A Day in the Life of an AmeriCorps Member: Jay Orth, Student Teacher

jay orth

After hitting the snooze button too many times to count, I roll out of bed well before the sun comes up. I get all my last minute lesson plans in order before jumping in the shower, putting on my teacher clothes, and rushing out of the door with a much needed cup of coffee.

Arriving at Shadle Park High School around 7:30 AM, I greet students walking down the halls while trying to balance all of the things I have in my arms (books, papers, my lunch, my coffee, etc.).

Class starts promptly at 8AM. Luckily, I have first period prep most days so I have a little extra time to get my life in order before the students come in. My first two classes of the day are Geometry.

The next period is an Algebra 2 class where I serve more of an instructional assistant type role, working with students one on one. I then have a 30 minute lunch before teaching two periods of algebra 1.

At the sound of the bell at 2:30 PM, students are quickly rushing out of the classroom to catch the bus or get to their after school activities. I am then off to one of the various after school programs.

Some days I head over to Shaw Middle School to help with an after-school ELL program. Other days, I am staying after school assisting students individually with math. Once a month, I meet with college-bound seniors serving as a mentor.

If none of these after school activities are happening, then I am debriefing with teachers about my lessons or am planning for the next day. I get home between 3:30 and 5 depending on the day. I scarf down some dinner and get started on my homework from Gonzaga University or begin working on new lesson plans. Before I know it, I am back in bed waiting to hit the snooze button once again.

Day in the Life of an AmeriCorps Member: Ashley Karsh

Welcome to two busy days in the life of AmeriCorps member Ashley Karsh! She is a full-time member at the West Valley Outdoor Learning Center and gets to teach gradeschool children about wildlife and ecosystems! Thank you for your service Ashley!
Day of my life 1
Day of my life 2

MLK Day 2016: A Day On, Not a Day Off

The third Monday of January marks the celebration of the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. and is a day designed to serve others and re-commit ourselves through service to one another. Congress designated this federal holiday as a national day of service in 1994 and charged the Corporation for National and Community Service with leading this effort.
This is not only a day to celebrate his work, but is also a day to examine improvements that need to be made in education, health care, housing, and social justice. After all, much work still needs to be done to fulfill the dream that Dr. King had.
Dr. King devoted himself to equality, social justice, and economic opportunity for all and challenged us to build a more perfect union. Everyone has a role to play in order to be successful.
This MLK day was a day of service for the entire Spokane Service Team. We had 28 volunteers serve 8 at 2 different sites and working on 6 different projects. In such a small amount of time, we really made a difference.
In the morning we worked with the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach center to help at the annual march and resource fair that follows. At the resource fair we set up two craft tables, one with ninja stars and one with coloring pages of medallions and our Full-time AmeriCorps member Bryana Cope brought plant and animal coloring pages from her site at the Palouse Conservation District.
After the resource fair, we had lunch donated by our friends at Pizza Rita for our YouthBuild and AmeriCorps members! They were so generous for donating a slice and soda for each volunteer.
In the afternoon, we headed over to the Catholic Charities Spokane Furniture Bank to help out. This Furniture Bank is special in that they fix and donate furniture for those who are transitioning into a home for the first time or transitioning out of homelessness. The work they do is truly amazing! We were able to serve on 4 different projects around the warehouse cleaning and repairing furniture, steam cleaning, vacuuming and sewing up couches, cleaning and organizing dishes, and sorting clothes to be donated to different homeless shelters in our community.
It was a day well spent that brought together our AmeriCorps members from near and far to serve our community and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

What AmeriCorps Means to Me

by Olivia Hunt


AmeriCorps was feeling nervous on that first day, still not sure of what was in store.
AmeriCorps was making connections to a community like I had never done before.
This meant seeing the best, the worst, and everything in between.
AmeriCorps was feeling frustrated and exhausted until you walked into a room and heard 30 kids yell “Miss Olivia!!!” at the same time.

AmeriCorps was celebrating when an event went well, and sitting at home eating ice cream when no one showed up.

AmeriCorps was telling kids something small about myself only for them to ask me about it a few weeks later and realizing how much they looked up to me.

AmeriCorps was a roller coaster of new things, new people, and learning so much about myself.

AmeriCorps was listening to a kid tell me about the volcanoes on Mars for 30 straight minutes and wondering which was happening more: was I teaching them or were they teaching me?

AmeriCorps was loving, learning, laughing, and memories I will never forget.
AmeriCorps was rewarding, and terrible, and awesome.

AmeriCorps was 60 hour weeks full of planning, moving stuff, setting up, an working until 11 pm to clean up an event that only lasted an hour and a half.
AmeriCorps was coming in the next Monday to find emails and notes about how well the event went and how much everyone enjoyed it.
AmeriCorps means I don’t regret the student loans for my Master’s Degree. Plus, in the future, when my kids complain, I can tell them I lived on less than $1000 per month and still paid my rent and all my bills on time.

