Commonwealth Corps Overview
The mission of the Commonwealth Corps is to engage Massachusetts residents of all ages and backgrounds in direct service to rebuild communities and address unmet community needs. The Commonwealth Corps provides opportunities for skill building, leadership development and encourages and enhances a lifelong civic vocation for Corps members. Corps members provide direct service, build capacity, and recruit, organize and mobilize additional volunteers, thus building a grassroots movement of volunteers dedicated to service.
The Commonwealth Corps, a state-funded program administered by the Massachusetts Service Alliance, was established in 2007 by Governor Deval Patrick and his partners in the state legislature. Since its inception, nearly 850 Commonwealth Corps members have served in the program, providing over 440,000 hours of service in areas such as community development, health services, benefits screenings, afterschool or summer programs, and volunteer recruitment and management, and directly benefiting approximately 500,000 individuals. No other state in the country has a service corps program focused solely on state residents.
2014-2015 Commonwealth Corps Host Sites and Members
This year, the Commonwealth Corps has 35 full-time and half-time members serving with 15 host site partners across the state. All members and host sites are focusing on building capacity within their organizations, and member service also falls into three of our focus areas (see below). Proving impact in Barnstable, Bristol, Essex, Franklin, Hampden, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Worcester Counties, our 2014-2015 Host Site Partners are:
• Economic Opportunity/Workforce Development
-Lutheran Community Services, Inc.
-More Than Words
-New England Business Associates, Inc.
-African Community Education Program, Inc.
-Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell
-Boys & Girls Clubs of Middlesex County
-Buzzards Bay Coalition
-City of Cambridge, Agenda for Children OST Initiative
-Housing Families, Inc.
-Northfield Mount Hermon School Upward Bound
-Raising a Reader Massachusetts
-School on Wheels of Massachusetts
-Veritas Preparatory Charter School
• Youth Development/Youth Violence Prevention
-Family Services of the Merrimack Valley
For details on each host site partner's projects and goals, click here.
2013-2014 Commonwealth Corps Host Site Partners and Members
35 Commonwealth Corps members served their communities through 15 host sites (listed below), building organizational capacity across the state, increasing volunteerism, and positively impacting Massachusetts residents in the focus areas of economic opportunity/workforce development, education, and health/nutrition.
Our members, ranging in age from 18-66, came with a range of powerful motivations to serve and brought a wealth of strengths and experiences. From members born in Massachusetts to those who came here as refugees from other countries, from college students to later-in-life career switchers and retirees, all of them bring a level of passion that is inspiring to each other and to us at MSA.
2013-2014 Host Site Partners (click on each host site for more details)
Economic Opportunity/Workforce Development Focus Area:
HAP, Inc. (also using the trade name HAPHousing) is a private, nonprofit corporation founded in 1972 whose mission is “to provide affordable housing opportunities, education and support; enabling people to achieve a better future and promoting vibrant, diverse communities.” HAPHousing will host two full-time Commonwealth Corps members to provide job development services for 160 Next Steps Program participants to help clients gain skills and knowledge that improve their employability and as a result, improve their economic well-being, with the ultimate outcome being economic independence. They will also recruit volunteers to provide additional support that enables participants to take maximum advantage of the program services (e.g. job interview role-playing, translation). Each quarter, Commonwealth Corps members will serve with 20 clients through individual meetings and group workshops to assist them with skills such as resume writing, job searches, and interview skills. http://www.haphousing.org/default/index.cfm
Lutheran Social Services (LSS) Services for New Americans in Massachusetts (offices in Worcester, West Springfield, Westfield) helps refugees and immigrants establish new lives, regain hope, and contribute to the vitality of our community. LSS Services to New Americans will host two full-time Commonwealth Corps members who will serve as employment specialists, to help develop the Refugee Independence Service Enhancement program, working with pre-literate/illiterate refugees more intensely, providing ongoing support to West Springfield, Westfield, and Worcester sites to develop our employer pool; redesigning and streamlining Performance Quality Improvements process; analyzing satisfaction surveys to improve quality and services; engaging with refugees to coach them on job skills and employment skills and help them with goal setting and other assistance. For more information visit their website at http://www.lssne.org.
