A Passion for Working with Others to Create Positive Change

Hillary

Hillary Voting!

Hi, my name is Hillary Coleman and I am very excited to be completing a year of advocacy work this year through YASC with Justice Leadership Program (JLP) in Seattle.  I have been working with the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homeless (SKCCH) for almost two months now and am glad to say that I have never found myself bored during work.

I was born and raised in Lake Forest Park and spent much of my time in Seattle while attending University Congregational UCC and participating in various events during my childhood and youth years.  I am glad to be back in the place I call home after completing my double major in Psychology & Hispanic Studies at Connecticut College.  I also earned a certificate from a three-year program at her school that focused on Public Policy and Community Action, where I find my passion for working with others to create positive change.

I am a firm believer in making sure that all community members are involved in policy creation, decision, and implementation.  Last summer I gained knowledge about effective public policy while working with the Statewide Poverty Action Network where I was able to mobilize voters as well as support the SPEAK (Sharing Personal Experience as Knowledge) program which fostered dialogue between state and local representatives and those people affected by policies that are voted on in Olympia.  I am glad that I will have the opportunity to continue to learn how to maintain and further such relationships in policymaking this year.

Collaborating with SKCCH and it’s member organizations to carry out their mission of ensuring safety and survival for people who are homeless, and to end the crisis of homelessness in our region has been a great experience thus far.  This fall we registered over 180 homeless and unstably housed voters, many of whom joined us to advocate for human services funding in Seattle and King County!  I feel lucky to have this position as part of my YASC year and hope I can help make a difference and reduce the number of homeless community members sleeping outside in King County (3,123 during the One Night Count in 2014 – see homelessinfo.org).

Roses and Thorns – Kenna Rago

clipart-3rosesFor my first YASC Blog Post I wanted to talk about some of my favorite things (roses) and challenges (thorns) of working in Granite City. 

Roses for Coordinated Youth and Human Services: Working at an alternative school has definitely taught me a lot about working with children. Although, this isn’t necessarily what I want to do with my life, it is giving me tools for someday when I may decide to become a parent. A lot of the children in the classroom are also really growing on me, giving me the opportunity to build relationships with them. On my first day a student told me that he hated me. Now, I get hugs from him on a daily basis. 

Thorns for my work with Coordinated Youth and Human Services: The students at this school are difficult to work with as a result of their home lives. Many of these students have no family structure, which has a great impact on how they learn and socialize. Most of them have a parent in jail, or have neglectful parents. In my particular classroom, students have been diagnosed with behavior disorders such as ADHA, ODD, etc. These are classified as emotional disorders, so most have medication to take daily. However, sometimes parents will sell this medication or take it themselves, creating a constant battle for the school and state to try and get the right care for the students. When these students don’t get the proper medication, it creates instant chaos in the classroom, really making it difficult for teachers and teacher’s aides to do their jobs. 

Roses for my service with St. Peter’s UCC: I really love my work with the Wednesday Rocks Youth Group. St. Peter’s youth group is the church’s way of working to integrate more youth into the congregation with the mission of nurturing faithful leaders who contribute to society. As someone who is interested in Youth Ministry, I truly enjoy helping the church with this mission with the hopes that I can simply be an effective role model for the youth in Granite City. I care for every one of the youth group members and I’m really enjoying watching this group grow. 

Thorns for service with the church: The challenge I have with the church has more to do with the community structure. This is an interesting time for St. Peter because there is an increase in racial diversity in the community, which is new for the older folk of the community. The church is in the midst of change in terms of straying from a more traditional format and moving to a different approach to reach out to the changing community. Change is hard. One of my challenges in this work is trying to get the congregation ready for change and to think outside the box a little bit.

Overall, there are both beautiful and challenging parts of my work. These roses and thorns create great potential for growth, not only for myself and the church, but also for the community of Granite City.

Exploring Faith

Amber

Hi! I’m Amber. Where to begin? I was born in South Carolina and raised throughout Western Washington (I finally get to call Seattle home, which is super exciting for me). I grew up in a Christian household but am currently exploring what faith and spirituality look like for me. I am really enjoying participating in the Justice Leadership Program thus far. It’s incredible the amount of information I have learned in the span of one month. I attended Seattle Pacific University and graduated with a degree in psychology. While at SPU, I participated as an academic mentor for college freshmen as well as a tutor for the general psychology course. These experiences and others have shaped my desire for education reform as well as making higher education more accessible. I believe that this year will provide opportunity to gain practical skills, allowing me to work towards these changes related to education. I am always eager to learn and never want to become complacent in my desire for knowledge and insight.

