Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Meet & Greet with the 2011 Corps

On Friday, November 19, close to a dozen alumni met and shared their testimonials with the current 2011 Greater Philadelphia Corps. The experiences and advice of a few of these alumni are captured below in these highlights.

Adam Schwartbaum
Adam Schwartzbaum is a third year law student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. Born and raised in North Miami, FL, Adam went to college at Brandeis University, where he graduated with a B.A. in English & American Literature and Politics, and a minor in Theater Arts. After Brandeis, Adam moved to Washington DC, where he spent the summer working for his congresswoman and then began a year with City Year Washington DC.  After graduating law school this May, Adam will take the Florida bar and begin working as a first year associate at White & Case, a leading global law firm with an office in Miami.  Adam hopes to gain valuable experience in the private sector while continuing to do service through the firm's significant commitment to pro bono. 

Adam believes that City Year was one of the most important experiences of his entire life.  He continues to appreciate new ways to employ the skills he developed while a corps member. One of the most important skills he gained was the ability to work with teammates to solve problems too large for one person to solve alone.  While doing service, it was sometimes difficult to see past the daily challenges and stresses of working so closely with his teammates for such long hours for so little pay.  Looking back, Adam realizes that overcoming these challenges taught him invaluable lessons about leadership and cooperation, and empowered him to more successfully serve the Washington DC community.  After City Year, Adam also gained a better appreciation of how successfully City Year is able to truly bring different people together to create a common culture that is nurturing and idealistic. Thinking back on the promise of his own corps gives Adam hope for our country's future, and continually reaffirms his faith in the power of national service.   

Dallas Shumaker
Dallas Shumaker was a part of the 2001-2002 Greater Philadelphia Corps. From Malvern, PA, Dallas is currently studying political science with a focus on legal studies at Eastern University, located in St. Davids, PA. Upon completion of her undergraduate degree, Dallas is planning on attending graduate school for her Masters Degree in Non-profit Management. Her corps year was one of incredible personal growth and learning. The one piece of advice that she wishes someone had told her would be, live in the moment. You can rehash and debrief at the end of the year, but never again will you be able to experience the first year a second time. Her advice to the current corps in Philadelphia is, “Be in every moment: with the kids, with your team, with yourself. It'll never be better than this day. And learn patience. It’s the one thing that will get you through the year.”

Megan Rooney
Megan Rooney is a proud alumna of City Year Greater Philadelphia’s ’07-’08 and ’08-’09 corps. When Megan graduated from the University of Nebraska in the spring of 2007, she thought that she wanted to be a social worker, but she wanted to test-drive this type of job, a career of service, through AmeriCorps. Megan saw City Year as a great way to have an adventure outside of the Midwest, to have the opportunity to work with students in serious need of mentors, and to make sure that she was capable of doing the work. She viewed CYGP as a one-year stop in her life’s travels and assumed that she would be headed back to Chicagoland, where she grew up.

Instead, Megan fell in love with Philadelphia. The service CYGP does in schools and in communities introduced her to people and places in Philadelphia she would never have had the chance to get to know without the red jacket. As a corps member, Megan served at Olney West High School, where one of her very talented seniors convinced her to stay on for a second year of service. Rather than go straight to college, her student opted to do a year of service himself. He wanted to know more about what he was capable of, and figured that CYGP was a great way to push and develop himself. With his application for and acceptance into CYGP’s ’08-’09 corps, she decided that her service was not complete.

Megan rejoined for a senior corps year, serving with the recruitment department. It was another year of learning. As an office-based senior corps member focused on outreach, she learned more about the broader scale impact of City Year and the national service movement. Megan fell more in love with the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection. She declined the graduate programs that she had deferred from the previous year and opted to attend the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice.

Megan will finish her Master of Social Work degree this spring. Her development at City Year has contributed to the success that she has had in graduate school.

The work done in classrooms and on service learning Saturdays with her Young Heroes team gave Megan a good foundation for the social justice work she is keen to undertake. The balancing act of City Year’s multiple hats and personal life prepped Megan in the time and stress management that she needs in order to balance school work, her three-day-a-week internship, her part-time job with Aramark—a position gained through City Year’s partnership with the company—and her friends and family.

