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August 22, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

Times moves fast ….by Adriana Crawford

    Image     Time has moved especially fast this year. It seemed like only a short while ago when I boarded a plane to Atlanta, GA, anxious about the Pre Service Orientation. Now, I look towards these last six weeks with a better sense of who I am. I call this year my personal Year Up.

            I hit the ground running when I began serving at Year Up New York, a nonprofit organization dedicated to closing the Opportunity Divide among young adults ages 18-24. Within weeks, I built the tutoring program and secured several strong volunteers. Twice a week, I watched as students gathered in one of the classrooms and listened intently to each tutor. These students came from various backgrounds but all had one thing in common: incredible motivation. There were instances when I had students stop me in the hallway to thank me for everything. I could hardly believe that my little tutoring program made such a difference. I must admit, there were times when I even became emotional. Twenty weeks later, these students moved on to their internships. During this time, I focused on supporting the academic team. I tried to experiment with different techniques to improve the tutoring process. I did not anticipate a shift in my personal life.

            I was also in graduate school full time while serving. I’m a workaholic by nature (I’m currently taking a summer class) so I figured I would be able to handle it with ease. WRONG. One area took up my time during the day while the other captured my evenings. It was not unusual for me to use my half hour of lunch to catch up on class readings. I would take the better part of my hour long commute to and from Year Up to read articles and start drafts of papers. While I swear by routines, my personal life took a major hit. Looking back, I suppose I had reached a plateau in my Year Up. The passion and energy that I brought with me in August had faded to a quiet resignation by February. The blistering cold did not help, either. My health began to suffer as I exercised and slept less (that whole “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” phrase is madness). The spring semester of graduate school made the previous semester look like a cakewalk as I struggled to understand economic concepts in public administration and technological advances in government. I became disconnected from the optimistic Adriana who started her service year. Instead, I was Adriana the graduate student of public administration and Adriana the AmeriCorps VISTA at Year Up. There was no in between.

            In the midst of frustration and many sleepless nights, I recommitted myself to my purpose. Call it an epiphany, revelation, “aha” moment- it was enough. I realized that in order for me to better help someone in their Year Up, I need to acknowledge that everyone needs a break or a helping hand sometimes. How could I work to help a student academically, become frustrated if he or she refused the service, and then turn around and do the same thing? In order to give help, you must learn how to be helped. I have learned that it is in those moments of vulnerability when we learn the most about ourselves. Thanks to incredibly supportive staff and students, I was able to move forward. As this year comes to a close, I have learned far more than I anticipated. I thought that I would provide a service for a year and be done with it. Instead, I learned valuable lessons the way from the very people I was there to help. Go figure…

