AmeriCorps Week – Team Detroit Looks To Its Roots (Part 3)

March 16, 2012 in AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Alumni

The final part of our AmeriCorps Week piece covers three former members of Team Detroit: Carrie A Rheingans, Sheyonna Watson and David Perrett.

Name of Alum: Carrie A Rheingans

Year Served: 2008-2009

Placement:

HIV/AIDS Resource Center (HARC)

How/why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

“I was an AmeriCorps member when I was a first-year graduate student at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. When looking for jobs to have while in school, I knew I wanted to do something that would complement my education. I was also required to have an internship as part of my graduate program, but the three-month timeframe seemed too short to make a real difference in my host agency. I then heard that the AIDS United National Direct AmeriCorps program was approximately the same timeline as the academic year, so I decided to apply. I was also familiar with the program through previous members that had been placed at HARC, where I had worked for nearly two years before becoming an AmeriCorps member.”

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

“At HARC, I was a Prevention Specialist. I did HIV outreach, education, and testing, and I was our only Spanish-speaking HIV test counselor at the time. I also represented HARC on a number of community coalitions, including the county-wide World AIDS Week committee and the Spanish Healthcare Outreach Collaborative. During this time, I also helped the Campaign to End AIDS develop their 2009 Youth Action Institute, which trains young people on advocacy techniques that help end AIDS. I also helped the agency lay the groundwork for its social media use.”

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

“I had a lot of fun working with my team, and getting to compare experiences during our fifth days. It was nice to hear what challenges and successes my teammates had at their agencies, and getting new ideas for how to do things at my agency. Our long-term project was pretty fun too: we worked with a residential setting for people affected by HIV to build a garden in their backyard. The residents helped design the garden, as well as plant it and then took over full management of the garden after it was complete.”

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

“We had a really fun time when we had our ‘Super Fifth Day’, where we helped organize Team Indy and Team Chicago to come to the western side of Michigan and have an all-day service project at a local AIDS organization there. We helped clean up a park as the project, but the most memorable part of the day was getting to hear how our colleagues’ experiences were going after about nine months of service. We had made friends with many of the team members on those two teams in particular, so it was great getting to see them again and to compare experiences.”

Is your employment related to your year of service?:

“The year right after my service year, I remained at HARC as a graduate intern for 16 hours per week. In that placement, I really focused on developing the organization’s social media strategy, as well as helping to apply for funding to do so. I also continued to represent HARC on community coalitions. A major project that happened at the agency right after my AmeriCorps year was over was to organize Michigan’s only public comment session to give input for the President’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy in November 2009. The Campaign to End AIDS wanted to be sure to hear from Michiganders about what should be included in a national strategy, and I organized an event in Ferndale that saw over 100 attendees give input, over 30 of whom spoke live on camera.”

Were you able to use your education reward?:

“I used my education award immediately after receiving it by applying it to my graduate education tuition.”

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service?:

“I have continued my membership in various community coalitions that I was involved in while an AmeriCorps member, and I have since been one of the key founding members of Casa Latina, our community’s only Latin@-focused community center. I do not get paid for the work I do for Casa Latina, so it is all volunteer – approximately 10 hours per week. Additionally, I have interacted with a few of the AmeriCorps teams after my member year for various events.”

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

“This AmeriCorps program is nearly full-time, so doing much else outside the program will take a lot of scheduling and must be flexible, because AmeriCorps really needs to be your first priority. It was very difficult for me, as a person who was in a graduate program, to prioritize AmeriCorps over my education. In the end, I was lucky to be able to balance my schoolwork and my member duties, but it was not easy. Also, I think that as an AmeriCorps member, you have a lot of opportunity to learn about many aspects of the field of HIV and AIDS, and that you should really take advantage of what’s available. AmeriCorps service can help you determine what direction you may want to go in for your career – just as it can help you determine what direction you do NOT want to go in.”

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

“I really learned how to work with diverse teams while I was in AmeriCorps. I’m not just talking about racially or ethnically diverse teams, but also teams where members had differing levels of familiarity with technology, academic backgrounds, life experiences, and knowledge of issues relating to HIV and AIDS. It was fascinating to hear about my teammates’ backgrounds, and I really learned a lot about how to work with folks who don’t necessarily think the same way I do. I also gained a much better understanding of Detroit, and I’m much more proud of it as Michigan’s first city. Lastly, as I mentioned earlier, I also really honed my time management skills.”

