Step Up’s Summer 500 Intern

August 14th, 2017 by

As a Summer 500 intern with Step Up Savannah, DeAndre learned a variety of skills and life lessons. Over the course of the summer, DeAndre became a valuable member of our team.

DeAndre busy behind the computer

During our poverty simulation, DeAndre was assigned the role of an adult. He worked with his other “family members” to navigate the new terrain, including the locations of school, work, and where to pay the bills. The simulation represents one month, with each week being only 15 minutes long.

DeAndre quickly experienced how easy it can be to fall behind on housing costs, and his family was soon evicted. They struggled to pay for food for several weeks. They were also frustrated with the time required to wait in lines to apply for jobs and benefits. Their time was precious and they were suffering. At the end of the simulation, DeAndre and his pseudo family members were told that this type of life is not uncommon and that more than a quarter of individuals in Savannah face this reality every day.

During his last few days at Step Up, we spoke to him about his thoughts on poverty. He shared with us, “a lot of people go through it and it’s not something to take lightly”. Based on his experience, DeAndre felt compelled to design a Step Up mascot as his final project.

When asked what he gained from Step Up, DeAndre said he learned “some new tech skills, word excel, Photoshop, a little InDesign, Office, and PowerPoint.” DeAndre presented his final project with these new skills, through Photoshop, Microsoft Office, and PowerPoint.

As a part of Summer 500, the students were encouraged to join a Step Up supported bank or credit union. As a part of this process, the students signed up for direct deposit. For most students, this was their very first paycheck and bank account. For DeAndre, that was also true. With his very first paycheck and direct deposit, he began saving. We asked him if he saved any money from the summer, and how he saves money, “yeah. I have both a savings and a checking account” he answered. He mentions that he automatically puts a portion of his check into savings.

After he saved some, he wanted to treat himself with coffee and ice cream. His long term savings goal is to visit France and Morocco.

DeAndre with Robyn during the Summer 500 Kickoff

DeAndre is going to be a Junior at Jenkins High School.

Samantha’s Life as a VISTA

August 4th, 2017 by

By Samantha Kosters  

I chose to become an AmeriCorps VISTA because I needed an opportunity to gain more experience in the field I wanted to go into. I was still living in Tallahassee Florida a year after graduating from Florida State with my degree in History. I couldn’t give up on pursing a job at a museum/nonprofit. That’s what I wanted my career in. Currently, I was volunteering at Goodwood Museum & Gardens. My duties encompassed a little bit of everything from giving tours and coordinating volunteers to assisting at large events. For sometimes up to 30 hours a week I was at the museum while also balancing 2 part time jobs at a big retail chain and local fast food shop just barely getting by on minimum wage. The museum just couldn’t hire me because they didn’t have funding to provide jobs.

My cousin was currently serving as a VISTA and I learned more about the program from her. After some research I realized that this was the perfect opportunity for me to get paid while also enhancing my skills and resume. I applied to a few positions focused on fundraising and grant writing and within a few weeks had signed up to be Georgia Legal Service’s VISTA!

Samantha at Georgia Legal Services

At Georgia Legal Services, I learned how important it is was to be a VISTA members. A nonprofit like GLSP really benefits from having a VISTA in their Savannah regional office because they now have a staff member completely dedicated to fundraising and attending outreach events in the community. Our legal aid office is so important to the low income residents of Savannah who need legal assistance when it comes to government programs like food stamps, Medicaid, and social security. We also provide services for power of attorney, advanced directives, and wills. In Savannah specifically, I was able to spend a considerable amount of time managing the GLSP Facebook page.

One of my biggest successes as an AmeriCorps VISTA was writing and receiving my very first grant! I received money from a Savannah foundation that allowed GLSP to purchase a flat screen smart TV with the necessary technology to allow our attorneys to communicate with clients who live in further away counties. The TV is also used when our office has meetings with presentations. It was a necessary technological advance that our office was lacking.

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.

Janae’s life as a VISTA

July 5th, 2017 by

I choose to become a VISTA because I wanted to gain more experience working at a non-profit and to give back. I also wanted to continue exploring public service positions. I had just finished my 10-month service term in another AmeriCorps program NCCC-FEMA Corps Member where I served all over the country and I enjoyed that work,  but I wanted to get a different experience with another AmeriCorps program that would focus on my home state. Both my experiences in these different AmeriCorps programs while completely different have been once in a lifetime experience and have taught me how to be an engaged and active citizen.

