Year Up prepares urban young adults for successful careers

year up volunteer and career planning nonprofit in Chicago

Orion Casey

by Phoebe C. Williams, LCSW, Outreach, Admissions, and Student Services Director, Year Up

Two years ago Orion Casey was making minimum wage as a teacher’s assistant at a childcare facility. Today she works as an IT professional at M. Block and Sons, a corporation that offers her a full time salaried position with benefits. As a young mother of two, this shift has been life-changing, and it began when she joined a program called Year Up.

Year Up is a free, intensive, one-year program focused on preparing urban young adults for corporate careers in Information Technology. The first six months of the program are spent taking courses that focus on technical and professional skill building. Through these courses, students have the ability to earn up to 18 college credits from Harold Washington College. The second six months of the program are spent applying the learned skills at corporate internships, such as Google, J. P. Morgan Chase, and Bank of America. Students in the program are also offered a wealth of supports including professional mentors, advisors, social service support and even a stipend of up to $900.00 per month.

While Year Up is still new on the Chicago landscape (opening its doors to students in September of 2010), the organization has built a strong representation nationally, as it currently serves 8 major cities across the country. This growth has been enabled by fantastic outcomes in each of its sites. An example of those outcomes is that within four months of graduating from Year Up, 84% of its graduates continue onto full time education or careers with an average starting salary of $30,000 annually.

Orion, who was offered her position on her graduation day, is one of the many examples of students from the Year Up Chicago site whose lives have changed with their decision to apply to Year Up.

“I received way more than just training for a job,” Orion said, reflecting on her experience in the program. “Year Up really worked on everything from work ethics to social skills. By the time you’re finished they’ll definitely have you well equipped for your journey to success”.

Year Up serves 18-24 year olds with a high school diploma or a GED certificate and is accepting applications now for its next group of students. There are also many opportunities for volunteers to get involved. For more information about Year Up, or to download a student application, visit www.yearup.org or call (312) 726-5300.

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Success story: Highly effective nonprofits value and engage their VolunTEAM

Chicago youth at Lawrence Hall Youth Services paint a mural

Youth paint during an activity with Lawrence Hall Youth Services.

by Jo Posselt, VP, Marketing & Development, Executive Service Corps

Lawrence Hall Youth Services is one of Illinois’ oldest child welfare agencies, established in 1865 to assist at-risk youth and their families with services that develop the self-worth, knowledge, and skills they need to lead independent and productive lives.  One Good Deed Chicago connected Lawrence Hall with the Executive Service Corps (ESC) of Chicago in September 2011 as part of the One Good Deed VolunTEAM project. Their objective: By the end of May 2012, to evaluate and structure the organization’s volunteer management to meet diverse needs while ensuring a positive and fulfilling experience for more than 200 volunteers.

The ESC consultant assigned to the project, Thomas White, has more than 20 years of corporate leadership and project management experience.  He works closely with Nathan Rosato, Lawrence Hall’s Director of Community Relations. Together, they began with a systematic study of current volunteer utilization patterns and needs assessment from a cross-section of program areas to identify required functions, estimated volunteer hours, responsibilities and needed skills. 

Armed with this data, White and Rosato began building a matrixed volunteer management program that that views volunteers through multiple lenses, all interconnected and each with different benefits.  To ensure the most capable and committed volunteers and balance the needs and objectives of both the volunteers and Lawrence Hall, the team is reviewing volunteer position descriptions and considering a more comprehensive use of existing volunteer management software to ensure the best match between talent and function and accurate tracking of hours for improved planning. They are updating a handbook that will help to standardize volunteer management policies and procedures throughout the organization and establish a targeted recruitment plan to ensure an ongoing source of the varied skills and talents needed throughout the year.

“We are taking a tactical program and giving it the depth and integration that will optimize the organization’s investment in its volunteers and their investment in the organization,” says White, “challenging, but not impossible, with the type of buy-in that we are receiving from all program areas and from Lawrence Hall leadership.”

Volunteer Wesley Tibbs describes his role as a member of Lawrence Hall’s Junior Board.

“I volunteer because I want to give back and Lawrence Hall gives me that opportunity,” he says. “An orientation prepares us and training helps us determine situations where we can be helpful.  There is opportunity for fundraising and developing leadership skills for future service.”

