School Community Partnership (SCP) “meets monthly in an effort to connect various agency offerings to the youth of our schools and community, providing safe activities, healthy resources, and expanded learning opportunities. There are regular trainings that address the prevalent and current needs of our youth. The School Community Partnership has developed a strong network of providers who are dedicated to breaking down the obstacles young people in Fall River face while helping them grow into productive citizens. We strive to support our youth, encouraging their development through positive opportunities, intervention and prevention, and empowerment to ensure success.”
Fall River Substance Abuse Prevention Grants Coordinator Michael Aguiar and Fall River Police Captain Joseph Cabral presented information about the on-going opioid crisis, both locally and nationwide, to a group of about forty professionals, including representatives of local schools, police, Bristol County Sheriff’s Office, Bristol County District Attorney and a number of other agencies. While the prescription drug abuse crisis has diminished somewhat over the past five years due to a number of prevention efforts, the opioid overdose rate has skyrocketed. “That’s when heroin started increasing,” stated Aguiar. There are now more than 800 overdoses a year, more than double the rate five years ago.
One of the many hats that I wear as an AmeriCorps is to run the Confronting Discrimination sub-committee of the Fall River Youth Violence Prevention task force. The mission of the group is to develop a conversation that fosters peace, connection, and respect. This group is a mix of youth, community leaders, city councilors, and school committee members. The education format that I use is storytelling. Monthly, I bring in a speaker that can speak on their personal experience pertaining to discrimination. Our past speakers include:
- Ramon Torres (Senior at Durfee High)- LGBTQ+ issues
- Sumaiyea Uddin (Freshman at Durfee High) – Islamophobia
- Paul Coogan (Former Vice Principal of Durfee High/School Committee member) – Growing up in South Carolina during the Civil Rights Movement and attending the first desegregated school in S.C
- Sophia Hunt (Community activist and V.P of Cambodian American Rescue Organization, Inc.) – Escaping the Khmer Rouge
- Trott Lee (Community Activist) – Acting “black” and acting “white”
The meetings have been very successful in having your voice heard, advancing public speaking skills, debating, hearing different perspectives, bringing diverse people to the table, educating group members on various cultures/history, and overall connecting as one.
Shout out to Social Capital, Inc for featuring this photo of me and my little Corgi artwork. My fellow SCI AmeriCorps members and I discussed what civic engagement is and debated what we consider to be the most/least civically engaged.
One of the questions asked was — “Are you civically engaged? If so, how?” I had to really think about this question. I encountered a few reasons why I would say no–
- Time — There’s always things that need to be done, things to rebuild, people with basic needs, etc that there never seems to be enough time in the day to get everything done. I recall my supervisor telling me, “you’ll never leave the office if you try to get everything on your list done”
- Are we really making a difference? — This is a tough one. As we are all dedicating our time and effort serving our communities, we have to wonder, “are we really making a difference?” “Am I actually having a positive impact on people?” In my opinion, there will be times where we feel hopeless and that our work is going no where. When in actuality, it is…
- More — Similar to the first reason, there is always something that needs to get done. I believe that anyone who has a passion to serve the people aims to be well-rounded and asks themselves, “what more can I do?” There’s also life… It’s easy for us to get caught up in other engagements in our lives whether it’s school, family, friends, etc. In the back of our minds, we are well aware of what we want to learn more about or what we want to do. But we are only human. We can’t always do everything at once.
The reality is: All AmeriCorps members are civically engaged.
“AmeriCorps? I’ve heard of it. I’ve seen the name. What is it?”
When I tell someone that I am serving as an AmeriCorps, generally, they will not have any clue what AmeriCorps is or they have heard of it or have seen people wearing the “A”.
Wikipedia’s definition: AmeriCorps is a civil society program supported by the U.S. federal government, foundations, corporations, and other donors engaging adults in intensive community service with the goal of helping others and meeting critical needs in the community. Members commit to full-time or part-time positions offered by a network of non-profit community community organizations and public agencies, to fulfill assignments in the fields of education, public safety, health care, and environmental protection.
My definition: AmeriCorps members dedicate a year or more of our lives to public service. It is a domestic Peace Corps. We serve our communities, we serve our country through positive initiatives to create long-term impact. We are teachers, we are mentors, we are a public servant. We are on the ground, tackling community issues head on. We are mission-oriented and globally minded. We serve in complex and unpredictable environments. We are passionate and we are flexible. We get things done.
There are a variety of branches of AmeriCorps. Depending on which field a member is interested in (education, health care, public safety, or environmental protection) each branch of AmeriCorps has their own mission.
Social Capital Inc. (SCI) AmeriCorps: I am with the SCI branch of AmeriCorps. Our mission is focus on economic development, health and wellness, and youth success. We strengthen communities by connecting diverse individuals and organizations through civic engagements activities. We envision a nation where individuals are strongly connected to their neighbors and play an active role in shaping the destiny of their communities.
Specifically, what do you do? : I am the SCI AmeriCorps for Partners for a Healthier Community housed at United Neighbors. As I represent three different but well connected organizations — I do everything!
- MyFallRiver.org & eBlast: I am the Webmaster for the myfallriver.org website and weekly eBlast newsletter. I am responsible for keeping the website up to date on current events and programs within the community.
- Fall River Youth Violence Prevention Confronting Discrimination (FRVYP CD): is a sub-committee of the Fall River Youth Violence Prevention Task Force. The mission of this committee is to start the conversation of discrimination within the City of Fall River. This is a pro-active group, not a reactive group. We focus on any issue that may fall under the umbrella of discrimination whether it may be; gender, LGBTQ+, age, ability/disability, race, class, religion, etc. This team is a mix of youth, community leaders, and elected city officials. This committee meets bi-monthly for a two-part meeting. We encourage anyone, particularly the students to gain public speaking skills by leading a presentation, activity, or discussion based on one of the topics that fall under the umbrella of discrimination.
- W.A.V.E (Women. Action. Voices. Empowerment) is a gender-specific group established to attend to the needs of young women in the City of Fall River. It is a safe place where; young women can feel united, support one another, feel physically and emotionally safe, establish goals for themselves, and voice any current issues or concerns that they may have without judgment. WAVE also educates and empowers young women to advocate for themselves, their communities, and allows them to us their voice to promote positive change. We aim to build confidence and self-esteem by providing members with the opportunity to gain leadership and public speaking skills. We strive to improve academic performance by ensuring that the girls are practicing time management.In short, the girls focus on:
- Self-love, self-awareness, leadership, mindfulness
- Using their voice to advocate for themselves and their communities in a positive manner
- Cultural awareness
- Academic performance and furthering their education
- Healthy coping mechanisms, developing life skills, and making healthy choices
- Preventing negative decisions (violence, pregnancy, drug abuse, etc)