Interviewed by: Mike Wallace (Current Team Detroit Member)

Name of Alum: Sheyonna Watson

Year(s) Served: 2007-2008

Placement:

HIV/AIDS Resource Center

How/why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

“I served in AmeriCorps in undergrad at University of Michigan through the Michigan Community Service Corps. I enjoyed that experience and was interested in doing more AmeriCorps service through City Year and came across AIDS United AmeriCorps program (at the time National AIDS Fund) and applied. I did some HIV AIDS work at UofM for AIDS In Black and Brown (a program that focuses on the prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the African American and Latino community) and jumped at the opportunity to continue learning more about HIV and serving at risk communities.”

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

“I served as Team Coordinator so my time was split at Michigan AIDS Coalition and the HIV/AIDS resource center. At MAC I organized team meetings, 5th days, and programs for AmeriCorps days of Service. I also collaborated with other AmeriCorps programs in the state of Michigan. At HARC, I was a prevention specialist and did HIV test counseling, HIV presentations at the local schools and universities, served on the outreach van, and worked with the Washtenaw Interfaith HIV/AIDS Network providing education to various faith communities about HIV/AIDS.”

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

“It’s hard to choose just one! Since I have to choose a favorite, I would say Super 5th Day was an amazing highlight to the year of service. We were able to serve with the Indy and Chicago team in South Bend Indiana. It was great to reunite with the teams we met at Pre-Service and serve in a different community.”

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

“I will always remember our Long Term Project. We did a project with MPowerment Detroit called “Operation Speak Out: Interpreting HIV/AIDS Through Art”. I loved doing the interviews with the young black MSM participants and seeing how they interpreted their understanding of HIV/AIDS in creative ways.”

Is your employment related to your year or service?:

“Yes! After serving in AmeriCorps, I remained in the HIV/AIDS field as a volunteer at HARC and at WIHAN. I also completed my Master of Divinity program, received an advanced certificate of business management from Washtenaw Community College, and taught pre-school. In 2010 I was hired at HARC as a case manager for their Direct Care department.”

Were you able to use your education reward?:

“Yes! I definitely used my education reward. I used it toward tuition for graduate school at Ashland Theological Seminary and at Washtenaw Community College.  Currently, I’m using the last bit of the education award for loan payments.”

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

“I still volunteer as an HIV test counselor for special events, and do education workshops with faith communities.”

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

“Do it! AmeriCorps is a great opportunity for personal and professional development. You will create great connections and expand your network. Anyone joining AmeriCorps should capitalize on opportunities to collaborate with other AmeriCorps groups, HIV/AIDS agencies, and other AIDS United Teams.”

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

“My year of service was an amazing experience. It opened up doors for me professionally and gave me all the tools I needed to be in the HIV/AIDS field. AmeriCorps provided a good foundation of HIV training and expanded my understanding of the HIV/AIDS Community. I learned so much about the LGBTQ community, engaging at risk populations in outreach, and how to interact with a diverse population.”

Interviewed by: Mike Wallace (Current Team Detroit Member)


Name of Alum: David Perrett

Year Served: 2007-2008

Placement:

Mpowerment Detroit

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

“David got involved in the AIDS United Program to increase his knowledge and experience in the HIV/AIDS fields. During his service year the program was called “Caring Counts”. With his experience of working with a nationally known local outreach group called Young Brother United (YBU), his passion for helping his community became priority and pushed him to care far beyond his foresight.”

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

Administration/Reception duties

Manage/Create long- term and short- term program enhancements

Attend local and National HIV/STD Conferences

Create and Execute long-term Team/Community Service Projects

Perform Club/Community Outreach, Facilitate Group Sessions

Recruit Volunteer/Participants for Activities/Events.

Visual Marketing (Flyer, Internet, Slogan’s, Posters, etc..)

Event Planning

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

David’s favorite moment of his service year is Pre and Post service, not for obvious reasons. David enjoyed the Pre/Post more importantly for the opportunity to meet new people with the same goal/passion and actually bond with them. In addition he was afforded the opportunity to see another part of this country that he might not have had the chance to otherwise.

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

His most memorable 5th day would be the day his team got together and renovated /organized a local agency (Latino Family Services). It was so fun for him because they played dress-up in the some of the donated clothing and in the end it was so appreciated by the LFS Staff.

Is your employment related to your year or service?:

Presently he is a Program Coordinator at the agency (Mpowerment).

Were you able to use the education reward?:

The education award assisted him greatly. At one point he said he was homeless after relocating to Chicago for school and modeling. The education award not only helped him with enrollment but it also balance expenses for housing.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

David has not volunteered specifically with any AmeriCorps teams, but he does volunteer with multiple initiatives, boards, youth agencies and campaigns.