More Than Words (MTW) empowers youth who are in foster care, court-involved, homeless, or out of school, to take charge of their lives by taking charge of a business. More Than Words will host two full-time Commonwealth Corps Members to build systems for and help oversee our volunteer program with the goal of building an engaged community that increases support for the organization and awareness of its mission. With the support of Commonwealth Corps Members, More Than Words will be able to better deliver on its mission and support its youth to attain more successful outcomes. Commonwealth Corps Members will make a lasting impact on More Than Words by laying the groundwork for a sustainable system for managing and retaining volunteers across two sites. For more information please visit, http://mtwyouth.org/
Since 1980, Providence Ministries for the Needy (PMN) has been working to “Feed, clothe and house the needy of Greater Holyoke.” Providence Ministries will host three part-time Commonwealth Corps members who will serve with foodWorks at Kate’s Kitchen and volunteer opportunity development at Cinderelli’s Consignment Boutique and Mother Mary’s Thrift Store. Commonwealth Corps members serving with Mother Mary’s Thrift Store and Cinderelli’s Consignment Boutique will: recruit, train and mentor volunteers for store staffing, create skills-based volunteer opportunities for students, youth and individuals with employment barriers, and network with community agencies serving individuals with employment barriers to assure access to training and volunteer opportunities, helping individuals with employment barriers prepare for successful employment and helping the stores to generate income for Providence Ministries. The Commonwealth Corps member serving with the foodWorks at Kate’s Kitchen program will network with the local business community to support the foodWorks program through soft-skills trainings, in-kind donations and internship opportunities, and will coordinate the soft-skills training component of the foodWorks program. The member’s work will help program participants prepare for successful employment upon completion of the foodWorks program. www.provministries.com
Education Focus Area:
826 Boston–a nonprofit youth writing center located in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood–is dedicated to supporting students ages 6 to 18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write. 826 Boston will host two full-time Commonwealth Corps members during the 2013 – 2014 school year. As part of 826 Boston’s In-School Writing and Publishing team, Corps members will serve side-by-side with 826 Boston staff and volunteers to deliver over 4,000 hours of one-on-one tutoring to underserved students in 20 different Boston Public School classrooms. Commonwealth Corps members will help boost the organization’s annual service, build relationships with new partner teachers and schools, and expand the organization’s volunteer corps to support increased levels of programming. Additionally, Corps members will support 826 Boston’s on-site workshop and tutoring programs. More information about 826 Boston’s programs is available at http://www.826boston.org/programs/.
The African Community Education Program (ACE) is a non-profit community organization that assists and empowers African refugee and immigrant youth and families as they transition into American society. ACE will host two full-time Commonwealth Corps members who will serve with African refugee and immigrant youth in our After School Program and Saturday Program, and will build our organization’s capacity by creating Individual Student Success Plans (ISSP) and coordinating partnership development. Our Commonwealth Corps members will directly impact students’ educational success through their service with youth, teachers and tutors in our After School and Saturday programs. In addition, our Corps members will strengthen ACE’s effectiveness and ability to serve our students in the future by creating ISSPs for 35 students who attend our After School Program, and by organizing and expanding our partnerships with organizations and groups in the Worcester community. To contact or learn more about ACE, please visit: http://acechildren.org/
