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Digest: Volume 1, Issue 3
June 2012


Leduc Center Receives Commonwealth Corps Grant 

The Leduc Center for Civic Engagement (LCCE) is the recent recipient of a Commonwealth Corp grant from the Massachusetts Service Alliance. The Commonwealth Corps' mission is to engage Massachusetts residents of all ages and backgrounds in direct service to rebuild communities and address unmet community needs. The Commonwealth Corps provides opportunities for skill building and leadership development. They also encourage and enhance a lifelong civic vocation for Corps members. Corps members provide direct service; build capacity; and recruit, organize and mobilize additional volunteers, thus building a grassroots movement of volunteers dedicated to service.

The grant proposal, titled UMD CARES (Community Action Requires Engaging Students), is a nine-month collaboration between the LCCE and the Fall River School Department, which will place eight Corps members in eight elementary and middle schools in Fall River to address student engagement, aspirations for higher education, and, ultimately, the drop-out crisis. Commonwealth Corp members will partner with a teacher(s) to develop, coordinate, and implement community-based learning and/or service-learning pedagogy to increase school/civic engagement, increase educational aspirations, and increase leadership knowledge, skills and abilities, which have shown to affect retention.

This program is a win-win situation for the students and the community involved. Students are engaged in community issues through service-learning activities and the community is a benefactor of the students' engagement. For more information about this program or if you would like to be a Commonwealth Corps member, contact Gary Marden, Leduc Center for Civic Engagement Grant Coordinator at gary.marden@umassd.edu or 508-999-8152.

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  Tenant in the Senate

A Reflection Piece on My Internship in Senator Kerry's Office
by UMD Student Jeremy Hunt 

How many college students can claim they worked in a United States Senator’s office? Or that they worked down the hall from Sen. John McCain? In early May, I returned home after spending my spring 2012 semester in The Washington Center’s Political Leadership Program. The Washington Center (TWC) is a non-profit organization which brings together students from all over the world to intern and study in Washington, D.C. I accepted an offer to work as a legislative intern in the Office of U.S. Senator John F. Kerry. At my internship site, I attended policy briefings/hearings on current issues, such as the Student Loan Crisis, the State of the Housing Market, the Due Process Guarantee Act, and the Ethics of the Supreme Court. At one Foreign Relations Committee hearing, I stood just 10 feet away from George Clooney. Mr. Clooney was petitioning the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to take action in Sudan. His brief testimony and documentary highlighted the extent and duration of suffering the people of Sudan have endured. It was invigorating to see a famous celebrity using his image for good. 

In Senator Kerry’s office, I organized a nonprofit book program that sent books to various public schools and nonprofits in Massachusetts, guided Capitol tours, researched various issues/projects, provided services to constituents, and performed other miscellaneous tasks. At the semester’s end, I better understood how Congress functioned and became substantially interested in politics. Also, I am now more comfortable working professionally in an office setting, and I am poised to begin my career upon graduation.

While working as a legislative intern, I have met Senators John Kerry, John McCain, Richard Lugar, and Lindsey Graham, all of whom serve on prestigious committees. John McCain held an elevator for me on a few occasions and I shared the same subway car as Lindsey Graham. The senators offered career advice and even shared personal stories, which was surprising. Unless they were hurrying to make a floor vote or surrounded by impatient staffers, senators were willing to take pictures and hold brief conversations. Not only did I meet politicians, I met former Yankees manager, Joe Torre, and actresses Gabrielle Union and Mariel Hemingway while working on Capitol Hill. I took a photograph with Joe Torre and got an autograph, but I also asked him what it was like being teammates with baseball legend, Hank Aaron. Mr. Torre told me Hank Aaron was a better person than he was a baseball player, and that Aaron helped Torre learn how to hit sliders off some of the best pitchers in baseball. The most surprising thing about meeting such powerful people was finding out how down-to-earth they are. Every day was an adventure because you never knew who you might meet.

In mid-April, former Vice President Dick Cheney spoke to the students enrolled at The Washington Center. The event was broadcast live on C-SPAN and students were given the chance to ask Mr. Cheney questions. I happened to be one of the students chosen to ask him a question. I asked Mr. Cheney if he had ever stood alone on an important issue as a leader, and if so, how did he handle that situation. Interestingly enough, he stated that he was one of the few leaders who supported the use of waterboarding and other torture techniques on prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Mr. Cheney proclaimed that through waterboarding and interrogation, the U.S. was able to obtain valuable intelligence allowing us to pinpoint the location of Osama Bin Laden, which ultimately lead to his demise. While I believe that waterboarding and other illegal torture techniques are inhumane, I was pleased with Mr. Cheney’s honesty. He could have cited another example, but Mr. Cheney chose a controversial topic and shared his personal feelings on the matter.