Megan has had the opportunity and privilege to serve with City Year Greater Philadelphia as a corps member and as an alumna on CYGP’s signature service days. She looks forward to many other opportunities to continue to do so.

Called to Blend Faith with Service

Lavon Howard, City Year Greater Philadelphia alum and current alumni board member, is the Vice President of Programs and Services at CTM Ministries in Philadelphia, PA.

CTM Ministries is a faith-driven, non-profit organization dedicated to providing programs, services, campaigns, fundraising events, and ministry through different media and fine arts.

CTM Ministries is looking for donations to grow its program to be able to provide and expand its services to a greater population.

The mission of C.T.M Ministries is to motivate, equip and inspire youth and young adult's to live a purpose driven life. “If you change the way you think, you can live a better life.”

If you like to make a donation, please contact Lavon Howard at: lmhfreedoms@yahoo.com

CTM Ministries website: http://www.ctmministriesinc.org/

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

November Alumni Spotlight - The path of Meghan Poperowitz

Meghan Poperowitz
Nursing School Student, Binghamton University (SUNY)
Former City Year Special Projects Director
Former City Year Corps Member, 2005

By: ReneƩ Di Pietro

“Everyone has their own path,” says Meghan Poperowitz. “Don’t feel pressured by social constraints or ‘the right path’ to achieve something – follow your heart.”

With shoulder-length brown hair, (which at different times has been both longer and much shorter), a calm smile and a welcoming voice, Meghan is the example of the advice that she gives.  

After joining City Year Greater Philadelphia in 2004, Meghan sought out unique pathways to create for herself a lifestyle that would combine her talents and passions. This pathway started first with continuing her work at City Year. After her first corps year, Meghan signed on again as a senior corps member leading the Visitor’s Program. Then she worked in the communications department, quickly becoming a Special Projects Director. Her tour with City Year Greater Philadelphia lasted for five years.

City Year was Meghan’s first real job out of college, and she worked hard to get it.

“I got that job by surviving and working my butt off in the longest interview of my life—my corps year.”

Philadelphia’s Visitor’s Program is still one of the most successful and innovative programs in the City Year global network. It has collected a wall full of national Cyzygy Awards to document it. Meghan contributed to its success in laying down a strong foundation for the future of the program and in setting up a specific training for the next senior corps member who was to manage the program. Meghan has always modeled what successful communication should be like: everyone on the same page. Everyone informed. Everyone aware of what the greater vision is beyond here.

Meghan is a connector, a web-builder. She saw many ways to make the different programs that she worked with at City Year grow in new areas not attempted yet.

Someone in Meghan’s life who has shown her that great change in life is possible is her father. Growing up she remembers her dad as a very hard working man, extremely devoted to his family, yet he struggled with his weight and was a heavy smoker. Over the past six years she has been blown away and so proud to see her father—a man on both cholesterol and blood pressure medications—turn his life around into a hard working, nonsmoker, runner and healthy eater. He no longer needs his medications anymore.

“He has evolved into a whole new person with more energy. Those are some hard things to change, you know? It has been a few years now and these changes are here to stay,” she says.

The goal setting and following through does not fall from the tree. Jill Kersteen Michaels, a music teacher in the Poconos, grew up with Meghan and describes her as “someone who handles the most difficult situations tactfully” and as someone who gives the best advice.

“Everything Meghan does sets her apart from the pack,” says Michaels. “From her artistic, eclectic style, to her uncanny listening skills, to the amazing advice she gives… Meghan is one of those rare souls you meet in life who you can respect for their wisdom and grace.” 

As most of our personal gifts are learned throughout our lives, Meghan has certainly combined her natural strengths and her experiences to indeed to be a teacher of her own. Surviving a nearly fatal bike accident in Philadelphia, Meghan walked away with only a broken finger. After waking up under a car with her bike tire directly in her face, she could not help but rethink her life and be thankful for her small injuries.

“I was so lucky compared to what could have really happened,” she remembers.

