This week is AmeriCorps week! This week we celebrate AmeriCorps members and alums who have dedicated their time and energy to the community around them. It is also a chance to recognize the community partners of AmeriCorps and to bring to light the impact that AmeriCorps members have on communities where they serve.
AmeriCorps is a program supported by the U.S. federal government, local foundations, donors and corporations in the community. The main goal of AmeriCorps is public service; helping others while meeting the critical needs of the community being served. AmeriCorps members commit to either part-time or full-time positions in a wide variety of nonprofit organizations throughout the community. The main areas of focus for AmeriCorps is to give their time and service to the areas of education, health care, public safety, and environmental protection. AmeriCorps employs and allows service opportunities for over 75,000 community members each year.
This year we are fortunate to have five AmeriCorps members on the Milwaukee Succeeds team. They are part of the VISTA’s (Volunteers in Service To America) component of AmeriCorps. I would like you to get to know these fabulous five individuals who are committed to helping us ensure success for every child, in every school, cradle to career.
Take it away VISTA Team!
Eric Lequesne: Hey! My name’s Eric Lequesne and I’m the Data and Research Coordinator VISTA here at Milwaukee Succeeds, an initiative created by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation that uses collaborative impact to improve outcomes for every child, cradle to career. My job is to assist the team with everything that has to do with data—from pilot program evaluation to yearly progress monitoring. The goal is to turn numbers into something meaningful and digestible for the community.
I grew up outside of Detroit, Michigan, and went to Michigan State for English, then UW-Milwaukee for my masters in Economics. I’m a nerd at heart—no really, I do math and stats for fun—but I wanted to use these skills in a practical way that actually helped people. That’s why I’m a VISTA at Milwaukee Succeeds. The vision of collective impact makes sense to me: use resources in their most efficient manner to help as many people as possible. Just like Detroit, Milwaukee is a vibrant city with a storied past, but there are many holes to fill, and working to give everyone the same opportunity to succeed can go a long way toward doing that.
I’m fortunate to serve as a VISTA with Milwaukee Succeeds because my past work and research centered on wage inequality and inequity in living, mobility, and education—but I saw a disconnect between research and action. I wanted to be a part of making sure that the research being done had an outlet in deciding policy and practice. There’s no reason we can’t give everyone the same opportunity, no matter who they are.
Myoshia (Mimi) Jackson: My name is Myoshia (Mimi) Jackson. I was raised on the South Side of Milwaukee, WI. This year, I’m serving as a VISTA for the Greater Milwaukee Foundation—more specifically for an initiative called Milwaukee Succeeds. At Milwaukee Succeeds I work as the Community Engagement Coordinator. Basically, I bring community members to our network tables and assist leadership boards in prioritizing Milwaukee Succeeds’ work. I also bring the organization to life online through different forms of social media such as our Facebook and Twitter pages.
I didn’t necessarily go into this term of service knowing that I would be a VISTA. I graduated from UW-Oshkosh in August of 2016 with a major in Women and Gender studies and a minor in Social Justice. I chose to be a part of AmeriCorps because I know that it’s my natural purpose to serve. However, I didn’t know what exactly that was going to look like, but I wanted to serve in any way I could. It isn’t about the program for me, but about giving a year of service to my community. There were different opportunities out there for me, but I chose Milwaukee Succeeds because of the opportunity to not only communicate directly with community members but also connecting them to networks or leadership boards to show them opportunities to further themselves and their community. I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to bridge this much needed social gap within our city.
Through my term of service, I have learned to be more patient. I have also learned that to find yourself you have to broaden the horizon of what you know and push yourself out of your comfort zone to get you further than you were yesterday. I learned that service is not a pat on the back, but it really guides you to focus on good and bad of what’s around you, but never letting the bad overtake it. At the end of the day there is always hope for greater good.
Ariana Everts: Hi! I’m Ari, the Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator at Milwaukee Succeeds! While Ididn’t necessarily grow up in the City of Milwaukee, I’ve lived in the Greater Milwaukee Area, so being able to serve my local community has been rewarding.
I decided to go down the AmeriCorps route for a few reasons. First of all, my Grandmother served with AmeriCorps when she was younger, and continues to volunteer in a variety of settings. She’s always raved about her experience, so I thought I could give it a try, too! Secondly, I had always dreamed of serving in Africa with the Peace Corps, however, with a recent engagement and a wedding to plan, I decided to stay local. Finally, with my background in a combination of philosophy and education, choosing a VISTA experience that would allow me to adventure into a different side of the education realm was a must. Boy did I luck out!
My work primarily focuses on the process and necessary legwork that is required to create and promote a socially and emotionally healthy community. (What’s that jargon she just dropped?!) This means we want to advocate for a community that has the necessary skills and knowledge in order to succeed in school, work, and life. By working with a network of dedicated partners, we’re laying a foundation for future work in this area – capacity building at its finest!
Being at this VISTA assignment has given me so much insight into the behind-the-scenes of education policy and reform, who knows where my future could go! I know that I want to get into a classroom of my own, but I’ve been building and gaining skills that are applicable for a variety of great education related opportunities. At this point, I’ll be heading wherever the wind may take me!
Jami Racette: My name is Jami Racette and I am from Green Bay, Wisconsin. The organization my project is with is Milwaukee Succeeds, where I play the role of Project and Evaluation Coordinator. Prior to becoming an AmeriCorps member, I had the pleasure of teaching. Over the last seven years, I provided individualized instruction to special education students with reading disabilities. Although I enjoyed working with students directly, I chose to become a VISTA in order to impact more students and to fight illiteracy in the entire city, not just within my school. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to become part of the solution for improving services to all children and to strengthen our educational system. Milwaukee Succeeds and the Third Grade Reading Network have identified strategies, collectively referred to as Transformative Reading Instruction (TRI), for improving third grade reading outcomes.
As the Project and Evaluation Coordinator, I help address two challenges in the TRI model: the first is to take strategies to scale by improving coordination with sites and the second is to assist in transferring ownership of those strategies to school systems. I am extremely passionate about building capacity in our schools and implementing best practices in every classroom. I have dedicated my life to educating and empowering all children and I am elated to continue this mission as an AmeriCorps member in Milwaukee.
Connor Morris: My name is Connor Morris, and I’m originally from Portland, Oregon. This year, I’m serving as a VISTA at Milwaukee Succeeds, which is an awesome education initiative focused on improving the outcomes for all young people in our city. As the Opportunity Youth Coordinator, I work to build cross-institutional partnerships among people who are invested in supporting 16-24 year olds that are out of school and not working. Through collaboration, we have developed a shared vision and are working to identify opportunities to take collective action for systems change. I am extremely fortunate to be engaged in this work because it allows me to apply my passion for education within a community I care about deeply.
Dear VISTA Team, thank you all for the hard work that you do every day!
See you soon,
Danae Davis | Executive Director Milwaukee Succeeds 101 West Pleasant Street, Suite 210, Milwaukee, WI 53212 Direct: 414.336.7057 www.milwaukeesucceeds.org