tired of hearing about his excuses- that he forgot to go, he lost the forms, etc. There was
no more Ms. Nice College Coach. I said sternly to him over the phone, “Look, you want to go to
college, right? So, I expect you to go to MATC tomorrow and get all your forms and request
information about the placement exam!”

He replied, “Yes ma’am.” This is him, a 6’3” guy saying to a short 5’1” me.
The next day, I met up at MATC campus with him. We waited half an hour in line, and we finally
got the date for his placement exam set.

It takes the extra effort and the extra mile, but the mission is now accomplished. He is now on
his way to college, embarking on the journey to end the cycle of poverty and College Possible
will make sure he finishes.

Minh Mai serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                          Minh Mai
                                       College Possible
                                   Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                          Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                            Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                              Wisconsin State Senate District 7

As the Technology Based College Coach, whose communication is based solely on phone, email,
and facebook, it’s a rare occasion to get to meet a college student in person. Luckily for me, I
have two students at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, a college that was just a seven
minutes walk from the College Possible Office. One of the students is Regina and my first time
meeting her was on MSOE campus. She appeared shy at first, but I can tell that she has a thirst
for knowledge and takes her education quite seriously. Her declared major was International
Business and I simply asked her, why? She couldn’t give me a clear answer until the next week
when she texted me.

She opened up, “Hey Minh, I just wanted to let you know that I’m switching my major. I
remember you asked, ‘Why’d you major in International Business?’ and I didn’t really have an
answer. So I found the Technical Communications major, and I’m much happier. So thanks. I’ve
already take the steps to switching for the spring semester.”

Her text reminded me what being a College Coach is all about and that is you are there for your
students. A simple interaction with them showing that you care about their college education
and what they want to do with their lives can provide an everlasting positive shifting paradigm
for them.

Minh Mai serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                          Molina Tang
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Deseree Nash… It has been interesting to work with her and her indecisiveness. When we first
became connected, she told me that she was originally supposed to go to UW River Falls, but
decided not to because she didn’t want to be too far from home. I tried to explain to her that
maybe it won’t be as bad as she thinks and maybe she should try it out before she finalizes her
decision, but she said she is set on not going. It seemed like my persuasion was not going to
work, but little did I know at the time, her mind changes all the time. She then told me that her
dream was to go to Cardinal Stritch. The problem was that they have a strict 2.0 GPA and an
ACT score of a 20 requirement, so her high school grades and scores were not going to cut it. I
suggested that if that is really where she wants to go, then she can start at another school first
and then transfer. I told her to try to get into MATC or UW Waukesha, which are two schools
nearby. I called UW Waukesha about her situation and they were highly willing to talk to
Deseree about letting her in a few days late since she was originally accepted into a different
UW school. I got the information back to Deseree and told her to contact me ASAP, but I got no
response. She disappeared and never got back to me despite my efforts to contact her. About a
month after that, she finally responded to a Facebook message and told me that she wanted to
go to UW River Falls in the spring and wanted to know the process of doing that. Really?
Really!?! What happened to wanting to stay home? What happened to your dream of going to
Cardinal Stritch? What happened to “being set on not going there”? Anyways, we met up a few
times to work on getting her admittance back and it was able to work out. Since then, she has
been on top of e-mailing Admissions, getting her deposits paid, getting forms back to them in
preparation to start in the spring, and updating me on everything she does. WOW! Although
her indecisive personality and her unresponsiveness really made me question if she really
wanted it, I now look at her and see the hard work and progress she is putting in towards this
goal. As much as I want her to be in college, she wants to start working towards her dreams in
studying Art and/or Psychology. Well, who really knows what she’ll end up majoring in, but now
I know she’ll be starting college soon at UW River Falls!

Molina Tang serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                        Meet and Greet
                                         Molina Tang
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

I arrived at North Hennepin Community College on a sunny November day at 12:20pm for a
Meet and Greet with students that would start in ten minutes. No one was there. Once those
ten minutes have passed, I was still alone, but still hopeful that some students were just
running late. Maybe they do not know what I look like? Maybe they didn’t know we were
meeting at the Educational Services Main Entrance? Maybe I am not visible enough? Maybe
they got into some freak accident that would cause no one to show up? I hope not! But my
mind ventures off into the dangerous maybe zone. Fifteen minutes after the Meet and Greet
was supposed to start, I was still alone. What could possibly have gone wrong? I had notified
my students of this event a month prior. About ten of my students told me they were coming.
I’ve given them proper reminders up until this day. I even offered them food!!! Being based in
Milwaukee, this was one of my chances to meet some Twin Cities students and I hope this trip
didn’t go to waste. It is now 1:00pm, and the hope of students running late began to diminish. I
entered the building and sat on the couch near the entrance. I stared out the window and
imagined a student of mine rushing in to find me. It’s 1:15pm and that imagination continues.
“Oh sorry Molina, all 10 of us were stuck in traffic on the way here” is what I fantasized. At
about 1:20pm, I see a car roll up and it dropped off a student. I assumed that she was not my
student and continued to stare. All of the sudden she said, “Hey! Sorry I’m late! I couldn’t get a
ride here sooner”. A student had arrived!!! We jumped right into talking about how school has
been, the resources on campus, her family’s tough situation, and even a bit about ourselves. At
2:30pm, she got picked up by her sister and the Meet and Greet finished with a surprisingly
satisfied feel. Although only one of my ten students showed, I am grateful that I was able to
create such a bond with that one student. And although she ran late, it is nice to know that she
stayed committed to showing up even when it would have been easier to give up. As for the
other nine students, I will strive to eventually reach that kind of bond, even if it is through the
phone, e-mails, online chats and Facebook.

Molina Tang serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                       Meeting In-Person
                                          Pa Dao Yang
                                         College Possible
                                     Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                            Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                              Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                Wisconsin State Senate District 7

As a Technology-based College coach our main duties are to connect with our students through
technology (hence the name). This means we connect mainly through phone, text, email, and/or
facebook. Since I am based in the Milwaukee site and the college program is still fairly new, the
onsite- college coaches positions have not yet been established in comparison to the Twin Cities
site. Because the Twin Cities site was the founder of our organization, most of the students we
connect with are from Minnesota while we are in Wisconsin. Since the Milwaukee site is still
developing, we currently do not have on-site college coaches, therefore, all college coaches are
based at the main office. There are few occasions where college coaches are able to meet with their
Milwaukee students and when we do, it’s extremely exciting and we are thrilled!

I made a goal for myself to meet with my students in person who are in Milwaukee so that I can
build a relationship and maintain that relationship throughout the school year. In order for this to
happen, I had to be persistent and assertive. Right away, I sought out my Milwaukee students and
called, texted, facebooked, and emailed to meet them to get to know them better. I was really
excited when I emailed three students from Mount Mary College who were willing to meet with me
on their campus. During the week that I had planned to meet with my students, our college coach
module was Time Management and Study Tips. It was a perfect module to talk with my students
since they are already in the middle of their first semester.

That day finally came and I waited for the three of them in the lobby room of Gerherdinger Hall. I
had my green long-sleeve polo gear, name tag, and AmeriCorps pin. I was ready for them. They all
showed up in between different times but when we all sat down together to talk it was really
enjoyable and relaxing. I checked-in to see how they were feeling so far about the middle of the
semester and we talked about what they enjoyed and what has been a challenge for them so far.
Then we talked about the modules I prepared and they related to it very well about study tips that
they did and didn’t do or trying to learn how to balance their studying and personal time. For the
most part, there were some fun laughs and a lot of talk about future goals. They were really happy
to meet and they even got to joking about how “nice” they’ll be to me. It was amazing how we were
already connecting and this was my first time meeting them. As a College coach, these few
encounters with my students in person will remind me why I do the work that I do and be kept in
my memory forever.

Pa Dao Yang serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                         Pa Dao Yang
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

“This number is no longer in service. Please try again...” “Email Delivery Failed.” These are two
of many responses I get when I’m trying to get a hold of students. Their phone number is either
disconnected or their email no longer exists. It can be frustrating trying to get a hold of students
when there is not enough contact information provided.

I looked on Naviance to try to contact one of my students but there was no telephone or email
listed. Only an address. Then I looked at the student’s previous journal entries and saw that
other college coaches haven’t had any luck with them. This made me feel unmotivated to try to
get a hold of the student since other college coaches before me have not had any luck to even
speak to the student. Although I was feeling this way, I was not alone. All the other College
coaches were feeling the same way about students who they only had an address as contact.
Therefore, all the college coaches teamed up to have a mailing survey sent out to our students.
We wanted to know if they were still in school, took some time off, or had family obligations,
ANYTHING! We drafted up surveys that needed to be returned to us and letters expressing our
concerns with their address hand written and sent it away. We were all eager to hear a
response back.

Days pass by and not a single letter came back. Some of us College coaches were beginning to
lose hope. Then one day, I went into the copy room (where our mail boxes are) to grab
something I printed off while Hannah Wallish, our External Relations & Operations Coordinator,
was putting mail in our mail boxes. All of a sudden, Hannah Wallish turns to me and calmly say,
“Oh, Pa Dao. There’s a letter for you.” My first thought was, “A letter? I never get letters from
the office.” As soon as I grabbed the letter from Hannah I realized what it was! It was a
response from one of my students! I quickly went to my cubicle and tear it open. In it was the
survey that we had sent out with every question answered! I got a new email and phone
number! I was so excited I walked over to Staci, my supervisor, and said with joy, “It worked!”
Shocked by my entrance standing at the LT office door, Staci asked in confusion, “What
worked?” A big smile formed on my face and I said, “The surveys that we sent out to our
students who only had addresses as our contact, it worked!” We both had a quick “YAY” and I
walked back to my cubicle anxious to contact this student. What I learned most from this
experience was that persistence and patience pays off even when you start to lose hope.
Pa Dao Yang serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                         I Already Did
                                      Rachael Habermehl
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

During an evening round of texting students about spring registration, my student A’rom told
me that he was waiting to see his advisor before registering. Being familiar UWM, I confidently
told him that he should just register for a full semester of courses that he knows he can take,
and then swap them out later based on what his advisor has to say. This way he wouldn’t come
back from his advisor appointment a week and a half later with no course choices. Thank
goodness he took that advice right away, since he then texted back that it turned out he
couldn’t register at all due to a financial hold on his account!

A'rom shared his login info with me, and I poked around in his online account for a while to see
what was happening. There was no way he could pay the $500 out of pocket, and he was only a
freshman, so I was feeling desperate to fix this problem before he gave up on school
altogether! After busting out a calculator and checking all of the math in his account activity (his
charges versus the three grants and scholarships applied), I ended up with the same balance
due. What could I do? Then, just as I was about to text him that he really did owe $500, I took
another look at his financial aid awards and saw, not three awards, but four! Where had the
other grant gone? I texted him the semi-good news and said I would figure out what was going
on the next morning.

That morning, I spent over an hour calling the Financial Aid Office, the Bursar’s Office, and the
Military Education Benefits Office (since it was a VA grant). After being transferred within and
between departments countless times, I was eventually informed that A’rom should probably
have gotten the grant and that he should contact the MEBO himself to see if it could be applied
(and also that there was no way to lift the hold without some kind of payment). I pondered
making the trip to the MEBO myself since they wouldn’t answer the phone, but in the
meantime, I was glad to have some kind of an answer. I texted A’rom a veritable essay with the
phone numbers, office locations, and emails of everybody he needed to contact to ask about
his grant and getting the financial hold lifted. I ended my essay with asking him to let me know
when he was able to get in touch with the Military Education Benefits Office. Whew, an hour of
good productive work helping my student access information! A’rom’s response? “I already
did.” I guess even our freshmen students are already learning self-sufficiency! By the way, the
office told him they would apply the grant. All’s well that ends well!

Rachael Habermehl serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                              Why Yes!
                                         Rachael Habermehl
                                           College Possible
                                       Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                              Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                                Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                  Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Anthony is a student of mine at UW-Platteville, and although he had reached out to me a couple of
times during fall semester, he wasn’t very responsive in general. I had been trying to reach him
about spring registration, but to no avail. When a former CP coach-turned-UW-Platteville
admissions counselor, Tiffany, called me about Anthony, I was immediately very worried. Tiffany
told me that Anthony was facing academic suspension for an incredibly low GPA, and that she had
helped him draft an appeals letter and given him some advice. She turned the case over to me, but I
felt at a loss because Anthony had not been communicating with me for a while, and he certainly
hadn’t mentioned this crisis!

I scouted around and found out all the necessary information about appeal submissions and
deadlines, and I edited the letter Tiffany had given me, but it still took days of phone tag to actually
get ahold of Anthony. I was scared that he would be unwilling to take my help, because being under
academic suspension is both incredibly stressful and something that some students want to keep a
secret. If he wouldn’t take my help, I was scared that he would lose his chance to stay in school. As
a freshman, this could discourage him from ever going back! You can imagine my relief when I
finally got him on the phone to try to arrange a meeting, and he suggested that he walk over to our
office right then and there! Things were already looking up. When he arrived, we talked about the
content of the letter: What went wrong? How could he fix it? Why was school important to him? In
talking to Anthony, I came to see how driven he was to do well in spite of a lot of barriers. He
emphasized how motivated he was to succeed, and how this setback had only motivated him more.
When we wrote in the appeals letter that he had learned from his mistakes, it really was true.

We set up a plan for what resources to use for next semester, and I asked him: What do you want
me to do for you? To my delight, he said that he needed help with time management and that he
really needed structure, so could we schedule check-ins? Why, yes! Although Anthony may perhaps
be my only student who will request check-ins, it is wonderful to see that our students can
recognize that we are still here for them, and that we are on their side to help them do well. I look
forward to working even harder next semester at helping Anthony, and all of my students, succeed
in college. We won’t hear the appeals decision for another week, but I know Anthony will make it

UPDATE: Anthony’s appeal was granted and he was able to re-enroll!

   Rachael Habermehl serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                              Text Messages Can Be Misleading
                                       Raven Newberry
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

As a technology-based college coach, it can be very surreal meeting students in-person for the
first time. Months of facebook, email, and phone interactions can only give you so much insight
into someone’s personality. I became familiar with the tendencies and habits of my student’s
“online personas”, but I was generally unsure what the student would be like in person.

With this in mind, I was unsure how my first trip to Cardinal Stritch would transpire. My Stritch
students had been excellent in their responsiveness and I was eager to meet them in person.
One student, however, seemed a bit unsure about meeting me in person. I felt Amanda, a
freshman, had generally been a reluctant party in our conversations. I had offered to meet her
and let her know that I would be bringing cookies. How could anyone turn down such a sweet
deal? Her response was indifferent at best. Her reply to my (probably over-zealous) text invite
was an ambiguous, “LOL okay”. I was not sure what to make of this. Was she laughing derisively
at my offer? Was she just filling in the text with an obligatory “LOL”? Was I over-reading the
message? I was not very optimistic about a meet-up.

The day of my visit was a flustered one. I took my lunch break to whip up some homemade
cookies for the students I was meeting. Unfortunately, I made the rookie mistake of melting the
butter and my cookies emerged from the oven soggy messes. Though delicious, their aesthetic
appeal was lacking. Shamed and distraught, I ran to the store for some Oreos. I could not face
my students without fulfilling my promise of bearing cookies. I arrived at Stritch 20 minutes
later than I had expected. To my surprise and despair, I had two missed calls from Amanda. I
had prematurely written off a visit with her.

I called Amanda back and was further surprised to hear, “Where are you? I brought a friend to
meet you!” I was thrilled to get to meet my mysterious student in the flesh. Amanda was a
smiley, soft-spoken girl who eagerly introduced me to two of her friends. Amanda caught me
up on her Stritch activities and I felt honored to get a sneak peek into her social circle. We
chatted for close to an hour about fast-food preferences and a shared dislike of Angelina Jolie.
This visit did more for me than Amanda could know. It proved to me that my efforts with
students were paying off. Amanda was so gracious and friendly, that I was renewed with an
appreciation for our great students.

Raven Newberry serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                            The Lasting Effects of College Possible
                                       Raven Newberry
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

I was working late one night in the office trying my luck at contacting “Coach Unenrolled”
students. These College Possible Alumni are students who have, for one reason or another, lost
contact with College Possible. My efforts to contact these students were met with mixed
results. A slew of disconnected numbers or uncomfortable conversations left me fatigued and
discouraged. The subject of dropping out was a common one and many students were
understandably guarded in their stories.

Feeling worn down, I decided to call just a few more numbers. I hurriedly typed in the number
of one student who had been off the radar for the past year. To my great happiness, an
extremely warm voice answered. Carrie audibly brightened when I mentioned I was from
College Possible. She informed me that she was currently in her senior year at Emory
University. Her plans for post-graduation were to pursue a law degree. Kari laughed about how
she was already done with her applications way ahead of schedule thanks to her type-A

Carrie suddenly became very serious. With incredible gratitude, she thanked me for my efforts
with College Possible. “It means so much that you took the time to check in with me”, she
gushed. This well-spoken young woman went on to explain how College Possible had laid the
groundwork for all of her success now. She explained that the deadlines in the high school
program taught her invaluable discipline that had benefited her all throughout college.
Carrie’s kind words filled me with such positive feelings for College Possible. Though she hadn’t
even been directly in contact with AP, she carried the lessons she had learned. I was so
impressed with the overarching positivity of this organization. After our brief conversation
ended, I returned to my work with a greater purpose.

Raven Newberry serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Technology-Based College Coach.

                                             He’s In!
                                          Becky Zeman
                                         College Possible
                                     Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                            Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                              Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Luigi went on numerous campus visits his junior year with College Possible, but fell inlove with
one-Marian University. All year long he'd shake my hand and tell me he HAD to get into Marian.
I never doubted him, but told he repeatedly that he'll have to do a lot of self advocating
because of his low scores. This wouldn't be a problem for talkative Luigi.

Luigi landed himself a phone interview with the Director of Admissions at Marian for a chance
of being accepted. I never saw Luigi so nervous. He dialed the number and hung up because of
his nerves. I assured him that all he had to do was be himself.

While on the phone with the director Luigi became shy. The boy who you can't keep quiet only
said "yes ma'am," and "no ma'am." All I could do was sit back quietly and hope he'd open up.

Then finally Luigi started being Luigi again when asked to explain what College Possible was and
he started restating our mission. Then when asked, "why Marian?" Luigi really started beaming.
"I love it there. I feel like I'm at home there. It's one of the first places where i felt safe." With
that response the interview shortly ended.

Five minutes later though his admissions counselor, Juanita, called my cell. "Becky," She said,
"she loved him. He's in!" Everyone in the office: Kari, myself, and Luigi, started crying. Luigi is
why I do this service. I can't wait to hear what happens to him when he's a student at Marian
earning a Bachelors. That's something most people told him he couldn't do, but something we
always knew he could.

Becky Zeman serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Senior Coach at Alexander Hamilton High
School and Northwest Secondary School.

                                    Northwest Secondary?
                                         Becky Zeman
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

On some college applications there are drop boxes to select the high school students attend.
"They don't have Northwest," is what I constantly hear in workshops. Even while registering for
other college access groups I would have to call the organizations and request that they add

While calling admission offices I ask to speak with the counselor for Northwest Secondary. I am
often put on hold for quite some time while they figure out who that would be. Then usually
when they come back on the phone I hear "Sorry for making you wait so long. We never had
anyone apply from there and had to figure out who the counselor would be."

Though this can be frustrating and irritating this is a HUGE ripple! My 12 Northwest Secondary
kids are breaking down new doors for the school's future seniors. They're proving to the rest of
Milwaukee and Wisconsin that they're not just going to fit into the stereotyped laid out for
their future. These kids are on a mission to graduate from college, not just high school! They're
capable of doing what every other student in Wisconsin is. Just sometimes they need tough
love and some nagging.

I'm honored that I can help these 12 future college graduates become role models to their

Becky Zeman serves as a College Possible Milwaukee Senior Coach at Alexander Hamilton High
School and Northwest Secondary School.

                                           Adi Lev-Er
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

Piles of papers stacked 200 high were beginning to take over my desk. I had been printing for
almost two full days, and I was becoming skeptical. I didn’t know how we could possibly get
6,000 letters out the door by our deadline for the end-of-year mailing campaign.
At the end of that stressful week, a group of Corps members gathered at the office on Saturday,
and the team effort began. I was so proud of how quickly the “finished” stacks started piling up.
Not only was our team efficient and dedicated, but the enthusiasm that people brought to this
project was so energizing. I honestly never thought I could have so much fun addressing and
stuffing envelopes!

The mailing project culminated in a momentous trip to the post office. After initially asking one
or two people to help carry boxes to my car, it became clear that this was a trip that required a
larger crew. Six of us drove to the post office and piled up all the boxes inside. As we started to
walk out the door, it felt a little anti-climactic – all our hard work, just dropped off in one
minute. We ran back inside and asked an overly friendly postal worker if we could take a
picture of the huge cart that we had filled with our letters. He gave us an inside tour of the post
office, and we got our picture. The whole experience was slightly surreal, but it seemed like a
worthy ending for the monumental undertaking that we had all accomplished. In the end, I was
proud to have led a project that involved the time and energy of every single person in
Admission Possible.

Adi Lev-Er serves as the College Possible Milwaukee Development VISTA.

                                          Session Visit
                                            Adi Lev-Er
                                         College Possible
                                     Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                            Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                              Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                Wisconsin State Senate District 7

After a couple months on the job, I had yet to interact with any Admission Possible students. As
the Development VISTA, my job is mostly behind the scenes. So when we started planning the
first site visit, I was pretty nervous. It was my job to greet the potential donor at the entrance of
Riverside High School and accompany her and the supervisors as we visited junior and senior
Admission Possible sessions.

It was a weird feeling to be back in a high school, and I was overly concerned at first about
making a good impression with the visitor. I quickly realized, however, that I had a lot to learn
on this site visit as well. I was able to see Kyle and Jaleesa in their element, leading sessions.
Their students were so focused and involved, and it was clear that my fellow Corps members
were excellent leaders for these high schoolers.

The best part of the visit was when two of Jaleesa’s senior students spoke with us about their
experience in Admission Possible and about their future plans. They were both well-spoken and
ambitious. They talked about the stress of the college application process, but mostly they
described their excitement for college and their gratefulness to Admission Possible. They both
dreamed big, and I couldn’t help becoming so excited for both of them and eager to see what
they would end up doing after high school and after college. Our visitor was clearly impressed,
and so was I. It was one of my proudest moments as part of Admission Possible.

Adi Lev-Er serves as the College Possible Milwaukee Development VISTA.

                                        Happy Birthday
                                        Carolyn Vidmar
                                        College Possible
                                    Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                           Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                             Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                               Wisconsin State Senate District 7

There are many reasons why I chose to return as Communications VISTA with Admission
Possible Milwaukee, but the biggest and most significant reason is that I just really love our
students. I’ve worked hard over the past two years to remember not only names and faces, but
stories and personalities. I want our students to know that I respect them, and I’m willing to
advocate for them, and I will remember their names even if they think it’s creepy. I’m incredibly
proud of the relationships I’ve built.

But I’m not kidding myself. I don’t see the same individual students on a daily or even weekly
basis, so I can’t really expect them to remember my name. Occasionally, I’m greeted by
questions like, “Miss Carolyn, you love me, right?!?” which totally make my day. But more often
than not, I have to explain who I am and why I’m crashing their session. That’s just the way it
goes, and I’m cool with that.

So you can imagine my surprise when on my 23rd birthday, the girls of the St. Joan Antida threw
a birthday party for me. Their coach lured me to the cafeteria on the pretense that I was going
to take photos of her session, which I needed to do anyway. But once I got there, the cafeteria
erupted with cries of “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” and almost 20 Admission Possible students were
waiting for me with hugs, cupcakes, and cards. I was completely shocked that in the midst of
college application season, our students had taken time out of their busy schedules to celebrate
with me. They have achieved so much in the past two years; I should be the one celebrating
them—every day. But instead, there they were, eating birthday cupcakes with me. I have never
been so touched in my entire life.

Our students have impressed me since day one. They inspire what I do every day, and they
inspired me to stick with it for two years. I am blown away by their stories, and by their
dedication, persistence, hard work, sense of humor and infectious personalities. I’ve definitely
had interactions with students over the past two years that I will remember forever, even
though some of those students probably won’t remember me. I’ve been crying about their
struggles and cheering about their successes, even though they don’t know it. But somewhere
along the way, I must have made an impression on them, too. They care enough about me to
celebrate my 23rd birthday!

Carolyn Vidmar serves as the College Possible Milwaukee Communications VISTA.

                                          Happy Birthday
                                          Carolyn Vidmar
                                          College Possible
                                      Milwaukee, Wisconsin
                             Wisconsin’s 4th U.S. Congressional District
                               Wisconsin State Assembly District 19
                                 Wisconsin State Senate District 7

During my first term of service with College Possible, my fellow AmeriCorps members pretty much
rocked. I learned more from them than I will probably ever learn from any job. They inspired me to
work hard and have fun. They are my role models and my friends. And then they finished their
terms of service over the summer, one by one. With each departure, the office grew quieter, and
my anxiety increased.