Adriana G. Crawford

AmeriCorps VISTA

Year Up – New York

Brooklyn location

9 Dekalb Ave., Fifth Floor

Brooklyn, NY 11201

347-296-0210 ext. 3128

http://www.yearup.org

http://www.youtube.com/yearupinc

August 9, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

I made a difference….Rooney Charest

charestWhen I made the decision to leave Vermont for an AmeriCorps VISTA position in central Iowa, I was thrilled about the opportunity to work with school gardens in a drastically different part of the country. I had just spent six months at a working educational farm, where I led field trips and did outreach with public schools. By the end of my apprenticeship, I was left with a sense of the enormous importance of connecting children to farming and food and a conviction that this cannot be achieved with simply an annual field trip. Having witnessed the value and magic of an outdoor classroom, I felt that every school and student should have access to one. Now, I would be involved in helping to make my new beliefs come to life half a continent away.
I came to Ames just three months after ground had been broken for the city’s second elementary school garden. The garden had taken off beautifully with the help of a committed group of parent volunteers, and everything was fruiting in time for the first day of school. Now would begin the equally vital work of connecting the garden to the school—its curriculum, staff, students and community. I was surprised to learn that despite industrial agriculture’s ubiquity in Ames, many of my students had not set foot on a farm or even in a garden. In a city whose agricultural products are exported around the nation and the world, I would be encouraging the community to become more involved in the production of their own food. And this is what excited me most—facilitating that soul-stirring connection to the soil, to nature, to seeds and to that first bite of a pea or tomato you’ve grown yourself.
The community embraced the new garden at our first major event of the year: a student-run farmers market. The evening showcased the garden’s suitability as a space for community building and education: the produce sold had been nurtured by our summertime volunteers, and the students selling the veggies and giving garden tours were using skills learned in the classroom in a real life setting. Since the success of that event, my co-VISTA and I have had the chance to coordinate many other volunteer-led programming at the two elementary school gardens in Ames. (Both were founded by a partnership including my host site, the Volunteer Center of Story County.) We have held weekly garden clubs after school, at recess and during the summer, an after-school cooking club, taste-testing events, and an Earth Day celebration. We’ve hosted volunteer groups from local businesses, 4-H, the juvenile courts system, Iowa State University, international exchange programs and Ames High School. As garden coordinators, we have also supported teacher use of the outdoor classroom by identifying the possibilities for authentic learning in the garden and leading garden-based lessons. Finally, we helped set up a new middle school garden with assistance from faculty volunteers and summer camp students.
Building community with people of all ages while volunteering outside and connecting with nature has been rewarding, but my time spent with children has been the most inspiring. There is nothing like the light in their eyes when they realize that carrots grow underground or that tomatoes come in different colors, that kale and beets taste good when you know how to prepare them. Not to mention the squeals of delight when a shovelful of soil reveals wriggling earthworms! It was a good decision after all…

Rooney Charest
AmeriCorps VISTA
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August 1, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

A year filled with experiments…by Megan Ward

Megan HeadshotThis was a year filled with experiments. As a pilot program, nothing was in place for the development of a Community School at Enka Middle except for a newly-established partnership between school administrators and the YMCA, United Way and HandsOn Asheville-Buncombe.

I was warned that my work as Parent Engagement Coordinator would be an uphill battle – history had shown little parent involvement among this isolated rural community, with its vein-like road system scattering families throughout the surrounding mountains. In these circumstances, a person can feel immobilized by the certainty of defeat or see it as an opportunity to conduct community-building experiments with nowhere to go but up. I choose the latter. And so the lab coat goes on…

The first class was an easy sell. A monthly series, “Healthy Cooking on a Budget,” invited participants to help prepare a meal that meets federal nutrition guidelines and feeds a family of four for under $20. Our parent volunteer facilitator (a trained chef) put together a cookbook filled with healthy, inexpensive, and easy recipes; this way, participants made some recipes during class but could try many more from home! Of course, they got to enjoy a free meal at the end. How could this not work? The first class quickly reached capacity and each one following was filled, or nearly so. Score!

As I put together other classes, I didn’t receive the same enthusiastic response. A “Becoming a Love and Logic Parent®” series garnered only nine individuals even after several marketing pushes. I wasn’t too discouraged though, because the time commitment was much greater – but the quality of conversation compensated for low numbers, and at the end they voiced a desire for more. So I continued on the parenting theme with a class called “Help Your Student Find Their Spark,” based on the Sparks curriculum. Crickets. Zero parents signed up.

So as in any experiment, I analyzed what went awry. I thought about our current model. Free food and child care was always a goal, but what made the cooking class so appealing? Perhaps it’s the obvious – cooking classes are far more “sexy” than parenting classes. But I had another thought… life is hectic! Maybe parents don’t want to give up an evening that takes away from their family’s limited time together. Rather, they want fun activities that they can enjoy as a family.  Next, we applied this model to our final event.

My co-VISTA and I needed to plan a spring resource fair, so we decided to turn our resource fair into a fun, cookout-style community festival with lots of kids’ activities and giveaways. We invited exhibitors that offered free or low-cost summer opportunities for youth, community meals and other summer food sources, and ways to decrease household costs. But to get people there, we marketed the family-friendly fun.  It worked!

That’s the beauty of a pilot project – your experiment feeds the next person’s success. And now I look forward to passing the torch to the next VISTA!