AmeriCorps means a connection with all other AmeriCorps alumni. And connections to jobs in the future.
AmeriCorps was an experience unlike any other that truly prepared me for my future career.

AmeriCorps was strangers that became friends,
a community center that became my home,
kids that became my inspiration,
and an experience that changed my life for the better.

Habitat for Humanity’s Women Build


It was a warm, early May, morning. The sun beat down as the AmeriCorps members started the exterior framing on a house in Deer Park with Habitat for Humanity Spokane’s Women Build.

Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week is a weeklong event, [where] women devote at least one day to the effort to eliminate poverty housing (http://www. habitat. org/wb/national_women_build_ week.aspx).

AmeriCorps members Royann LaSarte, Heather Ramsey, and Alex VanderHouwen went out to Deer Park, WA to participate in the Spokane Habitat for Humanity’s National Women Build Week. They framed the windows and doors and then applied the insulating foam sheets they would be applying as a means to maintain the highest level of energy conservation during extreme weather conditions.

During this experience, they met two of the future homeowners. Homeowners are required to put in ‘sweat equity toward their own homes which is a requirement to gain a home through Habitat. One of them was nearly done with her hours.

Once the framing was done, Heather, Royann, and Alex started the more difficult task of sizing the foam pads.


“This was extremely difficult. The wind had picked up and was trying to take these giant sheets right out of our hands.” Alex recalled, “Once we got the hang of how to cut them to size and shape, we set them up and nailed them on.”

The house is not complete, but AmeriCorps helped a family toward a new home.

Written by Alex VanderHouwen, AmeriCorps

Rebuilding Together Spokane – April 25th, 2015

BECU, with AmeriCorps members Fauniel Delacruz and Doug Polk, painted and landscaped one home. Washington Multi-Family Housing Association, with numerous other local vendors, sponsors, and AmeriCorps members Taylor Stalcup, Allen Hacking, Britain Webb, Heather Ramsey and Royann LaSarte, tore down a burned out garage, removed a burned deck, fixed the water damaged basement, removed a tall dead tree from the front yard and did general landscaping for a homeowner who was mostly bedridden.

BECU with AmeriCorps members Fauniel Delacruz and Doug Polk painted and landscaped one home. Washington Multi-Family Housing Association, with numerous other local vendors, sponsors, and AmeriCorps members Taylor Stalcup, Allen Hacking, Britain Webb, Heather Ramsey, and Royann LaSarte tore down a burned out garage, removed a burned deck, fixed the water damaged basement, removed a tall dead tree, from the front yard, and did general landscaping for a homeowner who was mostly bedridden.

National Rebuilding Day happens on the last Saturday in April every year. Volunteers of all skill sets come together and assist homeowners who are low-income, elderly, disabled, and/or veterans who can not afford or just physically can not fix up their homes.

First Presbyterian Church volunteers and AmeriCorps member Mary Katherine Rust replaced two windows and two doors, and cleared out a host of items that had built up in this disabled veteran’s home. They also did painted a bathroom and craft room. Skilled volunteers performed electrical and plumbing work in advance of Rebuild Day. The homeowner no longer needed extension cords throughout her house, and she didn’t need to shut off the water main every time she wasn’t using water.

Thanks to a local dog groomer, two of her dogs were taken for some sprucing up as well. AmeriCorps member MaryKate said her time at the home was

“Really cool. I hadn’t done any kind of volunteering before. This was completely different. I felt like I was making a real impact on her life. When I walked in, she seemed really overwhelmed. It was so worth it in the end.”

Rebuilding Together Spokane ended their National Rebuilding Day with one house complete and two that were near completion with some follow up work. Overall, their impact was seen and felt.

One homeowner’s son said “You guys just solved like three weekly arguments between my siblings, uncles and my dad. Not to mention, the independence it represented for my mom.” Rebuilding Together Spokane will continue to help those in need so they can remain in their homes for longer and more independently.

Written by Alex VanderHouwen,

Camp Gifford Ropes Course February 2015


The thrill, danger and adrenaline coursed through veins at Salvation Army’s Camp Gifford Ropes Course.

Prior to the excitement of the ropes course, the YouthBuild crew participated in teambuilding activities, including the Name Toss where students passed around a stuffed giraffe. It became more complicated when a stuffed monkey was added to the mix and the original pattern of the giraffe toss had to be followed without the stuffed creatures hitting the ground. If either stuffed animal fell, the game had to restart. Of the team building activities, Alex VanderHouwen, AmeriCorps member, said

“…interesting. I had never thought of making a name memorization game into a team building activity.”