I was unbelievably nervous to start my second term of service with Admission Possible with an
almost entirely new team: 18 new AmeriCorps members, two new Leadership Team members and a
new Executive Director. I knew that I would be held to a super high standard, and that I needed to
set a fabulous example right front the start. I didn’t feel up to the challenge. I kept thinking about
what all of the former Corps members had done for me, and wondering how I could possibly be the
support system, positive influence, and friend that I wanted to be for the new AmeriCorps

Fast forward six months. It hasn’t been perfect; sometimes, it’s been really hard. But this team
rocks, just like we did last year. Our results are some of the best ever. Our senior class will submit
nearly 1,000 college applications. Once this year, I was asked to dress up as Lady Gaga and write a
Gaga-esque, ACT-themed speech. We’ve continued the book club tradition, but we added a fantasy
football league. I still have a fellow Corps member who walks around every day and asks what
everyone else is working on. We still make a lot of noise on Fridays—some things never change.

It’s a little weird to explain being an AmeriCorps member. We laugh, we cry, we work really hard.
We embarrass ourselves in front of students and each other. With our long hours and crazy antics,
sometimes it feels like summer camp with deadlines. It’s also kind of weird when, halfway through
your service commitment, you suddenly have 21 new team members. But change is important--it’s
what makes us stronger colleagues and better friends. The past few months have taught me to have
more faith in my own ability to adapt to change, and to become a leader and a friend. At the same
time, I’ve learned that being a leader doesn’t mean I have to be alone. It’s okay to ask for help, and
it’s okay to struggle. We just have to be able to seek solutions. It was totally acceptable for me to be
bummed out about saying goodbye to the 2010-11 AmeriCorps team. I think I had to go through
that transition to be ready to welcome a new program year and a new team. And as the year
progresses, I discover more and more reasons why the 2011-12 team is really, really awesome. But,
I can’t really say that I’m surprised.

Carolyn Vidmar serves as the College Possible Milwaukee Communications VISTA.

 Department Public Instruction
                                 DPI Service for Learning and Life

                                      The Same Playing Field
                                           Ally Armstrong
                                  DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                    Special Olympics Wisconsin
                                    US Congressional District 8
                                     State Assembly District 23
                                       State Senate District 5

Walking into Union Grove High School for the boy’s varsity basketball game, you would have
assumed that the Bronco’s school colors were green and black. Rather than sporting their normal
red and white spirit wear, the student section was filled with fans wearing their Spread the Word to
End the Word t-shirts in support of the school-wide campaign.

I had met with the Union Grove Key Club in the fall to talk with them about the campaign but had
no idea the students would go so far above and beyond the challenge I gave them. The Key Club
dedicated a week to the campaign – making announcements, selling t-shirts, and signing a pledge
banner. They also planned a huge culminating event – a Spread the Word to End the Word themed
basketball game.

At half time of the game, the dance team (also wearing their R-Word shirts), formed a tunnel at the
entrance of the field house. One by one, the announcer called out the names of the Special
Olympics athletes who attend Union Grove High School. Accompanied by one of their peers without
a disability, each athlete made his or her way to the center of the gym. The crowd erupted in

This was an incredible moment –incredible because most of these athletes had never received such
recognition before (most Special Olympics events are attended only by family members and a few
close friends) and incredible because at that moment, all of the students were on the same playing
field. No longer was it students with disabilities separated from those without. They were all
students of Union Grove High School.

I feel so incredibly blessed to have been a part of that and so many other events through my
AmeriCorps term with Special Olympics. I have seen full auditoriums on their feet cheering for
athletes who have come to share their stories. I have seen new friendships form. I have seen
students inspired to make a difference. Through everything, I have been challenged to better myself
and act with the courage that I see in our athletes every day.

I am first year AmeriCorps member serving with Special Olympics Wisconsin.

                                         Education Raises the Floor
                                              Nancy L. Campbell
                                      DPI Service for Learning and Life
                               Mashkisibi Boys & Girls Club, Odanah, Wisconsin
                                        US Congressional District 25
                                          State Assembly District 74
                                            State Senate District 7

My time with the children on the Bad River (Mashkisibi) Reservation began several years before I started
working with AmeriCorps and the DPI Service for Learning and Life program.

In 2007-2008, I was a Spanish teacher at the Ashland Middle School in Ashland, WI. At least 25% of the
students at AMS are members of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, and quite a few more are
associated with the tribe through marriage or other family affiliations. Getting to know my way around the
culture and family relationships on the reservation was easy once I started work here at the Boys & Girls
Club. Also, I have family ties to The Red Cliff Band that is just across the Chequamegon Bay from Bad River.
These two bands are still part of one whole tribe, so the connections have been there for me for a long time.

I have many students that I work with whose family lives are difficult. However, they are not all
impoverished, and I see a huge difference from a few years ago among the people here as increased access
to higher education is improving the lot of the young adults on the reservation. The positive impact of higher
education really stands out when I talk to the parents. It appears that a lot of the students who come
regularly to the Boys & Girls Club have parents who are attending local satellite branches of a tribal
community college operated by Lac Courte Oreilles Community College, a tribal college from yet another
band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

Education is the key to improving the lives of those in poverty. The distribution of education, rather than
solely a concentration in a few highly-centralized locations such as large universities, is what is changing the
landscape out here in the less-populated, rural areas. According to a recent survey, the Wisconsin Indianhead
Technical College system was the most effective state-affiliated community college system in the U.S. The
tribal community college systems are building themselves into equally valuable vocational and academic
training programs, launching students into full-fledged 4-year college programs.

I see our work here at the Mashkisibi Boys & Girls Club as a part of that whole trend. If the children on this
reservation get a high-quality start in their educations, the opportunities are out there for them to excel,
building a more prosperous and productive community in the process.

The work I do as an AmeriCorps member, in tutoring them with their homework “Power Hour” and our
“Bookworms” reading circles will set the stage for academic success for more of the people from this tribe.
Being one small piece of that whole puzzle is a great thing for me, raising the floor for the new generation of
adults here on the Bad River Reservation.

I was born in New Orleans, grew up in Chattanooga, TN, and have an undergraduate degree in Latin American
Studies from Tulane University in New Orleans with a Secondary Teaching Certificate from the University of
Utah. I am of mixed heritage, Cherokee and Anglo-American, speak several languages, including some Ojibwe
and Lakota. My most recent accomplishment of which I am very proud is being a part of the Tail Feather
Woman Peace Ride on horseback across the state of Minnesota, June, 2011.

                                     Outstanding Community Dedication:
                      Whenever in need, the surrounding communities come together!
                                               Connie Daly
                                     DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                         Butternut School District
                                      US Congressional District 25
                                        State Assembly District 74
                                          State Senate District 7

When I saw the posting for the AmeriCorps position which included the opportunity to work with children
within the district, I was very enthusiastic and eager. I’ve been around children all my life and have always
wanted to work within the school system. What a great opportunity this would be, if I was hired as the
AmeriCorps representative at Butternut School District.

I applied and received a call for an interview the following day; I was excited but very nervous. Would I be a
good candidate?, Would they like me?, Would I be able to fulfill the position? All kinds of things kept going
through my mind. They offered me the position, and it has been very rewarding and beneficial.

I started off the year not knowing which direction I was to go in; with help from the faculty here at Butternut,
I was led down a path of what I call success. The first project was to write to the veterans and thank them for
their services. There have been several community events - a food drive, which went to supporting our local
food pantry; a giving tree in which all donations were kept within our local community to help families who
were unable to afford to purchase things for their families at Christmas. All thanks to the many donations
from our local community to support each other.

We also held a Winter Carnival, as a fundraiser to help a community member who was diagnosed with MS
and the money raised went to the MS society. Eighty three percent goes for research and the rest stays in
Wisconsin to help patients with MS. To celebrate our new outdoor classroom, we held a winter festival,
included free skiing, snowshoeing, and sled dogs. At our Spring Concert, we held a community open house,
art show, and spaghetti feed. A great time was had by all, and we had an outstanding turnout. It’s great to
see everyone coming together to support our school and community.

My experience as an AmeriCorps representative at the Butternut School has been one of excitement,
adventure, and a great experience. I’ve worked with children of all ages (k-12), and every individual I’ve
worked with has given me the satisfaction of becoming a better, self-motivated individual who strives to help
others succeed in life. There’s no greater feeling than being able to help someone else meet their individual

Knowing that you were a part of a child’s success, when a parent walks up to you and thanks you for being
involved in their child’s life and for helping them reach goals, it gives you a feeling of accomplishment that
will remain with you for the rest of your life. It’s been my pleasure to be Butternut School’s AmeriCorps
representative. These are moments that will be in my heart forever!

Thanks to Butternut School for allowing me to be a part of your growing and loving community where the
community and people come together and work as one.

My name is Connie Daly, and I’m the AmeriCorps representative for the Butternut School District.

                                  To Know a Child, a Student, a Scholar
                                               Erica Dorsch
                                     DPI Service for Learning and Life
                    Falk Elementary School – Madison School & Community Recreation
                                       US Congressional District 26
                                        State Assembly District 77
                                          State Senate District 2

                                              To see change
                                             To see potential
                                            To see innocence
                                         To see a creative mind
                                      To see endless possibilities
                                     To see life through new eyes
                                              To be moved
                                              To be blessed
                                              To be inspired
                                            To be challenged
                                           To be encouraged
                                          To be filled with joy
                                              To have hope
                                           To have an impact
                                         To have a connection
                                        To have an opportunity
                                        To have a changed heart
                                    To have the future ahead of you
                                             To gain wisdom
                                            To gain patience
                                           To gain knowledge
                                           To gain experience
                                          To gain perspective
                                         To gain understanding
                                                 To love
                                                 To care
                                                 To grow
                                                 To learn
                                               To imagine
                                              To remember
                                              To see, To be
                                            To have, To gain
                              To know something of unsurpassed greatness
                                                  A child
                                                A student
                                                A scholar

Erica Christie Dorsch is an alumnus of UW Madison serving her second term of AmeriCorps through the
Department of Public Instruction. Erica is from Kewaskum, Wisconsin.

                                     After School Program
                                        Colleen Douglass
                                DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                Vaughn Public Library, Ashland
                                 US Congressional District 25
                                  State Assembly District 74
                                     State Senate District 7

After school programs are a wonderful option for children who have parents that work late,
need help with homework, or just like to spend time with friends in a safe and friendly
environment. I work at the Lake Superior Intermediate School, for the Lighted Schoolhouse
after school program 3 days a week; I am in charge of the academic hour. I offer help with
homework, academic enrichment games and a quiet place to read.

Emma is a 1st grader in the program; she comes in every day for help with reading. When she
started in September, her skills were quite weak in sounding out words and forming sentences:
she often looked at the pictures and guessed what the story was about. Since working with her
for 6 months, I am impressed at how well she can read books, above her grade level. Last week
I saw her helping another student sound out words, she used the same patience and kindness I
use with her.

I am a 3rd year AmeriCorps member, and I love what I do for a living.

                                     AmeriCorps Reflection
                                         Patrick Gelhaus
                                DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                     Rib Lake Middle School
                                  US Congressional District 7
                                    WI Assembly District 87
                                      WI Senate District 29

I have served for almost one school year at Rib Lake Middle School. Throughout the course of
the year, I have been asked to do numerous things to help the middle and high schools to flow
and to help students learn. I was also selected to coordinate a variety of school activities as I
was appointed student council supervisor.

I tutor/mentor for most of my time. I have made a considerable impact on several students as I
have personally seen their grades and confidence rise significantly. I have done a few things in
support of ESL, and I know that the student with limited English proficiency is more confident
and has been much more productive this year than last.

6th grade boys have been the demographic that I have helped most frequently this year. Three
individuals come to mind. This fall and early winter all 3, at various points, had total meltdowns
at school. All of them were lost, scared, and confused. After months or weeks of coming to
Learning Center, all 3 have been getting good grades and have gained a little glow of

This is just one of many examples of my year at Rib Lake Middle School.

My name is Patrick Gelhaus, and I am a licensed Broad Field Science teacher. I have 2 years of
experience teaching Biology. I love sports and science and I am excited to watch the Brewers win
the central again.

                                   A Learning Experience for Everyone
                                             Jennifer Grezenksi
                               DPI Service for Learning and Life AmeriCorps
                                     Almond-Bancroft School District
                                       US Congressional District 24
                                        State Assembly District 71
                                          State Senate District 6

While completing a year of service, I am taking a graduate course called Deliberative Service Learning.
As part of the requirements for the course, I taught a unit in the English 10 classes. From the experience
of working with two professors to create the unit, having my work possibly published, and seeing the
positive response in the students I know an impact has been made.

For five class periods, I went into two different English 10 classrooms to teach a unit on deliberative
service learning. At first, we created a list of concerns in our community before selecting one issue to
spend some time researching and discussing. Next, we held a deliberation to discuss the concern in
detail. Groups of students created an action plan to meet the needs of the issue.

Each day, students started to take more pride in the outcomes of the project and how they were going
to be presented to the community. I would like to believe, from this unit, the high school students
started to understand that a change is possible with the right research, action plan, and presentation of
a concern.

At the start of the experience, some of the administration in the school became very interested in the
possible outcome of the Deliberative Service Learning unit, which also gave more ownership in the work
for the students. Unfortunately, our time ran out, therefore, I was not able to witness or provide
materials for the majority of the service learning experience. Many of the students were able to start
the development, however very few were carried it out to its full potential. These two English classes
help me realize the true power of the student voice.

I also noticed the impact of the message became more relevant to the class once most had an input on
the message given to the community. I would like to believe the students also felt more respected when
it was their wording and work used throughout the unit. The community concern seemed to become
more relevant to the class when it became a group voice instead of one or two students’ thoughts. The
results also became more influential when it entire class’s voice was reassured by peers or myself. I
noticed that towards the end of the unit, I received more comments and questions from students who
were typically shy in the beginning. I felt proud of the comfortable and trusting environment where
students could speak their thoughts aloud. By focusing on the importance of the class voice, the
students were able to carry themselves through the learning process.

I have enjoyed the past two years in Almond-Bancroft, Wisconsin. The students, staff, and community
members have welcomed the AmeriCorps position with open arms. My background in education has also
helped shape this position into something special and prepared me for the next step in my career path.

                            Creating Ties with the Community
                                        Michelle Holt
                              DPI Service for Learning and Life
            Madison School & Community Recreation- Mendota Elementary School
                               US Congressional District 26
                                State Assembly District 77
                                   State Senate District 2

One of the best parts of performing my job duties as an AmeriCorps member is creating and
facilitating family events at our local elementary school along with the co-planning and
implementation of lessons and engaging curriculum for the students in our after-school
program. In the past 6 months of my service, I have organized and led three family nights
including: a literacy night, a family movie pizza night and a science night. The generosity of
Madison’s larger community continues to amaze and impress me. In this past year, we have
had some spectacular folks volunteer their time and talent for our family nights. We have also
had some smaller local businesses and larger corporations donate food and prizes for our
different events throughout the year. In all we have received over 4,000 dollars in donations for
the family nights for our after school program.

For our International Literacy Night in October, we had four volunteer storytellers who came
from the University of Wisconsin International Consortium. For our Science Fair Night we had
six presenters coming from the University of Wisconsin and Madison Area Technical College.
Students and their families visited different interactive and exploratory-learning based science
stations throughout the night. Throughout the night, students had the chance to create DNA
necklaces, perform a veterinarian technician “check-up” on a stuffed animal dog and learn
about the basics of robotics and animatronics while playing with some cool robots. For the
Family Movie Pizza Night, we offered a relaxed venue where kids and their families could dress-
down in their pajamas and eat pizza while watching a movie on the big screen projector in the
gymnasium. I enjoy putting together these family events, because it gives the opportunity for
the school to engage and build that connection between the neighborhood at large and the
afterschool staff. As an AmeriCorps member, I get a chance to show my desire to create a
positive impact with our students and their families beyond the normal after school setting. The
family events provide a hassle-free environment that encourages everyone to have fun and
take a break from the structured set up of the school day and our after school program. I also
get to support the local businesses around the city of Madison and establish greater ties in my
city! All in all, it’s been a wonderful year of service with AmeriCorps!

Michelle Holt is a Madison Wisconsin native who graduated from University of Wisconsin-
Madison with a degree in Spanish and Elementary Education in the summer of 2011.

                                        Amy Hungerford
                                DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                    Oshkosh School District
                                 US Congressional District 18
                                  State Assembly District 54
                                     State Senate District 6

It was a dreary, gray and cold day.
My heart hung low with the clouds.
The eager, willing and silenced waited.

They waited for someone to give them a voice.
They waited for someone to share their voice with.
They waited to be heard.

The sun hesitantly peaked through
Illuminating them, warming my heart.
We saved each other.

I was there to give them a voice.
I was the one they shared their voice with.
I heard them.

It is a bright, warm and joyful day.
My heart soars with the eagle in the sky above.
The eager and willing are no longer silenced.

Their advocates give them a voice.
They share their voice with everyone.
We all hear them!

Amy is pursuing her degree in elementary education with a focus on ESL and Bilingual Studies at
the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.

                                              Making a Difference
                                                Sharon Johnson
                                        DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                         Spooner Area School District
                                         US Congressional District 25
                                           State Assembly District 73
                                             State Senate District 7

A new year, a new term. The needs are great. A community, a school, a child….is waiting. Many opportunities
lay before me. The anticipation is building. I want to make a difference.

A six year old boy stares wide eyed at the beautiful handmade quilt that is now his. It is a door prize from
Family Reading Night. Students in my afterschool club decorated each block with illustrations from their
favorite fairy tale, to go along with the theme of the night. He pulls it around himself, “My blanket!” he
exclaims. His joy has made all their hard work worthwhile.

A man sits at a table, his cane leans against his chair. He wants to volunteer, he says. “Is there a child that
could learn something from an old man like me?” He begins to share the stories that have made up his life.
So many lives he has already touched, and he wants to touch more. I tell him about a 10 year old boy who
struggles with math. No matter how hard he tries, numbers just don’t make sense to him, I say. I tell him
about how he got passed from grade to grade, of the desperation he feels in being so far behind his peers.
When I look up, I see tears in the man’s eyes. “I want to help that boy”, he says. I introduce the two. They
shake hands. Together, the young boy and the old man lean over the table full of counters and begin their
work. I get the feeling this is the beginning of something big.

Students gather around the table to talk about their community. As they draw maps of their neighborhood
and downtown, we discuss their favorite places. “It’s a great town!” we all agree. I can sense the pride that
they feel. But is there something we can do to make it better? They begin to brainstorm, and I am amazed at
the “real issues” they uncover. Soon they discover that, even as children, they can do something to improve
their community. The excitement builds as their plan takes shape. A lifelong commitment to being a good
citizen has just begun.

These are three of perhaps three hundred moments. Some moments are big and are seen by many: Children
raise money for a worthy cause: “jump rope for heart”; the whole school gathers together to celebrate
“being green” by planting flowers and trees, and learning how to be a good steward of planet Earth; the joy
of reading is celebrated by 300 people during Family Reading night; 400 middle schoolers are seen out in the
community doing a service project. Others are small, and significant to only those who experience them: a
passage is read more fluently, a spelling test is passed, the answer to a word problem is found, homework is
signed off, a volunteer plays basketball with some second grade boys, another makes homemade treats week
after week for an afterschool club, a retired teacher patiently teaches children how to weave, a kind word is
spoken, a smile is given, a relationship is formed.

So many moments. I realize that it is not me that is making the difference. I am only a small part, but if I am
really lucky, on any given day, I get to watch it happen.

Sharon Johnson is serving her third half time term in the Department of Public Instruction’s “Service for
Learning & Life” project in the Spooner School District. Sharon has a degree in Environmental Education and is
also a private reading tutor.
                                       Back to the Basics
                                        Becky Kovalaske
                                DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                 Goodman Community Center
                                 US Congressional District 26
                                  State Assembly District 77
                                     State Senate District 2

When I first applied for this AmeriCorps position, I had just graduated from college in December
and was job-hunting for something to keep me busy until I would go back for graduate school in
the fall. I saw that the Goodman Community Center of Madison was in need of an AmeriCorps
4K/5K Afterschool Teacher to start in January and work through the end of the summer. I
thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to fit my schedule and give me great
experience working with kids. I had no idea how much this position would truly impact me.
Working with these kids has been both challenging and enlightening. I quickly realized that
working with these young children would require me to go back to the basics in order to teach
concepts that can be difficult for kids to grasp. I had to learn to break things down and simplify
everything in order to teach a child how to read, demonstrate social skills such as fairness and
sharing, and resolve conflicts effectively. Additionally, this position has been incredibly
rewarding with all of the hugs, smiles, and “aha” moments. These kids have taught me so much
about different personalities and learning styles and reinforced how important it is to always
have fun. Although each day has brought forth new challenges and tests of patience, I continue
to learn and grow along with these kids and greatly appreciate this experience.

I am a first year AmeriCorps Member and recent graduate of UW-Madison with a degree in
Social Welfare. I will be continuing my education at UW-Madison in the fall to pursue a Master’s
of Social Work degree.

                               How AmeriCorps Made Me a Better Teacher
                                             Jon Levendoski
                                    DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                         Viroqua Area Schools
                                 Wisconsin's Third Congressional District
                                       State Assembly District 96
                                        State Senate District 32

I think that many who are involved in the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction Service for
Learning and Life program are current or former teachers who are taking time away from the classroom
to serve their communities. While the service that is provided is outstanding and life changing, I think
many people fail to consider how much a person can grow professionally through the program as well.

My time as a member of AmeriCorps has allowed me to be exposed to a number of different people and
resources that I never would have come in contact with before. Like many others, I spent my college
career just trying to get through the classes without giving much thought to the content. Once I got into
the teaching profession, though, I realized what I mistake that was and just how many opportunities I
had squandered. AmeriCorps encouraged and rewarded me to go back and truly engage with the
information that I had passed over before. It offered me the opportunity to watch and work with
incredible teachers. It forced me to search out new methods of teaching so that I could give the best help
to my students, since I was teaching information and populations that I had rarely encountered.

For example, my supervisor gave me his copies of both “Brain Rules” by John Medina and “Boys Adrift”
by Leonard Sax in order to help me better understand how we learn and think. From these two
influences, I learned that I should structure my class periods in smaller pieces and force the repetition of
simple concepts. I also learned that some of the behaviors that we associate with “naughty” kids are
simply developmental, and I have learned how to manage them more easily. All of these lessons and
others have shaped my philosophy of education in such a way that while my classes were interesting and
engaging in the past, I have the ability to make them truly memorable now. Without the encouragement
of AmeriCorps to help me grow professionally, I’m not sure I would have ever made such a leap.

I do not mean to take away from the importance and power of other service. In addition to my
professional development, I have been able to delve into new ways to teach reading and math and have
gotten great perspective, as a former high school teacher, into how an elementary school operates. I
have had the opportunities to participate in wonderful service projects and to help organize a new
Student Pantry that supplies food, toiletries and other things to students in need. All of these things have
been wonderful experiences that have made me more humble, thoughtful and inspired but they are all
singular experiences that will last for a finite amount of time. I consider the professional development
opportunities to be the most important because they offer a lasting change and will influence how I
teach forever.

Jon Levendoski is an AmeriCorps Member serving as a reading and math tutor for Viroqua Area Schools.
When he isn’t reading, writing and teaching he spends time working on his family dairy farm and
spending time with his wife and new son.

                            What is your current salary? “Priceless”
                                          JD Shatswell
                              DPI Service for Learning and Life
                             Volunteer Center of Brown County
                                  US Congressional District 2
                                   State Assembly District 9
                                     State Senate District 8

With this being my second year of service with DPI Serve Wisconsin at the Volunteer Center of
Brown County, I can hardly believe these two years have passed by so quickly.

Having this opportunity as a result of being in transition from my IT profession, is the secret to
my continued feeling of self-worth. Looking for an IT position has been hard, even though I hear
our economy is turning around. I completed an application and a required field was my salary
history. I listed my AmeriCorps DPI and the salary of “Priceless”. The computer did not like the
non-numeric so I listed it as $99,999,999.99 which was the max.

I reflect upon these past two years, I close my eyes and can see the hundreds of elderly and
disabled folks I have had the opportunity to help, the thousands of students that I passed in the
hall on my way to tutor/mentor their classmates, the hundreds of elementary students who
just wanted a chance to learn how to read better and have someone let them know they are
important, the volunteers who were cautiously stepping out of their box to be involved with
their community, and watching a four-time high school senior finally walk down the aisle to
graduate after successfully passing the biology course that had him at bay for three years.

So …. AmeriCorps DPI Wisconsin, “thank you”! As I write this with tears of joy and reflection for
this most rewarding chapter of my life! By the way…. I have not received a response from my

In service, JD Shatswell

JD is a second year AmeriCorps member serving in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

                                              Dana Martens
                                     DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                      Green Bay Area School District
                                       US Congressional District 30
                                        State Assembly District 90
                                          State Senate District 8

The story of the Starfish has been a reoccurring theme during my first term as an AmeriCorps member
working at Southwest High School in Green Bay. I am working as a Tutor/Mentor and Coordinator under
the Service for Learning and Life program.

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a
terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you
doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another
starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference to that one!”

The majority of the students I work with are freshman. Our program aims to support students that are
struggling to pass classes and may face challenges in their home life. Instead of being excited and
energized about high school, this group seems overwhelmed and defeated. Many have poor attendance
and are failing most of their classes. With the support of the Student Services Department and
dedicated volunteers, we are trying to turn the tide. We have offered a listening ear and open heart to
students who want to talk about their problems. We are promoting new habits to help them get
organized and take ownership of their education. We are attempting to change attitudes, to show them
that their education can change their future. I have been overwhelmed and my emotions have gotten
the better of me when I am looking for quantitative results after working with these kids. We can see
their potential, and we are trying to teach them to work for it! Go for it! Many will not pass their classes,
but some will.