Megan Ward
AmeriCorps VISTA

July 26, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

As the year comes to an end…by Ben Weinstein

Ben Weinstein_generationOnAs the 2012-2013 VISTA year comes to a close, generationOn VISTAs are still plugging away at a seemingly insurmountable task- how to convince the dedicated education professionals at our school to take service-learning seriously. And although we feel strongly that “convince” is a term we should not have to employ, along with “coax,” “prove to,” and “demonstrate,” it has come to preempt our supposed job of “training” school staff to adopt this appropriate model for education in the modern world. Maybe we’re doing something wrong.
The toughest part of our job isn’t living on an outdated government allowance, and it isn’t commuting daily between our office and our school – where we don’t even have a desk of our own – while simultaneously working on directives from VISTA, POL, generationOn, and our school. No, sadly the toughest part of our job is working in a school environment that can’t seem to keep up with its own students or staff, let alone provide us with the support that we need to succeed in our duties.
We lament the fact that if only the administration saw our initiatives as ways to address the root causes of bad behavior, student disinterest, and teacher apathy, we would undoubtedly have a clear path to providing the kind of training laid out in our VADs. If only the administration would give us its full-throat support, backed in part by mandatory trials of service-learning intervention and sincere gratitude for all we are doing, we wouldn’t have to waste time proving service-learning’s value. As it is, we often operate under the radar without the authority to command anything but pitied cooperation from teachers and parents. Throughout the year, I would sometimes feel like a frustrated parent telling his child “one day when you’re older, you’ll understand.” Unfortunately, a parent’s wisdom is never cool. And while parents have the authority that comes with respect and age, many VISTAs do not hold these badges.
Now, before you get all depressed, I should probably talk about all the good times. I remember the days when our program was full of possibility, because I still have these days. We connected with local organizations, planting the seeds of partnership; we provided teachers with curriculum to do service-learning; we planned and executed a holiday campaign that included 40/41 classrooms in service; we created a two-year framework for curriculum, professional development, and parent involvement in service-learning; we ran generationOn’s largest ever MLK Day of Service with 8 brand new projects and over 900 volunteer leaders and family members; we initiated and campaigned for $450,000 in new technology for nine District 11 schools, including 30 new Macbooks for our own school; we created our school’s first Student Council, as a precursor to the Community Advisory Council; we initiated the school’s first Day of Service around recycling and school beautification, complete with classroom service projects and curriculum, student leadership, community partners, and parent volunteers; and we are currently building a toolkit for school-wide service-learning implementation based on our experience in a “receptive” school environment. Not to mention various other tasks we have done for our host site.
All of what we have accomplished is not for nothing. Some of our work may not be replicated by next year’s VISTAs, but much of it will carry over into year two. We are already planning with the school’s Principal to make improvements to our major successes, like professional development, school-wide service days/campaigns, and student leadership. The obstacle to which we keep returning, however, is how to pass on the responsibilities of three full-time VISTAs to a school already flush with programming, and seemingly unwilling to consider service-learning as the panacea that we imagine it as. So I ask again- even in light of our successes, are we doing something wrong?
I have made the “yes” argument. We should not be coercing a school, however gently, just because we have a relationship with them. We should not engage in piloting a program before we have accrued raw data from willing and complicit focus groups, classes, teachers, administrators, etc. Especially as comparatively inexperienced workers in the fields of public education and program management, we should not be going for such a momentous project.
I have made the “no” argument. We are not, in fact, implementing something so far-fetched. Some teachers, students, administrators, parents, and community agents have taken to our program. We have had incredible success, despite the low levels of buy-in from our school. This year has served as experience for us as individuals, and for our organization in their bid to effect policy on a small scale, not to mention the year’s service as a solid “foot in the door.” There is potential for giant growth next year, and it will be on our shoulders.
Which statement is truer?
I think every VISTA grapples with this conundrum, and probably multiple times throughout the year. I am proud of our (and my own) accomplishments, but I have by no means reached a point of comfort with my service, and I’m nervous about how I can possibly feel good walking away from this position. Will I have left enough, and will it be up to par? Will anything have mattered by the end of year two? (Oh and by the way, will I have a job come August 24th?) To be sure, there are a lot of open-ended questions.
When I try to boil all of this down into a single, coherent, snugly, smile-inducing thought about how we all tried our best, and how we made a difference in the lives of many, I can’t. I can’t definitively answer my own questions. I can’t pat myself on the back, and I shouldn’t. And you shouldn’t either. The blunt fact is that none of us have done nearly enough. And what we have done, we can do better. I am not happy with my work, and I’m certainly not going to walk away from this desk feeling good about the world I live in. The reason is scale.
One year of fighting the good fight isn’t a cure-all. It is a crumb, a penny on the ground. One year of 110% poverty-level wages is unarguably a difficult and worthy sacrifice. But one year of pushing yourself to improve your community isn’t a gold medal. It isn’t a prize. It isn’t a solution- it isn’t even a band-aid on the problem, whatever the problem is that you are addressing. The pennies add up slowly.
The problems we all face are still to come, and the horizon they are on is approaching with increasing pace. If this year was anything for me, it was a lesson on how to wake up and face the next day. I choose to view my work as a question, the answer to which is “yes, and…” I learned this from an improv class I took in college where the strategy was to accept whatever idea was presented to you and to run with it. I know, it doesn’t seem relevant, but if you want to see communities improve and grow, I suggest adopting this view. It doesn’t minimize the value of our successes; it heightens awareness, and extends possibility. Our work may have astonishing impact one day, and fall flat the next. But is it our own faults, the faults of our constituents, or the fault of the system within which we work? And now back to the real question: are we doing something wrong? Yes, and…

