Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Catalyst Miami Hosts AmeriCorps Works: Save Service Strategy Session

Contributed by Jaime Botero

        Wednesday March 14th, Catalyst Miami hosted AmeriCorps Works: Save Service Strategy Session. The program was an evening discussion of current AmeriCorps legislation and advocacy strategies to save national service. AmeriCorps is part of the Corporation for National and Community Service and serves an important role as the Federal sponsored civilian service institution.
Catalyst Miami hosts several AmeriCorps programs employing VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), sponsoring Public Allies and ReServe. Daniella Levine is a firm believer in the power of AmeriCorps and community volunteers in reaching solutions to social ills.
The event was a first of it’s kind meeting to engage various stakeholders including community members, and participants of VISTA, Teach for America, City Year, and Public Allies. Attendants included a team of AmeriCorps NCCC volunteers that managed to secure permission to attend the advocacy event.

       The strategy session was organized by ServeNEXT and the AmeriCorps Alums-Miami. Catherine Houlihan a former VISTA participating as a ServeNEXT organizer, brought snacks and provided materials for discussion. Darrill Gaschler, President of AmeriCorps Alums-Miami (AAM) started with opening remarks after a half-hour networking period. Kevin Bulger, Treasurer of AAM, introduced the head of the Collins Center and prolific public administrator Merrett Stierheim. Mr. Stierheim is known for his various in city, county, and school administration in Miami-Dade County. Mr. Stierheim held an interactive Q&A discussing the role of public service and volunteerism in Miami-Dade. Following, Mr. Stierheim, Jaime Botero (yours truly) introduced the CEO of Catalyst Miami, Daniella Levine to the crowd. Ms. Levine spoke of the various AmeriCorps programs: State/National, VISTA, and NCCC, and their presence in Miami. More so Ms. Levine, focused on widely misunderstood regulations regarding AmeriCorps advocacy by AmeriCorps volunteers. “You certainly can’t advocate during AmeriCorps hours or with your placement program, but in your own time you are entitled to the same rights as any citizen,” Ms. Levine explained. Drawing upon her legal background, Ms. Levine invited questions regarding permitted AmeriCorps activities. Using her past experience she further elaborated on what can be done at a grassroots level to encourage Congressmen and Senators to keep funding AmeriCorps programs. In lieu of Katherine Baas (AAM Vice-President) who was attending a conference out of state, Darrill introduced Saif Ishoof. Mr. Ishoof is the current Executive Director of City Year:Miami. A Miami native his whole life, Mr. Ishoof spoke of the impact that City Year Corps Members are having in the school system. More so, Mr. Ishoof spoke about the affordability of AmeriCorps Volunteers and the wide array of services provided by them. Mr. Ishoof went on to encourage the group to team up for Save Service Days, May 1st – 3rd. Ms. Houlihan went on to provide some closing remarks.
Catalyst Miami is looking forward to collaborating on any advocacy efforts supporting National Service. If you would like to participate in upcoming service advocacy, please contact Lori Deus at

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