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

He would say remember to keep an open mind and be prepared to take on risks yourself.  We all have special skills/talents and AmeriCorps can benefit from them and vice versa, so leave the self doubt at the door.

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

It really challenged him as a strong willed, strong minded and independent individual. In ways where he was used to working successfully alone; he had to learn how to ask for help. In the end he learned that asking for help did not mean that you were HELPLESS!

Interviewed by: Kennard Poole (Current Team Detroit Member)

Want to see what the current team is up to? https://www.facebook.com/TeamDetroit Check out our Facebook page!

AmeriCorps Week – Team Detroit Looks To Its Roots (Part 2)

March 15, 2012 in AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Alumni

Part two of our AmeriCorps Week piece covers three former members of Team Detroit: Melissa McDaniel, Felisia Byrd and Darthanian “Dart” Nichols.

Name of Alum: Melissa McDaniel

Year(s) Served: 2001-2002 & 2002-2003

Placement:

Team Coordinator for two years. First year: Latino Family Services (LFS) Second year: MAPP

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program: Melissa always gravitated toward community service. Prior to AmeriCorps National AIDS Fund (NAF, now AIDS United), she participated in the state program and wanted to give back and have more experience working with the community. Melissa found out about the program from a member through a HIV 101 at an adolescent homeless shelter. She mentioned that the state program didn’t feel much like a team, but the NAF Program felt like a team. She also mentioned that the Detroit team has always been very diverse in many ways.

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

While at LFS, Melissa participated in the Needle Exchange Program (while adhering to program guidelines), was a Counselor and Tester and planned all of her team’s Team Days. While at MAPP Melissa participated in sex education programs for youth, online outreach, event planning, HIV 101’s and Counseling and Testing in bars.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

The people that Mellissa met along the way were her favorite part of her service year. She also had an emotional connection with all the team members.

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

Melissa remembers painting the walls of LFS (beautiful artwork). During her first year of service she also remembers their Team Day at Head Start. Kids were at Head Start, and the time members spent connecting with the children and sorting clothes was very special.

Is your employment related to your year or service?:

Melissa continued to work in the HIV/ AIDS field. She spent some time working at Community Health Awareness Group (CHAG). She is now the Supervisor of Case Management at Health Emergency Life Line Program (HELP). She is also starting the online outreach for MSM’s and early intervention services. She has been working at HELP for 5 years.

Were you able to use the education reward?:

Melissa was able to use both of her awards for her MA program. Her program matched the awards.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

Melissa has not been involved as much as she’d like to be as of late because there is a gap between current members and alum, but when she had members at HELP she was involved.

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

“If you’re gonna be in, be all in. And be open for new experiences.”

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

Melissa realized that who she was was more than good enough. To love her truth was freeing by watching the human struggle of people and the leadership in the HIV lesbian and gay community wasn’t going to change.

Interviewed by: Rachel Spruill (Current Team Detroit Member)



Name of Alum: Felisia Byrd

Year served: 2007-2008

Placement:

AIDS Partnership of Michigan

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

Felisia has always found a strong voice in volunteering. Since 1995 Felisia has been volunteering with Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. In 2005 she joined a pro-literacy program under the AmeriCorps umbrella and further developed her passion for service.  After learning more about the risk of HIV in her community, she served with AIDS United Team Detroit 2007-08.

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

As an AmeriCorps member at AIDS Partnership of Michigan, Felisia was a certified HIV test counselor. She also answered anonymous questions for the agency’s HIV hotline and provided HIV prevention information to clients and the public through community events.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

Felisia always looked forward to team 5th days. She enjoyed the opportunities to learn about other nonprofit agencies in Detroit. In addition to making connections with local agencies, volunteering was also a chance to meet like-mined people.

One 5th Day or Service Project that you will always remember:

Felisia’s favorite service project was working with the Alternatives for Girls Christmas party. This event was put on to celebrate the commitment of the women to enter a safe community and exit sex work. Felisia remembers how rewarding it was to see each woman’s self-value reaffirmed.

Is your employment related to your year or service?

Felisia applied for her current position at CareFirst Community Health Services in 2008 after her AmeriCorps service year. But it was not until 2010 when she received a call offering her employment. During the interim, Felisia attended school at Detroit Business Institute to become a Registered Medical Assistant. She continued volunteering at the Joy-Southfield Free Health Clinic. Now as an employee of CareFirst, Felisia is an Early Intervention Specialist, a position in which she continues the HIV work that she began during her service year, including HIV testing, prevention education, and connecting people to treatment and care.