The mission of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell is “to inspire and enable young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, responsible, and caring citizens, through a dedicated staff and innovative programs, provided in a safe environment.” The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell will host two full-time Commonwealth Corps members who will coordinate our homework help and educational enrichment programs as well as the implementation of Project Learn, a Boys & Girls Clubs of America evidence-based strategy to incorporate high-yield educational activities into all Club program areas. Anticipated outcomes include the recruitment of 25 new community volunteers to serve in our education programs, improved quality of our education programs, and improved school engagement of youth. The Club serves 255 youth ages 7-18 daily. Please visit http://lbgc.org/ for more information.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Middlesex County (BGCMC) provides education, prevention and recreation programs after-school for more than 1,500 underserved and at-risk youth in Medford, Cambridge, Somerville and Everett. Club programs and services promote and enhance the development of youth by instilling a sense of competence, usefulness, belonging and influence with focus on three outcomes; Academic Success, Healthy Lifestyles and Good Character & Citizenship. BGCMC will host 2 full-time Commonwealth Corps Members who will build Club infrastructure and relationships to implement Project Learn. Project Learn is a Boys & Girls Clubs of America evidence-based strategy designed to improve youth attitudes toward learning, increase academic support systems after school, and develop relationships with parents and schools to encourage a partnership for youth academic development. Corps Members will develop key relationships and implement crucial systems that will solidify the organization’s role as a key partner supporting education in the community. For more information on BGCMC, please visit http://www.kidsclubs.org/
The Buzzards Bay Coalition is a membership-supported nonprofit organization dedicated to the restoration, protection and sustainable use and enjoyment of our irreplaceable Bay and its watershed. The Coalition will host two full-time Commonwealth Corps members who will provide high-quality, hands-on, exploration-based field experiences to youth and families in our watershed. Our education programs are designed to strengthen the ethic of environmental stewardship in the region while also improving academic achievement through increased school engagement. The Commonwealth Corps members will be integral parts of our education team and will not only provide educational opportunities for youth and families, but will increase the Coalition’s capacity to continue field programming and stewardship into the future by recruiting and training volunteers. The Commonwealth Corps members will serve thousands of local youth and will provide opportunities for families to explore the local environment together. Please visit www.savebuzzardsbay.org/joinourteam to learn more about this opportunity.
Out-of-school time (OST) experiences play an important role in fostering the present and future success of middle school youth. Commonwealth Corps members help the Cambridge Agenda for Children’s Middle School Network support students’ awareness about and connections to OST opportunities. In their service as Middle School Network Liaisons, Commonwealth Corps members are a vital part of the vision of ensuring that all Upper School students have equitable access to OST opportunities. In 2013-14, the Agenda for Children will again host 4 half-time Commonwealth Corps members, who will play a critical role in reaching out to youth, families, and educators about OST opportunities and benefits. Through their outreach, partnerships, and development of OST awareness materials and programming, more middle school students will participate in OST opportunities, more families and educators will understand the value and accessibility of OST, and students and adults will experience increased connectedness between school and OST. For more info, visit www.cambridgema.gov/DHSP/programsforfamilies/agendaforchildren.aspx.
Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC) is a two year public higher education institution with a mission to provide high quality learning opportunities and services that respond to diverse student and community needs, foster success, and stimulate civic, workforce, and economic vitality. MWCC will host three half-time Commonwealth Corps members who will serve in MWCC’s existing Talent Search Program in Athol, Orange, and Winchendon middle schools. Serving as Early College Planning Assistants, members will provide early exposure to career exploration and postsecondary education to eighth graders and parents via a series of six workshops that build off of one another and culminate in a middle school college/career fair. The impact of members direct service and capacity building efforts activities will set the stage for eighth graders to enroll in a high school course of study that puts them on track for completion of high school and pursuit of postsecondary education. http://mwcc.edu/access/.