Here is the beginning of real success and there are no numbers or percentages to show. She could be my
starfish. I worked with a student who barely talked or made eye contact, never smiled, and failed all but
maybe one class. Over the past few weeks she has started to blossom. I have pushed her through some
assignments, and we have seen some of her percentages rise. She is encouraged. She smiles. She talks.
You can just see she feels better about herself. I am so pleased and hope she will continue to progress.

I am just beginning to see this with a couple of other students as well. I know our program is keeping
other more motivated students on track and offering them that push to get work done when they would
rather take a zero. They are giving effort and are encouraged. We are seeing percentages rise and if they
keep focused they will succeed in High School. For that I am thankful. Each success, big or small, makes a

Dana is a first year AmeriCorps member in Green Bay.

                                         Families Fixin’ Food
                                             Nicole Mlsna
                                   DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                    Jackson County UW Extension
                                     US Congressional District 23
                                      State Assembly District 69
                                        State Senate District 7

One of the projects I have been working on this year is “Families Fixin’ Food”. This project is funded
though the Wal-Mart Healthy Living Grant. We were awarded $1,350 for this project this year. Our
first step was to find people who would be interested in assisting with this project. We contacted
several teachers in several school districts. The Family and Consumer Education teacher from Black
River Falls High School was very interested in being involved with the project. She talked with some
of the students in her classes and found one who really wanted to be involved. Jessica has been
coming to the Jackson County Boys and Girls Club, as well as to the BLAST afterschool program.
When she comes in, she teaches the students about sanitation while cooking, how to make healthy
snacks, and active games. She has taught the students different things to make with peanut butter:
ants on a log, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and peanut butter and banana sandwiches. She
also taught the students how to make a flavorful drink with water. She showed them that they can
take fruit (she brought lemon, grapes, and apples that day) and put it in the water to add some
flavor to the water for a healthy drink. The next time, the students made trail mix. She taught them
that they can make trail mix from anything they have at home. The students also learned about
what food group each ingredient is in. Then they played a game were they had an ingredient used
that day taped to their back (written on a piece of paper). Then they had to ask questions to others
to guess what food it is. For example “Am I a protein?” and the student they asked had to reply “Yes
or No”. The third time she came to the afterschool programs, she taught the students about healthy
parfaits. Each student got a yogurt and Jessica brought different things for them to try in it. Each
student had to try everything, and then decide if they liked it or not. Some of the students were
surprised what they liked in their yogurt. The last time Jessica has came into the afterschool
programs, she led some active activities for the kids that they can do indoors. She challenged the
students to do some things that are difficult, such as partner push-ups. The students love when
Jessica comes because they get to learn as well as make healthy snacks!

“While working with the families fixin' food program I have received very important life lessons. I
have learned that it is important to not only help starving and less fortunate kids and families in 3rd
world countries but also in my own community. It has been a privilege to see the happiness and
knowledge that I have helped to bring the children. I strongly encourage this and other programs
that help to strengthen family’s knowledge and health with meals.”

                                                                                     -Jessica Valentino

I work through the Jackson County Extension Office. My favorite part of being an AmeriCorps
Volunteer is working with the kids and seeing them learn and grow.

                                              Shooting Stars
                                             Fawn Peterson
                                     DPI Service for Learning and Life
                             Lussier Community Education Center, Madison
                                       US Congressional District 26
                                        State Assembly District 77
                                          State Senate District 2

I have learned that all it takes is one individual to believe in a child. From there on a child can soar to
new heights. I work with a wide range of students from kindergarten to fifth grade in an elementary
after school program. I realize that many of the students I work with were not dealt the best hand in life,
but many of them are optimistic and make the best out of the cards that were dealt to them. Many of
the students I work with come from unstable homes and broken families, are always hungry, and often
get in trouble.

Mentoring and tutoring is so important to me, because it gives me an opportunity to build strong
relationships with the students and build that level of trust that allows my mentees to feel comfortable
enough to confide in me about what is truly on their minds and make them feel like they do have a
voice, even when they feel nobody is listening at times. Mentoring and tutoring students also gives me a
chance to help students who often do not get that one on one attention and support they need to excel,
not just academically, but also holistically as an individual.

I remember the first day I met one of my mentees. The first day I met him we were talking and he smiled
and told me “I want to go to college to be a graphic designer and on the side, I’m going to have a diner
and it’s going to be called Grandma’s diner because I love my grandma and all that she does for me.” I
was so touched by my mentee and inspired by him because despite hardship in his life, he is a very
intelligent boy with a bright aura, who is always laughing, and finds comfort in art. This boy is being
raised by his grandmother and aunt because his mother is deceased, and he never wants to mention his
father. I enjoy my one on one time with him because he loves telling me jokes, working on homework
with me, and drawing art with me. I have truly enjoyed those precious moments of being able to spend
quality time with the students. I also encourage them to not just be engaged in school but also to be
curious minds excited about learning for the rest of their lives.

I believe my AmeriCorps experience has helped me learn and grow as a person. I have learned the
importance of being patient and more understanding when working with individuals. When children
know that you refuse to give up on them, most likely they refuse to give up on themselves, and they
know when times get tough they have a shoulder to lean on. I have also learned how important altruism
is. I love being able to help and serve others beyond my own personal gain. I know that I am making a
difference in these students’ lives and they are bright and full of potential. They are my shooting stars
that I see shooting for their dreams.

Fawn Peterson graduated from the University of Dubuque with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and
Sociology with emphasis in Criminal Justice. She works with elementary students in an elementary
afterschool program at the Lussier Community Education Center in Madison Wisconsin.

                                                   180 Degrees
                                                    Yulia Rich
                                         DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                        Northwood School District, Minong
                                           US Congressional District 25
                                            State Assembly District 73
                                              State Senate District 7

I’m a strong believer that kindness, firmness and persistence can change any situation. I must also add a great deal
of patience. Those are the qualities all of us - AmeriCorps members find helpful in dealing with our daily tasks
throughout our service. Without them I wouldn’t be where I am with successes I’ve had.

One in particular stands out which is a direct reflection of my personal motto –“never ever give up”, especially on a

My first week of service I was quick to figure out that one particular student was going to be a challenge. He has
already been one for the teachers since he transferred to our school close to the end of last academic year. That
7 grader has already been to 5 different school districts in the years he’s been in public school system.

His Mom gave up on him and he’s been living with his Dad who himself didn’t finish school and was not supportive
at all. That child had troubles with grades and self esteem calling himself a “r-word” and “stupid”. He was
constantly making negative behavioral choices, was very disrespectful of teachers, especially female teachers, and
refused help. I believe his issues with female mentors came from being abandoned by his own mother. He had
troubles demonstrating self-control and lacked confidence in himself and his surroundings.

But what I saw was a fun kid who needed daily practice and instruction. I could feel his potential of a hard-working,
helpful student who responds well to praise. At the beginning, he was barely passing school, and it took him a
while to allow me help him. He was so used to giving up on himself and everyone else. I started helping him in class
and then one-on-one. It was very challenging at first – he used to act up whenever things seemed hard. I knew he
just needed to build up his confidence. His poor behavioral choices made it harder to keep helping him. When he’d
be disrespectful toward me, I had to show him my disapproval by ignoring him for the remainder of the day. It
didn’t take him long to figure out that his attitude didn’t work on me. And pretty soon he’d be following me
around the school asking if I got upset. I knew he was just testing my patience.

Slowly his fun side started to come out. The kids enjoyed having him in class, teachers were amazed with his
engagement level. It was wonderful to see him open up and admit that he’s not so “dumb” like he used to call
himself. Teachers’ positive comments were what he needed. They loved seeing him participate in class instead of

And this quarter he’s working on a B - Honor roll, which makes me tremendously proud of him. What a change
from the beginning of the year!

Thank you, AmeriCorps, for giving me an opportunity to make a difference and see a child smile with confidence as
they enter school each morning.

I’m a second term member serving in Northwood School District helping middle school students strive for bigger
and better.

                                                 Plus One
                                             Sharon Schmidt
                                     DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                       Grantsburg School District
                                      US Congressional District 10
                                       State Assembly District 28
                                          State Senate District 7

My son recently came home to spend a few days with us during his spring break from college. He is a
senior who has enjoyed an extraordinary collegiate athletic and academic career. There are only a few
moments in your child’s life where they pause and share their life plans with you. This was one of those
times. Although he has already had job offers and gone on interviews, for what appears to be a solid and
secure future, our son has decided that there is more to his life than simply achieving personal financial
success. He shared, “Everything I have ever done in my life that meant anything to me—the things I
have done that truly define me—I have done for something bigger than myself.” He has decided to
dedicate his life to the service of others.

“Everything I have ever done in my life that meant anything to me—the things I have done that truly
define me—I have done for something bigger than myself.” My son’s words echo in my heart and swim
in my head. They shout from my daily life as an AmeriCorps member. I, too, have found a place in the
service of others, specifically children, as I tutor and mentor elementary students in rural Wisconsin. My
goals have never been as bold as my son’s. Yet, I, too, have found that the best living is found in giving….
And the best gift is yourself.

As an AmeriCorps member serving the Grantsburg School District, I have made connections with so
many students. Through this service opportunity I have connected with this community in a way that is
unique to AmeriCorps. Through this dedicated time, members can freely give the gift of themselves as
mentors, tutors, volunteer coordinators, and through community service.

When I look back on this experience, I will not think of the things that made me a successful AmeriCorps
member as much as I will see the faces of the children and community members that have made
connections through the opportunities of my service to them. My memories are a collage of faces,
smiles, tears, and hard work. People coming together to guarantee our children have the tools they
need to be successful and find happiness in their lives. Their successes are my “raises” and their
triumphs are my “promotions”.

I knew that the students I encounter each day are directly affected by the work of my AmeriCorps
service. What I underestimated was the power this service had to change lives indirectly. I have
experienced the change in myself, been a part of the significant growth in the lives of students, and seen
what an impact AmeriCorps can have on a community. But, perhaps, the greatest, most significant
power in AmeriCorps service is the ripple effect. The numbers of people we cannot count because there
isn’t a spot on our progress report for them. And I am proud to say, that among them, I count my son.

Sharon is a second year AmeriCorps member serving in Grantsburg.

                                          Never Give Up Hope
                                            Molly Schweitzer
                                     DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                        Pecatonica School District
                                       US Congressional District 3
                                       State Assembly District 80
                                         State Senate District 27

I graduated in Elementary Education from Edgewood College and was unemployed. What am I going to
do? How am I going to live? Do I find a different job that doesn’t have to do with what I went to school
for? These are just a few things that I kept asking myself day after day. There isn’t anything that can
prepare you for the rejection letters and phone calls saying that someone was better qualified. I knew I
had to do something to get more experience in the classroom.

School had already started, and I was ready to give up on hope of getting a job when that I received a
phone call, and on the other end I hear a kind voice, “Hi Molly, this is Sarah calling from the Pecatonica
School District. I have an AmeriCorps position open and was wondering if you would be interested in
meeting with me and talking more about this position.” Now I had new questions. What is AmeriCorps?
What will I be doing? Do I get paid? Do I have to travel somewhere? When I arrive at school, my
stomach is tossing and turning. I walk into the school, and I’m greeted with a very friendly, “Hello,” from
the school secretary. My nerves are gone, and I realize this is where I belong.

Being an AmeriCorps member is an unforgettable experience. On my first day, the students and staff
welcomed me with open arms and hearts. I begin my days meeting the children at the bus to make sure
they get off to a good start. Then I tutor kindergarten and first grade students on math and reading.
Watching them grow and overcome obstacles has been an experience itself. For a half hour every day, I
have my 1st grade RTI (Response to Intervention) Reading group. We work together 3 days a week on
reading and reading strategies. I spend 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon in our 4k
program. I help students with behavior issues and work with small groups during center time. I get to
spend a half hour working with the 4th and 5th graders in a RTI Reading group. I am fortunate to work
with a wonderful staff that has allowed me to work and meet with the five different reading levels
throughout the year. At the end of my day, I tutor a few students twice a week in math and reading.

Every day I look forward to going to school and I know that I will be blessed with new experiences and
new challenges. Working as an AmeriCorps member has taught me how important it is for everyone to
share just a little bit of time and volunteer. It has also shown me that the community service projects I
have coordinated make a difference in our students, our school, and our community. I have enjoyed my
time as an AmeriCorps member and am very pleased to take away many great memories.

This is my first year as an AmeriCorps Member at the Pecatonica School District.

                                                 Familiar Face
                                                Jessica Smuda
                                       DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                        Spooner Area School District
                                        US Congressional District 25
                                         State Assembly District 73
                                            State Senate District 7

Familiar faces
In the hall, the classes
The routine,
Seeing and hearing
In the same places

Where time demands,
So many different people
To match their paces

The high order stands;
This is life in one facet
But the negative
Branding happens
Quickly – and it sticks,
Fast sometimes

It takes taking the time
To unwind the
Keep their heads, above water

Seeing and hearing
Frustrations, day-to-day
Elations, arguments
And “story-time”
Voices in their many
Tones, separately tuned
And lined

Listening here day-to-day
This is life, in glimpses at a time,
Finding a way to find

Getting to know
People coming and going
Parents, retired, service-inspired
The small town “I’ve seen you
A smile, a hand, a voice
Not so much the filling in the gap,
But the offering of the choice, the chance,
A way to get back,
Out of the dark

A community reviving itself
Willing to be
To follow and lead
Serving the need
Teaching dedication,
Resilience, and patience,
Seeing these time-giving, talented, “older
Peers,” our volunteers,
Sharing the struggle,
Helping defeat the aversion
And fears that have sprung up
Over the years,
Teaching all ages to look
To the future

Doing the math
Reading between the words
A task
Finally done, but
Celebrated for stepping,
Closer to a goal-set path

Seeing and hearing the
Grin and grasp of
The small victories

The different ways,
Re-directing the stray
Meanderings that occur
At an age when home, friends, and school
All blur, giving one only a narrow
Idea of the amazing myriad of
Individuals, still growing,
Still learning,
Telling them to keep going, one
Step at a time
Still being there
Someone to trust, someone to turn to
When they open a book and have lost their place
Simply, a familiar face

Jessica Smuda graduated in December 2010 with a Bachelor’s Degree in English Education. She has been grateful
for the chance to come back to Spooner and be a part of the schools and community, seeing how much they can
benefit from one another.

                                         I Love What I Do
                                            Patty Steen
                                 DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                Northwood School District, Minong
                                   US Congressional District 25
                                    State Assembly District 73
                                      State Senate District 7

As a proud AmeriCorps member and a mother of five children, I’ve learned so much about
myself and my community. This is my second year in Northwood school district which is located
in Minong, Wisconsin, population 575. During the past year, I came to realize the desperate
needs of our students as well as our community. There are so few resources offered to this
community. My goal is to mentor and tutor students who are at risk of dropping out of school
and not graduating.

Some students learn at a different pace and while in the classroom, it’s harder for them to get
the extra time that perhaps is needed. I am very glad that I can come into the classrooms and
assist the teachers to help where help is needed. It is very rewarding when you see these
students overcoming so many obstacles and shine at the end of the day. Just bonding and
getting to know them has been an extremely rewarding journey.

In order to gain the students’ trust, I had to be a good listener and open minded. I target their
assignments after a nice talk. Their attitudes have changed tremendously. You could even see
their pride on what they have achieved so far. Some of my students now look forward to going
to college. Just saying hello with a smile every day to these students had made an impact. This
is why I love what I do. I look forward to working with these students who have changed my life
and goals.

This is my second year serving in this school district.

                                           My Teachers
                                        Elizabeth Stenroos
                                 DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                      Hurley School District
                                  US Congressional District 25
                                   State Assembly District 74
                                      State Senate District 7

It is amazing what a child can teach an adult. I have been tutoring and mentoring 14 kids this
year but two boys stand out, one in reading and the other in everything including math. The
first boy, we will call him David for his privacy, is in second grade. He gets to come and read
with me. He is kind of shy and usually whispers when he reads. The great thing about David is
when he is struggling with a word I watch him to see if he needs help or not. About the time I’m
going to give him a clue he says the word out loud and most of the time he is correct. I tell him
good job and he smiles his shy smile and keeps reading. From him I have learned good things
come with time, and to let others take their time, you never know what you might hear. He
smiles at me and says hi when he sees me now in school.

The second boy, we will call him Jim, is in first grade and I didn’t understand his Math. First
grade math, what 40 year old doesn’t understand that? Me, that’s who. We were working on
adding two digit numbers with a zero, such as 10+27. The good news was I knew the answer
but the bad news was I didn’t know how to show him how to get the answer. I tried using my
fingers, nope so I changed the direction the problem which was from left to right to up and
down. Still, no luck. I had teachers coming and telling me he was just being stubborn and being
disrespectful but I still had to figure out why he didn’t get it. About this time he is frustrated, I
was frustrated and confused and in comes his mom. I can tell by the look on her face she’s not
too happy either, so I explain what is going on and let her know he has a test on Friday, today is
Wednesday, so I hope she understands it better as I’m lost.

The next day Jim’s teacher comes to me to apologize for his behavior as the teachers let her
know he was rude and disrespectful to me. I asked her what I could have done about the math
problems then asked if I could come to her math class to learn the new math. She said yes and
had Jim sit with me and “teach” me. After I watched her for a while I got it. I was able to get Jim
to do it too. Now I go to first grade math three or four times a week and Jim sits with me and
“helps” me with math. Jim taught me that older people can learn math a new way.

I am recently divorced. I am the primary care giver to two children, Jasmine 17, and Larry 14
1/2. It has been a stressful year for the three of us. We live in a “suburb” of Hurley known as
Kimball. We have a dog, a cat, a fish, and a frog.

                                      Given Opportunities
                                           Cheng Thao
                                DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                     DPI WEOP, Green Bay
                                  US Congressional District 2
                                    State Assembly District 4
                                     State Senate District 8

This is my first year as an AmeriCorps member. After meeting and getting to know the people
who have the same goals and values as I do, I felt like this was second family to me. I recently
graduated from college with a Business Administration and applied for this AmeriCorps
member position. Even though I graduated with a Business degree, my passion is with helping
students to succeed and reach that higher Education. During my time so far, I believe that I’m
making a difference in these low income/first generation family’s lives by offering the
opportunities and letting them know the choices they can make now to help them get to where
they want to be in the future. I work directly with middle school students in the Green Bay
Public school district area. How we reach out to these students are through our Gear Up
program by conducting monthly school visits. By conducting monthly school visits, this provides
us with interaction with each student, keeping track of academic performance, their concerns,
measuring academic growth throughout the years, etc. The students in our Gear Up program
are provided with opportunity involving career exploration and career counseling. I believe that
the AmeriCorps member program has nothing but impacting and making a difference in their
community and people’s lives for the better.

Cheng is a first year AmeriCorps member with the Service for Learning and Life Program.

                                          The Power of Listening
                                              Jade Williamson
                                      DPI Service for Learning and Life
                                            Edgar School District
                                       US Congressional District 23
                                        State Assembly District 69
                                           State Senate District 7

There have been moments while being an AmeriCorps volunteer that I have struggled with staying
motivated and positive due to those challenging days that occasionally creep up on us all. The daily
discussion with students to stay focused on the task, to try harder on their schoolwork, or to complete
their homework in the evening, can all lead to a feeling of frustration and questioning over time. Why
am I trying so hard if in the end it goes in one ear and out the other? Then, the answer slowly appears as
a students’ background and familial situation is brought to light.

That bright, bubbly student has suddenly grown distant and quiet due to a parent having an affair.

That creative student who worries about not having a boyfriend or a date to a dance confides that she
does not feel loved at home.

That young child working so hard to please her teacher soon reveals to the counselor that a divorce is
taking place between her parents.

And then there is that child who snaps at a little question being asked and states that he is turning into
his father.

There is always a back story to every individual, big or small, adult or child, white or black. While it is
always easy to skim the surface and formulate an opinion, it’s what’s going on deep inside these
children that truly matter. As the guidance counselor and I were just talking, it’s that invisible chain link
wrapped around a child’s neck that gets too heavy to carry anymore, and being able to understand and
acknowledge that these children are struggling in more than one way is powerful.

While learning to read and to complete math problems are important skills to build, it is equally
important (if not more important) to build up these particular students’ confidence and self-esteem. So
here’s what I’ve learned to do: listen. Listen to the everyday stories. Listen to the happy stories and the
sad stories. Listen to the positive stories and the negative stories. And let them know you care. Let them
know you’re proud of them. Let them know that they are talented and gifted in some way. As the stories
continue and the encouragement continues, it’s very possible that the learning in the classroom will also

I am a first year AmeriCorps volunteer at Edgar Public Schools. I have a special place in my heart for
those children who have to experience so many struggles.


                                     Making an Impression
                                          Ariel Beutel
                                     Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                  U.S. Congressional District: 6
                                   State Assembly District 41
                                    State Senate District 14

Through each Easter Seals Respite Weekend it is uncommon that a counselor would be placed
with the same camper more than once, as there are a number of campers coming into the
program and rotating through them provides new opportunities not only for the counselor but
also for the camper. As a programmer, I do not get the experience of being directly linked to a
single camper during each weekend; I do however get the privilege of spending a little bit of
time with each camper and being a co-counselor to a number of volunteers.

Two camp weekends in a row I was a co-counselor to two different people with the same
camper. This was the closest I have been to being able to build a relationship for longer than
ten minutes with a camper. The camp weekend following the second time I co-counseled for
this camper, he returned and instantly gravitated toward me. His eyes lit up and he became
more vocal, he reached out to me and grabbed my hand wanting to take me everywhere with
him. As a programmer, he saw me many times throughout the weekend and always wanted my
undivided attention. It felt great to know that I made such an impression on him that he desired
to be near me and felt comfortable around me.

Autobiography: My name is Ariel Beutel and I am a junior at the University of Wisconsin La
Crosse. I am studying Therapeutic Recreation and took this position to broaden my experience
and learn about different disabilities as well as programming so that I can apply it to my future

                                      Discussing Understanding
                                          Gretchen Biemann
                                        Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                     U.S. Congressional District: 2
                                      State Assembly District: 77
                                       State Senate District: 26

In my service term so far the most rewarding experience I’ve had has been presenting the Avenues
to Understanding disability awareness curriculum at Grant Elementary School. As I prepared for the
presentations I would be doing in all eleven classrooms at the school I was really looking forward to
them but after completing my visit I realized that I had gotten more out of the experience than I
had even anticipated.

Having studied the curriculum and worked with children before I wasn’t nervous going into the
presentations. If anything it turns out I had over prepared, trying to include more activities than a
30 minute lesson would allow. I at first I did try to pack in all the activities I had planned; after all,
these activities were supposed to be fun so that they would hold the kids’ interest while presenting
the important message of understanding and respect for people with disabilities! Despite my efforts
to get to everything I had hoped to do questions from the kids and discussion quickly took
precedence. While this could have been frustrating I realized it wasn’t. Sure, not all of the questions
and comments were on topic but that was to be expected from elementary school kids. The
majority of the discussion was relevant and the questions the kids posed were legitimate questions
that clarified something they didn’t get or wanted to understand better. I realized that, while it may
not have been what I planned for, the discussion of the ideas I presented was really helping the kids
get the message, possibly better than cramming a bunch of activities into a half an hour might have.

The kids really got it too. Through their comments and questions I could tell that the kids really
understood the idea that while people with disabilities might seem different they, like everyone
else, deserved to be treated with respect and kindness; which is really what I hoped to achieve.
Even though it wasn’t exactly how I envisioned the presentations going it was amazing to see that
these kids really absorbed the message and to know that I had helped them gain that

Autobiography: Gretchen is serving as the AmeriCorps Disability Awareness Liaison at Easter Seals
Wisconsin, an agency that provides services to people of various abilities across the state of

                                         Abigail Bissonette
                                       Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                    U.S. Congressional District 6
                                     State Assembly District 41
                                      State Senate District 14

“There is nothing wrong with anyone. There is just something different with everyone.” This quote
from an incredibly wise camper last weekend basically sums up what I have learned by serving at
Easter Seals Wisconsin Respite Camp. We as a society are too quick to label people who are
considered different from us. Until we recognize that each person has something to contribute, we
will miss precious lessons to be learned.

My first weekend at camp was eye-opening. My camper did not want to participate in any of the
activities, no matter how I asked. He wanted to sit in the lodge, so that is what we did. I have never
spent so much time wondering what another person was thinking. Watching him, I just had a
feeling (and still do) that he had so much more insight and awareness of what was going on than
most people do, but he just did not know how to express it.

Even after pondering the above, I felt discouraged about how the weekend was going because we
had not moved from the table, much less the lodge, all day. At dinner, my camper gave me one of
the best gifts ever: one of his raisins. To most people, a raisin does not mean much. To me, this
gift was my camper reaching out to me, showing me that he appreciated my sitting with him—being
who he most needed me to be in that moment.

When we are young, our parents tell us “don’t judge a book by its cover.” However, most of us do
not truly practice what we preach. Instead of seeing and defining people by a title, injury, or
disability, we need to see them for what they are: people! As another camper observed last
weekend, “You always keep autism. It just matters how you deal with it. Some people have more
obstacles than others.” I realized that this can be applied to anything people struggle with. I must
be patient and willing to serve others regardless of the obstacles I will encounter. And also
recognize that I need others to help me overcome my own obstacles. We all need each other.

