AmeriCorps Week – Team Detroit Looks To Its Roots: An Introduction

By MWally on March 13, 2012 in AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Alumni

AmeriCorps week is upon us and this year the goals set by the Corporation for National and Community Service aim to bring AmeriCorps members and alums together. The two main goals for 2012 AmeriCorps Week:

  • To help make AmeriCorps members and alums feel part of something larger than themselves and their projects; and to connect AmeriCorps members and alums with each other and a nationwide effort.
  • To communicate the powerful impact AmeriCorps has on critical national and community challenges and on the lives of members and alums.

The theme for this year is AmeriCorps Works. This theme, “Communicates the value and effectiveness of AmeriCorps while providing flexibility to be used in many different contexts. It provides an overarching framework to communicate AmeriCorps triple bottom line return on investment — for the recipients of service, the people who serve, and the larger community and nation.

Team Detroit members witness firsthand the return on investments in our community, not only in how it impacts the city in a positive way but in the way it can impact the members who serve. Each year members enter a field that is in no way easily understood, easygoing or stable. These members go through the required trainings, are introduced first-hand to the stigma saturating the fight against the disease, head out to the community and then try to make their mark by educating peers, neighbors, youth, family members, seniors and the community leaders who often themselves let this issue fall through the cracks. After all is said and done, members look back at their service year, rightfully appreciate the experience and impact they had on their community and then look to the future.

In Detroit members seem to fall in love with this field despite the battle that lay ahead. I have on more than one occasion run into numerous Team Detroit alums at community events. The conversation typically starts:

Alum (noticing AmeriCorps gear): “Oh! You are in AmeriCorps?”

My response: “Yeah, I am part of Team Detroit this year.”

Alum: “I was too!”

The conversation continues with reflections of the alum’s service year, what the long term project for year is and how the placements for the year are going. Former Team Detroit members seem to be embedded in HIV/AIDS community and it is an awesome feeling to know that you could run into an alum at just about any event you attend. I am also lucky enough, like many other members on the team, to serve at an agency that hired an alum after the alum’s service year ended. Being able to work next to a former team member is a great experience and the benefits are obvious (advice on how to handle the service year, ideas for team days, avoiding burnout, etc.).

Team Detroit now looks to highlight some of these former team members. The next few days the AIDS United blog will feature our interviews with the former members, most of who stayed in the field after their year of service. We hope you enjoy seeing the impact this program has on members and how over the years a small team in Detroit has filled the ranks of the HIV/AIDS community, joined the social work field and/or found their place in education. This was a great project that connected our current members with alums and we hope to use these efforts to build up that relationship.

Keep in mind that Team Detroit formed in 1997 and is now on team 15. One hundred forty nine people have served on our 15 teams, performing more than 200,000 hours of community service. Valued at $20 per hour, the in-kind contribution is nearly$4 million. Service areas include HIV counseling and testing, case management, HIV education/prevention/risk reduction, support group facilitation, and other client focused services. This program is the only structured internship for training, hands on experience, and placement in our state, creating the next generation of workers in the HIV/AIDS field. At least 25 former team members now work at agencies in Michigan.

These interviews are with a small group of alums but we hope to connect with additional members in the future. Also, we are not trying to take away from those who did not stay in the field or find employment related to their experience. Many go on to further their education or find another program for a second year of service. Regardless of what their next venture was, we appreciate their role in creating the structure and culture that now defines Team Detroit.

Want to see what the current team is up to? Check out our Facebook page!

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