Were you able to use the education reward?

Felisia used her AmeriCorps education award to pay off education loans from Davenport University where she received her Associates and Bachelors degrees.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service?

Felisia has continued volunteering regularly since her year of service. In addition to her work with the free clinic and Children’s Hospital, she has participated in AIDS Walk Detroit and assisted with Detroit DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) event.

One thing you would tell someone who is considering joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

Felisia says that it is important for new AU members to remember to be yourself and to be true to your experiences. Also she recommends that one approach the service year with an open mind and sincerity, as there is much to learn from the clients that we serve.

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

Felisia says that her year of service helped develop her self-awareness as she faced new challenges. She credits her service as making her more compassionate and helping her realize not to take anything for granted.

Interviewed by: Anthony McClafferty (Current Team Detroit Member)


Dart (Pictured Right) with Terry Ryan (Team Detroit City Supervisor)

Name of Alum: Darthanian “Dart” Nichols

Year(s) Served: 2006-2007 & 2007-2008

Placement:

First year: Affirmations Second year: Community Health Awareness Group (CHAG)

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program: Dart was a part of a population that was at high risk for HIV, and he was a CSW at the time, he knew his risk was great. He found out about National AIDS Fund (Now AIDS United) while he was a client at Ruth Ellis and saw a flyer. A member of the AmeriCorps team that served at Ruth Ellis also told him to apply.

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

While at Affirmations, Dart helped to establish the HIV prevention program from the ground up. He also established the HIV Hotline by providing HIV testing and counseling dates times and answering all HIV related questions. He facilitated “jam sessions” for young men called, “Swallow This” and “jam sessions” for young women called, “Young Women of Change” and “Youth Against AIDS.” In addition he orchestrated several fundraisers to raise money for the AIDS Walk:  “22 Pledge, Sing for a Cause: Karaoke Night, and Sexapalusa.” While at CHAG he was a HIV Test Counselor, worked on the Needle Exchange Program (Life Points, while adhering to program guidelines) and participated in Outreach.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

At the end of his first year during end of service when they have people from each team speak he watched as a member of team DC spoke about the challenges of serving in a convalescent home, where people were in advanced stages of HIV and nearing death. It was then that he realized that, while his task of telling people that they were HIV positive was difficult, it was not as hard as caring for people in their later stages in life with HIV. It was then that he knew he had to be prepared for both the result and the end result.

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

The LTP for the first year-Dart and his team members turned the basement of Ozone House in Ann Arbor into a recreational room.  Also, the LTP for the second year of service, Dart participated in Operation Speak Out with his team members.

Is your employment related to your year or service?:

Dart is now an employee of CHAG. In addition to the programs he participated in while an AmeriCorps member, he facilitates their new program Safety Counts, which is a risk reduction IDU program.

Were you able to use the education reward?:

Dart was able to use some of his education awards toward tuition in higher education.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

Dart has participated every year with the current AmeriCorps Team for the MLK Day of Service, and had gone to all of the team LTP project events, if they had them.

One Thing You Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

“It is not for the faint of heart”

Describe the impact that your year of service had on you as an individual:

AmeriCorps has propelled him in his service as a pastor. He is now able to incorporate HIV into his position as a pastor.

Interviewed by: Rachel Spruill (Current Team Detroit Member)

Want to see what the current team is up to? https://www.facebook.com/TeamDetroit Check out our Facebook page!

AmeriCorps Week – Team Detroit Looks To Its Roots (Part 1)

March 14, 2012 in AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Alumni, Uncategorized

Part one of our AmeriCorps Week piece covers two former members of Team Detroit: Maxwell Cameron and Bré Campbell.

Name of Alum: Maxwell Cameron

Year served: 2009-2010

Placement:

Health Emergency Lifeline Programs (HELP)

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

While a student at the College of William and Mary, Maxwell started a group to promote HIV/AIDS prevention in rural Tanzania. When he returned home to Royal Oak, Michigan, Maxwell looked for a way to involve himself in HIV work in his community. He toured Michigan AIDS Fund (MAF) and met Terry Ryan (Team Detroit City Supervisor) who later encouraged him to join MAF’s AIDS United AmeriCorps team (Then National AIDS Fund).

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

As an AmeriCorps member at HELP, Maxwell worked in case management services for clients with HIV. He put on prevention and early intervention events and support groups. He worked to introduce clients to mental health therapy. In addition, Maxwell led HELP’s early efforts creating outreach programs to link people with HIV into care.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

Maxwell’s favorite part of the service year was working on Team Detroit’s Long-term Project. The team put on a fashion show to raise money for AIDS service organizations in Detroit. “It about killed me and the rest of the team,” Maxwell remembers with a laugh, “But it was really rewarding to pull off such a large and successful event.” The fashion show brought in close to 100 people, and the team raised $1,100, which was split between The Horizons Project and Transgender Michigan.