Autobiography: In addition to serving at camp, Abigail Bissonette is also completing her junior year
at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside. She hopes to continue serving at camp for a few weeks
during the summer.

                                         Learning Time
                                          Ron Butkus
                                     Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                  U.S. Congressional District: 6
                                   State Assembly District 41
                                    State Senate District 14

Someone once said to me that if you put a smile on someone’s face you have done your duty
for the day. To me this is very true, laughter is a great gift to give and receive. At camp you
cannot get away without a smile during a weekend at Respite Camp. During a weekend at
camp I was told to have one of the hardest campers that came to camp. The camper was
aggressive, messy, and sometimes hard to be around from what I was told. I was nervous and
somewhat hesitant of being this camper’s counselor. After I got to know this camper he was
by far my most favorite camper to be around. This camper had a smile that would light you up
and provide you with a fulfilling sense of gratitude. The moral of the story is that if you think
something will be hard and difficult you will fail, but if you go into a situation with a positive
mind set you will succeed and maybe even gain something from an experience. I have learned
that trying new things and continuing learning and being open to new, sometimes hard things,
is the best way to learn. You can hear things from others about anything, but the truth is
experience is everything. If you don’t try something you will never have the knowledge of
knowing if you like it or not.

                                             A Few Reminders
                                              Patricia Cavaleri
                                          Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                       U.S. Congressional District: 6
                                        State Assembly District: 41
                                         State Senate District: 14

If someone asked me who my role model is, my answer would be the campers I have met while serving
at Respite Camp. Yes, technically my answer should not count since it is not one single person. The
problem is, there are so many amazing campers that it is hard to pick one that is more inspirational than
another. Every weekend, there are new campers to meet and learn amazing life lessons from.

One camper loves life so much that her smile brightens a room. She hugs anyone willing to hug her back.
Her hugs are a reminder that there is always something to smile about.

Another camper loves to laugh at any joke or silly comment you make. While walking from point A to
point B may take him a little longer than most people I pass on the street, watch out if he races you. He
runs so fast that he is like a flash. A reminder to never underestimate someone.

One boy sang and danced for an entire day while singing, “Everybody, get up and boogie.” He taught me
to remember to let loose and have fun. If you spontaneously feel like dancing and singing, just dance
and sing your heart out.

While running around on a playground, an eleven year-old boy and I started a conversation talking
about his basketball heroes. Then he transitioned the conversation to a philosophical debate about life,
death, heaven, hell, earth, and the universe. Amazing and thought-provoking conversations can happen
anywhere, at any time, with anyone.

Twin boys recently shared their perspectives on life. One stated, “You always keep autism. It just
matters how you deal with it. Some people have more obstacles than others.” The other added, “There's
nothing wrong with anybody. There is just something different with everybody.” They are incredibly
inspiring and remind others to see the special inside everyone.

With all of these beautiful souls, it is impossible to pick one that has influenced my life more than the
others. So, I stick by my answer that I have more than one role model.

Autobiography: In between camp sessions in the Dells, Patricia is completing her last semester of
undergraduate work. She is looking forward to following up her term with an entire summer of Camp.

                                    Supporting and Building Identities
                                             Megan DuFrane
                                         Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                       U.S. Congressional District 2
                                        State Assembly District 77
                                         State Senate District 26

Serving my second school year term as the AmeriCorps Camp Outreach Coordinator for Easter Seals
Wisconsin, I have developed an everlasting connection to this organization and the people we serve.

While serving time programming for our unique camp weekend programs, there is one weekend
specifically that stands out among the rest of any others over the past year and a half I have been
serving. Our Transition program provides young adults with a variety of disabilities who are in the
process of transitioning in one way or another. Whether transitioning between high school to college,
living on their own, or looking for a job, we provide multiple resources and activities revolved around
social interactions, budgeting, and independence related sessions. Having the ability to take part in the
action of developing all of these campers’ knowledge to gain a more independent way of living, discover
various opportunities, and build up their confidence, is the most rewarding and heart-touching
experience that I can say I have ever contributed to.

One girl specifically, is a contributing factor to why I love my AmeriCorps position. She has consistently
opened my eyes to an entirety of realizations that forever put any life challenges into perspective.

During our past Transition weekend, she attended Transition camp knowing that her birthday was on
that Saturday. We of course celebrated her birthday the traditional way with the other campers and
staff, by making her a cake, and singing happy birthday. But, when I instantly knew I was in the right
place at the right time, was when I was asked to do her nails, hair, and makeup. Though I have styled her
hair and done her nails before, in those moments I realized I was the person that was allowing her to
feel beautiful. The relationship that we share shows to me the specific and unique value of the impact I
am making. Every time we have our conversations, she holds my hand while we talk. The strengths and
challenges she has struggled through are building blocks to everything she has and will become. She is a
strong and amazing young woman, who continues to prove to me the importance and definition of life
through her words and actions.

Everyone will face difficult challenges throughout their lives, but whether you choose to present
yourself with a positive or negative outlook on how the experiences changed you, will only determine
the identity which others will see.

Autobiography: I am currently a junior at Edgewood College studying Education and Spanish. Once I
graduate in the spring of 2013, I want to work with a non-profit organization in Central America for a
while, and will attend graduate school to further study Autism Spectrum Disorders.

                                   Discovering my Epiphany
                                         Kassie Dunbar
                                     Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                  U.S. Congressional District 6
                                   State Assembly District 41
                                    State Senate District 14

Since January 2012, I have been serving as an AmeriCorps member with Easter Seals Wisconsin.
My placement site is at the Easter Seals Respite Camp in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin. During my
childhood, my family took many trips to Wisconsin Dells to enjoy the various waterparks. I
never knew until beginning my AmeriCorps experience that the Easter Seals camp existed. I am
serving as a Respite Apprentice where I serve one-on-one with a camper. As an apprentice, I
provide assistance with personal cares, meals, activities, and anything else the camper may
need assistance with. The campers who attend a respite weekend are individuals of different
ages and with a range of disabilities. Coming into the position, I believed I had the experience
needed to become a Respite Apprentice. Outside of serving my AmeriCorps position, I am a
full-time Social Worker within a medical setting. This experience has given me more
appreciation for the certified nursing assistant and nursing staff that provide direct care to the
residents and patients where I work.

As a Social Worker, I am not able to spend such a length one-to-one, twenty-four-hour,
weekend with my clients. In this position I have had the opportunity to completely give myself
to a camper for a weekend. I have learned not only who I am and who I can be, but of who the
very special campers are that attend the respite weekends. I believe I have made a difference
for the campers within this program and the families that are able to have a weekend of
respite. I have especially enjoyed allowing the campers I have served with to experience a
weekend in an environment where they are truly accepted by all around them. It is an amazing
feeling to know that families and/or caregivers trust their loved one in my hands for a weekend.
I am proud to serve as a member of AmeriCorps with Easter Seals.

I have discovered my epiphany that no matter what experience you believe you have,
something else unknown lies ahead of you ready to teach you, broaden your experience,
discover yourself, and most importantly, help others along the way.

Autobiography: I am a married, 25 year-old female. I live in Western Wisconsin and I am
employed as a Social Worker within a medical setting. I enjoy spending time with my husband,
family, and friends.

                                  A Volunteer’s Experience
                                        Rachel Eggers
                                    Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 6
                                  State Assembly District 41
                                   State Senate District 14

I have had many wonderful experiences at Easter Seals Respite Camp. Respite Camp is full of
great experiences for our campers and a rest for caregivers. Although each of these things are
very important, one of the things that is most memorable from this semester came to me while
talking to a parent when they were picking up their camper.

This camper has come to many weekends and is usually matched with a volunteer. After
talking to this parent, I had a whole new perspective on the experience of a volunteer at camp.
This parent started off by stating how much she appreciates our services and the many
incredible things that we do for her son. After that she went on to explain her experience while
working with volunteers at camp. When she arrives with her son, the volunteer introduces
themselves and always seems extremely nervous. They are always afraid of doing something
wrong or not being able to give quality care to their camper. When she returns to pick up her
son, the volunteers always have had a great weekend and are much more self-confident. This
parent just seemed to be so thankful to be able to see these changes in the volunteers.

I think this is important because so much of the time is focused on the abilities of the campers
or the break we are able to give to the parents and not a lot on how much these campers
change our own lives. By having this experience, you are able to push yourself and become a
better person. Camp gives counselors the opportunity to take care of another person and have
a great weekend. This opportunity would not be available without the support of AmeriCorps
Respite Apprentices.

I am a senior at UW-La Crosse majoring in Therapeutic Recreation and hope to work with
children with autism in my future.

                                           Laura Finley
                                      Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                   U.S. Congressional District: 2
                                    State Assembly District: 77
                                     State Senate District: 26

Serving as an AmeriCorps Member through the FARM Program has been a great experience
that I can say has impacted my life greatly. First of all I love the experience of enrolling a client
and seeing them successfully make it through our program with a great experience and an
awesome outcome. Since I know the work load a farmer has on a day to day basis I can
completely relate to them on how difficult it can be, especially with a disability and that’s why I
think I enjoy serving as an AmeriCorps Member for the FARM Program as much as I do. I get
such a self-rewarding feeling when I successfully enroll a client into our program, or when I get
a post-survey in the mail and the comments on the back say “Thank you, without you I wouldn’t
be able to farm!” these are the type of things that make me well aware that I am in a great
program and serving for a great purpose!

Another reason I am so grateful to be a part of such a great team is the affect it has had on
other opportunities I have had. I have always wanted to be the Wisconsin Holstein Princess for
the Wisconsin Holstein Association. I went through a process of interviews, speeches and
luncheons to obtain this goal, during my interview I would say the judges spent thirty minutes
just asking me questions about Easter Seals Wisconsin, AmeriCorps and AgrAbility. They were
so impressed by the goal of our partnership; to help farmers with disabilities to make their
everyday life easier, so that they don’t have to give up the one thing they have been doing for
their entire life. I think this was a large part of why I was awarded the Wisconsin Holstein
Princess for 2012-2013.

                                       Sleepless at Camp
                                           Sara Harris
                                     Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                  U.S. Congressional District: 6
                                   State Assembly District 41
                                    State Senate District 14

I snapped my head up and forced my eyes to stay open. I only had eleven-and-a-half minutes of
cabin duty left. It was 11:48 (and about thirty seconds); I could last until midnight. I looked
down at my book. Maybe I could focus on that and stay awake for the, I checked my watch,
nine-and-three-quarter minutes that were left of my cabin duty. I tried to look at my book, to
focus on the words, the letters of which seemed to be shrinking on the page. And dancing. Why
were they dancing? I couldn’t read when the letters were dancing. I checked my watch again.
Eight minutes to go. I squirmed in my chair, glad that it was uncomfortable and not conducive
to sleeping. As soon as I got into bed, I was going to sleep until the wake-up call. The last five
minutes of that cabin watch were interminably long. Admittedly, I snuck into my bed a minute
early. It was either that or go to sleep in my chair and fall out of it. As soon as my head hit my
pillow, I was out, gone, dead asleep. Eight hours. I could do that. Very easily.

Four hours and twenty-three minutes later…

Bundled up against the cold, I got my camper out of the cabin as quickly and quietly as possible.
I did not want any of the other campers to wake up. I was so, so tired. I really wanted to go
back to sleep. Really, really wanted to. Instead, my camper and I headed down to the lodge.
The cold night helped to wake me up. Not by much, but enough that I did not trip over my own
feet or my camper’s wheelchair. When we got down to the lodge, we sat on the couch and
settled in. I was on one side, doing my best to sit up straight so that I would not nod off; my
camper was on the other, playing with one of the toys I had brought down. I would have given a
lot to be able to be back in bed, my camper sleeping peacefully in the next bed over. But then,
my camper crawled into my lap and curled up. There we sat for the next couple of hours, her
sitting in my lap, both of us playing with her toys. It was a great feeling. Though I knew I would
be exhausted later in the day, I was happy that I got to spend this time with my camper. I love
going to camp; when it is not a camp weekend, I cannot wait to get back; on the drive down to
camp, I am so excited. Being sleepless at camp is well worth it.

                                    The Kind of Friend a Friend Would Like to Have
                                                     Sarah E. Hart
                                                Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                              US Congressional District 6
                                              State Assembly District 41
                                                State Senate District 14

In service, I am practical by design. Much of my service involves dealing with the nuts and bolts of things, seeing
things in black and white, and being able to juggle sometimes hundreds of different elements at the same time.

Don’t get me wrong – I love what I do. I love serving at two camps for people with disabilities. It’s just that my
service occasionally involves doing mundane tasks with a smile on my face. It takes a lot of time and focus and
elbow grease to fulfill all of my daily responsibilities.

But while I’m usually very practical, goal-oriented, and focused, I am a poet at my core, and there are people who
inspire me to lay down practicality and simply speak with my heart. I’d like to tell you about one of those people

I’ll refer to her as “my friend.”

“My friend” is a camper who comes to our weekend and summer respite sessions. At 21 years of age, she is
learning to feed herself and still wears briefs. She does not speak, but in her own way, she manages to get her
point across. She doesn’t have to say anything to make everyone feel welcome. From the moment she gets out of
the car, she is squealing, laughing, and giving huge hugs to everyone in sight.

She adores wheelchairs, small children, jackets with hoods, backpacks, and doing “cheers” with beverages. Every
time I see her she squeals, runs towards me, and flings her arms around me. And every time she does it, she
makes me feel like the most important person in the world.

I pity whoever is not big enough to realize that there is more in life than money, power, and status. I pity those
who cannot see that the most beautiful things are the ones we pay for with hard work and devotion. The most
priceless things in my life are those that didn’t cost me anything – like her smile, and her hugs, and in a million
things I’m so privileged to earn.

So I might serve as an AmeriCorps member, and I might receive a living stipend, but the most important things I
earn don’t go into my bank account – they go into my heart – they inspire me to be a bigger person.

My friend motivates me to celebrate love every single day. Without saying a word, without any power or status,
she simply radiates joy and happiness, and everyone lucky enough to stand in her sunshine just soaks it up. And
she has no idea what sort of an impact she’s had on my life.

My friend, who has never understood money, still manages to pay me so much, and provide me with so many
benefits, and I will never be able to repay her.

                                  From the Outside Looking In
                                       Elizabeth Hermsen
                                     Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                  U.S. Congressional District: 6
                                   State Assembly District 41
                                     State Senate District 14

Easter Seals Respite Camp is a camp for individuals with different physical, emotional,
behavioral, and cognitive disabilities. The great thing about this camp is that there is one
camper per one counselor. This is great so the campers can get the most out of the weekend.
One of the weekends I was able hang out with an amazing eight year old boy. Since I have been
coming to camp for over a year I have seen the boy before but have never been his counselor.
Also, I had heard that he had surgery and had not been there for a few months. It was amazing
to see his progress in his walking and interaction with other campers. The difference a different
medical plan can make in enhancing this child’s everyday life is amazing and I cannot wait to
see all the progress he makes in the future.

Autobiography: I am 21 years old and studying Studies in Education and Psychology at
Edgewood College in Madison, WI. I love to work with children and hope someday to be able to
work for myself and be a Child Life Specialist for a school district. Children are our future and
helping them develop in life is the best way we can plan for a better future.

                                  There is no place like camp!
                                          Ben Hughes
                                     Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                  U.S. Congressional District: 6
                                   State Assembly District 41
                                    State Senate District 14

Camp is a place where great memories are made every time you are there. This past weekend
there was a great memory that will be a part of my life forever. At camp we do a lot of fun
activities and we get to interact with our campers and find out a lot about them. This past
week there was a group of us doing an art project laughing and having a good time. All of the
sudden one of my friends with autism stopped everything and told us one of the best quotes I
ever heard. His quote was that, “you always keep autism. It just matters how you deal with it.
Some people have more obstacles than others.” After all of us started tearing up his twin
brother also shared a quote that really touched my heart. He quoted that, “There’s nothing
wrong with anybody. There’s just something different with everybody.” These quotes are
always going to be a part of me in many ways. I have been looking for ideas for a tattoo for a
long time and I have not been able to find something that meant enough for me to get it
tattooed. After I heard these quotes I knew that one of these quotes is what I needed to get
and I am now a few weeks away from getting it tattooed. My friends at camp have had such a
huge impact on my life and have really made me realize that no matter what difficulties in life
you have, you can always overcome them with a good attitude.

Growing up I have always wanted to do something that makes me happy in life and also making
others happy. I decided to start serving at camp because I felt like this was the perfect place for
me, and I was right. Every day all I can think about is going back to camp, and the second I
leave all I want to do is go back. There is no place like camp!

                                         Hitting Home
                                          April Jordan
                                    Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                  U.S. Congressional District 2
                                   State Assembly District 77
                                    State Senate District 26

As an AmeriCorps member at the Easter Seals Wisconsin FARM Program I serve as the Assistive
Technology Assistant. My position is mostly in the office researching potential assistive
technologies for farmers with disabilities and then obtaining estimates for the Specialist’s
report. I did get the opportunity to go with a Specialist to a farm to see firsthand how our
services impact the community.

The fact that the farm we were going to visit was in my hometown really opened my eyes. Most
of the farmers I have been able to serve are from all across the state and it never occurred to
me that farmers in my area could be in need of assistance. Although I had never met this
person previously, this really brought home the fact that my service matters as I was able to
help a farmer in my hometown.

At the farm visit we spoke with the farmer and toured the operation. It reminded me of some
of my neighbors and their operations and I began to think of who I know that we could be able
to help. After the visit on my way back to Madison I thought about what we had discussed at
this meeting and how it was so vital to the community to keep even this one farmer in business.
Each farm, big or small, plays an important role in the community and to see them fall is

Later on, when I was visiting my parents at the farm I grew up on I noticed that each comment
of “my back hurts” or “my knees hurt” from my parents made me jump at the chance to
promote Easter Seals and the work that they do. Although they may not qualify yet for assistive
technology, I would rather have them receive assistance than let our farm fall and I’m sure that
they feel the same way.

Autobiography: April Jordan is a junior at the University of Wisconsin Madison. She is majoring
in Life Sciences Communications and after graduation she would like to work in agricultural

                                              Reflection Piece
                                                 Leah Miller
                                           Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                        U.S. Congressional District: 8
                                         State Assembly District: 57
                                          State Senate District: 19

I began my service with AmeriCorps in the fall of 2010 and the program had such an effect on me that I
applied for a second term of service in the fall of 2011. The people that I have been able to serve
through this program have really had an impact on my future after I graduate college from Lawrence
University. I want to find a career that has similar service goals like that of Easter Seals Wisconsin. I want
to continue creating outreach events for those with disabilities and this past winter I was able to go
abroad and further my experience with people with disabilities. I was able to go to Sierra Leone, Africa
and complete a research project that focused on outreach support to individuals with physical
disabilities. I know that I would not have done this project without the knowledge I gained from my
AmeriCorps service.

I serve at the Disability Helpline of Appleton, Wisconsin and throughout my past two years there I have
been able to focus my time on outreach support programs. I have helped implement the marketing and
development strategies of the Autism Family Network, which has helped create a higher and consistent
percentage of participants. The Autism Family Network focuses on giving children with autism an
opportunity to experience recreational activities in a safe environment. In my second term of service
with the Helpline I was able to continue my strategies with the Autism Family Network and help create a
new group for teens with physical disabilities called Teens United for Fun & Support or TUFFS. This
group is a teen social group that allows teens with physical disabilities to get together and do fun
activities together. We really wanted to make sure that this group was more about teens hanging out,
rather than just a support group. The numbers of teens joining the group continues to increase and all
the teens love the group. I am hoping that this group will continue to grow and be very successful,
because the teens in the group really do enjoy it.

Personally the AmeriCorps program has impacted me in such a great way. I have been able to serve with
amazing children and teens that believe that the service I am doing with Easter Seals is something that is
really helping to make their lives better. Programs like the Autism Family Network and TUFFS have
created an amazing social atmosphere for these children and teens. I know that without them telling me
how much they appreciate what I have done, I would have never been able to go to Africa to try to
create similar programs. Overall, my service as an AmeriCorps member at Easter Seals Wisconsin has
completely changed my outlook on life. From the AmeriCorps program I know that I have had a positive
impact on many families, have made a difference in their lives, and I am only 22 years old. The
AmeriCorps program allowed me to complete one of my biggest goals at such a young age and that is
truly amazing.

                                     The Time of My Life
                                      Kaylee O’Connor
                                   Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                U.S. Congressional District: 6
                                 State Assembly District 41
                                  State Senate District 14

I currently serve at Easter Seals Wisconsin as a Respite Apprentice. There are nine members
and we all wear our AmeriCorps shirts and logos. One afternoon I was helping a camper with an
art craft and he asked me why so many people wore those shirts. I told him what AmeriCorps
was and what we did. I told him that there were many different things that AmeriCorps did and
explained how we serve communities. He then told me he would one day like to be an
AmeriCorps member. I asked him what he wanted to do. He thought about it for a second and
then said that he wanted to serve at camp. He said that he wanted to help campers the way
that camp had helped him. This is just one moment of literally hundreds that makes me realize
AmeriCorps is where I need to be.

                                       The Best Service of My Life
                                             Abbie Schwaller
                                          Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                       U.S. Congressional District: 6
                                        State Assembly District 41
                                         State Senate District 14

I have done service at another camp previously, but that was more with campers with physical
disabilities. Respite has more campers with cognitive or emotional disabilities. This has been an
adjustment for me. I decided to try another type of camp because I felt that Respite would better fit my
major of special education with an emphasis in cognitive disabilities. From Respite Camp, I found that I
still have a great deal to learn about working with individuals with cognitive disabilities. My first
weekend, I had a camper that was nonverbal and I had to learn how to communicate with her. From
picking up on cues from her mother, and other staff, we were able to communicate. The next weekend, I
had a camper that was nonverbal, liked to pull hair and found everything hilarious. This was a stressful
weekend because he was lower functioning than my previous camper, but I found that when I took the
time to enjoy his laugh and make a game out of pulling my hair, I enjoyed being with him so much more.
On Saturday night, I found a wig, put it on and let him pull it off, and throw it time and time again. This
was a moment for us and I will always remember that something frustrating can be made fun when it is
looked at in a positive way.

The third weekend I was at camp, my camper was again nonverbal but was higher functioning. He loved
swinging, piggyback rides and the feeling of knotted yarn. He hated being in large groups and being
around loud noises. This meant that we would spend most of the days off on our own either on the
playground or in the sensory room. I struggled at first with staying motivated and positive with him, but
again, I made his likes a game and created a relay between the places he loved so we’d be changing out
location every fifteen minutes. This broke up the day and made the day go by much faster. With my last
camper, she was verbal, very high functioning and very particular about what she wanted and when she
wanted it. It started off rough, but from pointers again from her parents and other staff, I noticed that I
needed to give her space, let her have breaks from me and make sure she felt like she was heard. To
allow for this to happen I gave her ticket after ticket for every good behavior that I saw or for her
attempting something that she thought she could not do. With each ticket she earned, she earned time
with someone else or time doing something she wanted to do. The tickets reinforced the positive
behavior, made her feel good about herself and gave us both the break we needed from each other.

From each camper I have developed more confidence in my abilities as a future teacher and that I can
adapt to another individual through time and patience. I see myself as a person dedicated to making
everyone see that their strengths are valued and that they are accepted.

                               My Amazing Service Opportunity
                                       Whitney Sterling
                                    Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                U.S. Congressional District: 6
                                  State Assembly District 41
                                   State Senate District 14

She was abandoned in a hotel room by her family and her foster mom had lovingly accepted
her into her family. As hard as this story was to hear, I grew to learn much more about my
camper that weekend then this horrendous story. I bonded with her on a deeper level than I
did with any other campers this past autumn. I cared for her and taught her how to be more
independent in her personal care skills. She learned how to interact with peers her age as well.
However, it was me who learned more than anyone that weekend. I learned that I take many
things for granted. I learned to slow down and live in the moment, as I will never know what
could happen tomorrow. I learned to pay attention and listen to others thoughts and
emotions. My perspective on how I need to live my life had flipped in a matter of a weekend. I
now strive to spend every moment in happiness. This particular weekend is hard for me to put
into words as so many emotions and thoughts flooded my brain. I feel that specific weekend at
camp helped reinforce my future career choice. I strive to work hard in school to accomplish
my goal of becoming a nurse. I can fully devote my life to helping improve the emotional,
cognitive, and personal needs of others. I feel so blessed that I became inspired to serve others
because of camp. Camp has made me reflect and prioritize what is important in my life, and for
this I am forever grateful. The weekends I spent at camp will never be forgotten.

Autobiography: I am a Pre-Nursing student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who loves
to read and play with my golden retriever in my free time.

                                        Accepting Service
                                          Zach Stollfus
                                     Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                  U.S. Congressional District: 2
                                   State Assembly District: 77
                                    State Senate District: 26

By the time November rolled around I had served as FARM Outreach Assistant with AgrAbility
for several months and was getting to be pretty good at capturing the heart of what we do and
explaining it in a concise way. When talking to people about serving farmers and farm families
affected by disabilities, people always receive the idea warmly and it’s met with questions and
emphatic statements like “that’s so cool!” The reality is that people love a story that moves
from tragedy to triumph and from a place of despair to great hope and the promise of a bright
future. It became increasingly clear that people love these stories and that AgrAbility was a
provider of the stories that people so love to collect.