Northfield Mount Hermon School Upward Bound (Mount Hermon/Greenfield, Turners Falls, Holyoke, Springfield)
Northfield Mount Hermon Upward Bound Program (NMH UB) provides intensive college preparation services to low-income youth who are the first in their family to aspire to higher education. NMH UB will host two full time Corps members who will serve in four Western Mass communities with high poverty rates: Greenfield, Turners Falls, Holyoke and Springfield. Members will provide math enrichment, tutoring, test preparation, college awareness activities, community service, college and cultural trips and events, and other college awareness activities. The program seeks to help students demonstrate improved academic and college going outcomes. Through members’ service: program capacity will be increased through the development of math enrichment curriculum, college awareness presentations, and community service programming; a book donation system will yield thousands of useful textbooks; and a social media and web project will reach more participants, volunteers and donors for years to come. http://www.nmhschool.org/academics/upward-bound
Raising A Reader MA is an evidence-based early literacy organization dedicated to closing the academic achievement gap by helping families of young children (newborn-age 5) living in vulnerable communities develop, practice, and maintain habits of reading together at home. Our work, which both increases access to books and offers families tools and support for strengthening the culture of reading at home, is driven by 25 years of research that shows the single most significant factor influencing a child’s academic success is being regularly read to by a parent/caregiver before kindergarten. Three Commonwealth Corps Members will serve as Site and Family Outreach Coordinators in a specific region- Brockton, Boston, Chelsea/Revere, Lawrence, or Tri-City (Everett/Malden/Medford). Corps Members will be responsible for two key components: 1) ongoing site support and 2) parent attendance at educational workshops. Tasks include providing technical assistance to early care and education providers, leading storytimes with young children, and helping Raising A Reader MA staff and parent volunteers to coordinate parent workshops about dialogic reading. Members’ direct service will also build capacity in the organization to collect and internally disseminate best practices around parent outreach. Some projects such as widespread parent outreach, materials preparation, and data collection, will be performed in other Raising A Reader MA communities such as Lowell and Springfield, giving Members a stronger perspective of our statewide reach. Learn more at http://raisingareaderma.org/
The mission of School on Wheels of Massachusetts (SOWMA) is to educate children impacted by homelessness by providing academic support and one-on-one mentoring so children can reach their full potential. Our tutoring program matches children living in family shelters and other forms of temporary housing with a tutor trained to help fill in layers of learning children are missing because of the chaos and trauma of homelessness. We have tutoring sites in Brockton, Stoughton, Norwell, Middleboro, and New Bedford. SOWMA will host two full-time Commonwealth Corps members who will serve as a Resource Specialist and a Volunteer Specialist. These members will create new educational resources and build the capacity of our tutoring program by increasing community engagement. Please visit our website at http://www.sowma.org/
Health/Nutrition Focus Area:
Samaritans’ mission is to alleviate despair, isolation, distress, and suicidal feelings among individuals in our community, 24 hours a day; to educate the public about suicide prevention; and to reduce the stigma associated with suicide. Samaritans will host four half-time Commonwealth Corps members. Two members will support our 24/7 Helpline Program; one member will support our Community Education and Outreach Program, and one member will support our Grief Support Services. Members’ service will help to reduce suicide by undertaking activities to recruit volunteers; by delivering suicide prevention workshops; and supporting those who have been bereaved by suicide. For 39 years Samaritans has been active in the community and members will help build the capacity of all our programs resulting in more calls being answered, more families supported in their grief, and more people learning about the risk factors and warning signs of suicide. For more information please go to http://www.samaritanshope.org/
Commonwealth Corps Newsletters
MSA Announces Partnership with Heller School: Service Scholarships for Commonwealth Corps Alumni
MSA is thrilled to partner with the Heller School for Social Management and Policy at Brandeis University to help honor our Commonwealth Corps alumni’s service, expanding the support Heller already provides to service alumni. Since its inception, nearly 850 Commonwealth Corps members have served in the program, providing over 440,000 hours of service and directly benefiting approximately 500,000 individuals across Massachusetts.
Ranked in the top ten schools of social policy by US News & World Report, The Heller School is pleased to offer Commonwealth Corps alumni a Service Scholarship of $10,000 per year of full-time enrollment at Heller; the application fee will also be waived for all Commonwealth Corps alumni and members. Heller believes that the same qualities that allowed members to complete their service will help them make significant contributions in and out of the classroom. Applicants will also be considered for other merit scholarships, in addition to the guaranteed $10,000 Service Scholarship. Click here and visit heller.brandeis.edu to learn more.
Said Lisa M. Lynch, Dean and Maurice B. Hexter Professor of Social and Economic Policy, "Heller has a distinguished history of empowering committed individuals from around the world with the knowledge and skills to make a difference. We are proud to partner with the Massachusetts Service Alliance and Commonwealth Corps to provide assistance for their alumni to take their local community leadership to the next level with a relevant graduate degree.” MSA CEO Emily Haber echoed this enthusiasm, saying, “We are grateful that the Heller School recognizes the important contribution that our Commonwealth Corps members have made in communities throughout Massachusetts and appreciates the value in attracting and supporting those members at Heller.”
