A Call for Collaboration: Savannah Votes

May 17th, 2018 by

A Call for Collaboration: Savannah Votes

At the center of Step Up’s work is the belief that all community members should be represented in community decision-making. Throughout history, systems have marginalized populations by reducing or preventing their participation in economic, social, and political life. Over the last ten years, the Neighborhood Leadership Academy (NLA) at Savannah State University has been Step Up’s primary method of promoting civic engagement and grassroots community organizing within low-wealth communities. The NLA brings together established and emerging leaders from diverse segments of the community to enhance their leadership skills with a focus on advocacy, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Cierra Selby, Savannah Votes Coordinator

In 2017, Step Up’s “Savannah Votes” initiative was created by the NLA Alumni Network. The network consists of 119 alumni, each member representing their own circles of influence and neighborhoods. Step Up secured additional funding to support a part-time voter engagement coordinator and Cierra Selby was hired to fill this role.

As a non-partisan initiative, Savannah Votes wants to ensure all Chatham County residents have the opportunity to fully exercise their political power through voting. Savannah Votes builds on the success of community organizing and offers the public grassroots voter engagement and registration drives.

Savannah Votes will build upon Step Up’s model of collaboration as the foundation of its efforts.  At the nucleus of Savannah Votes is the volunteer. Collaborating with volunteers adds value, credibility and community buy-in to this kind of civic participation. In addition to the NLA Alumni Network volunteers, Savannah Votes will train community members to move the program towards its goal. Step Up will collaborate with its myriad of nonprofit and business partners at events, schools, faith communities, and businesses to meet unregistered residents where they are.

Step Up Savannah works to engage all sectors of the community to improve the economic mobility and financial stability of families in Savannah, Chatham County and in order to be successful at this, all members of our community must be at the table. Step Up is excited to expand their civic engagement efforts, starting with one voter registration card at a time.

If you would like to volunteer with Step Up’s voter engagement project, call 912-232-6747 or email savannahvotes@stepupsavannah.org.

Alexandra Nicosias-Kopp’s Year of VISTA

April 25th, 2018 by

During a community planning internship, Alexandra Nicosias-Kopp’s architecture and design professor at the University at Buffalo shared her experience with AmeriCorps VISTA following college. Intrigued, Alexandra learned more about the national program and submitted applications for several positions. Although Alexandra had spent most of her life traveling, even living abroad for many years in Australia and Greece, she was excited to experience the South as it had always been somewhat mysterious to her. The images of moss-covered trees, warm winters and the rich history of Hostess City appealed to her. So after speaking with the staff at Step Up, Alexandra accepted the position of Fundraising & Outreach AmeriCorps VISTA.

While leaving support systems behind seemed daunting at first, Alexandra embraced the warmth of the Savannah community. She quickly established a network of AmeriCorps VISTAs, often organizing outings and trips to explore other cities. Working and living downtown allowed her to explore Savannah’s history while trying every single pizza place within the two-mile radius. She embraced the hospitality and duplicated it in every interaction she had with clients, colleagues, and other VISTAs.

Most of Alexandra’s work experience had been client-facing positions in the hospitality industry so at first working in an office felt foreign to her. But she quickly found her groove. She organized fundraisers, managed volunteers, wrote grants, and supported the staff in a multitude of ways. She oversaw Step Up’s social media presence, utilizing her interest in graphic design and her knack for storytelling. She stepped out of her comfort zone to speak publicly in front of community leaders. She interviewed and photographed countless Chatham Apprentice Program graduates, Medicaid recipients, and tax preparation clients as they shared about how programs in the Savannah helped them overcome obstacles to success. All the opportunities to explore various aspects of nonprofit work helped her to discover her strengths, weaknesses, and passions.