She has always been grateful for her life though with or without the accident. She has experienced great lost in her life and it has only given her more insight on how to cherish life daily. After losing two of her closest friends, she made sure her attitude and respect for the gift of life was something she focused on every day.

“Through their deaths I have truly learned to live life to its fullest,” she says.

As Meghan’s unique life path continued, it took her to a rather different direction than she expected. Her heart showed her an area to pursue that she knew over time was going to be her next mountain to climb.

“Working at City Year I realized a lot of the hurdles that people faced when focusing on their education was related to health issues, involving personal and community health, as well as other disparities occurring in the community.”

The health aspect of the obstacles is what really struck Meghan. This led her to investigating the ways she could transition her work into the health field and begin to address these challenges from a different direction.

“I think health is very important, both mental and physical health. When I saw it affecting our students, I always saw myself addressing it more and in a more direct way in the future.”

Five years later, Meghan is less than a year away from completing her second degree, a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing from Binghamton University in New York.

“Meghan’s decision to follow her passion for helping others through a new career as a nurse is commendable and inspiring,” says Michaels.

In 2004, Meghan’s obtained her first degree, a Bachelor’s of Art in Art History from Temple University in Philadelphia. “I liked my first degree,” Meghan says. “I thought it was interesting to look at culture through art. I have somewhat of a photographic memory, so it was also easy for me.”

Today, Meghan’s second degree focuses on completing her newest life goals:

“I want to be an excellent nurse who takes my job seriously. I want to focus on preventative health in a hospital setting and take every morning as a new day to catch something for a patient. As for the future, I would like to work on my Masters Degree.”

Meghan also says she would like to live in a micro house one day, have a garden, chickens and do some traveling. She hopes to be a good friend and family member to those around her; and to settle somewhere where she can get involved with civic associations.

Michaels says Meghan’s already is a superb friend and has supported her in many ways like a family member over the years. She remembers their soccer practice days from high school and how during their freshman year she knew then, Meghan was someone who was going to be very important in her life.

While we were training during pre-season, Meghan and I used to run on the dike that separated the town from the river by our school. She knew I hated running. To make it easier, she taught me to run with my eyes closed to make it go faster. We used to take turns closing our eyes while the other ran next to us and watched out for danger. As you know, there are not many people in the world that you could trust to guide you while you run with your eyes closed. It was through that experiment that I learned that Meghan was a person I could trust as we developed a life-long bond together.”

Nursing school has been a life change for sure for Meghan. Waking up at 4:30 every morning, armed with green tea, she makes herself ready to take advantage of each day as a chance to learn, a chance catch something new at school, and soon be an innovator of the world around her again in a special way.

“Don’t be afraid to take a chance or follow a dream,” she says, “Because the road will go forward as long as you take action. You’ll get there. Everyone has their own path.”

Alumni Highlight Quick Box: Meghan Poperowitz

Q: What skills or qualities do you believe are your strengths?
A: I'm tenacious and a finisher - you can rely on me to get the job done. I'm also easy going and have a generally pleasant disposition.

Q: What five things make you unique?
A: 1) I can wiggle my ears without using my hands.
2) I often smell flowers (when there are no flowers around) when someone I know is going to die.
3) I'm a cat whisperer.
4) I met Maya Angelou.
5) I love running in really cold weather

Q: What has been your proudest moment in life?
A: Seeing my dad evolve over the past six years from a hard working, smoking, and heavy eating man on cholesterol and blood pressure medications, to a hard working, non-smoking, running and healthy-eating man on no medications. Go dad! 

Q: What is your favorite book or movie? Why?
A: I love novels that just suck you into their world, leading you to read wide-eyed until your eyes go dry. I like to be captivated, entertained and shown glimpses into the nature of our world.

Q: What was your favorite City Year founding story? Why?
A: Ubuntu.  Because it applies to everyone, all the time, holistically.

Q: How many City Year sites do you predict will be open by 2020?
A: 30

Q: Where would you like to see one?
A: I haven’t seen enough of the world yet to see where we need to be next.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Alumni at CYGP Serve-a-thon

City Year Greater Philadelphia's Serve-a-thon event
brought together many alums from over the years
to share in a day of service at Carmella Playground
in Philadelphia.