“”We want our volunteers to know they are valued and give them opportunities to be truly connected to our programs and invested in the work we do together, beyond a one-day volunteer experience,” notes Rosato.  “By the end of this project, we will be better equipped to help our volunteers with training and program-matching, build our volunteer program with an efficient recruitment effort and establish lasting relationship with our volunteers for the benefit of the people served by Lawrence Hall for years to come.”

Kim Luckey, Lawrence Hall’s Director of External Affairs, calls the project with ESC and One Good Deed Chicago an opportunity to re-evaluate their needs and review what’s working well and where extra help is needed.

 “Our volunteers are important to us; we not only benefit from their contributions of time and talent, they are our strong connection to the community,” she says.

As nonprofits struggle in an environment of unusually deep and lingering economic stress, facing diminished resources even as the demand for service increases, the need for a an effective volunteer program, streamlined, efficient operation, strong leadership teams and diverse sources of revenue become mission-critical. As a nonprofit with a proud reputation for service and results, ESC is the premiere consulting resource for nonprofits in these areas, ready to help with practical and affordable solutions for lasting impact.

To learn more about Lawrence Hall Youth services and its positive impact on youth and families, please visit www.lawrencehall.org.  To learn more about the Executive Service Corps of Chicago and its services in leadership development and coaching, strategic planning, fund development, urgent action, executive transition and interim executive director placement, visit www.esc-chicago.org or email Jo.Posselt[at]esc-chicago.org.

Volunteers make a difference at Bookamania

Volunteer Chicago Public School Bookamania

Volunteers work with Chicago Public School children at Bookamania 2011.

by Ruchi Ray, Intern, Leap Learning Systems 

I cannot wait to tell you about a successful volunteer event Leap Learning Systems has had in the past! Each year, Leap Learning Systems partners with After School Matters and Chicago Public Schools to implement a career and college readiness program in the Austin community.  Participating students volunteered at the Harold Washington Library’s Bookamania event on November 19, 2011. This event was a free celebration of children’s books for children ages 3 to 10 and their families. Our students had the opportunity to help and interact with the younger children and their parents. 

I can say that for some of these teens, this was their first trip to the main library.  Not only were the ASM teens thankful for the opportunity to work with the children, socialize with other teens from around the city, and give back to their community, they also felt very accomplished after the overall experience. Leap is always curious to know feedback on the turnout of volunteer events like these; here is one from Ms. Robin Willard from Harold Washington:

 “Last year our Events staff estimated that there were approximately 7,000 guests on Saturday – the largest crowd we have hosted in Bookamania history – and we know we could not have made it as successful as it was without the help of volunteers, such as those from Leap Learning Systems.  It was a pleasure to work with the many teens who came from Chicago’s Austin neighborhood to represent Leap with their mentors and program facilitators”. 

–      Robin Willard, Young Adult Specialist, Chicago Public Library 

This semester, the students in the Beverage Industry: Products and Profits After School Matters program will be involved with a service event for young children.  We focused this session of ASM on Dairy.  The teens will provide literacy support and activities based on their knowledge of the Dairy industry to students at Goldblatt Elementary School.  The students will also participate in a fundraiser on April 1 at the Oberweis Dairy Store in Oak Park.  They will be marketing, advertising and working the all day event.  Come out and support the students of ASM! 

Leap Learning Systems is committed to delivering cutting-edge language and literacy development programs to educators, students, and their families across Chicago and beyond, particularly those in underserved communities. We look forward to future endeavors in similar After School Matters programs.

Interested in helping further Leap Learning’s mission? Visit OneGoodDeedChicago.org for more information and search volunteer opportunities.

Changing Worlds: A Success Story

A student works with a volunteer at Changing Worlds. Changing Worlds is one of One Good Deed Chicago's VolunTEAM partners.

by Jo Posselt, VP, Marketing & Development, Executive Service Corps

Changing Worlds is an educational art nonprofit whose mission is “to foster inclusive communities through oral history, writing and art programs that improve student learning, affirm identity and enhance cross-cultural understanding.”

One Good Deed Chicago connected Changing Worlds with the Executive Service Corps (ESC) of Chicago in September 2011 as part of the VolunTEAM program. ESC is a volunteer corps of nearly 300 men and women who use their skills and knowledge from long and successful careers to help other non-profits thrive.

The project is scheduled for completion in May, but the results to date are already a noticeable and satisfying success story on many levels for everyone involved, including the volunteers, the program staff and of course the children who benefit from these programs. 

Identifying needs

Changing Worlds Executive Director Mark Rodriguez points out that it was critical to the project’s success to create a clear direction at the beginning.

