Saturday, July 14, 2012

AmeriCorps Service Award Nominees

CalSERVES had several nominees for the Governor's service awards.  We will know who won at the end of the month but they are all winners to me!  

And the nominees are....

Cindy King, CalSERVES Literacy Team Leader, Kawana Elementary
Nominated by Katherine Brooks
Cindy King is a perfect candidate for the AmeriCorps Member of the Year Service Award. I had the pleasure of supervising Cindy in her most recent AmeriCorps term of service, 2011-2012, while she served at Kawana Elementary School through CalSERVES. However, this was not her first year as an AmeriCorps Member, and certainly not her first year dedicating herself to improving literacy in Santa Rosa schools. She has 14 years experience with our program, beginning as an AmeriCorps VISTA and always working to support the literacy development of our students.

During her most recent AmeriCorps year alone, Cindy trained, observed, and coached fourteen other AmeriCorps members in the curriculum and best practices of 1-on-1 literacy tutoring. She scheduled over sixty students to receive this tutoring during the regular school day and the afterschool program. Cindy worked with the Literacy Specialist on site to identify the students who would best benefit from the tutoring sessions. These students were reading one, two or three grades below their current grade level. Once enrolled in the tutoring program, each student was seen by his or her tutor four times per week, for forty minutes each session. They were assessed six times throughout the school year to track their progress and identify their specific needs. Overall, the students enrolled in this tutoring program grew 371 reading levels.

Along with increasing student reading levels, fluency, comprehension, and writing, Cindy paid close attention to improving the learning environment of each tutoring session. Under Cindy’s leadership, members built trusting, mentoring relationships with their tutees. This kind of relationship is an asset to student growth and development, and Cindy made sure to support the members in building it with each child.

Veronica Galdamez, CalSERVES Mentor, Wright Charter School
Nominated by Taylor Ford

Veronica Galdamez completed a year of service as an AmeriCorps member with the CalSERVES program at Wright Charter School. As an AmeriCorps member, Veronica worked to improve literacy scores in the students she tutored and within her 1st/2nd grade after school classroom. In addition to providing them with academically enriching lessons, Veronica participated in all AmeriCorps National Service Days as well as worked to recruit volunteers for our program at her college campus. Veronica was keenly aware of the impact our program had on the community and would always strive to give her all each and every day. 

The classroom community that Veronica and her classroom partner build was one of the best. Their students were happy, healthy and successful. In addition to the academically focused aspects of the program, Veronica provided her students with emotional support as well. She was always there to lend them an ear, hand or a hug when they needed it. She was a constant support figure when many of our students had none. When a student, even one that was not in her class, was late getting picked up, Veronica would wait with them until their ride arrived. She would use the extra time to read with them, work on math facts or even provide extra homework help. She made the most of every minute.

When it came to National Service Days, Veronica was always the first one to jump head first into a project. At our Cesar Chavez Health Fair, Veronica dressed up as a bee in the pouring rain and handed out produce to over a thousand people. For our Make a Difference Day, Veronica was the first to grab gloves and begin weeding areas of a school and park many of our students play at. She did all these things with a smile on her face. 

Veronica did this in addition to going to Sonoma State University where she is studying full time to become a doctor. Next year, she will be taking on the job as a Volunteer Coordinator for Sonoma States JUMP (Join Us in Making Progress) program where she will recruit volunteers to work with “at-risk” youth with Catholic Charities. Veronica Galdamez has proved that service is not just a one-time activity, it’s a life long commitment. It’s clear that Veronica has made that commitment and that is why I nominated her as AmeriCorps member of the year. 

Richelle Andrae, CalSERVES VIP Fellow, Taylor Mountain Elementary
Nominated by Kristen Mowers

Richelle recruited, trained and supported over 150 volunteers to provide tutoring this year.  She started the process last year and decided to return for a second year to further the impact for the students in the community.  The volunteers that Richelle supported throughout the year, helped students progress in their reading, math, and social skills.  The students are more confident, they raise their hands in class even if they might not have the perfect answer.  Students are supporting each other as a community and encouraging each other.  They are also better friends, being patient and empathetic.