Along with meeting important speakers, the TWC cultivates growth in students’ professional development. Throughout the semester, students attended workshops to improve their résumés and cover letters, prepare for job interviews, work on writing business letters, and complete a semester portfolio. The portfolio is meant to capture all of the students’ experiences at their internship sites, in various courses, and even in their civic engagement projects. I look to applying the advice and counseling I received while searching for future employment.

Last but not least, living in Washington, D.C. provided me with the opportunity to explore our nation’s capital for 15 weeks. TWC housing facility directly placed me in the center of the capital. I visited many museums and sites including the National Art Gallery, the American History Museum, the NASA Air and Space Museum, the Holocaust Museum, the International Spy Museum, the National Archives, and Arlington National Cemetery. Over the course of the semester, I attended numerous Washington Wizards, Nationals, and Capitals games because tickets were very affordable. I experienced many firsts while staying in the nation’s capital. I performed open-mic poetry a few times, tried waltz dancing, and tried various cuisines for the first time. I can enthusiastically state that Vietnamese Pho is the best soup I have ever tasted. There was never a shortage of activities in Washington, D.C. It happens to be one of the most lively and diverse cities in the world.

The past 15 weeks were the best of my life and I feel blessed having had the opportunity to spend them with such a great group of students at The Washington Center. Students came from the US, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Bolivia, South Korea, Taiwan, Belgium, and the UK, just to name a few. Everyone foreign to New England picked up on my thick “Boston” accent, but everyone I met was welcoming and sociable. I made lifelong friends from all over and I intend to keep in touch with all of them. I will never forget the memories from my spring 2012 semester in Washington, D.C. I was presented with opportunities to meet people I could not have imagined meeting and I only hope that more students will explore the opportunities presented through the TWC and share in these experiences. 

Jeremy Hunt was a student who recently graduated from UMass Dartmouth and received a minor in Leadership and Civic Engagement. While Jeremy was interning with the Washington Center, Dr. Matthew Roy, Director of the Leduc Center, served as his faculty advisor on campus.

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AmericCorps*VISTA Positions Available 

The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth's Office of Campus and Community Sustainability and the Leduc Center for Civic Engagement invite applications for two VISTA positions (federal AmeriCorps grant-funded service positions). Join an exciting team researching alternative ways for people to meet their economic needs by setting up a time and talent bartering system. Time Banking is being used in communities around the world, and we want to explore how it would work best in the South Coast region of Massachusetts, particularly in New Bedford and Fall River. Time Banking is a very successful solution to restoring self-sufficiency and dignity to anyone suffering unemployment or insufficient income. Work would be performed part-time at the University and part-time in the community hosted by two partnering community groups -- United Neighbors of Fall River and the Community Economic Development Center in New Bedford. Successful applicants will be learning cutting-edge economic solutions for a changing world and will be helping disadvantaged citizens find a pathway to hope for the future and improved self-esteem. Although the VISTAs will have support from University staff and graduate students, this project is also an opportunity to shine with independent research and problem solving skills.

The Sustainability Office is an award-winning "Leading by Example" establishment, and UMass Dartmouth is on the Princeton Review's list of Green Colleges. The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth has also been named as one of the nation's elite universities - and the only in Massachusetts - for its support of volunteering, service-learning and civic engagement by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) and the U.S. Department of Education.

VISTAs must each have a car to perform their duties. These are one-year, full-time positions with the potential to reapply for another year. Benefits include Health Insurance and an End-of-Service Educational Award. To apply, go to https://my.americorps.gov/mp/login.do. For more information, contact Susan Jennings at sjennings@umassd.edu.

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SouthCoast Serves National Volunteer Week Video

SouthCoast Serves lead a week of events for National Volunteer Week (April 15-21) with the theme of Spring into Service in the SouthCoast! We were able to engage 371 volunteers in 1,388 hours of service in 6 days as part of the Massachusetts Service Alliance’s YOU GENERATE VOLUNTEERS campaign!

The week of events was a great way to engage the community in a variety of volunteer projects that they can choose to continue independently. We have captured the whole week of service on video and you can view it here!

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OutreachLeduc Center for Civic Engagement > Digest > June 2012