AmeriCorps partnership expands sisters' service and transforms members

Autumn Brown, a 2015-16 Notre Dame-AmeriCorps member, serving at Corryville Catholic, a Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Courtesy of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, Ohio unit)

Anthony Newman can attest to the change Notre Dame Mission Volunteers-AmeriCorps can make in the lives of young people.                                                                                            

He was a massage therapist in Virginia in 2011 seeking to help people in a bigger way when he heard about the program from a friend. He joined the program for two years as a GED test (high school equivalency program) instructor at the Julie Community Center in Baltimore, then stayed in the same neighborhood for another four years as a youth coordinator for another nonprofit. He is now a racial equity consultant in Baltimore.

"I didn't have experience, and they took a chance on me. I learned about how many skills and strengths I didn't know I had because there was an opportunity to be creative, to try stuff, to mess up," said Newman, who in 2015 was invited to join the Notre Dame Mission Volunteers board and is now in his second term. "I can't think of another place where I would be able to grow and bring my unique self to something I was so passionate about."

He calls Sr. Barbara ("Bobby") English, then the site director for Notre Dame Mission Volunteers-AmeriCorps in Baltimore, his "superhero," saying he feels "honored" to have been able to work with and be mentored by one of the sisters regularly.

Notre Dame Mission Volunteers-AmeriCorps is a partnership between Notre Dame Mission Volunteers, a program of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, and AmeriCorps, a network of U.S. service programs. In Notre Dame-AmeriCorps, members, most of whom are in their 20s, spend 11 months serving in a variety of individual and small-group teaching, tutoring and other programs. In exchange, they receive a stipend for living allowances, help with student loans through AmeriCorps, a wealth of new skills and, often, a lifetime appreciation for service.

"There's a transformative nature of the work," said Sr. Judi Clemens, president of the Notre Dame Mission Volunteers board. "It's not just cranking out services. The people who engage in this work are personally transformed. Their lives are changed forever."

Notre Dame-AmeriCorps now has more than 400 members in about 200 locations in 25 cities around the United States, up from 46 members in four cities when it first partnered with AmeriCorps in 1995 and the half-dozen volunteers when Notre Dame Mission Volunteers started in 1992.

Partnering with AmeriCorps allowed Notre Dame Mission Volunteers to substantially grow its volunteer program, said Sr. Katherine ("Sissy") Corr, who became executive director of Notre Dame Mission Volunteers in 1994 and was the driving force in growing the program by linking up with AmeriCorps.

"You have to think fundamentally: What is your goal?" Corr said. "It is to expand our work with the poor, to have people be in touch with their God-given dignity and potential."

Read the full story at Global Sisters Report

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