Friday, January 15, 2010

We have moved!

Hey all, check out our new website! The blog has now been integrated directly into it. Please update your links and feeds accordingly.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Why Do You Serve?

My elementary school site absolutely loves Generations Incorporated. I generally get stopped in the hall about 20 times a day by children asking me to take them to read. If it is a child that I know we serve regularly, I tell them that they will need to wait their turn to see their reading coach. If it is a child that I don't recognize, I usually ask them who their teacher is and tell them that they need permission from them before they can read with us. Today, just like any other day, I was stopped by a child on her way to the restroom with the question "Can you take me to read, please?" So, as usual I told her to ask her teacher. After she used the restroom, the first grader approached me a second time.

"Excuse me, do you take kids who don't know how to read good?" she asked.

"No, we are coaches who help kids read the best that they can," I replied.

"Oh okay. I really want to read with you because my parents can't read with me at home," she said, "my daddy works all day and night and my mommy is blind so she can't help me."

It took everything that I had to not show this child the internal struggle that was brewing, because anyone who knows me knows that I cry at just about anything that is remotely heartfelt. All of the training in the world could not have prepared me for this sobering encounter with a six year old. It was about the equivalent of watching an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and an SPCA commercial with Sarah Mclachlan belting out the song "Angel." It was enough to melt the heart of Cruella Deville. After speaking to her teacher, I learned that the child is already receiving outside help for a large portion of the week. Since the child took such initiative to be a part of our program, her teacher was happy to find a spot in her schedule to allow the girl to read with us twice a week.

It is difficult to put into words the effect that these kids have on me. They tend to put everything into perspective, making this experience more meaningful and important than I could have ever imagined. Each day brings on new surprises, challenges, and rewards. Experiences like the one with this child today are sure to stick with me for life.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Introducing the 09/10 Generations Incorporated State Members

For our first AmeriCorps State 2009/2010 blog entry, we wrote a song to the tune of Camp Grenada (Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda). This song introduces all of the new 9 State Members and gives a small window into our first month of orientation with Generations Incorporated. We hope you enjoy...keep an eye out for the video blog entry at a later date.

-Molly Dutter and Maddie Kiuttu

Goodbye Mother, Goodbye Father

I am off to, serve some others

Red Sox fans are, very vocal

I will have to drop my R's so I sound local

On the first day, of orientation

We became members, of Generations

Got in groups to, scavenge Boston

Turns out that this East Coast city is quite awesome!

Got through one whole, month of training

Canceled hiking, cause it was raining

No one told us, about our cluster

Julie knew and said that we just had to trust her

Take me home to Coolidge Corner

There are five States to discover

Don't touch Jason's tortellini

Elvia is a Twitter Queenie

If you want to, see Zach cryin'

Watch a chick flick, with Meg Ryan

Lisa's laugh is, quite contagious

Molly cut 2000 meatballs, how outrageous!

Oh but wait there's, four more Staties

One's a gent and, three are ladies

One is Amy, she's a sweet one

One is Karleigh and when you're with her you'll have great fun!

Who's got overalls, and a beard?

Look its Joe out, in Revere!

Then there's Maddie, she's a great chick

When you have a bad day she's there for you real quick

What a great bunch, of new Staties

They were all born, in the eighties!

So glad they joined, the team this year

Hope our singing was too not bad and hurt your ear!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The start of VISTA service.

Fresh out of school with a degree in anthropology left me with a new perspective on the world, several new ideas, and an unwavering optimism that I could do something to change the world. The kind of major that often resulted in the much feared, “That’s great but what are you going to do with it?” question.

Starting at Generations Incorporated as the Recruitment VISTA has been an eye-opening opportunity for me. I’ve been learning a lot about what seems to work and what doesn’t with recruiting volunteers, which is challenging yet exciting. I am surrounded by several intelligent and optimistic AmeriCorps members, all excited in their own ways for learning about their position, the organization, non-profits, et cetera. We are here for a year or two (or even three if we get hooked), but then we move on to take the skills and experience that we have acquired and move to our next step in life.

As I adapt to the social environment of serving in an office, I have noticed the difference between the staff and myself. The difference that I am noticing is that while I’ve come here with my idealistic, unwavering, fresh-out-of-college kind of optimism, they have a different kind of optimism. It is a sort of grounded optimism. It is the kind of optimism that has been challenged with the reality of running a non-profit (especially in this economy) and pulled through.

Being around these kind of resources, mentors, supervisors, who are so excited to help us all learn and develop our skills and develop ourselves as people has made me realize something about this experience. I may not figure out exactly what I am going to do in the future in a year, but I’m going to have a much better idea of how I am going to do it.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Site Photos!