Part of the way I serve is by collecting some of these stories by traveling to past clients’ homes
and conducting interviews. And even though I had talked to past clients and heard moving
stories it wasn’t until I was at AgrAbility’s yearly board meeting when I really understood the
impact of this type of service. During the meeting, one of the program’s past clients stood, and
instead of sharing his story, he talked about how reluctant he was to receive a free handout and
talked about the inner-struggle he underwent before calling the program. Although he said
little to nothing about his accident or the subsequent surgeries or the pain in his body, he
recognized that a deep and profound change took place inside of him when he made the
decision to accept help. Although at first he saw it as a free handout he now recognized that it
was in humbling himself and accepting the outstretched hand of a stranger, that he was able to
not only regain his independence, but to continue to provide for his family and employees. It’s
interesting that it was in his relinquishing of pride and desire to be independent that he was
able to gain true independence and freedom in his physical body as well as in the way he views

Autobiography: Zach grew up in south-central Wisconsin and recently graduated from the UW’s
College of Agriculture & Life Sciences. He serves as the AmeriCorps FARM Outreach Assistant in
the offices of AgrAbility of Wisconsin.

                                                  Learning at Camp
                                                 Matthew Vitcenda
                                               Easter Seals Wisconsin
                                            U.S. Congressional District: 6
                                             State Assembly District 41
                                              State Senate District 14

As a Clinical Psychology major in college, I learned a lot about various cognitive, emotional, learning and
developmental disorders, giving me a basic understanding of their different biological, psychological and social
underpinnings. Topics about abnormal psychology, neuroscience, health care issues, and bioethics fascinated me. I
enjoyed learning as much as I had time to.

However, I felt as though I was missing something. No matter how much I learned by attending classes, reading
thick textbooks, and reviewing dense research papers, I was not satisfied with abstract theories and impersonal
statistics. I desired practical training and a more personal understanding as well. I wanted to gain a greater
appreciation of different physical and cognitive abilities. I wanted to learn more about various disabilities, more
than one can attain in school. Instead of discussing in a classroom the general psychological, social, and financial
struggles many people with disabilities and their caretakers endure, I had an urge to actually go out into the
community and serve people with disabilities so that I might better understand their individual challenges. I also
wanted to use my abilities and knowledge to help people who need extra assistance.

Then I found what I was missing.

I came across an AmeriCorps post that advertised an opening to serve as a Respite Apprentice at the Easter Seals
Wisconsin Respite Camp. I was interested in the opportunity since it provides direct service to campers with
disabilities while also giving their caregivers a break on weekends. I was hesitant for a few days before applying,
though, because I had absolutely no experience assisting people with personal care skills such as bathing, toileting,
eating and dressing. Fortunately, my interest in the program and desire to serve people with disabilities
outweighed my hesitancy. I applied, knowing that I had a lot to learn at camp.

And I learned a lot: CPR, First Aid, nonviolent crisis intervention, how to transfer people in and out of wheelchairs,
how to assist with various personal care skills, and much more. Serving at Respite Camp can be challenging. There
are occasional behavior issues, problems getting campers to bed, or frustrating times when you want to help an
upset camper, but you cannot quite figure out what they want. However, the challenges are always eclipsed by the
rewarding sense of accomplishment that other Respite Apprentices and I experience at the end of every camp
weekend when campers tell you that they look forward to returning and well-rested parents and caregivers thank
us for our service.

Autobiography: I recently graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and I am currently
working as a research assistant in a lab studying Autism Spectrum Disorders.

               Eau Claire Fresh Start
             3 Congressional District
                                Tyler Bonnin in the Fresh Start Program
                                              Tyler Bonnin
                                         Eau Claire Fresh Start

       When the Fresh Start Program accepted me as a member, I started an experience that
changed the way I was fulfilling my future. Fresh Start taught me skills real early in the program
that would be very compelling to a future employer who is thinking of hiring me on as an
employee. I never expected me to have a possible experience to move me ahead in my life.
       I am 19-years-old I was born in Eau Claire, WI. I now live in the city of Eau Claire and I
am employed as a member in the Fresh Start Program. I take care of my son Joshua King. I am
engaged with my son’s mother. I applied for Chippewa Valley Technical College for a degree in
business. I dream to one day open a business of my own. I am turning my life around and the
Fresh Start Program is making this step in my leaf a huge leap into my future.

                           Aaron Brunner in the Fresh Start Program
                                       Aaron Brunner
                                    Eau Claire Fresh Start

I left my dad’s house and became a foster child. After meeting with Ann Bates we decided that I
wanted to become a member in the Fresh Start program. After having two interviews and a
volunteer day Luke and Katie decided that the Fresh Start program was a good program for me.
How has fresh start shaped me as person it has made me a stronger person all around. Three
things about me are I love snowboarding. I think family is the most imported thing in the world.
I also ride BMX bikes. My home town is Durand Wisconsin and I was born May-30-1994.

                                How Fresh Start Changed My Life
                                       Shawn Schneider
                                     Eau Claire Fresh Start

Fresh start has changed my life in so many ways. Some of these ways include making me more
responsible, making me get on a good schedule and waking up early in the morning. With the
things I am learning it will help me get a good job in the future.

It has also made me learn a lot of new skills that I didn’t know before like putting up trusses and
siding and how to shingle roofs. But the main thing how Fresh Start has changed my life is
getting money. Before Fresh Start I never really made money. So I am learning how to budget
better and save money. I work to save money so I can get my own place. As of right now I have
$1300 in the bank from Fresh Start. So if it wasn’t for Fresh Start I would have never learned
new skills and I wouldn’t have money in the bank. Lastly, Fresh Start has really help me out with
is staying out of trouble and being a better worker.

                                            Fresh Start
                                           Casey Vocal
                                       Eau Claire Fresh Start

The Fresh Start Program has helped by being employed, which has helped me stay out of
trouble so I can start a new life. I am 23 years old and am from Massachusetts.

                          How Fresh Start Gave Me a Fresh Start at Life
                                            Derrike stocks
                                        Eau Claire Fresh Start
The Fresh Start Program has helped me by teaching me more responsibility and to not push
things off to the next day. It also teaches me to live on my own and to be more independent.

                                         Fresh Start Program
                                          Matthew Weichert
                                        Eau Claire Fresh Start
This is my second term with the Fresh Start Program. I’m about half way done with my term.
This term I’m focusing more on signing up for post-secondary school and also getting help with
financial literacy. I have signed up for Business Management at Chippewa Valley Technical
College, which I will be starting in the fall of 2012. In Financial Literacy I’m learning how to track
my money and also how to save money better. During my term I had a healthy little baby girl.
She is seven months old now and Fresh Start is helping me by staying sober and giving me a slot
so I can support my child.

                                            A NEW LIFE
                                         Fresh Start Haiku
                                           Andrew Grill
                                       Eau Claire Fresh Start

                                          I got a fresh start

                                    A new life what a fresh start

                                        Thanks AmeriCorps.

I’m a 21-year-old from Eau Claire Wisconsin. I’ve had conflict with the law since I was 9 years
old. After high school I took a few years off to do what I wanted. Now I want to get my life on
track, I realized it’s time to grow up.

                                                Jakes Reflection
                                                 Jake Thompson
                                              Eau Claire Fresh Start

Fresh Start has helped me with getting my life back on track. Since I’ve been with Fresh Start I
have gotten off supervision and paid all of my restitution and fines. This program also has
helped me go through driver’s education so I was able to get my driving permit, which has
allowed me to get a vehicle. Fresh start is a very helpful program for me and I would
recommend it to any “at risk” teens.

My name is Jake Thompson, I’m 16 years old and I live in Eau Claire, Wisconsin with my mom. I
love hunting, fishing, and like doing just about anything outdoors, including football, basketball,

                                                    Giving Back
                                                     Tyler Boss
                                                Eau Claire Fresh Start

Being an AmeriCorps member has been beneficial to my life in more ways than just providing me with a job. While
working, my program manager enrolled me in a financial literacy program to help me be more aware of how I’m
spending money and how to set-up and follow a budget. Before this I had a savings account but rarely had any
money saved in it. I was what you call an impulse buyer. Anytime I had money I would spend it and could rarely
go anywhere without buying something. Thanks to my financial literacy program I have been taught the proper
skills on how to follow a budget that I have created. Now come every paycheck I actually use my bank account and
put money away instead of spending it all. Being a part of AmeriCorps also gives me a chance to give back to other
people. The program I am in allows me to help build houses for income eligible families who might be struggling to
find a nice place to live. About a month ago my program and I took a week out of our workweek to help install a
solar panel heating system in a preschool that is in our city. We also help the homeless shelters around our city
with repairs to their living facilities. Being a part of my program also gives me the chance to be a positive influence
on some of my own crewmembers. As of right now I am the oldest member of my crew at 23 years old. Most of
the young adults I work with are younger than 21 and allows me to give them some of my insight and knowledge I
have acquired over my experiences. We all make mistakes and hopefully learn from them but sometimes it helps
when you have a heads up from someone who has been down that road before. .

Before joining AmeriCorps I have never done anything like this nor really thought about giving back to the
community, but it helps me get through the day knowing in some way I am having a positive influence on
someone’s life.

ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps

                                   Growing through Service
                                        Kathryn Barnard
                                UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                        Truax Head Start
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

ELIPSE is partnered with AmeriCorps and our project is to reach out to children in the local
Head Start programs in the community. Each week we perform classroom assistance time and
one-on-one mentoring with a partner child. When working with the children we want to see
improvement in their literacy and all of the school readiness outcomes. We want to start the
children with a positive school experience that will engage their interest in school throughout
their lives.

When I was first introduced to ECLIPSE on the UW-Eau Claire campus I was unsure what it was
about. I heard that I would be working with children and serving them to have an initial positive
experience with school and giving back to my community, but I didn’t understand the true
meaning of it all until I was introduced to the children at my service site.

Volunteering for me was always about trying to do the right thing and gain experience that
would help me in my future. When I sat down to really think about it I wasn’t doing the service
to benefit others, but I was doing service to benefit me. I thought that this would be just
another volunteering experience that would give me an advantage in my future career of
teaching. All of that changed when I joined AmeriCorps and ECLIPSE. My time spent working
with the children has really changed my perspective on the whole idea of volunteering. I no
longer see it as an opportunity to gain experience or to benefit myself, but rather I actually see
volunteering as an opportunity to help people in need, to improve their life experience and to
make a difference. There is no greater feeling when you see a child improve when you were the
one working with them or when you walk into the room and all the children run up to you and
give you a hug. I’m actually making a difference in a child’s life and that in itself is so rewarding.
I’m no longer performing service for myself. I’m performing service to make a difference. I
want to be that positive change in a child’s life or in the community. Knowing that I can make a
difference, no matter how small, is motivation enough to volunteer again and I can’t wait for
more opportunities to arise. ECLIPSE not only provided me a chance to work with children, but
it changed my view about service and for that I’m very grateful.

My name is Kathryn Barnard and I’m a freshman and the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.
My current major is in elementary education and someday I hope to be working with children in

either an elementary school or a preschool. I hope to make a difference in the lives of children
and I feel that ECLIPSE is a great start.

                              My Gratifying Service With ECLIPSE
                                         Brittney Burg
                              UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                               Family Literacy Center Eau Claire
                                 U.S. Congressional District 3
                                  State Assembly District 93
                                   State Senate District 31

At the Family Literacy Center, we work with children from the Eau Claire area who are all
English as a second language preschool children. Hmong is the home language of fourteen of
our kids. There is one child whose home language is Arabic. There are nine kids from the site in
the ECLIPSE program. We work one on one with the children to help prepare them for
kindergarten. Two days a week, we have sessions, where each child is paired up with an
AmeriCorps member. During session, we have group time, reading time, and choice time,
incorporating literacy-based activities throughout the time. Aside from session, we have
classroom assistance time that we work in the classroom with all of the kids. It is really amazing
to see how much these children grow and gain throughout the school year. Some children
whom spoke no English at all at the beginning of the year are already speaking and
understanding English much more easily. I absolutely love the program. It is always the
highlight of my week to be able to go into work and just play with adorable children all day. It
never really feels like “work” to me. Being able to see how much the children learn within one
year is rewarding because I know that my service is beneficial and impactful. What is great
about my site is that we are able to work with all fifteen of the children and really make an
influence on their lives. I can tell that each of them look forward to us coming in and working
with them, which is so great because I look forward to seeing them each day as well. I am so
glad that I have had the opportunity to be a part of such a rewarding AmeriCorps program.

Autobiography: I am a sophomore communication sciences and disorders major at UWEC and I
have a passion for working with children.

                                     Happy for Rhyming
                                         Melissa Daul
                             ECLIPSE – UW-Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                  Family Literacy Head Start
                                 U.S. Congressional District 3
                                  State Assembly District 93
                                   State Senate District 31

My partner Pa was never very good at rhyming. She couldn’t understand that just because two
words start with the same letter that they don’t rhyme. We worked on rhyming little by little
for weeks. I’d always ask if two words rhymed, and she always just seemed kind of unsure of
her answers. Sometimes she would get them right, but I never knew if she actually understood
if they rhymed or not because she never seemed fully confident in her answers. I would always
try to explain how rhyming worked, and that you need to listen to the end of the words to see if
they rhyme. I never was fully able to get through my explanation of rhyming without her
interrupting me or just not paying attention anymore. One day when we were doing our one-
to-one reading, we read a book about a pink poodle. Out of nowhere, Pa goes,

“Poodle….Noodle. They match!” I was in complete shock for a couple of seconds. I responded
with “You mean they rhyme?” and Pa said, “Yup!” I was so incredibly happy because she came
up with that all on her own. The word noodle was not in the book anywhere and no one had
said it recently. That made me believe that she actually had a pretty good understanding of
rhyming to be able to come up with that all on her own. It was so rewarding getting to see the
progress that she has made the whole time I’ve been working with her. She means a lot to me
and I couldn’t be happier when I see her maturing and getting smarter with the help of the
teachers, her peers and us ECLIPSE members.

I am a freshman studying at UW- Eau Claire.

                                        Danielle Decock
                              ECLIPSE- UW Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                     UW Children’s Center
                                  US Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

For some reason or another, I’ve never wanted kids. I can’t remember when I started having
that thought, but I’ve stuck by it true and true. When the topic of future children’s names came
up with friends, I strayed from the conversation, or when asked for my input, I always said I just
didn’t want kids. Every person scoffed at me, and believe me when I say I’ve heard this phrase a
million times: “When you get older you’ll change your mind.” That one always upset me
because I didn’t need kids to fulfill my life or anything like that. Besides, they would probably
get in the way when I could be spending my life travelling the world. On the other hand, just
because I didn’t want kids of my own, doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy their presence. I’ve had
numerous jobs working with kids, and I genuinely liked going to work. Hearing of ECLIPSE and
AmeriCorps, I thought it sounded like an awesome college job, so I applied.

I never thought I’d enjoy working with kids as much as I do. The classroom I aid in ranges from
ages three to four. Needless to say, these kids are full of snot, hit when they are angry, and
scream when it’s time for naps. For any normal person, this sounds like a job you just wouldn’t
want to show up to very often. But when I walk into those doors and away from the busy
campus life, it’s such a stress reliever. Going to the Children’s Center and hanging out and
talking to the kids for a couple hours enhances my mood. Their innocence and wonder for the
world intrigues me, and I’m always on my toes for what comment a child will say next. My
ECLIPSE buddy is a difficult child to handle, but I wouldn’t want any other partner. She has
some rough moments, but the times when she’s giggly and goofy make up for everything.
Working with these kids has given me new perspective, and I never thought I would say this,
but I can’t wait to see what my kids are like!

I’m a nineteen year old college student from Minnesota majoring in Social Work.

                                    Life Changing Service
                                        Brianna Dubiel
                               UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                    UW Children’s Center
                                 U.S. Congressional District 3
                                  State Assembly District 93
                                   State Senate District 31

Educate. Teaching the children that there is a whole world of knowledge out there for them
when they have opportunities presented and they take them. While in the process I am
becoming educated in the amazing work of service.

Confident. Learning that each child is special and intelligent in their own way. Having them
become more excited to learn and do better since they have seen their own improvements. In
the process I become more confident helping others.

Laugh. Making everyday a fun experience for them to learn in. While also having an upbeat
attitude around the kids and fellow teammates.

Inspire. The kids inspire us as the servers and we inspire them to not give up and never to
doubt their abilities. You can achieve so much by having inspiration.

Perspective. Showing the children a different perspective on something and in the process as
the server, receiving perspective from a different view point on a situation.

Support. By providing a support system for the children, not only does it make a positive impact
on them, it makes a positive impact on you. You are there for each other and giving support is
the best way to help someone.

Equal. Making sure that each child is treated with equal respect and care. Also having an equal
environment where no child feels left out, each child is important and who they are as
individuals and who we are as individuals is respected and understood with empathy.

I have a passion for helping children and through this program I was able to do just that; along
with learning more about who I am and how I can have a positive impact on a child’s life.

                                A New Perspective on Children
                                         Brittany Eland
                              ECLIPSE- UW-Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                   Family Literacy Head Start
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

Starting out working with ECLIPSE I never thought I would ever have this type of a conversation
with such a young lady. A five year old was telling me that she did not want to live anymore
because she did not have any friends or family members that care for her. I had only known
Bao, my partner at the Family Literacy Center, for approximately one month when she told me
her problems at home. Yes, most five year olds gain and lose friends on a daily basis, and even
more than one time a day, but I could tell something was seriously wrong.

I noticed something would happen that day the moment I walked into the classroom.
Something was different. I walked up to Bao and she stated she was fine, but I could tell by the
tone of her voice that she was going to talk about it during session later that day. She sat in my
lap as I read her a book in session. She looked as though she was interested in the book, but
every time I asked her a question she stated that she didn’t know what was going on, when she
usually has no problem with it.

After one-to-one reading, she went over to the corner, had a pouty face on and wouldn’t talk to
me. I finally got her to tell me the base of her problem, after she asked me to take her down to
the street so that she could get hit by a car because no one would miss her. Bao proceeded to
tell me about her life at home, which was saddening because all of her problems can be easily
fixed, yet they aren’t. She explained that she has five older brothers who receive most of the
attention given out by her parents, and then she has a younger sister, who naturally requires
more attention because of her age and maturity level.

This day stuck out to me the most out of any day I have served at that site. It was heartbreaking
hearing words like that coming from a five year old. Before that day, I had not even thought
about children that young even having suicidal thoughts. When I first started working with
ECLIPSE I had thought of these children as children. I didn’t think of them as people that I could
have a serious conversation with especially because of the language barrier. Now, Bao and I talk
about her problems in her life, and she is getting better at handling all of her problems.

I am a caring individual who would someday love to be a children’s counselor.

                                        Samantha Faber
                              ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                     Family Literacy Center
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

Working with preschoolers is always an adventure. Each day is another journey with the
children at the Family Literacy Center, whether it’s a pretend trip to the doctor, a trip to the
grocery store, or building towers as high as the sky. It’s a privilege to have had the chance to
work with the children at the center, children who appreciate all that is taught to them and
show up to school each day excited to learn. I have been working at the center for almost two
years now, last year being in charge of our team and this year a Corps member working one on
one with a little boy named Vue.

Vue was at the preschool last year, only three years old and a child that all the teachers were
concerned about. He did not speak a word of English and was not very vocal in Hmong, his
native language. I loved spending time playing with him last year, although we couldn’t
understand each other’s words we could still play and interact finding other ways to laugh.
Over the course of last year Vue’s English increased but was still lagging behind those his age.

This year being a Corp’s member I decided that Vue would be my partner child, wanting to help
increase his English speaking and writing abilities. During our ECLIPSE sessions we work on
recognizing and writing letters. We also spend a lot of time playing blocks and coming up with
conversations about anything and everything. Throughout the year Vue has made great gains
in his understanding and use of the English language both while in the classroom and during our
ECLIPSE sessions.

I think about where he was last year, not realizing his name was Vue or even what Hello meant.
I now spend three days a week with him and have seen immense progress. Vue recognizes all
letters in the alphabet, knows his numbers up to 30, and is more verbal as each week passes.
This child who we were all so concerned about has grown into a 4 year old boy with a great
imagination and a desire to learn his letters and numbers.

I am a senior accounting major at UW- Eau Claire and this is my 4th year with the ECLIPSE

                                Once In a Lifetime Opportunity
                                        Hannah Forland
                              ECLIPSE-UW-Eau Claire- AmeriCorps
                                        Truax Head Start
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

I came into this program not really knowing what to expect or how this would change me as a
person and the way I think about others. Every day I go into Truax it makes me stop and think
about how fortunate I truly am, and how I should strive to help others who are not as
fortunate. Each and every one of these children that I get to work with needs that special
attention because you really have no idea what is going on at their home. They will all hold a
special place in my heart. One of the children really stood out to me though. He would always
come to school with a little smile on his face, but no say much. He was very shy and mostly kept
to himself. It made me wonder what life was like for him at home. Every day when he came to
school and had lunch, he would constantly be eating as much as he could until lunch time was
over and he needed to clean up. I had never seen a little kid like him eat so fast and as much as
he did. I would always ask him if he had breakfast that morning and every morning without
hesitation he would just shake his head no and continue eating. Eventually I stopped asking
that question because I knew what the response was going to be and I did not like that answer.
It made my stomach feel as if I had just ran over road kill. It was awful, and broke my heart
every time. He was such a cute kid. Sometimes he would come to school with bruises or
scratches that made me wonder what went on when he was not at school. Everyone seemed to
like him at school and when he did smile it was an image that would forever stay in your
memory. He was one of a kind, but one day he stopped showing up. Everyone wondered why
he was not coming anymore and wanted to make sure he was okay. About a week later I found
out he lost his home and him and his family’s new home was the homeless shelter. Questions
raced through my mind, and I just wanted to make sure that he would be okay and get
everything that he needed. That little boy changed everything about me. He changed that way I
view people, and not to judge a book by it’s’ cover. You never know what someone is ever
going through, so put yourself out there and help others whenever you possibly can because
you just must have the opportunity to change their life.

Hannah is a second year student at UWEC and this is her first year in ECLIPSE.

                                         Bright Minds
                                       Marisa Fuglestad
                             ECLIPSE UW – Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                       Truax Head Start
                                 U.S. Congressional District 3
                                  State Assembly District 93
                                   State Senate District 31

When I heard about the AmeriCorps member position, I was eager to apply. Although I am not
an education major like many others involved with the Early Childhood Literacy Intervention
Program Services & Evaluation (ECLIPSE), I very much enjoy working with children. The position
required volunteering at the preschool your team was assigned to, as well as working on
reading and writing with a child throughout the year.

I was not exactly sure what to expect my first day of work and I was somewhat nervous as I
walked through the back door. Right away, the teacher and staff were very helpful and kind.
The kids, however, were the ones who made me feel comfortable and welcomed. They all had a
positive energy and were different in their own way. My first day was better than expected. I
could not wait to find out which one of the students would be my buddy since they all had
impressed me that day.

It turns out we were not assigned a buddy, but instead we chose from a list of children who
would be participating in ECLIPSE. I picked a boy named Stone who was a part of the afternoon
class at Truax. I had only worked one day at the preschool, and I could not remember every
child, however, Stone’s name stuck out to me. At the first session we were introduced we both
were a bit shy, but after a bit of opening up we were both communicating and getting along. He
was an exciting, energetic boy and his wild spirit reminded me a bit of myself. I knew he was
going to be a great partner child to work with.

The first day of session went smoothly and every day after has been a fun and exciting
challenge. It’s amazing to see the progress and growth in Stone as the year moves along. I’ve
learned a lot about him as a child and our relationship has grown as we overcome obstacles
along the way. It is going to be hard to see him move on at the end of the year, but I feel
confident that Stone is going to be a bright, energetic boy continuing into kindergarten.
Although not working with Stone will be a change, I am hoping to continue to work for ECLIPSE
the coming year because of the wonderful experience I’ve had this past year.

I am a second year student at UWEC majoring in Geology.

                                        The Reason I Volunteer
                                             Gwen Goetting
                                  ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                         Family Literacy Center
                                        Congressional District 3
                                       State Assembly District 93
                                        State Senate District 31

It’s not for the cash,
It’s not for the fame,
It’s not for any personal gain.

It’s a way to show you care,
And find out firsthand,
How you can help your fellow man.

It’s a way to give a little of yourself,
That’s something you can’t buy with wealth.

It’s not for a medal to be worn with pride,
But for the feeling you get deep inside.

It’s a reward down in your heart.
It’s that feeling that you’ve been a part
Of helping people far and near,

That’s what makes you a volunteer!