For small nonprofits like CCCS and others in the Savannah Area, VISTA’s are essential for bringing in capacity building resources such as volunteers and new fundraising methods but also new ideas and new technologies. In all the nonprofits I have worked or interned at, people working there usually have multiple roles. As a VISTA we are able to come into an organization as a resource and focus on important organization things that may otherwise not have top priority and really add to the continued sustainability of that organization. This is something I have seen being done being done by my fellow VISTA not only in the Savannah but around the country as well.

The best thing about working for Consumer Credit Counseling Services (CCCS) was working with people who are truly passionate about their work and the impact that they have in the Savannah Community.  While working at CCCS, I was able to see how invaluable having a non-profit money management and financial education service is to the citizens of Savannah. I have been able to do outreach in the community and truly feel that I have made a difference in a person’s life by recommending CCCS services, because I had seen firsthand how people had been helped by CCCS services.

The two successes I am the proudest of is the CCCS website and fundraiser. I would say a big success was updating the website to make it more functional and easier to maneuver for clients. The fundraiser was another because it was the first fundraiser like that done at CCCS and in 5 hours we raised over 700 hundred dollars.

 

Summer 500 and Summer Jobs Connect initiative

June 27th, 2017 by

     The Summer 500 program has kicked off this year with hundreds of Savannah/Chatham County youth working in summer internships. Hundreds of young adults have entered the workforce for the first time. Summer 500 gives these teenagers a chance to understand and build their financial awareness. For the majority of the students, this will be their first paycheck ever. During the first week of the program, the students took classes focused on workplace safety, workplace communication, and financial education.

     The students are urged to have a bank account and utilize direct deposit as a safe and convenient way to receive their paychecks. This program has partnered with the Cities for Financial Empowerment (CFE) Fund’s Summer Jobs Connect (SJC) initiative in an effort strengthen the integration of banking access into the Summer 500 program. Step Up issued a request for proposals for financial institution partners using the SJC youth account standards. Two institutions were chosen as the official partners of the Summer 500 for their ability to create special accounts that met the national standards. South State Bank and Members First Credit Union have designed special accounts that do not offer overdraft, are non-custodial, and can be opened off-site (among other features). Both institutions were able to be present at the Summer 500 orientation to open accounts and present financial education topics. South State Bank and Members First Credit Union have recognized that this type of account in imperative for young adults entering the workforce for the first time. Since the kickoff of Summer 500, there have been 151 accounts opened for participants, with many youth opening both checking and savings accounts.

     Step Up looks forward to building upon these relationships and learning from the experience this year to further increase the integration of banking access into the program next year.      

Chris, a Summer 500 student shares his plans for his first financial goal.

    The CFE Fund’s twitter campaign has a competition every week and awards three individuals with prizes. CFE will distribute amazon gift cards and even an iPad during the Summer Jobs Connect program. During the first week, a student from Savannah was one of the first chosen for a prize. See Chris’s entry and plan for his first paycheck here. You can learn more about Summer Jobs Connect here.

 

 

My AmeriCorps VISTA Story

June 13th, 2017 by

My AmeriCorps VISTA Story

By Callie Martin

     Since I was a little girl, I’ve been a patriot. I always knew I wanted to make a sacrifice to my homeland. So after I graduated college, I chose to spend my first year in the “real world” as an AmeriCorps VISTA. During the past year, I have lived on the poverty level and felt what many Americans endure their entire lives. I think to represent the people, you have to understand the people. Not long into my service year, I realized that food stamps were literally saving my life. If I didn’t live in a country that cared about the good of the people, I would have had to choose between eating and making it to work. I’m grateful to have served my country to know that there is such a thing as “one paycheck away from homeless”. To give a helping hand, lend a voice, and protect the future, we have to live a life of empathy. AmeriCorps put my lens in focus to see what it means to live an intentional life for the good of your community.