July 18, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

What a difference a VISTA makes…by Katrice Williams

Katrice picHandsOn Northeast Ohio has been a unique organization, offering citizen-managed volunteer opportunities for individuals and organizations in the Greater Cleveland area. For the Martin Luther King Day of Service, the HandsOn Kids Care Club completed winter warmth bags for families and children at Laura’s Home, a homeless shelter for adults with young children, and families in the Kinsman neighborhood served a healthy brunch to 30 adult seniors.

Over the past year, we have engaged an additional 100 family and youth volunteers and had one of our biggest National Days of Service on Global Youth Service Day with 34 volunteers serving over 80 hours. Volunteers completed can gardens for kindergarten and first grade students at Anton Grdina Elementary School, no-sew bags for adult seniors at Burten, Bell, Carr Development Center, and birdhouses for Garfield Heights Nature Center. Their hard work and determination served 90 community members and made me quite proud to continue planning and implementing service projects for our Kids Care Club and Ward 5 residents.

As the Parent and Community Support VISTA, I’ve also managed our 10 mobile tax sites that offered free tax preparation services for low-income residents earning less than $50,000 per year. Managing 5 trained community volunteers was great and we also provided a great service for 107 clients. We even returned $100,233 and $14,133 in federal and state tax dollars back to Cuyahoga County residents! Our work would not have been possible without the help of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) Coalition of Cuyahoga County and providing excellent technical support (at times I was stumped trying to figure out rejected or incomplete returns). Still, I learned valuable information about tax preparation and how to ask our clients pertinent questions to secure the right tax documentation and supporting documents. Since managing the mobile tax sites, I’ve also been heavily involved in parent engagement at Anton Grdina, setting up resident circles at Rainbow Terrace and building community relationships with other agency partners.

Parent engagement at Anton Grdina Elementary School has been challenging, but rewarding. HandsOn partnered with Greater Cleveland Congregations to host several school events, and HandsOn NEO independently held a career and job fair for 50 community members last December. The successes of uniting parents and students in friendly family events have far outweighed the challenges of low parent turnout at formal School Parent Organization meetings or parents disillusioned by the terse school-parent relationship.

I’ve been excited during my time as a VISTA and have been rewarded by the wonderful parents and youth who’ve attended out afterschool programs at Anton Grdina and have helped us serve the Greater Cleveland community through the HandsOn Kids Care Club.

Yours in Service

Katrice Williams

July 5, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

Poem of the Day…Anyway by Mother Teresa

ANYWAY

People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Love them anyway!
If you do good, people will accuse you
of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway!
If you are successful, you will win
false friends and enemies.
Succeed anyway!
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway!
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway!
What you spend years building may be
destroyed overnight.
Build anyway!
People really need help
but may attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway!
Give the world the best you have
and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway!

Written by: Mother Teresa

HandsOn Corps

ANYWAY

People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centered.
Love them anyway!
If you do good, people will accuse you
of selfish, ulterior motives.
Do good anyway!
If you are successful, you will win
false friends and enemies.
Succeed anyway!
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway!
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway!
What you spend years building may be
destroyed overnight.
Build anyway!
People really need help
but may attack you if you help them.
Help them anyway!
Give the world the best you have
and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you’ve got anyway!

