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Member Spotlight: Andrew

Jun 3, 2019 : Articles

Leadership for a Lifetime

Andrew van Treeck served as a Compass AmeriCorps member during in 2016-17 and was fortunate to be hired by his service site. He recently received a “Champions of Learning” award from United Way and Consortium for Public Education in recognition of his role in creating and building the After School Club, a program run by the Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education (ARYSE) and JFCS Refugee & Immigrant Services. We talked to Andrew about his Compass AmeriCorps service year and how it prepared him for his next steps.

What prompted you to become a Compass AmeriCorps member?
As I approached graduation from Pitt, I was seeking a job that impacted people directly. I went to the Career Fair in January and was not excited by much, but then I came across Julie Walker at the Compass AmeriCorps table, and after a quick chat I was pretty sure this program met all my criteria.

Where did you serve as a member? What did you do?
I served at Jewish Family and Community Services as a volunteer coordinator and refugee caseworker. As a caseworker, I trained newly arrived refugee families on how to use the bus and navigate Pittsburgh. I also taught a Cultural Orientation class that focused on legal rights and responsibilities, paying bills, etc. My volunteer coordination role changed a lot over the course of my service year. I began my service in September 2016, and after the November election, we had a massive influx of volunteer inquiries that necessitated an overhaul of the volunteer program structure, which I oversaw.

What was most meaningful about your Compass AmeriCorps experience?
The people I met through service, both refugee clients and fellow service members, were incredible. I learned so much from both groups, and they've made a huge impact on my identity and future goals. During the service year, you get to know fellow members who have very similar areas of interest as you, and they've taken the same risk/sacrifice you have to do this program. When you get to meet refugee clients, there are so many ways to learn from them: whether it's their resiliency to find safety, their dedication to their children, or their amazing outlook.
 
What did you learn from your year of service?
I became a much better communicator thanks to my interactions with English language learners. I learned a lot about how to effectively communicate abstract ideas to someone who is completely unfamiliar with our linguistic and cultural reference points. I also learned what it is like to live below the poverty line, a perspective which I believe has made the past few years since service easier.
 
What did you do after your year of service?
I was hired by my service site to be a full-time volunteer coordinator. During my service year as volunteer coordinator, we learned how much work it takes to run a great program, and the needs went beyond the scope of an annually-rotating member from Compass. I'm happy to say that the program has continued growing, and starting this fall we will have an AmeriCorps Volunteer Coordinator Assistant from Compass!
 
What were the greatest benefits of serving in AmeriCorps? Did your service help you professionally?
Compass provides you with monthly professional development sessions and direct access to the network of programs and professionals working in Pittsburgh to support refugees and immigrants. Compass also enables you to get your foot in the door for post-service year jobs. Given that I was hired by my service site, the year of service greatly benefited my professional development. I know at least five other members from my year who were hired at their service site or another related organization in Pittsburgh, which goes to show how great Compass AmeriCorps can be for your career development.
 
What would you say to someone thinking about becoming a Compass AmeriCorps member?
Make sure that you're ready to be in uncomfortable situations and to live on a low budget. If you are ready, then you'll have a great learning experience, become part of an amazing community, and directly provide a lot of good to refugees and immigrants in Pittsburgh.
 
Tell us more about the award that you received. (Congratulations!)
In May, I received the "Champions of Learning" award for Providers & Community Partners from the United Way and Consortium for Public Education. I was one of three finalists in my category. I received this award to recognize my part in creating and building the After School Club, a program run by the Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education (ARYSE) and JFCS Refugee & Immigrant Services. In my role with JFCS I recruit and train volunteers to be mentors, and the twice-a-week program is almost entirely staffed by these volunteers and serves over 70 refugee youth in grades K–12. In October 2018 we lost our program space, and through my efforts we managed to find a temporary location and create a new structure just two weeks later, enabling mentoring services to continue for the fall semester. Since then, the program has a new permanent location and even more mentors.In May, I received the "Champions of Learning" award for Providers & Community Partners from the United Way and Consortium for Public Education. I was one of three finalists in my category. I received this award to recognize my part in creating and building the After School Club, a program run by the Alliance for Refugee Youth Support and Education (ARYSE) and JFCS Refugee & Immigrant Services. In my role with JFCS I recruit and train volunteers to be mentors, and the twice-a-week program is almost entirely staffed by these volunteers and serves over 70 refugee youth in grades K–12. In October 2018 we lost our program space, and through my efforts we managed to find a temporary location and create a new structure just two weeks later, enabling mentoring services to continue for the fall semester. Since then, the program has a new permanent location and even more mentors.

Literacy Pittsburgh (formerly Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council) helps create better lives through learning. Recognized as a national leader in adult and family literacy, Literacy Pittsburgh is the largest provider of adult basic education in Allegheny and Beaver Counties. Last year, Literacy Pittsburgh helped more than 4,600 individuals acquire reading, writing, math, English language, computer and workforce skills so they may reach their fullest potential in life and participate productively in their communities. Literacy Pittsburgh provides free, personalized instruction in workforce readiness, high school diploma test preparation, English as a second language, basic skills, and family literacy through one-to-one and small class instruction, along with referrals to other family support organizations. Founded in 1982, it serves local adults through numerous neighborhood locations and its Downtown  Pittsburgh Learning Center.