     Through AmeriCorps, I was placed in United Way of the Coastal Empire (UWCE) to complete my service year. UWCE funds over 100 programs in a four county area. I had the pleasure of visiting each funded agency in Savannah. At the end of each visit, the needs of the community I was serving felt more vital and necessary. Needs are in high volume and those that work to serve others are tireless and dedicated individuals that I could never take for granted. More than that, the people that are in need are real humans with the sole agenda of survival. To pull themselves and their families out of poverty takes time, opportunities, and compassion. UWCE does more than most nonprofits can, but outside of maintaining the current workload they couldn’t dedicate the time to projects such as the ones that I was able to focus on and complete. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, I was viewed as a resource and the value of my work to improve the lives of those in poverty is evergreen. There is no dollar price on the lives that are made better because a VISTA took the bottom barrel paycheck and committed a year of service to their country to make long-lasting change. My future career and life choices will always reflect the truths that I found during my service year as AmeriCorps VISTA.

We Need to Protect Consumers from Prepaid Card Fraud, Fees

February 14th, 2017 by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                 Contact:  Kate Blair
February 14, 2017                                                                    kblair@stepupsavannah.org

U.S. Senators Perdue, Isakson Aim to Block Common-Sense Measures to Protect Consumers from Prepaid Card Fraud, Fees

Bill introduced would repeal consumer protection rules through fast-track law, impacting more 440,000 Georgia households

Savannah, Ga. – February 13, 2017 – Today, Step Up Savannah called on Georgia’s U.S. Senators David Perdue and Johnny Isakson to side with Georgians by refusing to use an obscure law to block the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) prepaid card rule. The move—made public through a resolution filed in the U.S. Senate last week—would block basic visa-prepaid-1600x900protections against fraud, unauthorized charges and errors from being extend to all prepaid card users.

Just as concerning, the legislative tool Senators Perdue and Isakson have chosen for this effort, the Congressional Review Act (CRA), is arcane law that gives Congress a window to fast-track the repeal of regulations from being implemented without the threat of a filibuster. Once an approved CRA resolution is signed by the President, the targeted rule is blocked and the agency can never propose another substantially similar rule without prior approval from Congress.

By attempting to permanently shelter prepaid cards from the same consumer protections that apply to debit cards, Senators Perdue and Isakson would allow prepaid card provider NetSpend—whose parent company is based in Georgia—to continue taking $80 million annually from consumers in overdraft fees. NetSpend is the only major provider to charge overdraft fees on prepaid cards, which the company primarily sells at payday loan and check-cashing stores and through payroll cards used by employers of low-wage workers.

Step_Up_JenSingeisen_03

Jen Singeisen, Executive Director of Step Up Savannah

“It is alarming that in our own home state, our Senators would want to block common-sense consumer protections, such as
basic fraud protection and fee transparency, from applying to all prepaid card users, including the hundreds of thousands of Georgia households that use these products each year,” said Jennifer Singeisen, Executive Director of Step Up Savannah. “We call on Senators Perdue and Isakson to side with these Georgians, as well as countless others across the country, and not with companies like NetSpend who use overdraft fees to strip hard-earned dollars from the pockets of our most vulnerable consumers. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s important work, including the return of nearly $12 billion to 29 million consumers, has been incredibly important to residents of Chatham County, Georgia and to our nation.”

For consumers locked out of the financial mainstream and for those seeking to avoid costly overdraft fees, prepaid cards represent an opportunity for families to have safe, affordable access to their hard-earned money. In Georgia alone, more than 440,000 underbanked households used prepaid cards in 2015, according to the FDIC. Assessing unscrupulous fees on these products diminishes the power of prepaid cards to help consumers get ahead, rather than falling farther behind.

NetSpend’s payday-lender-sold prepaid cards have unusual features that allow payday lenders to repay themselves by extracting money from the card, thus triggering overdraft fees for consumers who are largely unaware of how much money is being extracted and when. NetSpend’s cards offer an opt-in overdraft “protection” that allows the card to be used when it is empty, with the overdraft and a $15 to $25 fee taken out of the next deposit to the card.

A CFPB survey found that 98% of prepaid cards do not have overdraft fees. This includes the nation’s largest prepaid card company, Green Dot, which does not charge overdraft fees and supports the CFPB prepaid rule.

The CFPB rule currently under attack in the U.S. Senate was issued last fall and is scheduled to go into effect on October 1. It extends strong protections to prepaid card users, including some of the same basic fraud and fee protections that debit card users already enjoy. In addition, the rule includes new disclosure standards that would help consumers better understand key information about prepaid cards in order to comparison shop and make informed decisions. While the rule does not prohibit overdraft fees, it does require hybrid prepaid-credit cards that can overdraft to comply with established consumer protections for credit cards, including consideration of a consumer’s ability to make payments on credit extended to them.