Written by: Mother Teresa

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June 28, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

Recap…Don’t forget to Study! …Mhari Goldstein

Image

            Many of the programs we offer match wonderful volunteers with students in need of academic help. As the Academic Success VISTA with HandsOn Suburban Chicago (HOSC) I am charged with having a positive impact on student’s academic achievement by building programs and matching caring adults to various tutoring task. As a former tutor you never forget the feelings of personal success when the student finally grasps the concept of fractions and how to manipulate them. They would bring tests and report cards so you could see their achievements and know that they were accomplishing set goals. It’s important that all involved feel a sense of accomplishment.

 As such, my role is to secure supportive after-school tutoring/homework help in multiple schools in two adjoining districts. Students and tutors mostly focus on homework help during sessions. Because of this it is often harder to see the direct influence that a volunteer might be having on a student’s success. A rise in student grades may be impacted by a number of factors both in-school and after-school. As such it can often be discouraging to tutors, who do not have access to student grades, to be unsure if they are making a direct and positive impact.

To that end our volunteer training is on going and interactive. We remind tutors that academic success is more than just grades and test results. We train tutors to work on study skills, something that is often not taught in schools, with their students and to find alternative ways to gauge improvement. Our tutors take time at the beginning of each session to go through the student’s folders and recycle old papers that they do not need anymore, make sure they have all their tools prior to sessionsand finally ensure that all distractions, phones specifically are stored away until completion.Our tutors are trained on the PQRST (preview, question, read, summary, and test) method; a method that prioritizes information in a way that correlates with how they will be utilizing that information on a test or paper. Together after subject matter is probed, flashcards are created along with other visuals are cued up like,  around prioritizing assignments then highlight them green, yellow, and red to ensure that time is taken to complete and return for grading purposes.

By focusing on variables that you can directly influence, you will be able to get a better return on your impact. Students who worked on study skills with their mentors began attending the program ready to work. Their volunteers noticed (slowly but surely) that students began bringing in their materials without needing to be reminded, became less disruptive to others, and began to complete their homework within the allotted amount of time. The volunteers felt more confident in themselves and had a stronger relationship with their students. Once the students and volunteers felt more successful in their roles, the program itself became more successful. It was an honor to be a part of such an endeavor over the 2012-2013 service year.

Mhari Goldstein

AmeriCorps VISTA

HandsOn Suburban Chicago (HOSC)

www.volunteerinfo.net

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June 13, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

A Day in the Life of……… by Herby Jeanty

A Day in the Life of……… by Herby Jeanty

 

                        Often times we find ourselves taking unpredicted and different paths that we did not plan and it feels like a setback. In my experiences, I use these different and unpredictable paths as a learning experience. I am an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at New York cares as a Student Academic Success Associate. Although, I do not have a background in education, I choose to serve because I sincerely enjoy helping people reach their potential. In fact, one of my long term goals is going to medical school to become a doctor after my year of service. Prior to joining New York Cares I was a New York Civic Corps member working at a charter school called Achievement First whose sole mission is to provide an alternative process for education to close the achievement gap in low-income communities. The knowledge and experience that I’ve gained working at the charter school equipped me well enough to be a Student Academic Associate at New York Cares. New York Cares is the premier volunteer management organization in New York City, which uses a team-based volunteering model to help meet the pressing needs of the city through partnerships with profit and non-profit organizations and agencies.

This past year, I was able to start three new programs outlined in our VISTA Assignment Description (VAD) in the schools that was selected in New York Cares School Success Initiative. The School Success Initiative is an intensive partnership with schools in low-income communities that allows us to develop and implement programs that specifically meet the needs of the school and community. For example, I started an ESL project at one of partnered elementary school PS 20 Q, whose student body comprised of Mandarin speaking families, for students aimed to, enhanced their English proficiency and improved their self-confidence. In fact, I was able to recruit a team leader for this project who used to be an ESL student and wanted to support this program. Secondly, I started two new programs at PS 196 K aimed to support elementary students in understanding and producing quality homework. All of these programs are free of charge to the schools and this aspect enables the school to improve student academic performance without worrying about funding. Lastly, teachers and students truly enjoy these programs, especially the students who enjoy the one on one attention that they receive from our volunteers.