One 5th Day or Service Project that you will always remember:

Maxwell’s favorite 5th Day Project was working with Habitat for Humanity painting houses in Wayne, MI. He says that it was a unique experience, and a fun project.

Is your current employment related to their year or service?

Maxwell is currently employed at HELP. During his service year, he began working to diversify HELP’s financial support through new fundraising events and grant writing. The organization realized that it would need to continue seeking new sources of funding, and as his service year was coming to a close, Maxwell was offered a full-time position to say on at HELP in a fundraising and event-planning role. He is currently working on organizing AIDS Walk Detroit.

Were you able to use the education reward?

After his service year, Maxwell enrolled in a Master’s program at the University of Windsor and was able to use his education award to pay for his studies. He will receive a Master’s in Political Science.

Have you participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since the year of service?

Maxwell continues to work with his AU sponsoring agency, now called Michigan AIDS Coalition (MAC). He has volunteered with MAC for Detroit DIFFA and the Mix, Mingle, MAC fundraising event.

One thing you would tell someone who is considering joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

Maxwell’s advice for someone considering joining AmeriCorps is to choose a program that is right for you. “There are tons of different programs that fall under the AmeriCorps umbrella,” Maxwell explains, “It’s important to seek out a service project that matches and develops one’s own interests.” He also warns against becoming too concerned with matching the hour requirements. “Service is about going above and beyond. Don’t let the hours govern your service year. Focus on getting things done.”

Describe the impact that their year of service had on them as an individual:

Maxwell says that his year with AmeriCorps imparted on him the value of service and non-profit work. Maxwell learned about the vital role of non-profits in combating health issues in the community and was inspired by the impact this work has on the lives of others. In addition, it provided him with an opportunity to develop team-building skills by planning and executing service projects with his team.

Interviewed by: Tony McClafferty (current Team Detroit Member)


Name of Alum: Bré Campbell

Year(s) Served: 2004-2005 and 2005-2006

Placement:

Ruth Ellis (first half of 2004-2005)

Horizons (second half of 2004-2005, and all of 2005-2006)

How/Why you got involved in the AIDS United program:

At the time, Bré was working a minimum wage job that was horrible, and happened to apply for a whole bunch of jobs–5 or 6– and she got the phone call back from the receptionist at Michigan Aids Fund. She explained that they were hiring, and that she should fill out an application. When she asked her what the job description was, she told me, Dont worry about it, and that I should just come in and fill out an application. Luckily, I was working not too far from the [Michigan Aids Fund] office at that time, so I went to pick up the packet the same day, the day before the packets were due. So I did my packet in one day, returned it, and got on the AmeriCorps team.

Host Agency Duties/Responsibilities:

At Ruth Ellis, Bré was in charge of doing any type of intakes and making sure that people who were using the center signed in, and made sure that if they had any issues that needed to be resolved, whether it was counseling, HIV testing, doing laundry, or food assistance, she would help. That was her job, helping the youth. At one point in time, at Ruth Ellis, they were trying to start a mens focus group, and she helped with that. Horizons was totally different than Ruth Ellis, and she felt like she had a lot more roles and responsibilities that had to do with the whole outline of what AmeriCorps members were supposed to be doing. Bré did HIV testing and counseling, and dabbled in care services for a while, she was responsible for recruiting for one of our interventions for MSMs and did a lot of outreach. Every day they were out in schools and peoples homes in the neighborhood, doing really aggressive outreach: passing out condoms, and they would test on the spot. Like I said, it was a totally different experience than working at Ruth Ellis, it was very fast paced.

Favorite Part of the Service Year:

Definitely the Super Fifth Day in Indiana during my second year, it was so interesting to see how their team operated, and the differences between our AmeriCorps team and theirs.

One 5th Day or Service Project That You Will Always Remember:

The first year, our long-term project was at a senior citizen’s center, and it was awesome, because I’d never realized that senior citizens were actually having sex. They were really engaged, they wanted to know the information, and a lot of the older people wanted condoms, but instead of asking us for them, because we were younger than them, they tried to sneak around us. It was really cute, because they reminded me of my own grandparents. Then I thought, “Oh my gosh, my grandfather could be having sex, and he could be at risk for HIV,” so I took him some condoms and we had the whole conversation. It was really great to be at an agency and have so many years between all of us and still be able to have an understanding on one topic. There was an older lady who got up and told her story about how she became HIV positive in her sixties. Her husband had died, and she decided she was going to date someone else–she had sex with him and he gave her HIV, and I thought that was amazing. We’re so used to seeing younger people getting infected with HIV, I never thought in a million years that, when I’m sixty, HIV will be something that I will still have to worry about.