“We needed to be able to create an infrastructure for our volunteer program as well as a system and a process that would be sustainable when the project is over,” he said.

Patti Pangborn, Changing Worlds manager of office operations, finance and program support, said “we had a database we weren’t using, a wonderful core group of volunteers and no system or anyone on staff who could coordinate the volunteer experience or make it truly satisfying for the volunteer.  We weren’t fully utilizing our volunteer strength”

The ESC project management team, David Marienthal and Estelle Holzer, worked with Patti and Mark to evaluate specific needs. They then began identifying lasting solutions and immediate changes that could be readily implemented without additional workload burden or cost.  Both David and Estelle brought more than 20 years of experience in project and program management to the assignment and were able to make recommendations that produced immediate results.

Marienthal describes the process.

“We met every three weeks or so and tracked our progress together to ensure we had the solutions we needed,” he said. “First, we recommended the addition of a volunteer ‘volunteer coordinator’ position!  This focused more dedicated attention to an area of need and removed the additional workload burden from staff while we set up a process and procedures to get a structured volunteer management program set up.”

Seeing results

“Claire Gilbertsen is our new volunteer coordinator, a volunteer herself with lots of experience, who comes in two days a week to concentrate on this program,” Pangborn said. “We added a volunteer management module to our database to better track volunteer experiences, and we have begun putting together a handbook of policies and procedures and an orientation and recognition program for our volunteers.”

Rodriguez says “we value our volunteers and hope, through this project with ESC and One Good Deed, to advance our three primary goals toward 1) greater public awareness of our programs, 2) recruitment and retention of volunteers and, 3) fundraising to support our programs.”

As the economy struggles, as money from state and local governments dries up, and as donations and foundation monies shrink, non-profits are facing the perfect storm. Demand for their services is increasing dramatically, just as revenue sources are dwindling. The need for non-profits to improve their organizational performance is as important as it ever was. It’s ESC’s mission to help them.

To learn more about the Executive Service Corps of Chicago or apply to be an consultant, visit the ESC Website at www.esc-chicago.org.  For a list of all 19 nonprofits currently in the One Good Deed Chicago’s VolunTEAM program, go to www.onegooddeedchicago.org/priorities.

This February, Step Up to LOVE and ignite girls to fulfill their potential

By Kristen Field, Program Manager, Step Up Women’s Network

The New Year brought many resolutions that often have fizzled by now. Reflecting on my direction for the New Year, I challenged myself to take a different approach. Establish a theme for your year that inspires you. For me, it’s doing “everything from a place of love.” This theme is fitting for the month of February, where we often see hearts everywhere, celebrations of love, and cheers to Valentine’s Day.

Working for Step Up Women’s Network allows me to take my passion to give back and use this theme of love to make a difference. Step Up Women’s Network creates and implements impactful after-school and weekend programs that empower teen girls from under-resourced communities to be confident, college-bound, and career-ready. As a nonprofit membership organization of dynamic women coming together for this mission, Step Up is also able to propel professional women through connections, collaborations and continuous development.

I LOVE what I do! The main focus of my job is inspiring others to join Step Up’s mission to connect you to the professional women you need and the underserved teen girls who need you. How could I ask for more in a job?

On January 27th, our Teen Programs Manager, Whitney Capps, asked me to chaperone one of our Pathways to Professions field trips with our Step Up teens to The Big Ten Network. I of course was thrilled! Pathways to Professions is a Step Up program that inspires Step Up juniors to explore new careers through field trips to Step Up member companies. During our time at The Big Ten Network, Step Up teens toured the facility, met with individuals who had positions in advertising, sales, on-air, human resources, executive leadership, and so on. The women at The Big Ten Network gave their time to mentor for an hour or two, coming from a place of love, to impact a girl’s life. That’s all it takes.

While we were all in the studio, I paused to look around and take this day in. These young, eager minds wanting to learn as much as they possibly can about what career they may have in the future and women who have “made it” sharing their stories with the next generation of young women. Truly inspired to be part of something so amazing, something so necessary.

What inspires me even more, is that every week, throughout the year, Step Up Women’s Network provides opportunities for women to mentor girls in our dynamic afterschool and Saturday enrichment programs. Do you want to be a mentor for Step Up teens and a member of Step Up Women’s Network? For more information and calendar, go to www.suwn.org and contact me at kristenf@suwn.org

Do something “from a place of love” this February and invest in the future success of girls through mentorship and financial support. YOU are the match that will ignite a girls dream

Why volunteering makes sense, from a human resources professional

Volunteering can help you find your career path.

by Tony Rea, 20/20 HR LLC

There are many good reasons to volunteer your time and energy to a worthy cause. Volunteering can be rewarding whether you are currently employed or even if you are looking for work.