Honestly, I did not plan to become a New York Civic Corp nor an AmeriCorps VISTA member. However, I realize that no matter the profession that we choose to do, we always will be working with or for other people. I often forget the importance of people around me. I firmly believe that if we all work towards improving the lives of others we will be able to create better opportunities and a thriving society that works for the benefit of all people and not for some people.  In this process, I believe that you become someone beyond the scope of your own imaginations and limitations. Education does not only reside in the classroom, people are not one dimensional and helping people is a multi-dimensional process that is not fixated on one profession or capabilities. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with New York Cares to build upon and validate that level of thinking.  A Day in the Life of being an AmeriCorps VISTA!

Herby Jeanty

AmeriCorps VISTA

New York Cares

http://www.nycares.org/

June 12, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

This is only the beginning…by April Terrell

IMG_2782 - CopyHello my name is April Terrell from the bluff city known as Memphis, Tennessee and I am a DOJ VISTA serving with the Urban Youth Initiative under HandsOn Schools, and my area of service is the Frayser Youth Council and the Mayor’s Youth Social Media Team under Memphis Gun Down.

Boy, Boy, Boy does time go by fast. It feels just like yesterday that I met a special group of about fifteen 8th-12th graders in the Frayser community looking at me with wondering eyes as to what I could bring to the table. Since then we have grown into the Frayser Youth Council with 22 student volunteers servicing the under-served Frayser community youth through service learning projects, outreach, and community forums.

Who would have thought just 9 months ago that being a VISTA would be so rewarding. Earning the right to be heard by youth is not an easy task because there is an element of trust that has to be built. However, once that trust has been earned and you have their attention it’s up to you to be a beacon of light to them and make them feel that their voice is important as well.

Since I’ve earned the right to be heard we have led projects that provided in-need families with food and supplies, participated in GenerationOn’ s What Will You Bring to the Table? service project with the Frayser Youth Council’s “Packs with Snacks”, participated in youth panel discussions, and we have members that serve with the Mayor’s Youth Social Media team under the Memphis Gun Down initiative that aims at reducing youth gun violence. The social media team is special because young people are reaching other young people through social media outlets by promoting positive messages and letting them know to “put the gun down.”

I have seen so much growth in these young people in that they know their voice and their opinions matter and there are those that want to hear from them, because if you really want to know how to reduce youth violence, then talk to the youth. They are at a place now where they want more for themselves and their community, and this would not have been possible without the help and support from an excellent group of adults ranging from community residents, community organizations, and government officials that have made an effort to make these young people know that they’re important.

And that is why being a VISTA is so rewarding because those group of young people known as the Frayser Youth Council know that they have a voice and a place in this world. This is only the beginning!!!!

April Terrell
AmeriCorps VISTA
Urban Youth Initiative
http://www.uyimemphis.org

June 7, 2013 / HandsOnCorps

Attention VISTA Alums with NCE Status….

943212_10151431500256363_1160299910_aAttention VISTA Alums with NCE Status: Positions Available, at three different levels (GS-5/7/9), with the Department of Homeland Security, Citizen and Immigration Services -located in Vermont 

U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services secures America’s promise as a nation of immigrants by providing accurate and useful information to our customer, granting immigration and citizenship benefits, promoting an awareness and understanding of citizenship, and ensuring the integrity of our immigration system.

As an Immigration Services Officer, you will support the adjudication process by adjudicating cases, conducting security checks, managing correspondence, providing internal and external customer support, conducting interviews, and ensuring program quality assurance. Your duties will include:

• Independently researching, interpreting and analyzing an extensive spectrum of sources including pertinent sections of the law and regulations, operating instructions, references and guidance contained in legislative history, precedent decisions, state and local laws, international treaties and other legal references to embrace the correct course of action.

• Granting or denying applications and petitions for immigration benefits based on electronic or paper applications/petitions.

• Processing applications and petitions using available electronic systems through verification of any number of established data points to make adjudicative decisions and/or determine appropriate level of adjudicative review, and update databases with appropriate information and decisions.

• Conducting security checks in accordance with all applicable DHS/USCIS laws and policies.

• Providing direct and continuing assistance to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) personnel and officials of other Federal agencies in identifying individuals who pose a threat to national/public security.