Is your current employment related to your year of service?:

Being that I had a year and a half of experience at Horizons under my belt, it wasn’t that much of a transition [after being hired by the agency]. I will say this: on Thursdays, I missed my Team Days. That was my favorite time in AmeriCorps because not only did we do really good team projects, it was a day we had to focus on other issues in the community besides HIV. I found myself every day, like, “HIV this, HIV that,” and I was like, can we start doing other volunteer work at different places? Because it wasn’t in my job description I couldn’t do it, so I started volunteering at other agencies and organizations and on boards.

Were you able to use the education reward?:

I did use it to go to Wayne State for a couple of semesters–I still have money left, so I haven’t used it all. I do plan on going back to school in the fall and using the rest of it before it expires. It was a blessing: not only did I get out of high school with so much experience, but I had money to go to school.

Have they participated in any AmeriCorps or volunteer related activities since your year of service? :

Not necessarily participated in, where I did work, but the fashion show the AmeriCorps team put on two years ago, I was there, and it was awesome. Last year, we did a service project for MLK day at Cody High School in Detroit.

One Thing They Would Tell Someone Who Is Considering Joining AIDS United AmeriCorps:

Try it, don’t knock it, and don’t think about it too much. I think that was my issue. When you hear HIV and you’ve never heard it before, you kind of get scared because you don’t know what that means. Take a step out on faith and try it. It’s a yearlong program, so if at the end of the year you realize you don’t like it, AmeriCorps still looks wonderful on a resume. There are so many AmeriCorps members in different positions around the country, and just having that on your resume, sometimes, can get you in the door. I know, for me, it’s been a blessing. After I got out of the program, I got an AmeriCorps Alumni Card from Bank of America, and even when I was at Target and places and I was sliding the card, people would say, “Oh you did AmeriCorps, I did too!” Even though they didn’t do it for AIDS United, they were doing it for different programs, for VISTA, for City Year, and when people see that you did AmeriCorps, they really like to talk to you. I guess they feel, “Oh, I went through this program, and it was really amazing, and I got great things from it, so you must have too!” It’s really interesting to talk to other AmeriCorps members, especially from different branches, to kind of see what their experience was like and if you can relate to it in any way, shape, or form.

Describe the impact that their year of service had on them as an individual:

AmeriCorps really raised my self esteem, on so many different levels. On a professional level and on a personal level. If I had never done AmeriCorps I would have never known how to get in contact with the people I needed to get in contact with to transition. Terry [Team Detroit's City Supervisor] was always supportive of my decision, and so were a lot of my team members. AmeriCorps really is responsible for Bré, the advocate, being here, and just being able to work, and to have contacts, and to know people who know people. People say really nice things about me to others, so I feel that AmeriCorps, for me, was awesome. Yeah, I had some rough moments in service, but I don’t think you’ll ever get to work at a place where you don’t have some type of issues. But for the most part, AmeriCorps was the most amazing thing that has ever happened in my life, the most amazing job that I’d ever had. Since I’ve been been out of AmeriCorps, I’ve been working at the agency that hired me in ever since. That was 2007, it’s 2012, and I don’t see myself doing anything else. And I know that if I decide to move to New York, Chicago, D.C., as long as I have AmeriCorps on my resume, I shouldn’t have anything to worry about as far as working in the HIV field, which is amazing. I love AmeriCorps.

Interviewed by: Emma Krasicky (Current Team Detroit member)

Want to see what the current team is up to? https://www.facebook.com/TeamDetroit Check out our Facebook page!

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

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? https://www.facebook.com/TeamDetroit Check out our Facebook page!

Wear the Ribbon for Women on March 10

March 9, 2012 in HIV/AIDS Awareness Days

by Vignetta Charles, Ph. D.,
Senior Vice President, AIDS United

Did you know that March 10 is a disease awareness day that focuses on a health issue that disproportionately impacts U.S. women ?

If you realized that it was National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NWGHAAD, give yourself a gold star. If you didn’t, don’t fret. You are certainly not the only one who may not see the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a serious health issue for women and girls in the United States.