 

Staff Recommended Holiday Shopping List

December 20th, 2016 by

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? The staff at Step Up wanted to help you  with this really great list of books that have helped to shape the way we do our work. Each staff member submitted one or two of their favorite books that helped to shape the way they do their work. To make it even easier, I added some hyperlinks and pictures. All you have to do is click!

Why not buy a copy for yourself and start a book club as one of your new year’s resolutions. There is no better time than the present to expand your mind and positively impact your community.

Kate Blair, Director of Development & Communication

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.”

Talisha Crooks, Chatham Apprentice Program Coordinator

The Working Poor

As David K. Shipler makes clear in this powerful, humane study, the invisible poor are engaged in the activity most respected in American ideology—hard, honest work. But their version of the American Dream is a nightmare: low-paying, dead-end jobs; the profound failure of government to improve upon decaying housing, health care, and education; the failure of families to break the patterns of child abuse and substance abuse. Shipler exposes the interlocking problems by taking us into the sorrowful, infuriating, courageous lives of the poor—white and black, Asian and Latino, citizens and immigrants. We encounter them every day, for they do jobs essential to the American economy.

Rebecca Elias, AmeriCorps VISTA

Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City

Even in the most desolate areas of American cities, evictions used to be rare. But today, most poor renting families are spending more than half of their income on housing, and eviction has become ordinary, especially for single mothers. In vivid, intimate prose, Matthew Desmond provides a ground-level view of one of the most urgent issues facing America today. As we see families forced  into shelters, squalid apartments, or more dangerous neighborhoods, we bear witness to the human cost of America’s vast inequality—and to people’s determination and intelligence in the face of hardship.

Based on years of embedded fieldwork and painstakingly gathered data, this masterful book transforms our understanding of extreme poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving a devastating, uniquely American problem. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.

Isaac Felton, Chatham Apprentice Program Manager

How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class

John Hope Bryant, successful self-made businessman and founder of the nonprofit Operation HOPE, says business and political leaders are ignoring the one force that could truly re-energize the stalled American economy: the poor. If we give poor communities the right tools, policies, and inspiration, he argues, they will be able to lift themselves up into the middle class and become a new generation of customers and entrepreneurs.

Bryant radically redefines the meaning of poverty and wealth. (It’s not just a question of finances; it’s values too.) He exposes why attempts to aid the poor so far have fallen short and offers a way forward: the HOPE Plan, a series of straightforward, actionable steps to build financial literacy and expand opportunity so that the poor can join the middle class.

Carole Fireall, Office Administrator & NLA Coordinator

The Essence of Leadership

The Essence of Leadership is book three in this image driven, inspirational, motivational series. In Mac’s first two books, the focus was on what it takes to obtain true success in life and how to achieve the right kind of attitude. Both previous books used inspirational stories and described the importance of how to achieve personal progress through character traits and godly living-all of this reinforced by the power of inspiring and striking imagery. In The Essence of Leadership, Mac takes a similar approach to direct readers to achieve personal success through integrity, ethics, loyalty, persistence, faith matters, and many more character traits that form the leader within a person.

Nate Saraceno, Graphic Designer

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America

Here is the kaleidoscopic story of the quintessential, but mostly ignored, American murder—a “ghettoside” killing, one young black man slaying another—and a brilliant and driven cadre of detectives whose creed is to pursue justice for forgotten victims at all costs. Ghettoside is a fast-paced narrative of a devastating crime, an intimate portrait of detectives and a community bonded in tragedy, and a surprising new lens into the great subject of why murder happens in our cities—and how the epidemic of killings might yet be stopped.

Jen Singeisen, Executive Director

Teaching With Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It

In Teaching with Poverty in Mind: What Being Poor Does to Kids’ Brains and What Schools Can Do About It, veteran educator and brain expert Eric Jensen takes an unflinching look at how poverty hurts children, families, and communities across the United States and demonstrates how schools can improve the academic achievement and life readiness of economically disadvantaged students.

