NAF AmeriCorps Kicks off 2010-2011 Program Year

By Rob Banaszak on August 30, 2010 in AmeriCorps

by Robert Sturm

Program Director, New Mexico Community AIDS Partnership
City Supervisor,  NAF AmeriCorps Team New Mexico

Earlier this month, the 54 participants in NAF’s 2010-2011 Americorps/Caring Counts program converged on Santa Fe, New Mexico to begin their year by participating in PreService training.    With the addition of a new team in New Orleans, there will be eight teams in the program this year.   Chicago, Indianapolis, Detroit, Washington, D.C., Tulsa, Durham, and New Mexico (Santa Fe and Albuquerque), host the other teams.

While in Santa Fe, team members went through extensive training in HIV basics and related issues. They learned about the history of the epidemic and how things have changed over the years.  They were introduced to the structures of NAF’s program and what will be expected of them.  They also had a chance to meet the members they will be working with all year and the members of the other teams, to share their excitement and their motivations for dedicating a year of their lives to service.

Team building at the Santa Fe Mountain Center

The week of training culminated with a day at the Santa Fe Mountain Center, an organization dedicated to serving the community with Experiential Learning programs.  The team members, their city supervisors and several National AIDS Fund staff people explored their fears and boundaries on high ropes events in the morning, learning the power of having a team behind them, and for some, learning that they could participate fully without leaving the ground.

In the afternoon, everyone participated in games and activities, designed to help them explore group dynamics and communication, and learn different strategies for collaborating to overcome obstacles and reach goals.  They also met as individual teams to discuss goals for the year and norms of behavior team members want to use with one another.   All in all, the day allowed members to learn more about themselves and their team mates and to start building the relationships that will support them throughout their year of service.  In addition, the entire day was a demonstration of the experiential learning model that is central to the AmeriCorps experience.  Each activity began with a briefing session in which the event was described and explained and goals and intentions were set.    Then, following each activity, there was a debriefing session in which participants were encouraged to share what they felt and learned through participation in the activity.   This model  will be used by the teams over and over throughout the year in planning and processing Fifth Days and other projects.   What a great way to start out the year and get everyone on track to have fun while serving our communities.

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