2012-2013 Commonwealth Corps Program and Host Site Partners
In 2012-2013, 50 Commonwealth Corps members have been serving their communities, building organizational capacity across the state, and positively impacting Massachusetts residents in the focus areas of education, health/nutrition, economic opportunity/workforce development, and veterans’ support through their service with one of our 13 host site partners. This year’s members, ranging in age from 18-71, bring a breadth of strengths, experiences, and backgrounds to the Corps and represent a diversity of races, ethnicities, physical abilities, and hometowns. Some are coming right out of college, while others are switching careers, coming back to the professional world from full-time parenting, or volunteering while retired.
Several of our members have chosen to serve both as a way to give back to their communities and a way to gain experience in the professional world that will allow them to explore and prepare for future career and education goals. Our college and graduate student Corps members span a range of ages and include 7 military veterans. All of the Commonwealth Corps members bring a commitment to service and desire to give back, from those impacted by suicide and depression who are supporting others dealing with those issues, to the Corps members who benefited from tutoring and mentoring during their childhoods and want to be there for today’s youth.
Three part-time members are serving as youth employment specialists to help develop CareerLaunch, a new community-based youth employment program that puts at-risk youth on a trajectory to college and career through year-round work experience, career exploration, and intensive academic preparation and mentoring. For more information visit their website at http://www.bostonabcd.org.
Three full-time members are helping to implement two evidence-based strategies: Project Learn and the Formula for Impact, which support educational attainment for the young people served by the Club. For more information visit their website at http://www.kidsclubs.org.
Two full-time members are serving as Environmental Educators, working on youth education initiatives that seek to strengthen the ethic of environmental stewardship in the region and improve students’ academic achievement through increased school engagement. For more information visit their website at http://www.savebuzzardsbay.org.
Four part-time members are serving as Middle School Network Liaisons to promote awareness of, access to, and participation in high quality OST programs among middle school students in Cambridge.
Three part-time members are serving as Community Health Corps Members to provide information, non-clinical consultation, and/or referrals to specific health care organizations and programs in Berkshire County. For more information visit their website at http://www.communityhealthprograms.org.
One full-time member is serving as Coordinator of Volunteer Match Support for the Amigos and Grad programs, and one as Coordinator of Communications for Stand and Deliver. These programs match middle and high school students with one-on-one mentors to improve academic achievement. For more information visit their website at http://www.familyserviceinc.com.
Two full-time members are serving as Job Development Counselors with Next Steps, a component of HAP’s Family Self Sufficiency program. Members assist clients individually and in workshop settings with job search skills and referrals to jobs; and support and/or recruit volunteers to mentor clients. For more information visit their website at www.haphousing.org.
Four part-time members serving as Healthy Connections CC Members to improve access to information and benefits and expand health education around nutrition, fall prevention, self- management of chronic diseases, and care planning. For more information visit their website at www.minutemansenior.org.
Two full-time members are serving as Evaluation and Alumni CC Members to deepen MTW’s programming and build out services for youth in the two years after transitioning from MTW to future employment and education opportunities. For more information visit their website at http://www.mtwyouth.org.
Eight flex-time members are serving as Peer Veteran Liaisons with MWCC’s Center of Excellence for Veteran Student Success. Members address the unique transition issues that new veteran/military connected students have when transitioning from the military to college life, using a peer-to-peer mentoring model. For more information visit their website at http://www.mwcc.edu/veteran/.
Three full-time members are serving as Site and Family Outreach Coordinators, providing ongoing support to sites to ensure fidelity with the evidence-based program and conducting activities to increase parent engagement. For more information visit their website at http://www.raisingareaderma.org.
Four part-time members are serving with Samaritans, two as Helpline Coordinators, one as Grief Support Services Coordinator, and one as Education and Outreach Coordinator. They are helping to build Samaritans’ capacity to recruit, train and support volunteers. For more information visit their website at http://www.samaritanshope.org.
Nine flex-time members are serving as Community Coordinators for UMD CARES. Members are developing, implementing and coordinating community-based learning and/or service-learning pedagogy in elementary and middle schools to increase students’ school and civic engagement, educational aspirations, and leadership.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. " -Margaret Mead