But it is. According to the CDC, nearly 300,000 women in the United States are living with HIV. Women and girls are becoming infected at alarming rates – particularly black women. In fact, the HIV rate among black women living in some U.S. cities is the same rate as that of some African countries, according to a new study presented last week at the 19TH Conference of Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI).  And there are huge disparities in how HIV/AIDS affects women in our country. In 2009, the rate of new HIV infections among black women was 15 times that of white women, and over 3 times the rate among Hispanic/Latina women.

As a woman, and as someone who has focused on women’s sexual health issues for a great deal of my career, I am particularly proud to be working for an organization that has really stepped up to the plate to support women-focused, community-based HIV/AIDS prevention, care and advocacy programs for our nation’s women and girls. AIDS United combines strategic grantmaking, capacity-building, public policy and advocacy to advance its mission to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the United States.

Since its inception, AIDS United has worked with and through our country’s populations most vulnerable to the epidemic. We know that reaching these diverse communities is not a one size fits all approach. To address the unique and specific needs of women living with or at risk for HIV, we support a healthy diversity in our projects and strategies.

In our Access to Care (A2C) initiative, three of our 10 grantees have developed programs targeting women. Christie’s Place’s Change for Women (C4W) program in San Diego is helping the city’s underserved HIV-positive Latina population get into and stay in care. AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts’ Project LEAP (Learning, Educating, Advocating with Peers) program is reaching women of color in Greater Boston living with HIV/AIDS and helping to improve their health outcomes. Washington AIDS Partnership’s Positive Pathways program in the District of Columbia is recruiting HIV-positive women to become Community Health Workers that identify other out-of-care women, build peer-based trust with them, help them navigate service systems and provide them support during their early part of their medical care.

Our Southern REACH (Regional Expansion of Access and Capacity to Address HIV/AIDS) initiative supports women-focused HIV advocacy projects in the Southern region of the United States. SisterLove, an organization in Atlanta, developed Pandora’s Promise for Women’s Health and Rights Equality, a program to amplify the strong, leadership voices of women living with HIV as advocates. New Orleans organization Women with A Vision, through its NO Justice project, advocates for change in criminalization laws that disproportionately impact women.

But it is our groundbreaking community-science partnership with Johnson & Johnson called GENERATIONS: Strengthening Women and Families Affected by HIV/AIDS that has been AIDS United’s flagship program targeting women and girls. The program combines AIDS United’s strengths of community-focused grantmaking and technical assistance with Johnson & Johnson’s commitment to supporting HIV prevention efforts for at-risk women and their families.

GENERATIONS provides capacity-building services through a unique community science collaborative model. The combination of cash grants, evidence-based prevention models, technical assistance and evaluation support all promote the development or adaptation of evidence-based programming to meet the needs of marginalized groups of women at high risk for HIV infection.

“The power of the GENERATIONS collaboration multiplies the unique strengths of each partner.” said Dr. Anu Gupta, Director of Corporate Contributions at Johnson & Johnson. “By leveraging programs that rely on evidence and measureable results, we know we are truly making a difference in the lives of so many women and girls in this country who are most at risk for HIV.”

AIDS United has learned so much from GENERATIONS and our other women-focused work. Now we must combine approaches to meet the needs of the whole woman. We must provide her with easily accessible and easy-to-use services, tools and treatment that work with her lifestyle and help her stay healthy and protect others. Because she may need more than just learning how to put on a condom — she also must be economically empowered enough to leave a partner who refuses to use one. She may also need the protection of medical technology like microbicides or other antiretroviral-based prevention strategies. And we want to ensure that she has all that she needs to thrive.

By providing the most at-risk populations of women in our country with a vital, comprehensive, culturally-appropriate system of HIV prevention and care services, we are helping their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, friends and community.

HIV/AIDS is indeed a serious health issue for women in our country. On this National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, let’s don our ribbon – our RED ribbon, and let’s do more than observe. Let’s create an AIDS-free generation of women and girls.

Contest: Name the Syringe Exchange Policy!

March 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

**Please note: this contest is no longer active**

Help us win back federal funding for syringe exchange programs by entering the contest to name the policy banning federal funds for syringe exchange!

Last December, Congress passed a policy rider on an appropriations bill that banned local communities from using federal funds for syringe exchange programs (SEPs). SEPs are a key tool to achieving an “HIV-free generation” and are included in President Obama’s National HIV/AIDS Strategy.

People across the United States are working to end the federal ban on SEPs.  The HIV, viral hepatitis, and harm reduction communities CANNOT stand idly by as politicians restrict the ways we can save lives and prevent HIV and hepatitis C infections. The fight to win back federal funding for SEPs starts now!