Autobiography: I am a third year AmeriCorps member and senior at UW-Eau Claire

                                   My Time at the Preschool
                                      Alexandra Hillstrom
                              ECLIPSE- UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                       Altoona Head Start
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

This past year I have been working for the AmeriCorps program, ECLIPSE. Here, the members
and I serve low income families at Head Start preschools within our area. Half of the week we
work as teachers assistants for the preschool where the other half of the week we have ECLIPSE
sessions for a smaller group of children. During these sessions, my team members and I work
one on one with a child whose literacy skills fall under the expected level for their age group.
Here, the child first signs in by writing their name out and later writes out a plan with what they
intend to do the rest of session. We collect these from our buddies and later use them to create
a portfolio that showcases their writing improvement throughout the year. Also during session,
we focus strongly on reading with the children. Every session we sit down with our buddies and
read at least three books to them. When reading these books we use dialogic reading which
influences the child to tell the reader their own thoughts about what’s going on within the
book. This method of reading has taught me that children learn best when asked open-ended
questions because they encourage creative responses. Evaluating how my partner answers the
questions I pose has been a great way to track her improvement in many aspects, such as
problem solving, and making comparisons. Although literacy is a major focus within ECLIPSE,
this program also benefits children in socio-emotional ways as well. I have witnessed this
through my partner’s improvement with interacting in the group. I recall from the first part of
the year that my partner would act shy and avoid interactions with group time activities, such
as participating in songs or raising her hand to share her thoughts. After the months that have
past, I have seen ECLIPSE encourage her to stand out and use her voice. Now, she is almost
always willing to raise her hand to participate in group songs or activities and always shares
with the group at the end of session about what she did that day. ECLIPSE has truly been a
benefit to the children at these preschools and has taught me to understand how children learn

My name is Ally Hillstrom, I work for ECLIPSE and am a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-
Eau Claire.

                                  My Service to Wisconsin
                                      Lindsay Johnson
                              UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                      Children’s Center
                                U.S. Congressional District 3
                                 State Assembly District 93
                                   State Senate District 3

As a member of ECLIPSE, an AmeriCorps program I have had the privilege to work with
preschool aged youth and I worked closely with one particular girl during the year. I served a
variety of children at the Children’s Center, children from low income housing and children of
Eau Claire professors. The children, the recipients of my service have been impacted by having
a positive role model in their life. By playing with the children and learning alongside them, I
have helped them to grow and learn important skills needed for life. The most valued
experience that I will always treasure from my national service will be my relationship with my
partner child.

My partner child, “Lauren” and I have grown together throughout the year. In the beginning of
the year our team leader selected partner children for each AmeriCorps member. When I first
met Lauren she was timid and shy. She spoke few words to me the first day we met and
continued to be shy around me when I came into her classroom for classroom assistance. As
we started our ECLIPSE sessions Lauren remained soft-spoken. Our program is a literacy
program and during our sessions we have one to one reading time. Lauren loved stories! She
would request to read more books after we had finished reading the required amount. As the
weeks continued and we had spent more time with each other, Lauren warmed up to me.

My service was important to me because I was important to Lauren. By being an AmeriCorps
member I could be a stable person in Lauren’s life. Lauren has a lot of instability in her life.
Lauren’s parents are divorced and only once did I see her father. Lauren never had a routine
for being picked up after session, each day was always different. Her mother is trying to go
back to school and she struggles to provide for her family because of Lauren’s large family. I
remember around thanksgiving Lauren was excited to go to the Boys and Girls Club to have her
thanksgiving dinner. It was important to be there for Lauren because every Tuesday and
Thursday, Lauren could depend on me on those ECLIPSE days. I became the stable person in
her life someone who Lauren could feel comfortable with becoming dependent on.

My national service was the perfect thing for me to do during my first year at Eau Claire,
because I was able to make an impact not only in the classroom but also in the life of someone
who became very dear to me, Lauren.

                                            They’re Just Ants
                                          Thalia Autumn Laier
                                  ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                           Altoona Head Start
                                      U.S. Congressional District 3
                                       State Assembly District 93
                                        State Senate District 31

Working with the children and the staff at the Head Start has been such a wonderful experience. There
is a lovely group of ladies that work there who are pleasures to be around and they are all very friendly
and helpful. The children are a blast. It always amazes me how they can fill a room with so much
energy, but that is what keeps the job interesting and challenging. Specifically, I love working with my
little buddy. She has such big personality disguised in her little body. She constantly impresses me with
the things she says. Just the other day she was informing another staff member, who was speaking of
her fears of spiders, that, “You should just try to get used to them because they are all around us”.
When the staff member said that as a little girl, she didn’t like walking around ants because she didn’t
want them to crawl on her, my little buddy replied, “They just want to tickle you”. Just hearing these
words from the mouth of a four year old can be so refreshing. All of the children have so much to say
and there are so many things that I am learning from them. Working with them is a constant reminder
to make time for fun and never take life too seriously.

At 23 I am currently a social work major at the University of Eau Claire Wisconsin, looking forward to
working with underprivileged populations, improving and enriching their lives. When I am not busy with
my jobs or school work, I enjoy time with friends and family, painting, and spending time in the sun.

                                             Why I Serve
                                             Kyle Johnson
                                   UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                           Campus School
                                     U.S. Congressional District 3
                                      State Assembly District 93
                                       State Senate District 31

My family has never had very much money. Because of this, I was able to attend a school that was much
like the one that I work at now. It was for underprivileged families. Even though I was very young, I can
still remember a few things about it. I remember how much I loved going to school every day because of
all the teachers. I also remember the friends that I made while attending the school. A couple of these
friends I made in school are still very close to me today. These two memories that I have are what
motivated me to go into the education field. I can only hope that I can influence children the way that
my teachers influenced me.

My name is Kyle Johnson and I am a special education major. I hope to help young children accomplish
what some people might say that they cannot.

                                  The Lessons We Learn From Kids
                                           Sarah Knutson
                                ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                     Family Literacy Head Start
                                    U.S. Congressional District 3
                                     State Assembly District 93
                                      State Senate District 31

My time at the Family Literacy center could not be more wonderful. The children are 3 to 5 years
old and are all learning English as a second language. In ECLIPSE we work one on one with our
partner child; we have 2 sessions a week, plus classroom assistance time (CAT). In sessions, we read
books with our child and play with them; we help with literacy, social, and developmental skills. I
look forward to going to preschool. I’m greeted by a chorus of “Hi, Sarah”, “Hello, Sarah!”, “You
look pretty today, Sarah.” These children are always so excited to see us and spend time with us.

Looking back on the year, I remember various times with my partner child. We read together, laugh
together, play together, and grow together. As I teach him to read, he teaches me about life. To
him, everything is grand. There’s always a positive. Everything is fun and exciting and wonderful.
Children have a sparkle in their eye, and growing up we all lose this sparkle. But being around
children helps to bring it back. They just see the world differently. When the biggest problem in life
is that Moon Sand fell on the floor, and the greatest joy is that it’s nice enough to play outside, life
becomes infinitely better. My time at the pre-school has helped me to celebrate the small things.

Watching my partner grow has made me so proud. Right before winter break he began to sound
out some words; two weeks after break he’s reading books to me. Together, we sound out words,
look at pictures for clues, and go over letter sounds. Perhaps the most memorable moment of
reading time was when we were reading a pop-out book about two mice. The two mice went on a
search for food in the mansion. At the end, a cat sprung out of the page; my partner let out a
shriek-just like the mice would have done. The shriek echoed throughout the stairwell, into the
downstairs offices and into the classroom. An office lady came to see what was wrong, and
everyone in the classroom wondered what had happened. He had simply gotten so into the book.
His enthusiasm is always amusing. As he talks to me about barracudas and hammerhead sharks,
colors pictures of dinosaur monster trucks, and plays with his teddy-grahams, it always brings a
smile to my face. These kids are bright, happy, and smart. They love life, despite its circumstances.

So next time you’re having a rough day, look at things through a child’s eyes. Perhaps your coffee-
cup is multi-colored, or you saw a flower on your way to work. Life will be better.

I am a first year student at UW Eau Claire and I am currently an Elementary Education major with a
Social Studies emphasis.

                                    Service Brightens My Day
                                         Allison Krosnoski
                              ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                         Truax Head Start
                              U.S. Congressional District: District 3
                                   State Assembly District: 93
                                     State Senate District: 31

Throughout my experience in ECLIPSE I have grown personally and through the children. During
my class room assistance time and ECLIPSE I have learned to have so much more patience with
children. Also, I have gotten so close with all the children that I work with and I feel like I know
them better each day. The relationships I develop with these kids are something that can never
be replaced. One by one each child begins to crawl into my heart to make a special place for
themselves. Each child is so different and each of them has their own special talents and
personalities. With those special personalities it’s such an experience to watch them grow
throughout the year and see how the smallest things can spark a huge flame in their mind. The
kids’ minds are so much more complex then I could ever imagine. They are so creative and think
of some of the most outlandish ideas that I don’t even think I would be able to think of
sometimes. It amazes me how children so young could be so creative and free thinking.

A wonderful memory I have of ECLIPSE is when a child walked into the classroom and told the
teacher he brought a smile to school today. When a child has that much excitement about a
smile, it shows true happiness. That smile brought to school, rubs off on each child in the
classroom and no matter what moods they are in at the beginning of the day, they always get
onto the bus to go home, smiling. Children’s moods are something that amazes me. No matter
what happens in there day they will always end up smiling in the end.

I learn a lot from every single one them and every minute I spend with them makes me even
happier than I am before. It’s amazing how only a couple hours with some kids can make your
whole day better. The happiness that children have is something that you can’t find anywhere
else. Being involved with children helps me to find the happiness I had when I was a child, when
my biggest stress in life was how am I going to get my mother to give me a cookie. Preschoolers
are so simple and happy and sometimes it feels like they don’t have any stress in their lives
what so ever (but I do know that many of these children have more stress than some of us can
imagine). Having all this in the environment around me helps me to relax to, helps me focus on
my day and just have fun, smile and be crazy.

I am Allison Krosnoski and I attend the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire. I am majoring in
Business Administration and Information Systems. My hometown is Glenwood City, WI, where I
have a wonderful family and lifelong friends. I am a member of AmeriCorps and ECLIPSE.

                               Most Influential Service in my Life
                                          Kaleigh Meek
                              ECLIPSE- UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                       Altoona Head Start
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

In reflection upon my service as an AmeriCorps member I have seen the growth among the
children in the program and also within myself and other members. It is truly a collaborative
effort to help the children with their early education. It is a constant value as members to
incorporate fun activities to promote learning for all the children’s various levels of learning.
Although the weeks go by quickly each day we work with the children there is evident progress.
Though their reading and writing skills are the most apparent academically, socially the
development is equivalent; the children have become comfortable interacting with their peers
as well as adults. One child in particular did not feel comfortable sitting through activities as a
group and would cry, this child has now not only joined the group with her presence, but
volunteers in the activities we do. On a more personal level I have learned that each child is
different in their learning levels and styles. I feel that the relationships between my buddy and I
has strongly developed as well as with his family. The importance of communication with his
parents to continue reading and writing skills at home demonstrates consistency and will only
enhance his progress as a young student. The program I serve is not only beneficial to the
children we work with but it truly teaches life lessons about being good role models and it
reflects the importance of educators today. It has been a joy and impactful on my life working
for ECLIPSE at Eau Claire.

My name is Kaleigh Meek, I am a current freshman at UW-Eau Claire with a major in
Kinesiology. I plan to continue my education by going to Graduate School to achieve a Master’s
Degree. Hopefully to one day become a physical therapist.

                             Making a Difference in the Life of a Child
                                           Heather Micke
                            ECLIPSE- University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire
                                          Truax Head Start
                                   U.S. Congressional District 3
                                     State Assembly District 93
                                      State Senate District 31

This is my second year with the ECLIPSE program through AmeriCorps. I have gotten so many
awesome volunteer opportunities, learned so much, and met some amazing people along the way.
Last year I gained a lot of knowledge about working with children and working in a team setting. I
was a Corps member last year and during the fall semester of this year I had the great opportunity
of being a team leader for the Truax Head Start site. Being a team lead fall semester taught me
even more about myself and was a wonderful learning experience.

Through being a team lead I had the pleasure of watching not one child, but ten different children
grow and mature in their literacy and social skills. Not only did I get the pleasure of watching the
children at the Head start program learn and grow in their skills, I also was able to watch my fellow
Corps members grow and learn a great amount through this experience. This year my entire team
was filled with new members except one other person. The returnee and I had to start from scratch
and teach the Corps members the best approaches to teaching children, the rules of the site, and
what was expected from them as Corps members.

As a team leader it was remarkable to see all of the ECLIPSE members watch the teachers and
returnees interact with the children, and then follow their example. Each and every person on my
team has become an amazing teacher and they have all acquired skills that will last with them a
lifetime. One great experience that comes to mind is when one ECLISPE member’s child refused to
participate in group time. Each group I would ask him if he would like a turn, and each group he
would quietly decline. Towards the end of the semester before I had a chance to ask the child if he
would like a turn, his hand shot up. He volunteered to go and had a great time partaking in group.

Every time I see a child make such a tremendous growth it makes me feel so incredibly proud. I
truly enjoyed watching the reaction of this child’s ECLIPSE partner when he raised his hand that day.
I’m glad other people experience and feel the pride that I feel when they are able to help a child
grow and learn. It has been a great year and the most rewarding part of the ECLIPSE program has
been making a difference in the lives of the children we serve and seeing the positive change in
myself as a result of my service.

My name is Heather Micke and I’m a senior Social Work major at the University of Wisconsin- Eau
Claire. This is my second year participating in the ECLISPE program and I’ve loved every minute of
my service!

                                A Priceless Service Experience
                                       Katherine Moua
                               UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                      Altoona Head Start
                                 U.S. Congressional District 3
                                  State Assembly District 93
                                   State Senate District 31

It was a Wednesday afternoon in March and I was in Altoona at the pre-school getting ready for
the regular sessions my team and I have every Monday and Wednesday. By the time the clock
struck 3:30pm my team members and I went to get our little buddies and had them sign in and
then continue with our regular routine. As time passed, it was finally Choice Time where the
little buddies would make a plan of activities they would like to do that day. My little buddy
decided to work on art that day. Throughout our time at the art table, my little buddy looked at
me for a while and so I asked her if she could tell me what she was thinking. Suddenly, she told
me she was not for sure if she should give me a present now or later. I was confused because I
was not expecting her to be thinking that at all. My little buddy then quickly decided that she
did want me to open her present, so she grabbed my hand and we walked over to her
backpack. She pulled out a red envelope, handed it to me and said that it was for me. She
specifically explained that she made it just for me and that she really wanted me to open it; so I
did just that. Inside was a piece of paper that had a drawing of a flower and my little buddy’s
name spelled out with ink stamps. In that moment I just felt very happy and I told my little
buddy I was so thankful and that I really appreciated her gift. She had the happiest smile on her
face and just giggled with joy. I told her that she can go back to the art table as I put the
envelope away. Receiving that gift just made me realize how much I have impacted her. Just
knowing that she spent time to make me something or thought about me aside of the days that
I come in for sessions really makes me happy. Coming to the school for work and seeing my
little buddy almost every day of the week and having a positive influence on her means so
much to me. The smallest things that happen in life are the things that mean the most. To
know that I have impacted her and that she looks up to me makes this job so much more than
just a job. In the end, it really is such a priceless experience.

My name is Katherine Moua and I am a student at UW- Eau Claire. I love to dance and take as
many opportunities as I can.

                                      One day, at a time…
                                           Bao Moua
                               UW-Eau Claire – ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                   Family Literacy Head Start
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

I was always one to worry about the future, because I figured worrying about everything now,
meant less to worry about in the future. However, I’ve come to realize that the most
memorable things in life won’t be the things you do, it’ll be the things that happen to you. I’m
not saying that you can’t take action on your life decisions, but I believe that at any moment in
life, anything can change your whole world. The thing is we all have this picture perfect plan
about how we would like our life to be, but the truth is we just don’t know.

I thought ECLIPSE was just going to be like any other job, but I was so wrong. One day, my
partner Chia Neng and I were discussing about his plan for the afternoon. I listed every
possibility, and he finally said, “I just want to live.” Assuming, he was just tired and had mixed
up his Hmong words, I asked him in Hmong, “are you tired? We do not need to do any of the
activities.” He replied, “I just want to run around and I want to play like a kid.” We then spent
that whole afternoon acting like a kid; we drew on our hands, played with toys, played dress up,
and told stories. We acted like kids. I then noticed that I have been living, just to simply exist. I
have been so worried about growing up that I never look the time to just be a kid, to just live
and enjoy life.

I learned that day that sometimes we’re so worried about life, so busy planning the unknown,
so busy wanting to grow up that we forget to truly enjoy life and everything around us. And the
best thing is, at the end of the day Chia Neng gave me a hug and said, “I like that you listened to
me. I like that we lived today.” I realized then, that sometimes we do things because it helps us
get by, we do it because we eventually want to get somewhere and we’re so busy that we
forget to enjoy what life offers us, because when we least expect it we will meet someone that
changes us because of the words they said or the actions they did. For me, that was a five-year
old who taught me how to truly live and enjoy life, as it comes, one day at a time.

Autobiography: I’m one of those girls that people have always doubted because she didn’t live
in the best neighborhood, or have the best family, or have the best of things, but one day
they’ll look at me and say, “She was that girl.”

                                            My Experience
                                             Sidney Nelson
                                      UWEC – ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                         Family Literacy Center
                                      U.S. Congressional District 3
                                       State Assembly District 93
                                        State Senate District 31

My freshman year of attending the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I was given the opportunity of a
lifetime to work for the program, ECLIPSE. At the beginning, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, but
now I’m so grateful for my experience and to take part of such an amazing AmeriCorps program.

Starting in the fall, we did lots of training. We learned about child development, specific ways to read
children’s books, how to ask open-ended questions, and a variety of other important things. Then, we
got placed into our teams, which consist of ten university students. We had the opportunity to share
things about our personal lives which created a special bond. (Little did we know that this group would
become somewhat of a family away from home to all of us.)

As we started classroom assistance time; when ECLIPSE members go and spend time with all the
students in the classroom helping where needed, we finally got to meet the children we were going to
spend the rest of the year with. This is when I realized my specific role as an ECLIPSE member and the
reasoning behind all the training and team bonding. However, I’m suddenly hit with a reality of not only
the responsibility and importance of my job, but also how these kids will impact the rest of my college

Most of the children are Hmong. At home, their parents speak Hmong and barely know English.
However, at school they are taught in English, with occasional help of a translator. Right away, these
kids blew me away. They can fluently speak two languages and they don’t even realize it! Also, these
children are the best-mannered I’ve ever seen. They always use polite words, share, wait patiently, and
so on. The children impacted me so greatly that I decided that I wanted to speak another language. I
now study Spanish and plan on graduating with a Spanish degree.

Each ECLIPSE member gets paired one of these children. I got paired with Chee. At first, he was very
shy and never really spoke much. However, he still had impeccable manners and always followed
classroom routine and rules. Now, it seems that Chee barely stops talking to other ECLIPSE members
and me. He has opened up and is comfortable to speak, volunteer during class, and even tries to read
along with me during our sessions. I will always remember Chee and how much he gained, academically
and socially, during our times together. He has impacted me greatly, in ways I can’t even begin to
describe. He has changed my outlook on life and how to treat and respect people of all ages and race.

My name is Sidney, and I’m from Dodgeville, Wisconsin. I had no idea what I wanted to do upon
entering college. No major, nobody I knew, and no interest in having a job. Now, my life is completely
turned around, all thanks to ECLIPSE.

                                        Taking a Leap
                                         Mindy Olson
                               UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                       Truax Head Start
                                 U.S. Congressional District 3
                                  State Assembly District 93
                                   State Senate District 31

As a sophomore in college, I realized that it was time to get a job to help pay for various
expenses. With this in mind, I attended the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire job fair where I
briefly learned of the ECLIPSE program, filled out an application, went in for an interview, and
accepted the position as an AmeriCorps member. I was sure that I would enjoy this job because
it strongly related to my future career as an elementary education teacher. However, I was a
little unsure of what I would really actually be doing as a member.

After completing the interview and doing several training days I still found myself a little
uncertain of the extent of the job. On the first day of sessions and class room assistance time I
knew for sure that I would thoroughly enjoy every minute I spent with this program. I get great
joy on the days I interact with the children at the head start in the Eau Claire community.

Personally, my favorite part of this service is being able to work with the children and see
improvements that I have been a part of. In the beginning I was paired up with a child and was
able to work one on one on an assortment of skills twice a week. I was able to keep a majority
of the activities that we completed to construct a binder of memories. About half way through
the year my partner moved away. On her last day I was able to present the binder of memories
to her and her mother. It was incredibly pleasing to see the look on her mother’s face when I
made note of the improvements that my partner accomplished in writing her name. I was filled
with a great sense of pride knowing I made that little bit of difference.

Along with the children and the head start, I have also received great benefit from this service. I
am presented with pride and happiness each and everyday that I work with the children. I also
get great experience for my future dreams of becoming an elementary teacher. This experience
has provided hands on opportunities to really give me a true sense of the processes in
educating children. After completing approximately 200 hours, I still enjoy every day of the
service I have completed.

-- I am a caring, patient, encouraging, calm, and happy individual that strives for success.

                                 The Past, Present, and Future
                                         Brandon Pecher
                              ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                Family Literacy & Campus School
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

Many times, life just seems to pass us by. We don’t really realize just how quickly it passes, and
often I hear individuals question where did the time go when they grow older in age. When I
come to be an age similar to that of the individuals that I speak of, I will ask that same question
and I will know where it all went. From my first collegiate year, I realized where I belong and
that is in a position enabling me to help others. That is why I am a third year AmeriCorps
member, and why I pursue a career in the healthcare administration field.

My passion and my drive move me to follow the path I have chosen. I have been given the
opportunity to help children perfect and develop skills that ensure them a better future, and by
the time everything is said and done, I will have given those individuals near the end of their
lives the best quality and care attainable within the organization I work. In doing so, I will have
come full circle in my experiences. I will have positively influenced the newest generations, who
in essence are our country’s future, and compassionately cared for the elder generations who
taught me my morals and values. To me, there is nothing more rewarding than the idea that I
left a footprint or a mark on both the future and the past.

I will have touched the lives of those both younger and older than myself, and attained my
personal goals by becoming the person I strive every day to be. A person who is caring and
shows compassion to those he has contact with. I know I am not perfect and neither is the
world around me, but I always hope that my influence makes the world, even if it is just ever so
slightly, a better place. I have learned this through my experiences with AmeriCorps, Jumpstart,
and ECLIPSE, and I know my life would not be the same without these experiences. I have come
to know who I am as an individual and who I want to be and I have these programs to thank for
my discovery. Without them, I wouldn’t be who I am today and quite possibly, would have
drifted from the life-fulfilling path I am now. So, thank you AmeriCorps, Jumpstart, ECLIPSE, and
the people behind these organizations. Without all of you, I don’t know if I would have ever had
the opportunity to follow this path and become the person I want to be.

I am Brandon Pecher, a senior at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire and an AmeriCorps
member of three years. I will be beginning my practicum this June and am excited to draw on
my experiences from these programs to further assist the people I will touch in my career.

                                    Making Time for Service
                                        Malory Peterson
                                     Volunteer Coordinator
                             ECLIPSE – UW - Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

This is a story of my own personal growth through service. But, not only has my service
benefited me, it has also benefited others. That’s why making time for service is so great.

When I was a freshman on campus I thought I was sooo busy. I didn’t think I’d have time to
volunteer, or as I thought of it then – work for free. I needed to make money and I was so busy
with class. I am now finishing my junior year and my 3 years of service through AmeriCorps and
the ECLIPSE program has sure changed my view on service. I don’t see it as working for free
anymore. I see it as giving back, doing something fun and positive, and in the end it has really
benefitted me and others. Some of my favorite service days have included working with people
in the community and especially the non-profits. I have found the time for service and it has
made me a more rounded person. It has improved my communication skills, my comfort level
in new and different situations, and my level of happiness. It has also benefited others. By
giving my time I have put a smile on a child’s face, helped to feed kids and adults, helped clean
up the yards of our community, and helped non-profits with their operations.

There is always room for service, now and in the future, no matter how busy things get. This is
something I have learned through service and I hope to pass on by sharing my story.

Autobiography: I am a hardworking college student at the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire
studying Accounting while working as an Eclipse AmeriCorps Member and a teller at a bank. I
love to spend my time being around family and friends, being active, and just enjoying life!

                                     Life-changing Service
                                        Anneliese Ramin
                              ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                       Altoona Head Start
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

In the last year alone, I feel that I have grown more in maturity than any other year. This service
opportunity has taught me so much about myself that I wouldn’t have otherwise known. I’ve
realized that little problems I had before are nothing in comparison to what some families go
through. Just seeing how much every day helps all of those kids is life changing. I never
thought that things as simple as playing house or grocery store helps kids learn so much. This
experience has really opened my eyes to bigger problems in this world. I never had to think
twice about a parent having to choose between food on the table, or shoes that fit for their
children. I cannot imagine the stress that things like this must put on a family. To know that I
am going there every day and helping all the little kids, especially my little buddy, is the greatest
thing. There’s so much work that goes into helping these kids. The teachers do so much
planning for every day’s lesson.

My little buddy has grown so much over the past year. He’s excelled both socially and with his
literacy skills. At the beginning of the year I could hardly get him to talk or write his name, now
he loves to write his name and will talk in front of the group. He even recognizes letters from
the alphabet. At first I was really skeptical about how well I would be at this job or how much I
could possibly help the children, but now I see that everything helps. Just interacting with them
helps their social skills and things like their vocabulary. I take pride in what I’m doing through
this program. I like knowing that I am making this child’s future better from what I’m doing
now. I wish I could actually see where he is in ten years and how much he’s grown and
excelled. This job has not only helped the children I work with grow but myself as well. I love
working with the rest of my team and getting that true friendship bond with them, not just
being co-workers. I can’t wait to share what I’ve learned with others, and hopefully encourage
them to get involved in their communities as well.