A few weeks ago, we held a photo contest for the AmeriCorps State members. It was a fun way for us to share what different sites are like and to show off the work we've been doing. There were tons of great pictures, but since I can't post them all, here are the winners:

Best Site Photo
Abraham and Aaron Richardson
by Bryan Lamoreau, Yawkey Boys and Girls Club

Most Enthralled Reading Coaches Session
Ms. Pearl Jones and Rasheed Abdullah
by Maya Milic-Strkalj, Blue Hill Boys and Girls Club

Cutest Kid
Taryn Dineen
by Jessi Kunhardt, South Boston Boys and Girls Club

Best Volunteer Action Shot
Brianna Herrera and Jade Richardson-Delay
by Kirkland Ahrens, JFK Elementary School

Friday, May 1, 2009

Proof of Progress

As part of the AmeriCorps network, our motto is “We’re getting things done for America.” And on a day to day basis, I don’t think this could be truer. Four days a week, we help students improve their reading skills and confidence. Obviously, it would be rather time consuming and difficult to try to quantify our accomplishments on a day-to-day basis. For most of us, it’s the little improvements we see in the students that prove we are, indeed, “getting things done.” It may be something as small as a student begging for an extra five minutes with their coach, reading a basic book with no stumbles or recognizing a new sight word. But every so often, we get big results that truly prove that we’re making a difference; an accomplishment so great that we can’t help but celebrate it with our other Corps members who understand just how big that particular feat is. My big reward came in February and it’s a story I still enjoy sharing.

When I enrolled Lauren back in October, she was essentially a non-reader. Lauren was in first grade and able to read only the most basic of words—a, and, the—and had little confidence. She clearly didn’t enjoy reading and was nervous about having to do it in front of complete strangers. Her teacher knew she was well behind the rest of the class and wanted her in the school’s reading recovery program which offered 45 minutes of intensive literacy tutoring with a specialist four times a week. Unfortunately, the program was full first semester, so Lauren had to wait until February to begin. Until then, her teacher wanted her in Generations so that she was still getting a form of individualized attention twice a week.

I assigned Lauren to one of our most dynamic, consistent and dedicated Reading Coaches, Ms. Tena, in the hopes that she would encourage not only Lauren’s reading skills but also her confidence. Lauren was initially very shy during her sessions and struggled through them. Gradually, she began to trust Tena and before long, I was regularly hearing giggles from their work station and would occasionally have to tell them to keep the volume down. Every session, I would be impressed by some new word she could decipher or how fluently she was reading rather lengthy sentences. Clearly, she was making considerable gains in her skills and appreciation of reading.

I didn’t realize how big those gains were until her teacher approached me in February to talk about Lauren. She informed me that the week prior she and the literacy specialist had started the enrollment process to get Lauren into the reading recovery program. In order to enroll her, she had to be tested to see at which level she would be starting. Her teacher was pleased to report that Lauren had actually tested out of the program. Her skills were now too high for her to qualify for extra help.

Sharing that fantastic news with Tena has been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my year of service. Tena was absolutely beaming and was so proud of Lauren’s accomplishment. Certainly, significant feedback like that doesn’t come along every day, so we really have to savor those moments and remember that all of the little signs of improvement are pieces of a much bigger picture of the students developing skills and confidence that will serve them well for life. We’re getting things done.

Kim Bohling is an Americorps State Program Coordinator. You can email her at

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Good Luck

She responded, "I don't know; stop calling here." He told me, "I do not have time for this...." I only asked if they might donate pizza to the event, Be a STAR (Share The Art of Reading). We expect that over 100 Nathan Hale Elementary School students, parents, and community members will attend. The event's goals are to inspire a love of reading and to celebrate the students' academic achievements. Highlights include a family reading hour, educational programs by community organizations Boston Campaign for Proficiency, Sports 4 Kids, Peace Games, and of course, Generations Incorporated. I hung up the phone with a sense of defeat that spoiled my motivation to seek more donations. I took their responses personally, as irrational as this was. For we weren't mortal enemies. And clearly, we weren't mortal friends either.

That they yelled at me didn’t bother me. On occasion I listened to heavy metal rock. The rejection bothered me. Was it what I was wearing? Was it the style of my hair? Was it something I said? I asked for donations over the phone, so the first two questions don't apply. Regardless of my solicitation method, the rejection born from these encounters deflated my once ballooned confidence. The following reminders helped me find the motivation to seek donations once again. And so now, I recommend them to you.

1) Some people are rude. Period. They're rude to their mothers, their friends, their dog and their parakeet. It is no surprise they're rude to strangers. Take comfort in the predictability of their behavior. The phrase, "It's not you, it's me," is, for once, true.
2) Some small businesses are not used to donation requests. Employees have a defensive reaction to this rare occurrence—they think it is a scam. Fair enough. Then it may be better to ask for a donation in person, rather than over the phone. Bring any paperwork that will establish your legitimacy—tax forms, pre-written donation request letter on a letterhead, business card, etc. But chain businesses are used to donation solicitors. It may be better—and more respectful of the business manager's time—to call him or her before your visit to set up a meeting time.
3) Often enough, your request for donations will be met with the response "No. " Be proud of yourself for having the determination to overcome the mountain you are climbing, no matter how many boulders are in your path. And always remember these words from The Great One, the hockey legend Wayne Gretzky, "You miss 100-percent of the shots you don't take." I won’t try to relate the mountain metaphor to the Wayne Gretzky quote, so I leave you with this instead. When you ask for donations you are “selling” your organization’s purpose, but more so you are selling yourself. To establish yourself as respectable and legitimate to strangers is a skill you need to be successful in your professional (and personal) life. Seeking donations is an opportunity to strengthen it. And so is writing blog entries. Did I establish myself as respectable and legitimate? If I did, then you accepted my advice. And if you used it, I hoped it helped. Good luck.

Carlos Livingston is an AmeriCorps State Lead at Generations Incorporated. You can e-mail him at