Jensen argues that although chronic exposure to poverty can result in detrimental changes to the brain, the brain’s very ability to adapt from experience means that poor children can also experience emotional, social, and academic success. A brain that is susceptible to adverse environmental effects is equally susceptible to the positive effects of rich, balanced learning environments and caring relationships that build students’ resilience, self-esteem, and character.

Robyn Wainner, Director of Wealth Building

Scarcity: The New Science of Having Less and How It Defines Our Lives 

In this provocative book based on cutting-edge research, Sendhil Mullainathan and Eldar Shafir show that scarcity creates a distinct psychology for everyone struggling to manage with less than they need. Busy people fail to manage their time efficiently for the same reasons the poor and those maxed out on credit cards fail to manage their money.

Once we start thinking in terms of scarcity, the problems of modern life come into sharper focus, and Scarcity reveals not only how it leads us astray but also how individuals and organizations can better manage scarcity for greater satisfaction and success.

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Nudge is about choices—how we make them and how we can make better ones. Drawing on decades of research in the fields of behavioral science and economics, authors Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein offer a new perspective on preventing the countless mistakes we make—ill-advised personal investments, consumption of unhealthy foods, neglect of our natural resources—and show us how sensible “choice architecture” can successfully nudge people toward the best decisions. In the tradition of The Tipping Point and Freakonomics, Nudge is straightforward, informative, and entertaining—a must-read for anyone interested in our individual and collective well-being.

My Journey to AmeriCorps

August 30th, 2016 by

By: Rebecca Elias, Americorp VISTA for Step Up Savannah

South Bronx. Mott Haven. 1990s. At the time, this area was considered one of the worst places to live in NYC. At the time, I did not know that. Sometimes when I think about my childhood, I only have good memories; running through fire hydrants, babybeckyplaying tag, or jumping rope with my sister and our friends. Now I think of the hot metal slides, the scars on my knees from playing on gravel and asphalt and stern warning from my mom to not let other kids play with my toys. There’s danger, but I only have an abstract concept of it. This is my home and I love it here.

Growing up, I didn’t consider myself different from any of the other kids in my neighborhood. We all went to the same parks and the same school (and we all hated school.) School made me feel stupid. I didn’t understand things as quickly as the other students so I spent most of my time socializing, but it seemed like my older sister was made for school. The better she did, the worse I felt and by the time I graduated high school, I was completely done with school.

I wasn’t the only one. Going to college was an anomaly in my neighborhood. I moved in with a friend and started working full-time at a clothing store. My sister came home during vacation grownbeckyand immediately put a stop to my lifestyle. She decided that I was going to college. I was conflicted. I wasn’t exactly happy folding clothes all day, but I definitely did not get along with school. My sister shrugged and simply said, “You’re smart. You just learn differently than other people.”

She was right. I made it through community college then transferred to Buffalo State College. Buffalo State changed me. I saw that where I grew up has a major impact on how I did in school and the things I did not have access to. The schools I went to were too overcrowded for teachers to adjust their teaching methods for each and every student. I didn’t have access to tutors or after school activities. My sister only had access to certain programs because she was introduced to them via her best friend (and she grew up in a “better” neighborhood).

I realized I could use how I grew up to positively help families like mine to reach their full potentials while also reaching mine. After graduating college, I felt compelled to show anyone living in the same environment that I grew up in that it is possible to break the cycle of poverty. I have a desire to help lower- income families and neighborhoods grow and improve. I am only one person and I cannot save the world, but I am confident that my commitment to community service will a make an impressionRebecca on at least one person in any community. This is why I decided to join AmeriCorps. I want to make changes in different low income neighborhoods throughout the country. I served one year as an AmeriCorps member in Fresno, California and even small changes like a homework help center or family movie night made a difference in that community. Now I’m using my skills to help create opportunity in Savannah. I know from experience that all it takes is a small change to make a big impact in someone’s life and that’s what AmeriCorps VISTA allows me to do every day.

When my sister and I talk about our childhood now, we still mention the games and the fire hydrants but there’s a small hint of regret. Our mom did the best she could under the circumstances but sometimes we wish we were able to take dance classes or learn an instrument. The parks are better now; gravel and metal are replaced with soft padding and colorful plastic and the graffiti is mostly gone but the opportunities are still not there. One day (if someone doesn’t beat me to it) with all the experience and knowledge I gained from AmeriCorps, I’m going to go back and help enrich my childhood community.