Alexandra describes AmeriCorps VISTA as “an incredible learning experience for people that are uncertain of what they want to do.” Through this experience, Alexandra was able to develop skills to will help her reach her personal and professional goals. But Step Up also benefited from her tireless commitment to the mission of the organization. Her creativity and initiative built capacity in fundraising, communications, event planning, and wealth building.

Although Alexandra will say that it was she who benefited from the AmeriCorps VISTA program, Step Up would argue that the greater impact was made within the organization and for the community. Her commitment and the commitment of AmeriCorps VISTAs like her contributes to Savannah’s growing and resourceful nonprofit community dedicated to creating pathways to prosperity for the 25 percent of residents living in poverty.

Luckily, Savannah will have Alexandra for a bit longer. Recognizing her ability to lead and create strong relationships, Alexandra was invited to return next year as an AmeriCorps VISTA leader. In this capacity, she will assist in the local management of the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Savannah boasts eight AmeriCorps VISTAs placed at nonprofits and the Chatham Emergency Management Agency. Alexandra will continue to support the Step Up office while ensuring that all AmeriCorps VISTAs and their host agencies are supported and engaged.

Host Families Wanted

April 6th, 2018 by

This summer, Step Up Savannah is coordinating two summer volunteer programs – Yale University’s Go South and AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate Program. Interns from Yale University and from the AmeriCorps VISTA program will be in Savannah working with local non-profits to help build capacity with research projects or summer programs.

Volunteers will be in Savannah from June 1st to July 31st. We are looking for host families with a private room or guest house that would be willing to host a volunteer or two for their summer of service.

If you would be interested in hosting, please fill out the form below.

Yale interns and AmeriCorps VISTAs will be placed at the following non-profits:

Forsyth Farmers Market, Georgia Historical Society, Horizons Savannah, Performance Initiatives,  Savannah-Chatham County Fair Housing Council, Step Up, Summer 500 (City of Savannah), and Wesley Community Center.

Now Hiring – Voter Engagement Coordinator

March 5th, 2018 by

Spend the 2018 election cycle running Savannah Votes, a grassroots voter engagement and registration drive!  This program will challenge you to grow as an individual, leader and community organizer as you amplify the voices of underrepresented communities throughout Chatham County, Georgia.

Step Up Savannah is seeking a Voter Engagement Coordinator to manage our grassroots voter registration campaign, recruit and train volunteers, and general outreach in Savannah and Chatham County.

Roles & Responsibilities

The Voter Engagement Coordinator will execute Savannah Votes including, but not limited to:

  • Manage organizing efforts with Step Up Savannah’s Neighborhood Leadership Academy Alumni group, Resident Team, and volunteers
  • Oversee the day-to-day management of voter registration volunteers in preparation for the 2018 election cycle
  • Coordinate with local and statewide partners to establish a Savannah Votes schedule of events
  • Work with statewide partner to oversee the implementation of quality control measures

As the Voter Engagement Coordinator, you won’t be tied to a desk for 20 hours a week. You will meet people from diverse backgrounds as you seek to be a change agent at the grassroots level.

Knowledge & Skills

We are seeking a candidate with leadership skills who is excited to help lead a pilot voter registration program in Savannah.

Other skills we are looking for include:

  • Proven & highly effective organizational and written/oral communication skills
  • Strong track record of setting and meeting goals
  • Ability to network and build strategic relationships
  • Efficient in meeting tight deadlines
  • Demonstrated ability in working in diverse and underrepresented communities
  • Willingness to work non-traditional hours and weekends
  • Willingness to work until all tasks are complete

Strong applicants will...

  • Understand and be committed to the mission of Step Up Savannah
  • Highly organized and productive
  • Creative, results-orientated self-starter who can work independently with limited direct day-to-day supervision
  • Experience with grassroots organizing or political or agency campaign experience
  • Prepared to travel county-wide with your own vehicle – mileage will be reimbursed
  • Fluency in Spanish a plus!

Compensation:

Salary commensurate with experience – up to $17.00/hour

This is a temporary, part-time (up to 30 hours a week) role that spans April 1 – October 8, 2018.