Autobiography: My name is Anneliese Ramin, and I am a sophomore at the University of
Wisconsin- Eau Claire. I’m majoring in International Business and Actuarial Science.

                                       Inspiring Change
                                       Heather Rixmann
                               UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                       Truax Head Start
                                 U.S. Congressional District: 3
                                  State Assembly District: 93
                                   State Senate District: 31

Going into ECLIPSE and AmeriCorps, I never expected to build so many strong relationships with
the preschoolers. Even within the first few weeks, the children were drawn to me, as I was a
new face within the classroom. As time went on, they began to greet me by my name. This
struck me in my heart. These children really knew me and they were always excited to see me
when I arrived. I feel very honored to have had this experience. As I think about it, I can name a
small, unique characteristic about each child I worked with. This gives me the hope that they,
the children, can think of a time when I made them feel special in their own way, which they all
are. There is one story that comes to mind when thinking about unique characteristics. One day
I was playing with the children during work time. As I sat down to play connecting blocks with
one of the kids, he began building a tower by my feet. As he was doing this he stopped. He
looked at my shoes and then at me, with a smile he said, “I like your shoes.” It was the simplest
comment, but it made me realize that even the smallest things can effect someone’s day,
especially a child’s. I thanked him for the comment and then I told him that I liked his hair cut.
He touched his hair and again a smile spread across his face as he said, “Thank you Heather.” It
wasn’t much, but I noticed something different about him. It was almost as if he felt happier,
because I noticed something about him. It made him feel special, unique. All children should
feel special and when we, as adults, give them the attention they deserve, they will. The little
things matter and are important.

My name is Heather Rixmann, from Osceola, WI; I have always aspired to be a first grade
teacher, and working with this program gives me first hand experience in that field.

                                      A Short Fairy Tale
                                       Jacquelyn Rogers
                               UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                    Children’s Center Site
                                 U.S. Congressional District 3
                                  State Assembly District 93
                                   State Senate District 31

Once upon a time there was a girl who thought she needed some help. She wanted to earn
some money to help her future, and something to fill her time, it seemed hopeless, so many
false leads. She thought that she had looked absolutely everywhere. But then, one last try. It
looked too difficult; it might not fit the schedule. ECLIPSE looked like so much fun though. She
was not even sure that she would make the cut. Luck was on her side; she defeated the fears
and doubts in her head and began the adventure.

Along her journey she met so many nice and wonderful people, the team she was assigned to
was friendly and everybody got to know each other, she made connections to friends that she
never thought of making, and her little 4 year old partner in crime turned out to be a wonderful
little girl as well (after a couple bumps in the road).

Sometimes it got hard, there were days in which nothing wanted to work out, sometimes it felt
as though she was cursed by an evil witch. Other days were tiring and so much work had to be
done; she felt like the old lady in the shoe on those days.

She realized that so many other people and children needed help, not just her. She saw
progress in the community as she looked around. Then an idea struck her in the head, she was
helping herself as she helped those around her, this made her all warm and fuzzy inside. She
could create ‘happily ever after’s all around her.

I am a freshman at UWEC this year majoring in Chemistry.

                                        Passing the Torch
                                          Libby Schmidt
                               UW - Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                     State Senate District 31

This is my third and last year as an AmeriCorps member with the ECLIPSE program at UWEC. I
began working with the program as a freshman, with much to learn. I did not have much
experience working with young children and my service experience was relatively limited as
well. My team worked closely together to figure out what we were doing, and by the end of the
year I felt confident in my abilities. Now I am one of the most experienced members of my
team, which consists mostly of new freshmen.

My team members have a lot to learn, and I sometimes wonder if I ever had as many questions
as they do. This has been a great opportunity for me to practice my leadership skills and guide
the development of my peers as much as I guide the development of the children I serve. As a
future educator it is critical that I practice leadership and gain skills in guiding and empowering
people to work for the benefit of young children. While my direct service with the children has
been an invaluable experience for me, I think this leadership practice has been equally
important. Through service I have learned how to lead others in service.

Libby Schmidt is a third-year Early Childhood Special Education major and AmeriCorps member
with the ECLIPSE program.

                                     Love in Every Language
                                          Lexie Schroeder
                               ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                 Eau Claire Family Literacy Center
                                   U.S. Congressional District 3
                                    State Assembly District 93
                                     State Senate District 31

These past five months of working with ECLIPSE have been wonderful. I have seen how
important it is for a child to be loved and how much growth can happen when a child is cared
for. I have gotten to work with an adorable five year old girl named Chia. When I first began
working with her, she didn’t know very much English. She struggled over basic words and
phrases and most of her speech was unintelligible. But over these past months, her speech has
developed incredibly. I have seen Chia go from not knowing the letters in her own name, to
recognizing almost every letter in the alphabet, the sound each of them makes, and she is able
to write them all. In addition to her English and writing skills, Chia’s ability to relate with other
children and adults has also developed a lot. I love watching her as she dances around playing
with other children in the classroom and hugging someone at least once every ten minutes! I
love that I can joke around with her and that we can laugh together; her joy is simply
contagious. We were reading a Dr. Seuss book together today and I was floored at how much
she had to say about all of the pictures and how much interest she had in the story. This
advancement is incredible and I never thought she’d already be this far along after such a short
period of time.

Most recently, one of my favorite things is that Chia is able to tell the story of Goldilocks and
the Three Bears and also the story of The Three Little Pigs. She tells them with expression and
hand motions. Just a few months ago, I would have questioned if she even understood those
stories when someone else told them. But now she is telling them herself! It is so exciting to see
that growth in her. I had the privilege of meeting with her father a couple weeks ago and he
told me how much they have seen her progress at home. She is getting so much better at
English and is teaching her little sister. I asked him what he would want to see more progress in
for the rest of the semester and he said to simply keep doing what I’m doing because it’s
helping her so much. I was surprised because I didn’t think that something as simple as reading
a few books with a child and spending one-on-one time with them during the week could result
in such growth. It has been really encouraging to work with Chia and to know that the time and
the love that I give her are having such an impact on her and her family.

I am a junior majoring in Speech Mythology at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
                                What ECLIPSE means to me!
                                     McKenzie St. Claire
                              UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                      Children's Center
                                U.S. Congressional District 3
                                 State Assembly District 93
                                  State Senate District 31

The following is a acrostic name poem for ECLIPSE. I am using it to show how I feel about
ECLIPSE and what I have gained from being an AmeriCorps Member.

Experience of a Lifetime
Community Building
Language and Literacy Development
Invitation to Meet Great People
Service opportunity
Emotional Bonds

I am a college student majoring in Finance and I love to spend as much time as I can with my
family and friends. I am very outgoing when you get to know me and I love to watch movies and
knit in my spare time!

                                          The Best Realization
                                            Lauren Stepanik
                                   UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                    Altoona Early Education Center
                                      US Congressional District 3
                                       State Assembly District 93
                                        State Senate District 31

The day that I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up was the first day of third grade. I was in Mrs.
Zei’s classroom, and she was so loving, caring, and wonderful. I knew that I wanted to be just like her
one day and be a teacher. I kept that thought the remainder of my years of primary and secondary
schooling. Once I arrived at college, I learned that there is more to teaching than I had thought. I found
out that educators must know a whole assortment of things, and I became nervous for my college years.
However, I was eager to continue my education.

I got a job when school started at the cafeteria. As the year went on, I knew that it was not going to get
me anywhere. I wanted something better to come back to after summer—somewhere that I could do
something I loved. At the end of my freshman year, I learned about ECLIPSE. The people I talked to that
had done it had only positive things to say about it. They encouraged me and told me that it was such an
incredible experience! I got the job over the summer and was looking forward to start when September
came. I wanted to gain experience with children for my future and I thought that this program would be
an amazing start to that.

Looking back on my year with ECLIPSE, I realized that I have learned more for my future as a teacher
than I could have asked for. The knowledge that I have been able to gain from this AmeriCorps program
is something I will always be thankful for. The staff at the Altoona Early Education Center are warm,
understanding, and loving people. I have had an unforgettable experience being there and learning from
them. I have been able to understand many aspects of an early education center. I realized that there is
much organization, love, creativity, and effort necessary to truly make a child’s experience the best
possible. My first month at Altoona proved to me what I want to do in my life—I knew that I wanted to
be a teacher more than anything else.

Being in AmeriCorps has taught me skills, values, and lessons that I would not have learned doing any
other service. ECLIPSE has showed me how important child development is. I have grown immensely in
ECLIPSE and I thank AmeriCorps for giving me this opportunity! I have gained so many abilities for my
future and can attribute it to this program and all of the positive experiences I have had in it. This
program has offered me a way to escape college life and be with the people that make me the
happiest—those that love children, and the children themselves. ECLIPSE has lived beyond what I
learned about it in the beginning and I wish for everyone to have an experience such as this.

My name is Lauren Stepanik and I am sophomore at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. I am
studying Special Education and Middle Childhood/Early Adolescence.

                                        Joshua Swalheim
                              ECLIPSE UW - Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                       Altoona Head Start
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

One particularly interesting day, my preschool buddy demonstrated beginning reading skills. I
recall that prior to that day; I had begun feeling a little disenchanted with our progress. I had
recently done mid-year evaluations and there was little growth apparent. One day,
unexpectedly, he read one of the words on the page. I flipped the page and asked him about
some different words, and after a moment or two, he could tell me what they were. I was
floored. Lately, I had resigned myself to the idea that my buddy would begin reading next year,
not a late age to begin reading, but still not an accomplishment I expected to see. I was inspired
again, and I remembered why I was there.

When I was in 1st grade, I was placed in an individualized education program. I was having
difficulty reading and writing. My educators were concerned that I was not going to be at the
minimum reading level by 3rd grade. I was made aware of this. I left my classroom every day
with three other students and worked on different material than our other classmates. I am
from a working class family and was experiencing the deleterious effects of that fact on my
communication skills. My parents found enough money and I met with a private tutor who
coached not only me, but my parents on how to read with me. By 3rd grade, I was removed
from the individual education program but struggled with grammar and spelling for the
remainder of my K-12 career.

Our program is about helping children and their families compensate for the language gap that
occurs between birth and five years of age. It is about building a foundation that will enable
academic success further down the road. Not all families will have the same resources for a
private tutor as mine did, and even those that do may still struggle with language skills. With
some help, my buddy triumphed against the odds. I doubt that he will ever be placed in an
individualized education program during his academic career. In that moment when my buddy
began to read, he demonstrated his ability to bridge the gap and the success of our program.
With a new fervor, we proceeded to continue laying the foundation for a lifetime of reading.

I am a junior earning a Bachelor of Liberal Studies from the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire.
I am from a large family and grew up in south-central Wisconsin.

                               Lessons Learnt Through Service
                                           Kia Thao
                              UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                      Altoona Head Start
                                 U.S. Congressional District 3
                                  State Assembly District 93
                                   State Senate District 31

When I first heard of AmeriCorps, I never knew what it was but I was interested. I wanted to
join when I was in high school but I never got the chance to. Today, I finally got to join
AmeriCorps and enjoy it very much. I got to meet a lot of people from the people I worked with,
to the children I helped out. What I am doing for AmeriCorps is the early literacy program
known as ECLIPSE. From this program, I get to serve the community, students, and teachers of
the Altoona Area. Serving these community members taught me many lessons and showed me
that a little of my time to help them out puts a nice, warm smile on their face and even on
mine. They have also taught me that not one person can do all the work, but a community as a
whole can make events happen and even sometimes asking for help on the event doesn’t mean
you are not capable of running or even planning the event; instead it is a way to collaborate
and form relationships with other people in the community around you to have the event run
smoothly. From these lessons, I have grown from a person who doesn’t like to talk to the
community much, to someone who wants to help the community and involve the community in
the future. I know for sure, when I am teaching in my very own classroom, I would let my
students know about this great opportunity and have the students volunteer out in the
community to show them the many lessons that I learnt.

I am currently a student at UW – Eau Claire, going for a teaching bachelor degree, who will
always be learning for the rest of my life, even when I am teaching as a mother and a teacher.

           ECLIPSE Kids ‘Go Marching On’
                  Kinsey Thompson
              ECLIPSE—UW-Eau Claire
                 Altoona Head-Start
            U.S. Congressional District 3
             State Assembly District 93
               State Senate District 31

     Eclipse kids walk one by one, hurrah, hurrah
     Eclipse kids walk one by one, hurrah, hurrah
              Eclipse kids walk one by one,
         They all stop to ‘Sign In’ and get done
          And they all go walking downstairs
    To start ‘Group Time,’ BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

     Eclipse kids walk two by two, hurrah, hurrah
     Eclipse kids walk two by two, hurrah, hurrah
             Eclipse kids walk two by two,
          The little one stops to tie her shoe
          And they all go walking downstairs
    To start ‘Group Time,’ BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

   Eclipse kids walk three by three, hurrah, hurrah
   Eclipse kids walk three by three, hurrah, hurrah
            Eclipse kids walk three by three,
       In ‘Group Time’ they all say “call on me”
            And they all keep singing songs
      For ‘Group Time,’ BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

      Eclipse kids walk four by four hurrah, hurrah
     Eclipse kids walk four by four, hurrah, hurrah
              Eclipse kids walk four by four,
       They all stop and pick three books or more
             And they all go walking upstairs
To start ‘One-To-One Reading,’ BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

     Eclipse kids walk five by five hurrah, hurrah
     Eclipse kids walk five by five, hurrah, hurrah
             Eclipse kids walk five by five,
           They finish their books and arrive
     At the messy room to write what they want

                       To do, for ‘Choice Time,’ BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

                           Eclipse kids walk six by six hurrah, hurrah
                          Eclipse kids walk six by six, hurrah, hurrah
                                   Eclipse kids walk six by six,
                       With Jack Be Nimble, they jump over candlesticks
                        And they all go playing around the classroom
                          To have some fun, BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

                       Eclipse kids walk seven by seven hurrah, hurrah
                       Eclipse kids walk seven by seven, hurrah, hurrah
                               Eclipse kids walk seven by seven,
                      They can all have snack, fruit bites, choose eleven
                          And they all go munching on, in their seats
                        To enjoy their snack, BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

                        Eclipse kids walk eight by eight hurrah, hurrah
                       Eclipse kids walk eight by eight, hurrah, hurrah
                                Eclipse kids walk eight by eight,
                             Some get into a tiff and we mediate
                            And they all go play some more before
                      The day comes to an end, BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

                         Eclipse kids walk nine by nine hurrah, hurrah
                        Eclipse kids walk nine by nine, hurrah, hurrah
                                 Eclipse kids walk nine by nine,
                          We sing the clean up song it must be time
                        And they all help each other clean and pickup
               To get ready for ‘Goodbye Group Time,’ BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

                         Eclipse kids walk ten by ten hurrah, hurrah
                        Eclipse kids walk ten by ten, hurrah, hurrah
                                 Eclipse kids walk ten by ten,
                       We all read Wave Goodbye because it is the end
                            And they all go to meet their families
                            To go home, BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!

Kinsey Thompson, a senior at UW-Eau Claire, is in her third year in E.C.L.I.P.S.E and loves every
                                      minute of it!

                                     Enriching the College Experience
                                               Sean Thuesen
                                    UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                           UW Children’s Center
                                       U.S. Congressional District 3
                                        State Assembly District 93
                                          State Senate District 31

Coming into the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, I knew very little about the specifics of service. I
knew it was good to participate in acts of service, but I was clueless when it came to how many types of
service there are or how much of an impact can truly be made. When I started training for the ECLIPSE
program, I got the feeling of uncertainty as I thought about whether I would be able to do a good job or
not. I also did not know how this program into service. Once I got into working with the kids, I got my
answer. I have learned how much of an impact we make in the program. My work with the partner I was
assigned has had its frustrating moments, but the improvements I have seen makes everything
worthwhile. He may not have gotten the specific attention he needs if he had gone to another childcare.
The population I work with is not those that have the luxury of fancy things. We are here to ensure the
children get as good of a preschool education as those from more privileged families. My role with my
specific partner is something that I take great pride in. I have not been directly told this, but I believe I
was assigned my partner because of the lack of male influence in his life along with his need to improve
needed skills for kindergarten. My partner has many females in his life, but no males he can look up to
and learn from. Every day, I see our relationship build. We have rough patches like most things in life,
but I do see him trusting me more. We have fun, but I also make sure I can give him what he needs
academically. Before college, this is not what I envisioned when I thought of service, but my prospective
has changed. I have learned that service can stretch across a vast number of areas and each area offers
different benefits to those that need it. I have been able to use this in my academics as well. I now find
myself looking at everything I learn from other perspectives, and how I can use the knowledge to better
those around me. The AmeriCorps ECLIPSE program and my work within it is a great example of how
college is more than the classes you take and what you learn in them. It also teaches real life issues. I am
thankful I am getting this experience early, but I also know I need to continually learn in this area to
ensure I can maximize what I give to this world. What good is what you know if you do not use it in
productive ways? My service here is helping to bring that out of me, and I will be a better and more
caring person because of it.

Autobiography: I am a current freshman originally from Minneapolis, MN. I hope to get my undergrad
degree in Athletic Training, while moving on to medical school to become an orthopedic surgeon.

                                        New Paradigms
                                           Will Ullrich
                                  ECLIPSE- UWEC AmeriCorps
                                        Truax Head Start
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

When I started ECLIPSE I knew that I was going to be working with children from low income
families, but I have always been skeptical of such families’ motivations. I had been raised by a
father who always taught his 3 sons, if you work hard and keep your wits about you when it
comes to money, you should always be fine. This same man was quite foolish with his money
and always had someone else to blame for his financial hardships.

This led me to believe that the only reason someone would be struggling for money is because
they, like my father, lacked self-control and common sense. I grew resentful toward these
types of families because I knew firsthand how difficult that can make a child’s life. That was
one of the reasons I decided to take the job in the first place.

When class room assistance time began I met the children I would be working with and realized
that they were not as affected as I thought they would be. It just seemed to be a normal life for
them and they had adapted. Throughout the time I have worked there and mainly through
additional volunteer hours I have gotten to know some of the families and some of their stories,
and I came to a realization, bad things happen to good people. These people understood their
financial problems and were either working on fixing it or didn’t see it as a problem. I had
unlearned and re-learned what financial stability was and just how happy people can be
without a massive surplus of money. I realized that learning to live life with what you’ve got
and enjoying it for what it is makes for a much more enjoyable life than never accepting the
circumstances you have been given and always fighting for more.

Will Ullrich is a Freshman at University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, is undeclared in major, and
comes from Fridley, Minnesota.

                                    Service has Helped Me Grow
                                            Brittany Vang
                                 ECLIPSE – UW Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                           Truax Head Start
                                     U.S. Congressional District 3
                                      State Assembly District 93
                                       State Senate District 31

Working through the ECLIPSE AmeriCorps program, I have learned so much about myself as an
individual. Working with children in Head Start and working with people in the community, I have
found my strengths and weakness. I have learned to become a leader and also a team player.
Learning these skills, I am able to mature more as an adult and find who I really am. These
experiences will assist me in my future career and future goals.

The ECLIPSE program has helped me challenge myself. I explored different ways to help an
individual child learn and progress with his/her skills. I found it difficult to be creative at times when
it came to different learning styles each child has; however, I was always able to find something
that would work. Sometimes I would get advice from fellow corps members or my supervisor to see
what worked for them. By using their advice or finding my own different ways, it was a remarkable
feeling when you saw that light bulb go off and you knew that the child finally understood. It
enabled me to feel some sort of achievement and success in what I was doing. Overall, this program
led me to have a rewarding experience and taught me how to be patient, creative, and

Working with corps members, it taught me to be a team player and to be a leader. Whether it was
working with the children at the Head Start or helping out the community, I found myself using
both these skills often. I now see the importance of working with a group of people who you can
lean on for advice and support. It was always good to see that they could come to me as well. I also
learned to step out of my shell and demonstrate some leadership, especially when I had the
opportunity of creating lesson plans and leading sessions. It is important to be able to balance both
team work and leadership, because there is a time and place for both to be exercised.

In the end, this service has helped me grow. I have learned more than I thought I would about
myself and have become a better person because of it. I never realized that being part of a service
opportunity could change the way I see things and even change my life in some ways. I am glad to
have had a chance to be a part of it. Being only a sophomore in college, I plan on continuing to
volunteer as the years go on. I hope that my diverse background and my incentive to pursue nursing
will allow me to find volunteer opportunities that I will be able to relate to effectively and

My name is Brittany Vang and I am a sophomore at UW- Eau Claire majoring in Nursing.

                                         It Has Changed Me
                                          Caitlyn Waegener
                                ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                    U.S. Congressional District 3
                                     State Assembly District 93
                                      State Senate District 31

When this year of school concludes in mid-May, it will also conclude my 3rd and final year in the
AmeriCorps program here on campus called ECLIPSE. This program has become a part of my life and
has grown into me as I have grown into an adult during my college years. More than ever before, I
have felt that I am an important member of my community and I have the ability to change it.

I have been able to work with many community partners thus far and see their needs being met by
our volunteers. Because of my service opportunities through ECLIPSE, I have been shown that
volunteering is important and worthwhile. Not only personally but for the people we are serving. It
has changed me into an individual that can make a difference and has a desire to influence the
community around me.

A few weekends ago we had an event called “Dr.Seuss’s Birthday” that is held for families in the Eau
Claire area. Families from all different schools came with their children to play literacy games and
participate in different literacy activities. This year instead of leading a game, I got to coordinate
some of the volunteers and talk with parents. This was such a fun experience for me. I got to see all
the kids having fun and laughing with their families and ECLIPSE members. So many parents
commented and congratulated us on having such a great event. They said it was so great to see an
event supported by college students and to see it open to the community. I feel like I had a smile on
my face the whole morning. Seeing everyone involved and the children having fun learning was so

Our upcoming event, “Global Youth Service Day”, is a great event that includes going out to many
sites with as many volunteers as we can gather and working for a few hours. This has always been
my favorite event in the past, because you get to meet new people from the community. This is
part of why I have enjoyed volunteering so much in the past is meeting great people who continue
to go to other events held by ECLIPSE.

Overall, when I graduate college next year, I will have less time outside of my job to volunteer. But I
know that I will try to make it a priority because it has continued to add to how valuable I feel as a
community member. Volunteering has changed me.

Caitlyn Waegener is a junior in the Nursing Program at UWEC looking to work in pediatrics or
neonatal care.

                                          Kelsey Wall
                              ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                    UWEC Children’s Center
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

While entering my third year of the ECLIPSE program (formerly Jumpstart), I decided that
becoming a team leader was the right path for me. After having two amazing teams with great
team leaders the two previous years, I felt very prepared. After meeting my team and the
children this year, I was very excited to not only see how the children would grow, but see the
growth in corps members as well. After a few weeks all of the corps members and their partner
children had started to bond very well. While each child was creating this special bond with
their partner, I also started developing a relationship with each child.

When deciding to become a team leader, having that special bond with a partner child was one
thing that I know I would miss the most. But, I have been fortunate enough to get to know each
partner child on a level that I did not expect. Every day I go into a classroom I receive hugs and
smiles along with getting asked “is it ECLIPSE day?!?” Seeing how much these children and their
partners have grown this year is simply incredible. As spring is starting to arrive and everything
around me is growing I can only imagine how much I have also grown through this experience.
Working with ECLIPSE the past three years has given me so much more than experience for my
future; it has given me great friends!

As an elementary education major with a science minor, I am in my third year at the University
of Wisconsin of Eau Claire. I have learned so much more than I had thought about teaching and
children, some of which from my classes but most of which through working with this program!

                                          All People
                                         Robyn Wallin
                             ECLIPSE – UW- Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                      Altoona Head Start
                                  US Congressional District 3
                                  State Assembly District 93
                                   State Senate District 31

I have changed as a person because of the service that ECLIPSE does for the families in the Eau
Claire and Altoona, Wisconsin areas. This is my second year of ECLIPSE and I am still amazed
each and every day for the work that we, as individuals and as a core, do. We not only serve
the three to five year old children that we work with at the childcare centers, but we serve their
families. We also serve the childcare centers and the teachers who work at them. We not only
serve the children within the ECLIPSE program, but we serve all of the children. We do not
discriminate. We do not judge. We are accepting of all people. ECLIPSE makes me proud of
myself and I am so grateful for being able to be a part of such an amazing program two years in
a row. Without a program such as ECLIPSE, these children would not have that extra influence
that helps continue to build their literacy and social skills. Without ECLIPSE, the children would
not have those even stronger bonds and friendships that they have with the other children, and
also the ECLIPSE partners/teachers that work with them. As an individual who did not grow up
in a higher-class family, but also not a lower-class family, I try to see the middle ground. Being
in a program that works with lower-class families, I have gained a greater appreciation for what
I did grow up with. I look back at how hard my parents worked to give my sister and me what
we had and I realize just what it took and how it was not easy. And then I think about what
these families are doing and potentially giving up (time wise) by allowing their children to be a
part of ECLIPSE and it is wonderful. ECLIPSE is an amazing program but without the support of
the childcare centers, the families and children a part of the program, our ECLIPSE director and
her hard work, and the students that make up the core, it would not be what it is and would
cease to exist.

