Friday, January 21, 2011

National Service: An Investment We Can't Afford to Lose

From The Chronicle for Philanthropy:

Nonprofit lobbyists will have their hands full in the new Congress. House Republican leaders have already said they want to bring a big chunk of federal spending this year back to 2008 levels.

But now a group of conservative Republicans says that’s not enough. The Republican Study Committee, a bloc of more than 165 members, unveiled a proposal Thursday that would end a range of federal programs that benefit charities and their clients.

Among its proposals:
* Eliminate AmeriCorps and other national-service programs.
* Abolish the Agency for International Development.
* Close the national endowments for the arts and humanities and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
* End Department of Energy grants to help low-income people weatherize their homes.

National service programs like AmeriCorps are not a drain on our resources – quite the opposite. They provide support systems and opportunities that not only make our communities better, but that help our communities function – especially when economic times are tough. Higher Achievement has been fortunate enough to host several talented VISTA volunteers and AmeriCorps direct service members, and we see every day the impact that these tremendous programs have on community-based organizations, the youth and families we serve, and our communities at large.

Because of the expanded capacity made possible by VISTA volunteers over the past three years, we have: expanded and improved our volunteer recruitment, management, and retention practices (critical to securing long-term positive academic outcomes for scholars); developed and implemented new family engagement strategies based on best practices in the field; engaged new funders and champions to ensure sustainability; piloted an alumni engagement strategy to ease the transition to 9th grade; and developed programmatic partnerships that provide social services safety nets to our most at-risk scholars and their families.

Midway through our first year hosting direct service AmeriCorps members at our DC Achievement Centers we are already seeing them make great strides to improve our services to scholars and families, as well as deepening our school partnerships. One Member at our Ward 6 center, Ms. Amelia, embodies the impact of this program. Amelia noticed that a group of scholars in her study hall, who all had the same science teacher at school, were earning Cs in that class, even though she knew they had been very engaged in science over the summer at Higher Achievement. Amelia met with the teacher, and learned that the scholars had been completing their assignments incorrectly. She and the teacher worked together to identify improvement strategies, and she began working with those scholars in a special extended study hall, focused on their science assignments. By the time report cards were released, all of the scholars had increased their grades to an A. Without the expanded capacity at Center to drill down deeply on scholars’ individualized needs in the classroom, we would never have been able to help shepherd such dramatic improvement. The AmeriCorps program allows Higher Achievement to increase its full-time Center staffing by 50% at nominal cost to the organization, and our scholars are already reaping the rewards.

AmeriCorps and other national service programs are making a dramatic impact on the capacity of community-based organizations working in the most at-risk communities across the country. We know without a doubt that economic opportunity for our country begins in our schools, homes, and on our streets. If we are to see the reap the rewards tomorrow, we must invest in those places today.

- Richard Tagle
CEO, Higher Achievement

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Higher Achievement Honors MLK Day!

Higher Achievement will be partnering with both Greater DC Cares and The DC AmeriCorps Leadership Council in recognition of service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Brushes in hand, Higher Achievement staff will help paint the Family Health and Birth Center in Northeast DC, in order to help it meet health code regulations. The center provides services to hundreds of low income families around the DC area, insuring healthy deliveries and development of children and their families.

The Family Health and Birth Center’s mission is to provide family centered community based primary health care services with a focus on prevention. Additionally, the center provides maternity and birth care, health care services, integrated family development services and improvement of the health status of families in the surrounding community.

Get live updates and photos of the event by following @higherachieve on Twitter. There will be live tweets from Higher Achievement Staff on the progress of the project.