One of the strongest reasons to volunteer is the sense of fulfillment one gets from giving back to the community served by the nonprofit organization. You may volunteer because you are drawn to the mission of a particular nonprofit or because someone in your personal circle was helped in some way by that nonprofit.

You could volunteer you time assisting the nonprofit in their operations. A good example is the bell ringers during the holidays for the Salvation Army.

Another way to volunteer is to contribute your personal and / or professional expertise. Many nonprofits seek out this type of assistance which can be provided on a pro bono consulting basis or by serving as a board member. Board membership is typically built around having the right combination of business, marketing, accounting, legal and other professional level skills to lead the organization.

For those who are looking for work, this represents a “win-win” for both the individual and the nonprofit organization. What a great way to stay active and connected to your profession by giving back. For new graduates and those considering a career change, it is also a great way to break into a desired or new field of interest.

Volunteer experience looks good on a resume and can be helpful in covering employment gaps created by a period of unemployment. If you give of your professional skills, it will keep you sharp and also show initiative to any prospective employer. It also shows that you are resilient and respond to adversity in a positive and proactive way.

Volunteering can help improve your visibility through networking with people throughout your community. While most likely not a direct path to a position at the respective nonprofit, you will have the opportunity to meet and work with people within the nonprofit, those served by the nonprofit and possibly even influential board members.

While I don’t believe in spiritualism, I do believe that volunteering brings good karma!

Tony Rea is a human resources professional at Orland Park-based 20/20 HR, LLC.

 

This is part of a guest blogging series highlighting good deeds and volunteerism. If you have a story to tell, we want to hear it! Email alexandra.baird[at]cityofchicago.org for more information.

Instituto Honors Martin Luther King Jr. with Clothing Drive

By Gabriela Alvarez, AmeriCorps LENS Member

In honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the AmeriCorps LENS (Latinos Empowered through National Service) Program at Instituto del Progreso Latino came together to give back to their community on Jan. 16. We hosted a clothing drive for the families of Instituto and those in our community.

This event took place at the new Instituto site, which houses the Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy, located at 2520 S. Western in Chicago. The drive took place in the community room, which ran from 12PM-4PM. Families that participated in the clothes drive were allowed to take five items per person in that family. Each family that came through the doors for the drive was given a complimentary Walmart and Chase Bank reusable tote bag.

In order for this event to take place, the AmeriCorps Members had to take action. Fliers had to be made to get the word out and drop boxes were to be placed at three Instituto sites for donations. Donations of clothes, coats, shoes, purses, and winter accessories were all accepted. All types of clothes were donated, including women’s, men’s, children’s (boys and girls), and baby clothes. When we finished gathering and sorting, we had tons and tons of clothes, shoes, coats, etc.

One Warm Coat, One Good Deed Chicago, Our Lady Tepeyac Parish, and San Jose Obrero Mission were recognized as the official partners with us for this event. So many clothes were left and our partners were more than happy to accept the donations that were not taken by participants. We were very excited and pleased to provide this service because we knew this would put smiles on people’s faces.

As soon as 12 o’clock hit, people started entering. When they asked for help, we did not hesitate in assisting them. A man came in believing he would leave empty handed, but he ended up leaving with a pair of shoes and a few shirts, and a smile on his face. It was a great feeling seeing so many people walking into the room. Many people left satisfied.

The clothing drive turned out great! By the end of the night, 58 families -a total of 190 individuals- left with more than they thought they would have. Families were more than pleased with what they left with. I asked an individual what her take was on this event and she replied, “I believe what AmeriCorps is doing is something great!” She had a big smile on her face which put one on mine. Not only did I feel great at the end of the day, but the other AmeriCorps Members felt great as well. We helped out so many families and we still want to continue doing so.

Instituto del Progreso Latino is a 34-year-old community-based organization driven by the belief that education is power. This core belief fuels Instituto’s mission to contribute to the fullest development of Latino families in Chicago through the creation of leading programs in workforce development, education, and citizenship.  Instituto is also a One Good Deed Chicago Success Coaches partner.Visit Instituto online at www.idpl.org and on Facebook.