Application Process:

Submit a letter of interest, resume, three professional references and a writing sample

Attn: Jen Singeisen, Executive Director

Jsingeisen@StepUpSavannah.org

Deadline:

Applications will be reviewed beginning March 7, 2018 and will be accepted until the position is filled.

Step Up Savannah is an equal opportunity employer.  We encourage applications from all qualified individuals without regard to race, color, religion, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, age, national origin, marital status, citizenship, and disability.

Step Up Savannah engages all sectors of the community to improve the economic mobility and financial stability of families in Savannah and Chatham County.

What We’re Reading

February 9th, 2018 by

Alexandra Nicosias-Kopp, AmeriCorps VISTA

Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle

An electrifying story of the sensational murder trial that divided a city and ignited the civil rights struggle

In 1925, Detroit was a smoky swirl of jazz and speakeasies, assembly lines and fistfights. The advent of automobiles had brought workers from around the globe to compete for manufacturing jobs, and tensions often flared with the KKK in ascendance and violence rising. Ossian Sweet, a proud Negro doctor-grandson of a slave-had made the long climb from the ghetto to a home of his own in a previously all-white neighborhood. Yet just after his arrival, a mob gathered outside his house; suddenly, shots rang out: Sweet, or one of his defenders, had accidentally killed one of the whites threatening their lives and homes.

And so it began-a chain of events that brought America’s greatest attorney, Clarence Darrow, into the fray and transformed Sweet into a controversial symbol of equality. Historian Kevin Boyle weaves the police investigation and courtroom drama of Sweet’s murder trial into an unforgettable tapestry of narrative history that documents the volatile America of the 1920s and movingly re-creates the Sweet family’s journey from slavery through the Great Migration to the middle class. Ossian Sweet’s story, so richly and poignantly captured here, is an epic tale of one man trapped by the battles of his era’s changing times.

Carole Fireall, NLA Coordinator & Office Administrator

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Edward Gresham, Chatham Apprentice Program Coordinator

Destruction of Black Civilization: Great Issues of a Race

The Destruction of Black Civilization took Chancellor Williams sixteen years of research and field study to compile. The book, which was to serve as a reinterpretation of the history of the African race, was intended to be “”a general rebellion against the subtle message from even the most ‘liberal’ white authors (and their Negro disciples): ‘You belong to a race of nobodies. You have no worthwhile history to point to with pride.'”” The book was written at a time when many black students, educators, and scholars were starting to piece together the connection between the way their history was taught and the way they were perceived by others and by themselves. They began to question assumptions made about their history and took it upon themselves to create a new body of historical research. The book is premised on the question: “If the Blacks were among the very first builders of civilization and their land the birthplace of civilization, what has happened to them that has left them since then, at the bottom of world society, precisely what happened? The Caucasian answer is simple and well-known: The Blacks have always been at the bottom.” Williams instead contends that many elements—nature, imperialism, and stolen legacies— have aided in the destruction of the black civilization. The Destruction of Black Civilization is revelatory and revolutionary because it offers a new approach to the research, teaching, and study of African history by shifting the main focus from the history of Arabs and Europeans in Africa to the Africans themselves, offering instead “a history of blacks that is a history of blacks. Because only from history can we learn what our strengths were and, especially, in what particular aspect we are weak and vulnerable. Our history can then become at once the foundation and guiding light for united efforts in serious[ly] planning what we should be about now.” It was part of the evolution of the black revolution that took place in the 1970s, as the focus shifted from politics to matters of the mind.

Isaac Felton, Chatham Apprentice Program Manager

If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules: Ten Rules for Being Human

In If Life Is a Game, These Are the Rules, Chérie shares that there are no mistakes in life, only lessons that are repeated. In thoughtful, inspirational essays illustrated with encouraging personal anecdotes, she includes the lessons that can be learned from each of the Rules and offers insights on self-esteem, respect, acceptance, forgiveness, ethics, compassion, humility, gratitude, and courage. Best of all, Chérie shows that wisdom lies inside each one of us and that by putting the Ten Rules for Being Human into action we can create a more fulfilling life.