My name is Robyn Wallin. I am currently a sophomore studying psychology and creative
writing at UW- Eau Claire. I hope to one day work as a family and couple’s therapist, helping
people as best that I can.

                                       Serving Children
                                        Emily Wendlick
                              ECLIPSE-UW-Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                       Truax Head Start
                                  US Congressional District 3
                                  State Assembly District 93
                                   State Senate District 31

When I work with children in my community I feel that I am learning as much as I am teaching.
The kids I work with are pre-school children who come from low-income households and can
use the extra attention and assistance to help prepare them for grade school. ECLIPSE is a
literary based AmeriCorps program where members set aside a number of hours a week to help
children on learning to read and write. I view my service not only as an improvement to the
community but as an important phase in the life of the child I work with. As each week goes by I
see the positive influences my little buddy is getting from me and the ECLIPSE program. He is
learning literacy, problem solving skills, and is getting social interactions that he would
otherwise not be getting at home. While I feel that it is my job to teach the children, they do
not realize how much they have taught me. Throughout my service experience I have learned
how to value a child’s education and what it means to be their role model.

My name is Emily Wendlick and I am a sophomore at UW Eau Claire. I am in the nursing
program and have high hopes of becoming involved with multiple communities throughout my
healthcare experience.

                                  Thanks For the Stomach Flu!
                                         Hayley Wright
                              ECLIPSE - UW - Eau Claire AmeriCorps
                                        Truax Head Start
                                  U.S. Congressional District 3
                                   State Assembly District 93
                                    State Senate District 31

This year I had the wonderful opportunity to join ECLIPSE and it has been one of the best
experiences of my life. I went into the job not really expecting to be much more out of it than a
paycheck and maybe some cute kid stories. Boy was I wrong! About two months into the
program I had a very interesting experience and it was caused, surprisingly, by my contraction
of the stomach flu. I went to work for session on Tuesday night as I did every week and the only
thing that was out of the ordinary was the teacher informing us all that the flu and pink eye
were both going around at school and to make sure that we washed our hands, etc. I didn’t
really think much of this; in fact, I said to my friend “Wow, I hope I don’t get pink eye.” I must
have jinxed myself because later that night, when I was supposed sleeping, I found myself
spending the night in the bathroom instead. I was pretty miserable. I had never really been sick
at school and it was very hard without my mom around to take care of me. I knew the next
morning that I wouldn’t be going to class (I still felt awful) and that I probably wouldn’t be
making it to classroom assistance or session on Thursday either. On Thursday, after missing
work as I had anticipated, one of my friends came to see how I was feeling. She also informed
me that my buddy, we’ll call him Michael, had been asking about me and had missed me while I
was sick. She said “He kept asking me ‘Is Hayley coming soon?’ and ‘Is Hayley going to be here
tonight?’”. Just hearing that made me feel immensely better. I was touched that Michael would
care that I was gone and that he missed me so much. Until then, I felt like the two of us had a
good relationship and that we worked well together. But after I heard what he had said, I knew
that I was actually making an impact in his life. I’m not going to say that I was happy that I got
the flu, or that I would go back and gladly have it again, but it did give me a new perspective on
what I was doing at work. Michael is a very shy kid, and when I asked him if he had missed me
while I was sick he just blushed and didn’t say anything. But I could tell that he had missed me,
and I had heard enough from my friends and the teachers to confirm this. After knowing this, I
started going to work with a greater passion. I knew that I could make a difference in this child’s
life and many more in the future. It is a great feeling and one that will make me inclined to
continue to help others for the rest of my life.

My name is Hayley Wright and I am a sophomore at UWEC, majoring in Speech Therapy.

                                       Tara’s ECLIPSE Story:
                                            Tara Young
                                     UWEC ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                       UW Children’s Center
                                     US Congressional District 3
                                     State Assembly District 93
                                      State Senate District 31

The girl with a smile on,
An artsy-fartsy attitude, and always
Ready for new
Adventures. She found one of the best adventures with ECLIPSE and

Learned on a spectacular level what it is like to live life for
Others, not yourself, and to take a
Vow of service.
Everyone should have and take the opportunity to
Serve others and experience the laughter of a child.

Everyday a new moment to
Cherish and new opportunities to
Learn and grow through the
Imagination of your child
Partner who always has something new to
Share with you and
Enlighten your mind and your heart with.

My name is Tara Young; I am a psychology major at the University Of Wisconsin Eau Claire. I
greatly enjoy working with the kids at the Children’s Center here and have learned so much.

                                             Who I Serve
                                           Sammi Yozamp
                                   UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                         Altoona Head Start
                                      US Congressional District 3
                                      State Assembly District 93
                                       State Senate District 31

The central goal of the AmeriCorps Program of ECLIPSE is to promote and develop early childhood
literacy and serve low-income families. To do this, we work with a small group of preschool age children
after their school day and volunteer at their school during the week. When I started this program I didn’t
know what I was getting into, or whom I would be serving. I figured I would get to know my partner
child, and maybe see their parent(s) a little. This is only the beginning of the relationships I would form
throughout my work at ECLIPSE.

Throughout this year, I have gotten to know the parents, siblings, grandparents, teachers of, and of
course, the children in our program. The children, each one of them in our program and that I work with
at the school, remind me of a little piece of me, or of someone I know. It is interesting to see how
elements of our team-members’ personalities are reflected in the expressions and characteristics of our
partner children, or visa versa. This answers the question of whom we serve. We serve children that are
just like us. I remember having a reading buddy when I was little, and now feel privileged to pay it
forward. The relationship I have developed with my partner child and the skills I have been able to plant
in her are just one aspect of the relationships I have been able to build.

Our team is fortunate to be working at a site with high parental involvement. I, in particular, have a
great family to work one on one with. My “little buddy’s” mother is an incredible person, I feel lucky to
have gotten to know. Speaking to her after our sessions is great. While I don’t have much in common
with this mother, as I am college student who’s worst worry is Spanish phonetics, she inspires me.
While she is a single parent juggling work, school and a child, she is always willing to help me better
understand and communicate with my little buddy, and does anything she can for her children. Without
ECLIPSE, I would have probably never encountered this great family, which I am a better person for
having known. The families at this site work closely with the dedicated teachers at the school.

Working with the teachers at my preschool encourages me to work to have the compassion they
consistently display. The people I serve encourage me to strive for my best, and create an environment
in which I am able to. For this I am constantly thankful to involved with this AmeriCorps program.

About Me: I’m a junior at UW Eau Claire, from Sun Prairie, WI. Currently, I am pursuing degrees in
Special Education and Spanish. I am actively involved with many different student organizations on
campus, including Women’s Lacrosse, Student Council for Exceptional Children, and UW ECLIPSE.

                              The Rewarding Aspects of ECLIPSE’s Diversity
                                              Sam Bodenner
                                   UW-Eau Claire ECLIPSE AmeriCorps
                                Family Literacy Center/ Children’s Center
                                      U.S. Congressional District: 3
                                       State Assembly District: 93
                                         State Senate District: 31

For as long as I can remember, I have loved helping whoever needed it. Whether I was five, trying to
convince my brother not to kill a spider, or I was in high school, participating in a variety of clubs and
completing more than 100 volunteer hours. My love for serving others has only been enhanced by an
opportunity I stumbled upon during my first few weeks as a freshman at Eau Claire. I went to the job fair
held on campus and came across an AmeriCorps program called ECLIPSE (Early Childhood Literacy
Intervention, Programs, Services, and Evaluation) that works with preschoolers. I have always had a love
for kids, but had never had an opportunity to put it to use until this year.

At the Campus School, my partner was an amazing boy, Steven. In ECLIPSE, we do classroom assistance
hours in addition to session twice a week where we work one-on-one with our partners. Working in
Steven’s room brought me closer to all of the friends in his room. I have always worked well with
children, but I have definitely learned and adjusted my behavior to “get down on their level”.
Throughout the months I was at Campus School I worked with Steven and was able to see his writing,
sounds of letters, and social skills improve dramatically. It was rewarding to know that things I was
teaching him were truly being taken in. For example, after teaching him a few things, the next day
seeing his big blue eyes get wide with pride in himself, he said “the illustrator draws the pictures!” and
“an exclamation point means they’re excited!” Little things like this made me so incredibly proud of him.

Due to scheduling conflicts, I had to switch to the Family Lit site for spring semester. Here, while the
children (predominantly Hmong) go to school, their parents go to school to learn English. I was nervous
at first, but after a few weeks with the new children I was able to create a strong of a relationship with
my new partner, Kai, and the other kids at the site. I have learned so much about cultural diversity by
doing service at this site. The children need to learn English at school, but speak Hmong at home. Being
Hmong does not hold them back in school or in relationships. These children are so quick and surprise
me all the time by using words like “camouflage” and “Stegosaurus”.

At first, I was hesitant to switch sites, but I am still able to see the children at my first site and keep my
relationships with them. I have been blessed to be able to experience two different places. Working with
AmeriCorps/ECLIPSE and giving back to the community are the most rewarding decisions I have made in
my life. I love knowing that I am truly making a difference in these children’s learning. Also, putting
smiles on their faces isn’t too bad either.

My name is Sam Bodenner and I am a freshman nursing major at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire.
I have always been very involved in service.

WI AmeriCorps Farm to
 School AmeriCorps

                                     A Year of New Experiences
                                             Robin Heier
                                WI AmeriCorps Farm to School Program
                                    Spooner Area School District
                                     U.S. Congressional District 7
                                      State Assembly District 75
                                       State Senate District 25

When I began my service in August I could not wait to enter the classroom and work with the students. I
did not realize however the incredible opportunity this program brought to me and how it impacts the
students. A few weeks ago I was able to experience just how important it is for the students to try new
vegetables. It began two weeks earlier when the students planted lettuce with our wonderful

I worked with the teachers in putting together a lesson about the lettuce and chose to focus on roots.
While creating the lesson I decided to add a tasting component, believing it important for the students
to have multiple chances to try new vegetables. I did some research and focused on three root
vegetables for them to try, carrots, radishes, and beets. I was nervous and slightly apprehensive about
pushing the students to try the root vegetables especially since many of the teachers had not tried raw
beets themselves.

When it came time for the lesson I absolutely enjoyed seeing the students excited faces as they saw the
planted lettuce. They were eager to inform me just on how much they knew about roots. We discussed
how roots hold the plant in the ground, how the roots absorb nutrients and water and how some
specialized roots work to store the plant’s food. The students explained they got nutrients through food,
but did not think they ever ate a root.

I then showed them the root vegetables I brought. They were excited about the carrots but unsure of
the beets and radish. I reminded the students that trying new vegetables was important because it helps
us find new things we like to eat. I was very happy to eat a piece of each root myself along with the
teacher. The students were nervous but eventually each tried one small bite. They enjoyed the beets
and radishes immensely. They also remarked how fun it was that the beets had turned their fingers red.

As I got my materials gathered and was about to leave, a student approached me and stated he had
never tried a radish before. The student had taken the opportunity to taste a piece of the radish and
loved it. He told me he could not wait to get home and tell his mother so they could go to the grocery
store and buy some radishes. Two weeks later I met the child’s mother and learned that they had since
gone to the grocery and purchased radishes.

Robin became interested in gardening while volunteering at the Gardens of the Fox Cities in Appleton,
Wisconsin. Along with his AmeriCorps service he also runs a science and math afterschool program and
coaches a Destination Imagination team. He is now training as a Master Gardener volunteer.

                             Why Farm to School is Important
                                        Amy Young
                           WI AmeriCorps Farm to School Program
                               Spooner Area School District
                                U.S. Congressional District 7
                                 State Assembly District 75
                                  State Senate District 25

In 3 years I have learned WHY Farm to School is important:
    • Because the kids come up to me in the halls excited about what is coming next.
    • Because farming and gardening is HARD & IMPORTANT work.
    • Because it never gets old watching kids taste edible flowers from the garden.
    • Because what our garden produces comes back not only to the children, but to the
        community too.
    • Because kids should always have the chance to learn HOW to grow things and play in
        the dirt.
    • Because when you teach them where it comes from and how it gets there, then they
        truly know.
    • Because I like to experiment and mess around too.
    • Because school food should always taste good!
    • Because kids should be excited about being outside, no matter what they are doing.
    • Because I know that no matter what the data shows I AM making a difference for these
    • Because I want to learn and grow too!

Amy Young is serving her third year with the AmeriCorps Farm to School Program. She is a
mother of two and enjoys making a difference in her school community.

                                  Solving a Most Elusive Jigsaw Puzzle
                                              Emily Schmidt
                                 WI AmeriCorps Farm to School Program
                                         Washburn Public School
                                       US Congressional District 7
                                        State Assembly District 74
                                         State Senate District 25

My grandmother taught me that when putting together a jigsaw puzzle, one must start with the edges
and corners. From there, by paying attention to the intricate cuts, line and curves, the rest of the
pattern will become more visible and one will be able to assemble the puzzle more simply. When I came
to Washburn to begin my term of service with AmeriCorps Farm to School, I thought I would be shown a
picture on a box of just what I was to do. I thought that box would be filled with all the necessary pieces.
I thought the corners and edges would be pre-assembled and ready for me to fill in using my previous
talents and experiences. Instead it has been up to me to invent the puzzle, to create the pieces, to put it
all together.

Entering the program during harvest season, I was able to bring students out to a lush garden, to use my
creativity and enthusiasm to make that environment exciting for students of varying age groups. I
delighted in facilitating an experiential learning environment where students were able to taste the
fruits of their labor from the previous spring. Watching them be excited about eating spinach and
carrots and tomatoes was thrilling. Enabling them to enjoy this bounty in their school lunches was
inspiring. These pieces were easy to assemble and created a lovely picture, integral to the puzzle.

As winter approached, the pieces became a bit more difficult to find and to organize logically. Often it
felt as though the beautiful picture I had put together was gathering dust. With the garden in dormancy,
my place in the school environment became a bit unclear to me. I had to consider my strengths and
limitations to determine how I could best serve my site. After careful searches in hidden cracks and
crevices for mismatched pieces, I have found that I have been able to discover the proper questions and
the right resources. These allow me to create a frame, the necessary corners and edges that will be filled
in with a beautiful, flourishing picture in a new season.

With spring on its way, and six months left in my term of service, I hope to continue collecting the
proper pieces and find an efficient and consistent way to compile them. As I plan for spring seed
starting, garden preparation, planting and maintenance, I always keep in mind that in later years,
someone else will be putting together the same puzzle, and though they may arrange the pieces
differently, they may appreciate the box filled with all the necessary pieces I had expected to receive. I
have found that leaving this this may be the best thing I can do with my term of service. In addition to
the garden education I will be providing students, I hope to leave the school with a comprehensive set of
carefully assembled training materials. This will provide the program with a very necessary continuity
and will leave me feeling that I have made an impact and completed my version of a most elusive puzzle.

Emily moved to Northern WI from Steven’s Point after graduating from UW-Steven’s Point to serve as
the Nutrition Education member at Washburn Elementary School.

                                     Small School on a Great Lake
                                           Brittany Schmitt
                                 WI AmeriCorps Farm to School Program
                                        Bayfield School District
                                      US Congressional District 7
                                      State Assembly District 74
                                       State Senate District 25

Throughout my year of service as an AmeriCorps Member at the Bayfield School District I have seen the
impacts service can have on a community. Bayfield is a small town the south shore of Lake Superior. I
could not have imagined a school with a more beautiful view. Everyday the students get to look out the
windows in their classrooms and see the Great Lake. The school’s garden site is situated so that no
matter where you are you can always see the Lake. It is a view that some only dream of.
It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to work with the students, staff, facility and the
community members of Bayfield. The students live in such a beautiful area that has so much to offer.
When I first began my term of service it was a little disappointing to find out how little time students
were spending outside enjoying the pristine area that they live in. The school garden has become a place
for the students to connect with the area around them and best of all they enjoy it!

As the year begins to wind down and the snow begins to melt the attention has once again returned to
the school community garden. Planting plans have been carefully laid out during the winter months in
anticipation of spring. Each student grades K-8 will be actively involved in the planting, cultivating and
harvesting process. For some of these students it will be there first time ever getting their hands dirty in
a garden. When I spoke to the kindergarteners in mid-winter their eyes lit up when they found each of
them were going to have the opportunity to plant their very own pea plant!

The garden has given students a sense of ownership. It is a place where they can escape from the
traditional classroom and develop a relationship with nature. The opportunity to have played a role in
these student lives has been an extremely rewarding one. Although the garden is only in its second year
of existence the work we have done this year will help to ensure the school continues to have a
successful garden for many years to come.

It has been an honor to be a part of the AmeriCorps Program. Through my year of service as part of the
AmeriCorps Farm to School Program I have learned valuable lessons that I will continue to carry with me
the rest of my life. I have learned the power of service and how it only takes a few enthusiastic
individuals turn an idea into a reality.

Brittany is a first year member of the AmeriCorps Farm to School Program. She serves as the nutrition
educator for the Bayfield School District. She enjoys working with youth to create a healthy living styles
and is active in coaching and mentoring youth sports.

                                    A Deeper Understanding
                                         Magdalen Dale
                            WI AmeriCorps Farm to School Program
                        Bayfield, Washburn, and Ashland School Districts
                             U.S. Congressional District Wisconsin 7
                                   State Assembly District 74
                                     State Senate District 25

As a community outreach member with the Farm to School program I have been able to help
make connections between school food service directors and local farmers. I started my service
year by surveying all of the farmers in our region to identify their interest and ability to sell
produce to the schools. Then I took this information to the food service directors at Bayfield,
Washburn, and Ashland and had them indicate what items they would be most interested in
purchasing and in what quantities so that the farmers could plant their fields accordingly. We
are still doing work to connect all the dots, but if all goes as planned, during the 2012-2013
school year the Bayfield School District will spend 10% of their food budget on locally-grown
foods for the first three months of the school year, the Washburn School District will continue
to bring in the largest harvest in the region from their school garden, and in the Ashland School
District a locally-produced fruit or vegetable will be served to 900 students at least once a week
from September through January.

I have really enjoyed getting to know school staff, community advocates, and the farmers in our
region better as we work together to achieve the goals of the Farm to School program. Having
grown up on a farm in the Bayfield area, some of the farmers and school staff I am working with
this year knew me as a young girl, tagging along with my dad on farm errands or carrying my
tray through the cafeteria line. I had also become acquainted with many of the younger
farmers in our region since moving back to the area a few years ago. My position with the Farm
to School program this year has allowed for a deeper relationship with these people, a deeper
understanding of their role in our community, and deeper understanding of my own role.

Magdalen Dale moved back to Bayfield, WI in 2008 to work with her older brothers on their
family's blueberry farm. She and her partner have bought land in the Bayfield area and are in
the process of building their own tiny home.

                                     It’s Not Easy Being Green
                                            Amorin Mello
                                WI AmeriCorps Farm to School Program
                                       Ashland School District
                                     US Congressional District 7
                                     State Assembly District 74
                                       State Senate District 25

As my mentor Kermit would say “it’s not easy being green.” Getting Farm to School (F2S) into the
Ashland School District has not always been a smooth or transparent process but it has been a
rewarding challenge to take on. There is a school garden at the Lake Superior Elementary school that is
“ripe” for development but hasn’t been able to take off successfully for a fully growing season because it
has lacked a fence to keep out hungry critters over the summers. One of my priorities is to install a
permanent fence for a permanent school garden so that the teachers at LSE can rebuild their
enthusiasm for integrating gardening education curriculum into their classes.

Until the frozen garden site thaws in the springtime I have focused my efforts towards providing
nutrition education to compliment the Fresh Fruits and Vegetables snacks program for 900 students at
three elementary schools: Lake Superior Primary, Lake Superior Intermediate, and Marengo Valley. This
has been a successful way to ease my way into classrooms and engaging students in quick lessons about
the fresh and healthy snacks that they enjoy daily. It has been a great opportunity to informally survey
students and educators about the successes and challenges of providing this program and to build up
excitement about upcoming school garden activities! I have learned so much more about the three
elementary schools and their 900 students through providing these short lessons than I did during my

Through the FFVP nutrition education activities I was finally able get out of my LSE office and start
visiting the Marengo Valley campus where I met Candy Webb who on the kitchen staff for the Marengo
Valley School and quickly learned that she is a rock star! When she is not busy preparing and presenting
great meals and snacks for students at MVS she is wondering how she can start serving chickens from
the farms across the road from the school, and all of the MVS students know that they can save their
grape stems and other inedible leftovers from lunch to give to Mrs. Webb so that she can ‘compost’
them with her goats at home. I also quickly learned that the First Grade teachers at MVS already have
already integrated gardening into their curriculum independently of our F2S activities. Meeting the folks
at Marengo Valley has taught me that even if you can’t reach your highest objectives you can still find
alternative ways to reach out to students and meet the same ends.

Amorin Mello is a Nutrition Education Member for the Ashland School District’s F2S program where he is
developing a school garden site and nutrition education components for the District’s Fresh Fruits and
Vegetables program. Amorin has been involved with the local foods movement of Chequamegon Bay
and is proud to continue contributing through the F2S program. Amorin is looking forward to the spring
thaw so that the LSE school garden fence can be completed for providing a space for growing and
learning free of hungry critters during the quiet summertime.

                                   Learning How to Give
                                      Krista Engelhardt
                          WI AmeriCorps Farm to School Program
          Portage County Farm to School sponsored by Central Rivers Farmshed, LLC
                                U.S. Congressional District 7
                                 State Assembly District 71
                                  State Senate District 24

The terms “community service” and “volunteering” did not mean much to me until I began my
year of AmeriCorps service. I had volunteered a few times in my life, but had never really
understood the true meaning and power - how great it can feel to give, how great it can feel to
help others give, and how much others have been giving all along. I am consistently awed and
moved by how much my fellow community members give, whether they are helping with farm
to school programs, organizing community educational events, or cooking and serving healthy
meals for families in need at the only homeless shelter in Portage County. Although some days
are tough, I am fortunate to be surrounded by community members who just keep giving, and
they inspire me to do the same.

AmeriCorps has helped me gain a sense of the difference I can make every day, and provided
me with the opportunity to share my love of local food and my values of environmental
stewardship with others. I have become an active volunteer in other aspects of my community
as well, because my service has helped me realize that volunteers play a key role in successful,
healthy communities, and also because I am inspired to give back to the community which has
shown so much support for the local food movement in Central Wisconsin. I have learned that
volunteers are truly priceless, and together, we really can make the world a better place.

Krista is the Community Outreach AmeriCorps Member for Portage County Farm to School. She
studied Environmental Ethics and Resource Management at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens

                                           Re-Imagining our Food System
                                                  Alexandra Miller
                                       WI AmeriCorps Farm to School Program
                                           REAP Food Group, Madison WI
                                               Congressional District 2
                                                 Assembly District 76
                                               State Senate District 26

Steeped in the food politics of a progressive city, it’s easy to forget that our entrée of local food, sold to the jingle
of “vote with your fork,” is not easy for schools to participate in. Downtown, Madison’s capitol square hosts the
largest farmers market in the nation, and restaurants that serve up ‘slow food’ ideals of “good, clean, and fair
food.” Not too far from here, there are communities, parents, teachers, and students who lack fresh produce and
farmers markets. As an AmeriCorps member, I have been granted an opportunity to bridge this disparity while
processing snacks for schools every other Sunday and Monday. Moreover, I’m concluding that the way we value
cooking, food processing, and food service labor might be our largest barrier to shortening the routes of food from
farm to cafeteria.

Instead of simply shipping in baby carrots that were grown, cut, and packaged in California, my Farm to School
program contacts local farmers and coordinate how those carrots will be delivered, peeled, chopped, and
packaged for school snacks. At first, I noticed that this labor is repetitive, dirty, and potentially dangerous. But
with a good attitude and plenty of rotation, snacks for hundreds of kids are prepared in less than 8 hours. My
experiences processing local food into school snacks helps me understand that transforming the school lunch
menu requires more localized food processing sites. Our food processing site is a soup kitchen 7 days a week. They
began the food service workers readiness program to combat poverty and joblessness in our city, via the bustling,
ever-expanding restaurant industry.

Working alongside fellow AmeirCorps members and participants in this workers’ readiness program, I am learning
more about navigating difference and establishing commonality in the kitchen. Many participants bring an
understanding of urban problems not limited to food insecurity and joblessness. One day, while talking with one
of the participants, I learned that she had a lengthy resume of restaurant work and even management. She
summed up her experiences in the food system, explaining, “it’s all about the people you work with, that’s what
makes a good job. And that’s why things are working out today.” Her words really stuck with me; instead of
viewing kitchen work as repetitive and mundane, I grew to value it as one of the most important and valuable
parts of our food system. When I practice positive readiness, I am finding that this is perhaps the best way to
appreciate our farmers, our food, and our community.

While processing food and working in schools, I am understanding how fixing our food system doesn’t happen
alone, but rather synergistically affects our education system and our economy. It can interact with our education
system, where there’s both demand and hunger, and affect the way people find value in labor, food, and
agriculture. My service with AmeriCorps reveals to me how joblessness, lack of workplace dignity, and hunger can
all be turned around by a more localized system of processing local foods and distributing it to public schools. A
more democratized distribution of food and knowledge begins here.

Alexandra Miller is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and proud member of the AmeriCorps
Farm to School team. She is interested in local folklife and storytelling. She is always finding good reasons to
gather people around a home cooked meal.

                                        A Recip