I am extremely excited to be apart of the Faith Action Network (FAN) team. Through work with FAN, I look forward to expanding my awareness of the issues and policies that impact the state of Washington. I am also hoping to restore my belief that faith communities can produce great works. I believe Faith Action Network is a wonderful example of doing just that. I am also excited about exploring my own faith through the course of this year and look forward to serving with and learning from the amazing members of Keystone Congregational Church. I am forever thankful for this opportunity that the UCC has provided and am overwhelmed with gratitude for those who saw potential in me. All of this to say, I can not wait for what is yet to come. Until next time.

For a Future in the Field of Public Health

Maura W

My name is Maura Walsh and I am a 22 year old participating in the YASC in Granite City, Illinois. I was born and raised in Red Wing, Minnesota. I studied chemistry and justice and peace studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota. My agency is Hoyleton Ministries. I am working in their East St. Louis office with their Puentes de Esperanza (translates to bridges of hope) and prevention services. These areas of the organization do a tremendous amount of good in the area. Currently, I have started facilitating substance abuse prevention courses in area schools with 6th and 7th graders. These topics cover everything from drug and alcohol use and advertisements to dealing with anxiety and anger.

My hopes for the future include attending graduate school for public health. I think this experience is going to be a great segue to my career in public health. My time so far has enforced my desires to continue my education in this field and within the non-profit industry.

Just what I was looking for

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I was close to graduating with a degree in political science from Heidelberg University in Tiffin, Ohio when I found the UCC YASC program. The countdown was on: I was in my last semester of undergrad and I was struggling to figure out what to do after college. The YASC program had everything I could have asked for: hands-on experience in a non-profit, social justice training, service with a local church, and a focus on intentional community and spiritual growth. I was hooked, and upon further research, I was set on serving with an ecojustice non-profit in Massachusetts.

 Fast-forward six months or so and here I am: living in Westford, MA with another volunteer, simultaneously serving at First Parish Church United and also volunteering with the New England Forestry Foundation; splitting my time between spiritual growth, community building, and valuable experience in the non-profit sector. I’m not only growing as a person, I’m also helping others to grow as well as I bring my skills and talents to my local church. I’m not only learning valuable job skills at NEFF, I’m helping to conserve forestland and promote sustainable forestry within the wider New England area.

 My work at First Parish Church United is part committee work, part teaching weekly middle school religious education, and part community event volunteering. The folks in the congregation have been so supportive in making sure that my skills are matched with my church service time, and for that I’m so grateful. My work at New England Forestry Foundation is filled with tweets, facebook posts, instagram pictures, and blog posts about sustainable forestry and conservation in the New England area. I spend my days reading studies about forest management, creating strategies to educate New Englanders about the importance of forests in daily life and the role they can play in the future.

 I’ve only been at this for a month, and already I can feel myself changing. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here!

Living the UCC!

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Hi! My name is Kenna Rago. I am a recent graduate from Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois. I am originally from Elmhurst, Illinois and have a bachelor’s degree in Religion and Sociology. This year, I am serving in Granite City, Illinois with Coordinated Youth and Human Services. I am working at one of Coordinated Youth’s schools in a classroom for children with behavior disorders.

I have been affiliated with the United Church of Christ throughout my entire life. This background has led to my strong desire to become a minister, which is why I researched ways of getting more involved with the UCC. So, I found the YASC program! I am looking forward to serving with the church and getting more work experience this year, in hopes that I will grow into an individual who is ready to dedicate their life to the church and serving the wider community.

Tim Kent – Welcoming and being welcomed

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I’m Tim and I’m from north of Boston; this year I’m serving at Old First Reformed United Church of Christ in Philadelphia, PA. During my first month my time was dedicated to training in the Cupboard, a breakfast hosted by volunteers where up to eighty homeless men come to get a meal on Saturdays.  Additionally, I have been learning to recruit and schedule volunteers, and also creating ways for others to get involved in the community here at Old First.  It has been great getting to know the congregation, and I enjoy the many potlucks and activities available to us, such as the welcome picnic and tubing down the Delaware River.  I’m really looking forward to the rest of my experience here in Philadelphia, and getting to know the church community more.