After teambuilding activities were completed, the long awaited ropes course was introduced. Many were exuberant about the opportunity while a few were apprehensive.

Andrew Nelson, a Spokane Service Team member, found the ropes course to be

“…exhilarating. It was worthwhile and fun.”


He also learned that some of his teammates were not as into the highflying fun as he was.

Martin Luther King Day 2015


The crowd marched through the sunny streets of downtown Spokane, banners and signs in hand. Grant Elementary students drummed as other bands marched and played as the crowd made the loop back to the Spokane Convention Center.

“Why do we march? Because enough is enough. We march because injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
-Freda Gandy, Executive Director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Family Outreach Center and event planner

“[I]t was a beautiful event. There was a lot of diversity. It was a powerful moment for Spokane.”

Written by: Alex VanderHouwen, AmeriCorps member

YouthBuild Graduates

Back Row: Dixie Weidenbach, Easton Lavin, Tyler Brown, Mycah Johnson, Corbin Whittington, Julian Montano, Adam Brown, Alex VanderHouwen, Mandy Edwards, Mark Altmar and Tamara Conger. Front Row: Jason Overdorff, Sean Thayer and Leonid Vyalkin.

Back Row: Dixie Weidenbach, Easton Lavin, Tyler Brown, Mycah Johnson, Corbin Whittington, Julian Montano, Adam Brown, Alex VanderHouwen, Mandy Edwards, Mark Altmar and Tamara Conger. Front Row: Jason Overdorff, Sean Thayer and Leonid Vyalkin.

Seven students celebrated their graduation on December 19th, 2014. The ceremony was planned for six, but Adam Brown passed the notorious math test the day before graduation. He credited his YouthBuild instructor,

“Without Mark Altmar, I would never have passed that test. Thank you, Mark!”

“You have completed high school. Congratulations! You are educated, and your certificate is your degree. You may think of it as the ticket to the good life. Let me ask you to think of an alternative. I want you to think of it as your ticket to change the world.

Continue to learn. Your mind will continue to develop as long as you continue to flex it. Challenge yourself to learn something every day. That can be as easy as reading a news article or it can be as difficult as advanced engineering calculus. Your brain will rise to any challenge if you apply yourself. Never surrender. Never give up.

Continue to protect and serve your community. When you entered this program, many of you thought of yourselves as outsiders – not a part of your neighborhood. By serving at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Center, Habitat for Humanity, and Tom’s Turkey Drive you have changed people’s lives for the better. If the recipients of your service were here now, they would be singing your praises. Your actions show that you are a part of this community. I challenge you to increase your membership by learning about issues and voting, and by continuing to take service and make it part of your life. You have earned the right to be citizens of this community through your care and service.

Finally, I ask that you be good to you. They say that charity begins at home, and that’s what I want for you. Live healthy lives. Obtain and keep a job where you will earn a living wage. Pay yourselves first by building that nest egg, by starting and contributing to a retirement account. Buy a home, prioritize your family– make your lives full.”

A Day On, Not A Day Off

AmeriCorps members with WCNCS Commissioner, Rhosetta Rhodes

AmeriCorps members with WCNCS Commissioner, Rhosetta Rhodes

YouthBuild members assisted with the Youth Empowerment Luncheon, which raised money for youth programs sponsored by MLK Family Outreach Center.

Members assisted with the MLK Family Outreach Center Youth Empowerment Luncheon.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2014
by Michael Sugai, YouthBuild AmeriCorps member

On January 20th, the streets of Spokane were marched upon; not in anger or malice, but for justice and equality. Upwards of 1000 people at the Spokane convention center were whisked away by the beautiful voice of Olynda Stone, while the awe inspiring words of the great rev. Carolyn Gordon provided words of wisdom to empower citizens for the march to “Walk it off” in reference to anything holding you back.

With the help of AmeriCorps and YouthBuild members, Freda Gandy and Tara Dowd (event coordinators) had the area set up for the Community Resource Fair, where the community had the opportunity to gain knowledge in many different fields ranging from NAACP to information about Habitat for Humanity, and EVERYTHING in-between.

Aaron Lollar and Richard Hall Help 7 year old Kara make a Pinecone owl.

Aaron Lollar and Richard Hall Help 7 year old Kara make a Pinecone owl.

The Spokane Service Team coordinated a children’s fair where kids were able to ask questions about the events of the day and spend time working on broadening their inspirational and inquisitive minds with crafts such as “The Eye in the Sky,” designing and making their very own pine cone owl figurines, crafting lanyards and answering the question, “What is one change you would make in your community?” with answers displayed on a poster.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. paved the way in the fight for equality and justice among racial lines in America. His dream still lives on in all those who marched on Monday. It is the will and drive of every one of us that will keep his idea and dream alive for the children of today and for the leaders of tomorrow.