Jen Singeisen, Executive Director

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as “brave and bold,” this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a “call to action.”

The 10 Lenses: Your Guide to Living and Working in a Multicultural World

In this ground-breaking new book, acclaimed diversity expert Mark Williams offers ten “eye-opening” lenses to help you, your organization, and everyone in it, understand how cultural diversity affects the way we live and work. There’s the Assimilationist who believes that everyone should act like a true blue American, and the Culturalcentrist who believes that a person’s race or ethnicity is central to their personal and public identity; the Meritrocratist who is sure that if you have the abilities and work hard enough you can make your dreams come true regardless of race or culture, and the Victim/Caregiver who believes that because of bias they will never succeed. Learn more about these lenses, as well as six other lenses that Mark Williams has developed to respond to cultural diversity.

Kate Blair, Director of Development & Communications

Systems Change: A Guide To What It Is and How To Do It

Systems change: A guide to what it is and how to do it

Systems change has been attracting the attention of those in the social sector who want to deal with the root causes of problems, but, despite the buzz, much of what is written is abstract in tone. With the support of LankellyChase Foundation, we have produced this guide to plug a gap in the systems change literature—providing accessible material and recommendations for action.

Robyn Wainner, Director of Asset Building & Financial Empowerment

Salvage the Bones: A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

A hurricane is building over the Gulf of Mexico, threatening the coastal town of Bois Sauvage, Mississippi, and Esch’s father is growing concerned. A hard drinker, largely absent, he doesn’t show concern for much else. Esch and her three brothers are stocking food, but there isn’t much to save. Lately, Esch can’t keep down what food she gets; she’s fourteen and pregnant. Her brother Skeetah is sneaking scraps for his prized pitbull’s new litter, dying one by one in the dirt. While brothers Randall and Junior try to stake their claim in a family long on child’s play and short on parenting. As the twelve days that comprise the novel’s framework yield to the final day and Hurricane Katrina, the unforgettable family at the novel’s heart–motherless children sacrificing for each other as they can, protecting and nurturing where love is scarce–pulls itself up to struggle for another day. A wrenching look at the lonesome, brutal, and restrictive realities of rural poverty, Salvage the Bone is muscled with poetry, revelatory, and real.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh

 

Client Success Story – Donald Gates

November 27th, 2017 by

Donald Gates struggled to find a job because of his criminal background. As a husband and father, the weight of providing for his family grew heavier by the day. When he heard that the Chatham Apprentice Program was offering their E3 (Education, Empower, Employ) class coupled with a forklift safety certification, he jumped at the chance to participate. Donald thought a certification would make him more appealing to employers, so he filled out an application and attended the first class of 2016.

At CAP, Donald learned new skills such as resume writing and interview techniques. He found the record restriction portion of the class, provided by Georgia Legal Services Program, to be especially beneficial. Now he better understands his criminal record and can confidently explain his past to potential employers.

“And confidence,” says Donald, “is the best thing I gained from the program. Honestly, before CAP I struggled to present myself as a responsible and respectable person. Now I feel proud of who I am.”

After graduation, Donald secured a job at a local warehouse at $10.00 an hour. However, he felt he could do more. So he started his own business, Gates Lawn Care. It wasn’t long before he could focus on his business full-time and Donald credits this success to CAP.

“With the help of CAP, I became aware of how a potential employer sees me. I learned how to answer questions and approach people with confidence.  Now I use those skills when I’m handing out my business cards or flyers. I can knock on a door and sell myself.”

Today, Donald proudly says, “I feel like I’m setting a good example for my kids. Now they see that I’m able to make my own way and that I will turn around and give others the opportunities that I didn’t have.”