• Interviewing applicants and petitioners to elicit statements and assess credibility, and analyze information gained to identify facts and considerations that form the basis for the determination as to the applicant’s eligibility for specific benefits sought.

To apply, please submit the following information: 

Resume, cover letter, Academic Transcript and Description, and certification of noncompetitive status to: Lisa Stone, Lisa.Stone@dhs.gov / 802-527-4823

Position Opens: Monday, June 10, 2013 ; Closes:  Friday, June 21, 2013

U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services is hiring this position for different levels (GS-5/7/9). The positions would be located in Vermont at either of the two facilities: St. Albans or Essex Junction, Vermont

GS-5: You qualify at the GS-5 level if you possess three years of progressively responsible experience, one year of which was equivalent to the GS-4 level or above. This experience must demonstrate that you have the ability to:

• Analyze problems to identify significant factors, gather pertinent data, and recognize solutions; plan and organize work; communicate effectively orally and in writing; and deal effectively with others in person-to-person situations. Such experience may have been gained in administrative, professional, technical, investigative, or other responsible work.

• Experience in substantive and relevant secretarial, clerical, or other responsible work is qualifying if it provided evidence of the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to perform the duties of this position. Experience of a general clerical nature (typing, filing, routine procedural processing, maintaining records, or other non-specialized tasks) is not creditable.

GS-7: You qualify at the GS-7 level if you possess one (1) year of specialized experience, equivalent to at least the GS-5 level in the Federal government, which has equipped you with the skills needed to successfully perform the duties of the position. These include:

• Performing preliminary examinations of applications/petitions for immigration benefits.

• Ensuring required supporting documentation is included.

• Applying immigration laws, policies and procedures.

GS-9: You qualify at the GS-9 level if you possess one year of specialized, equivalent to at least the GS-7 level in the Federal government, which has equipped you with the skills needed to perform successfully the duties of the position. These include:

• Interviewing individuals applying for immigration benefits that include examining and analyzing documents received for authenticity.

• Researching and analyzing appropriate information.

• Interpreting and applying immigration laws, policies and procedures.

EDUCATIONAL SUBSTITUTION

GS-5: You may substitute successful completion of a Bachelor’s degree or a full 4-year course of study in any field leading to a Bachelor’s degree for the experience required at the GS-5 grade level. This education must have been obtained from an accredited college or university. One year of full-time undergraduate study is defined as 30 semester or 45 quarter hours.

GS-7: You may substitute successful completion of one year of fulltime graduate education for the experience required at the GS-7 level. This education must have been obtained from an accredited college or university and demonstrate the skills necessary to do the work of the position. A course of study in the natural or social sciences, engineering, or military science is qualifying. Check with your school to determine how many credit hours comprise a year of graduate education. If that information is not available, use 18 semester or 27 quarter hours.

You may also substitute superior academic achievement for the experience required at the GS-7 level. You must have completed the requirements for a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale, class standing in the upper third of a graduating class or major subdivision, or membership in a national scholastic honor society.

GS-9: You may substitute a Master’s degree or 2 full years of graduate education leading to such a degree in any field or a J.D. or L.L.B. degree for experience required at the GS-9 grade level. Such education must have been obtained in an accredited college or university and demonstrate the knowledge, skills, and abilities necessary to do the work of this position. Check with your school to determine how many credit hours comprise two years of graduate education. If that information is not available, use 36 semester or 54 quarter hours.

COMBINING QUALIFYING EXPERIENCE AND EDUCATION

If you do not qualify based on experience or education alone, you may be able to qualify based on a combination of your experience and education. Follow the directions below in order to convert each to a percentage, and then add the percentages together to see if they total 100 percent. To determine your percentage of qualifying experience, you must divide your total number of months of qualifying experience by the required number of months of experience. The GS-5 level requires 36 months, and the GS-7 level requires 12 months of qualifying experience. To calculate your percentage of undergraduate education, divide your number of undergraduate semester hours by 120 or the number of quarter hours by 180. For GS-7, divide the number of graduate semester hours by 18, graduate quarter hours by 27, or by the school’s definition of one year of graduate study. Finally, add your percentages of education and experience. The two percentages must total at least 100 percent for you to qualify under the combination of experience and education.