Richelle organized volunteers to build a garden for our school.  Families and community volunteers joined us for Make a Difference Day and We were able to build the garden boxes.  She has also recruited volunteers from the families at the school who will continue to care for and grow the garden after her service term is over and she has moved on. Our students practice how to make healthy choices in their lives, but they do not have access to many fresh fruits and vegetables.  Richelle decided to organize resources in the community to build a garden at the school so that children and families could learn how to grow their own food.  She coordinated volunteers to find materials to build the garden boxes and gather the needed supplies.  Richelle also recruited volunteers to come out for the build as well as to support the on going maintenance.  She found gardeners to come in and teach the students and families how and when to plant each fruit and vegetable, and more to teach them how to prepare and cook them.

Richelle has created opportunities for families to be leaders in their communities and to make the changes that they would like to see.

Sara Craige, Literacy Team Leader, Bellevue Elementary School 
Nominated by Yesenia Salas-Chavira
Sara Criage recently completed her first year as a Full-Time AmeriCorps Literacy Team Leader with our NCOE CalSERVES AmeriCorps Program at Bellevue Elementary School.  Bellevue elementary students are predominantly English Language Learners (71%) who live in poverty, with 94% of students qualifying for free and reduced price meals. By matching supportive adults with children in need of extra attention and academic support, the CalSERVES Literacy and After School Programs work in partnership with local elementary schools to increase reading proficiency, improve grades and test scores, and create positive learning environments for students to excel academically.  As a certified credential teacher from Philadelphia, Sara has shared her skills and knowledge on education and literacy to support the 18 AmeriCorps mentors designated to her school team.   

Sara was able to build highly effective relationships with teachers to make sure the program was effective as possible.  Ms. Craige coached and guided her team of AmeriCorps members to give back to their community and inspired them to become educators and role models to students, who according to the California Standards test, are in high need of academic support.  Ms. Craige received extensive training in specific areas of literacy, including curriculum, lesson planning, assessments and leadership which she put into to practice to ensure the success of the tutoring program.  This year the program was able to graduate 42 students because they reached their grade level in reading! It was Sara’s commitment and tireless efforts that helped the program exceed its goal of graduating more than 75% of tutoring students.
Kimberly Sylvester, CalSERVES Mentor, Meadow View Elementary School
Nominated by Kimberly Copperberg
Kimberly Sylvester served as a part-time AmeriCorps member for CalSERVES. Her assignment was to tutor two students in reading and literacy and to co-facilitate the kindergarten classroom in the after school program. Throughout her 10 months of service, Kimberly continued to shine as a dedicated, efficient, and passionate member. Part-time AmeriCorps members are required to serve at least 900 hours; Kimberly served over 1200!

Her contributions to the kindergarten after school program have been immeasurable. It was the first year for our program to include kindergarten in our program which had its own schedule and specific expectations from teachers. Kimberly’s education and pervious in child development and preschool children was a tremendous base for our kindergarten program. She continuously had new and creative ideas for lessons with students, brought new activities and ideas, and consistently gave 100% of her energy in her performance. She shared her lessons and ideas at meetings and was a constant support of her peers at other kindergarten programs.

In group settings or one-on-one, Kimberly stays focused at the task and goal at hand. During her literacy tutoring sessions, Kimberly’s efforts helped her below basic students reach grade level by the end of the year. She was also involved on many committees at her site including the Garden Committee, Events Committee, Literacy Day, and one time projects including organizing a Movie Night fundraiser. Even at the Cesar Chavez Health Fair, Kimberly stepped up into a leadership facilitating set-up and take-down, delegating tasks, and ensuring others made a productive use of their time.