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AmeriCorps 2016-2017: A Great Year for Getting Things Done!

Bess Earl, LISC Milwaukee Program Officer
8.22.2017

When our Executive Director Donsia Strong Hill asked me to bring back LISC’s AmeriCorps program in Milwaukee, I was truly excited. After all, LISC’s AmeriCorps program set me on my own community development path.

After serving as a LISC AmeriCorps member at Washington Park Partners (WPP), I was hired on as a coordinator, and then as the WPP Director, where I managed LISC AmeriCorps members. Through LISC AmeriCorps, I learned a great deal about neighborhood development, how to be a good partner and leader, and most importantly, about how community involvement is at the forefront of the work we do in community development.

Now, I have the great pleasure of managing LISC’s AmeriCorps program designed to build the capacity for neighborhood development in Milwaukee. I am proud that the LISC AmeriCorps cohort honored that notion of representing the community voice in their work.

In 2016-2017, LISC AmeriCorps members ranged in age, experience and background. Each had their own set of gifts, challenges, and experiences to share. This contributed to a very successful year because members respected and valued each other's perspectives. The group became instant supporters of their team members' work and learned more about the community development field not just in their neighborhood, but in the larger Milwaukee community. When you were in their presence, you felt like you were a part of something truly special.

In March, we went to the National LISC AmeriCorps training in San Diego! Corps members got to meet their peers from across the country, and learned key skills for being effective in community development. Throughout the year, I organized monthly trainings to continue their education. These included training in community safety strategies, the fundamentals of real estate development, community organizing, and other skills. We also participated in networking events and organized service projects throughout the year. I’ve gotten to know the AmeriCorps members very well, and I’m optimistic about what’s next for these passionate and talented leaders.

Audrey Moore, our first cohort graduate, was placed at Artists Working in Education to engage neighborhoods in creative placemaking and coordinate volunteers. She was featured as NEWaukeen of the week. Audrey is now employed at Milwaukee Film Festival this August.

Jacob Stanley Yarow was placed at the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative to support community engagement activities where he organized volunteers for countless events including Clarke Square's Block Build, Ciclovía, Bloom & Groom and more.

Andrew Trumbull was placed at Near West Side Partners to support community safety projects. There he has reported over 1,000 nuisance properties to the Department of Neighborhood Services & Milwaukee Police Department. His efforts resulted in a business owner installing new landscaping on 35th & Vliet as well as façade improvements on additional property.

Barb Scotty was also placed at Near West Side Partners for community engagement. She convened the Neighborhood of Neighborhoods meetings, created a homeowner welcome packet and supported the 2nd Annual Love Your Neighborhood Movie Night in which 250 people attended. Barb & Andrew were featured Live on NWSP’s Facebook, generating the most activity the Facebook page has received, as well as in the NWSP blog.

Shawn Moore worked at the Dominican Center for Women, as a youth engagement coordinator. Shawn was part of the Neighborhood Ambassador program that meets residents on a daily basis to address public safety, with an emphasis on youth engagement. 

Krisann Rehbein worked with the Department of City Development where she convened the Business Improvement District managers and piloted a new program which engaged five Earn & Learn students in urban planning. The Earn & Learn students were responsible for a corridor assessment of North Avenue from 32nd-40th and made recommendations for businesses to occupy city-foreclosed spaces.

Victoria Edwards was hired by Running Rebels to focus on community engagement in the Harambee neighborhood. As a result of her work, 128 volunteers were engaged to improve seven neighbors’ homes, and all material was secured through donation.

As these AmeriCorps members move on to new opportunities, a fresh class of AmeriCorps members will begin in September. After such an amazing year, I’m looking forward to what’s ahead!