We need your help thinking of strong and concise messages about SEPs that will get the attention of Congress!

The Contest

AIDS United and many other groups want to come up with a name for the rider that bans the usage of federal funds for SEPs. Think of how some groups have managed to rename the estate tax the “Death Tax.”

How to Enter

Just enter your suggestions in the comment box below. We’ll receive all of the suggestions here and post the best ones for people to see. The final names will be chosen by a committee of SEP experts and will be used in advocacy and lobbying literature. The individuals that submit the best ideas will receive a prize that will fall somewhere between a congratulatory pat on the back and a new car. Note that Bob Barker does not work for AIDS United, so the prize will likely be closer to the former than the latter.

For consideration, all entries must be received by Friday, March 16th.

If you have any questions about the contest, please email Jimmy Schneidewind at jschneidewind@aidsunited.org.

SEP Background

Before giving us your suggestions, please consider the bullet points listed below which summarize some of the strongest arguments against the federal ban on funding for SEPs.

Here is the actual language of the current rider which bans the usage of federal funds for SEPs: “Notwithstanding any other provision of this Act, no funds appropriated in this Act shall be used to carry out any program of distributing sterile needles or syringes for the hypodermic injection of any illegal drug.”

This policy:

  • Cuts off access to programs providing counseling and treatment services to people who inject drugs
  • Will cost millions of dollars to treat people with HIV and hepatitis C infections that could have been prevented
  • Denies local communities the option to spend federal funds in accordance with their own local prevention plan
  • Places outdated ideology over evidence, local control, and common sense

Click here to learn more about SEPs

The Best Suggestions We’ve Received So Far (updated daily)

  1. Promoting Dirty Needles Rider
  2. Blocking Local Solutions to Fighting HIV and Hepatitis Rider
  3. HIV and Hepatitis Promotion Bill (rider)
  4. Health and Science Last Bill (rider)
  5. Dirty Needle Requirement
  6. Let ‘Em Die Rider
  7. Spreading AIDS Rider
  8. AIDS Death Rider
  9. Spreading Death Rider
  10. Death Rider
  11. Stop People from Stopping AIDS Rider
  12. The Death over LIFE Rider
  13. Clean needle ban
  14. The Anti-Science HIV and Hepatitis-Promoting Rider
  15. Pay for the Works
  16. Death by Needle Rider
  17. The Injunction of Infection through Injection
  18. Un”fit”2 exchange
  19. The Disease Spreading Bill
  20. From Addiction to Death Bill
  21. The Bill to Condemn Addicts
  22. Condemn the Vulnerable Bill
  23. Death to the Vulnerable Rider
  24. Punish the Ill Rider
  25. Condemn the Healthy Bill
  26. The Health Ban
  27. The Pro-HIV Bill
  28. The Pro-Hepatitis & HIV Bill
  29. The Punitive Bill
  30. Punish the Healthy Bill
  31. The Promote Illness Bill
  32. Pro-Death Bill
  33. Anti-Health Bill
  34. The Pro-Hepatitis Party Bill
  35. The “Hep-C for You and Me” Rider
  36. The “I love HIV and Hep C” bill
  37. AIDS Transfusion Bill
  38. The Who Cares? Rider
  39. The Ignore the Science Rider
  40. The Spread the Disease Rider
  41. HIV Deficiency Indicator Economic Rider (HIVDIE Rider)
  42. I Choose Death over Science rider
  43. We Support HIV Infection rider
  44. Stopping HIV, Except for Some of You rider
  45. Congressional Act to Promote HIV Infection
  46. Encouraging Americans to Spread HIV rider
  47. Promoting the Spread of HIV rider
  48. I Don’t Want to Stop the Spread of HIV rider
  49. BAN (Block Access to Needles)
  50. Death Penalty for Drug Use Rider
  51. Exchange Death not Needles
  52. The Morbidity & Mortality Rider
  53. The Killer Rider
  54. The Killer Bill
  55. The No Money Yes Death Rider
  56. NOSEY SAMUEL = Needles or Syringes Equal Your Safety and More Useful Elite Legislation
  57. AIDS for America rider
  58. Death exchange rider
  59. The Pale Rider
  60. Death by Condemnation
  61. The Kill Bill
  62. We Love AIDS Act
  63. Just Die Already, Drug Addicts Act
  64. AIDS Exchange Rider
  65. Clean Syringe Ban
  66. The Rider to Promote AIDS and Addiction
  67. Common Sense is Obviously Not Common Bill
  68. PASS; Politicians Against Shared Syringes
  69. The Death Panel Rider