And when he is ready to hire more employees, he knows the first place he will look – the Chatham Apprentice Program.

Learn more about the Chatham Apprentice Program at www.capsavannah.org.

 

 

Client Story – Keya Jest

November 17th, 2017 by

“Forget it, this is never going to work, I’m a convicted felon and nobody wants me!” 

This feeling of hopelessness haunted Keya Jest for years.  Substance abuse and addiction resulted in an extensive criminal background.  For many, this would have been the end of the road, but Keya overcame her addiction, and she looked forward to a new beginning. Regardless of being substance-free for two years, Keya’s criminal background was a barrier to finding a good paying job. Keya’s outgoing and sunny disposition helped get her many job offers, but once the employer completed a background check the offers were rescinded.

In 2016, she learned about Step Up’s Chatham Apprentice Program (CAP). At the time, she was working two part-time, low-paying hospitality jobs and barely making ends meet while pursuing a degree in business management at Savannah Tech. Despite her busy life, she made the time to attend the CAP classes, and now says it was one of the best decisions that she ever made.

CAP’s curriculum includes soft skill training, mock interviews, financial education, and legal assistance.  The mock interviews introduced Keya to the details that make a big difference when meeting a potential employer, such as poise and professionalism.

“During class, I was tired of doing all the interviews but once I walked into a real job interview, I was so thankful for the practice,” says Keya. “I carried myself with confidence.”

Keya also learned vital financial skills such as building credit, saving for the future, and choosing a bank account from the financial education provided by Consumer Credit Counseling Services. Keya started to dream again, envisioning a wedding and owning a home. But for Keya, meeting Nancy DeVetter of the Georgia Legal Services Program in CAP was a game changer. Nancy worked with Keya to identify eligible records on her background check that could be restricted from public view and explained how Keya could communicate these records with potential employers.

When Keya next applied for a higher wage job it was a different story. Keya explained her history to the employer and provided a character reference from CAP staff.  The employer decided to act outside of their regular course of action and brought Keya onboard.

Keya’s new normal includes being substance-free for three years, a good paying job with benefits that she loves, and being able to take care of her rescue dogs.  Step Up introduced Keya to a pathway to prosperity and she has never looked back.

On October 12, Keya hosted Step Up Savannah’s 12th Annual Meeting. She was spectacular! We are so proud to have her as both a CAP graduate and friend.

Do you want to see more people find their pathways to prosperity? Step Up needs your help to continue this important work. Please take a moment to donate today. 

 

 

Step Up is Looking for an Intern

July 28th, 2017 by

Position: Fundraising and Communications Intern

Description: Step Up Savannah seeks a dynamic, self-starter to assist with fundraising and communications efforts. This internship is an excellent opportunity to experience various aspects of marketing while working for well-known community based nonprofit organization.

Responsibilities:

  • Assist with Step Up’s social media presence, including scheduling updates
  • Draft, distribute and pitch news releases, media alerts, and other stories
  • Collaborating with staff on new ideas, directions, and venues for marketing and communications
  • Updating Step Up’s Working Families Network directory
  • Interview social service agencies that participate in Step Up’s Working Families Network
  • Interview past graduates of the Neighborhood Leadership Academy
  • Write client stories for marketing efforts
  • Supporting creation and dissemination of Step Up’s annual appeal
  • Maintaining donor and grant databases and files, including calendaring deadlines, logging donations, generating and sending donor acknowledgments, logging donor appreciation efforts
  • Assisting staff with grant application writing and tracking
  • Supporting staff with logistics associated with special events, including assisting with creation of invitation list, all logistics, soliciting sponsors, communicating with venue and vendors

Qualifications:

  • Firm grasp of available tools and platforms in the social media space
  • Completed or working toward a college degree, preferably in a related field (e.g., English, Marketing/Communications, Public Administration, or Public Relations)
  • Previous internship or related experience in marketing or communications is a plus
  • Must be computer literate (working knowledge of word processing, PowerPoint, Excel).
  • Proficiency in Adobe InDesign and Photoshop a plus
  • An effective communicator, both written and oral
  • Ability to communicate in a professional manner with press and community contacts
  • Self-motivated, good organizational skills, detail-oriented, ability to prioritize, multi-task and meet deadlines
  • Possess an interest in a nonprofit career ‐ particularly development and fundraising
  • Enthusiasm for the mission of Step Up Savannah

Start Date: Position open until filled, requires 3 – 6 month commitment. Hours: 8 – 12 hours/week, preferably twice a week in the office. Up to 4 hours can be completed at home.

Compensation:  This is an unpaid position.  There is opportunity for school credit if allowed by the college/university of applicant.  Position offers an excellent opportunity to work on substantive projects and can result in a great reference.

To apply: E‐mail cover letter, resume, and writing sample to Director of Development & Communications – Kate Blair kblair@stepupsavannah.org with a Re: line of “Application for Development Intern”

Step Up Savannah is an Equal Opportunity Employer and does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, age, national

Step Up Savannah, Inc. engages all sectors of the community to improve the economic mobility and financial stability of families in Savannah, Chatham County. To learn more, visit the website www.stepupsavannah.org or follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram @stepupsavannah

Step Up Is Hiring!

July 27th, 2017 by

Chatham Apprentice Program Coordinator

Location: Step Up Savannah, 428 Bull Street Savannah, GA 31401

Posting Start Date: 07/27/2017

Posting End Date: 08/02/2017

Salary: $16.34-$26.97

Job Summary: Under direction of the Program Manager, the Coordinator is responsible for recruitment of participants from the high poverty census tracts with special attention to low income, under employed, unemployed and high-risk populations. Maintains full and accurate records and reports on participants, training sessions and distributes as required and directed. Enters data/ participant records into the database system, reviews and analyzes reports. Interfaces and builds business relationships for participants as directed. Provides follow-up tracking on all participants at regularly defined intervals. Participates in program planning/ assessment/ progress meetings with Manager, training team members and others as requested. Interfaces with Savannah Technical College, local community centers and partners, etc. for CAP participants. Provides some administrative duties and supportive tasks as needed for a participant to successfully complete CAP, including special events as they occur. Performs other work as requested by Program Manager.

Minimum Qualifications: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in human resources, management, business administration or related field, supplemented by at least three (3) to five (5) years’ experience in working and proving record of placement with “high-risk adults.” Case management and coaching concept is a plus. Possess good communication skills and must have excellent computer skills: Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc. Must be able to perform in stressful situations and exercise good judgment. Must be able to enter the local detention center for recruitment.

Step Up is Hiring!

February 24th, 2017 by

PT Graphic Design and Grant Coordination Associate

Step Up Savannah seeks a self-motivated individual with graphic design and project management skills to assist in achieving program goals and communicate impact.

The ideal candidate has experience in the production of print advertising, websites, web banners, and landing pages as well as posters, banners, and signage. This is an 8-16 hour/week position; days flexible.

Responsibilities will include meeting with program leads to determine the scope of a project, develop graphics and creating designs to accurately portray the desired message, presenting to the department, and working with vendors. We are looking for an individual with strong conceptual skills and the ability to look at projects from various perspectives to design innovating approaches and solutions.

In addition, this position will assist with grant reporting and project assessment through tracking expenses and progress toward grant goals as well as assisting Step Up staff in preparing grant reports.

Skills Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design or related field or 2+ years of relevant experience
  • Adobe Creative Suite
  • Microsoft Office with exceptional Microsoft PowerPoint skills
  • WordPress
  • Experience with branding
  • Ability to see project through from beginning to end with minimal supervision
  • Strong attention to detail

To apply, send a resume and cover letter to Carole Fireall at cfireall@stepupsavannah.org.