AmeriCorps programs across the nation are tackling pressing problems in local communities. In South Carolina, twelve state and national AmeriCorps programs are creating solutions in the realm of education, environment and financial stabilitby engaging volunteers in intensive community service each year. Through collaborative efforts, programs are able to create long-lasting solutions. Many of these colloborations are through public and private partnerships with the business community that recognize the value of volunteer service.
Featured are two South Carolina AmeriCorps Programs, Teach for America - SC and The Sustainability Institute, that are using public-private partnerships to make impact on the lives of residents and communities in South Carolina.
The mission of Teach for America - South Carolina (TFA) is to recruit, prepare, and retain promising future leaders to grow and strengthen the movement for educational excellence in the state of SC. This is done by recruiting college graduates and professionals to commit to teach for two years in high need, mostly rural schools in SC. Corps members are trained and supported through a pre-service training (six months) and receive support throughout the year from TFA staff and school and district leaders. Upon completion of their two years, our corps members stay in the classroom, move on to other fields in education, policy, non-profit, advocacy and more. They become part of a diverse alumni network of over 200 leaders making a life-long commitment to educational excellence in South Carolina.
What is RiseSC?
South Carolina's high-need and rural schools are facing a teacher shortage crisis and a challenge in education equity. The vitality of our state relies on high-quality teachers who believe all students can achieve educational excellence. Today, and for the past four years, South Carolina districts and schools call upon Teach For America as a source of strong talent. They are seeking more homegrown and diverse talent to lead critical-need subject areas like STEM in order to meet the unique needs of students living in poverty. To answer this call, RiseSC was launched.
RiseSC seeks to build partnerships throughout the state, primarily on university and college campuses, to increase the number of individuals joining Teach For America–South Carolina who have ties to the state. RiseSC corps members have an opportunity to have a profound, additional impact with their students based on shared backgrounds. Compared to the rest of our corps, RiseSC corps members are more racially and socio-economically diverse, and more likely to stay in South Carolina beyond their two-year commitment.
To support these efforts, Boeing South Carolina invested $50,000 in RiseSC. “Building our future workforce in South Carolina is a top priority of The Boeing Company,” said Jessica Jackson, Global Corporate Citizenship, The Boeing Company. “Community partners like Teach for America–South Carolina are moving the needle in recruiting and retaining talented teachers to help better prepare students to become life-long learners.” As a result, next school year, TFA - SC is on track to have over 50% of incoming corps with ties to South Carolina (increased from 22% this school year). This success is due to our partnership with Boeing South Carolina, local colleges and universities, and the efforts of the TFA - SC team.
The Sustainability Institute empowers South Carolinians to conserve energy and reduce our environmental footprint where we live and work by providing:
Outreach and education to empower consumers to reduce energy bills and achieve verifiable energy savings;
Workforce training to retool individuals with in-demand certifications and work experience to place them into high-demand, energy industry jobs;
Community-based energy efficiency programs to directly retrofit, weatherize or upgrade the efficiency of residential housing units; and
Technical consulting and expertise to help cities and other stakeholders develop city-scale strategies for energy efficiency, carbon emissions reduction and energy industry jobs.
The Sustainability Institute’s philosophy is about teaching and transferring skills, building expertise and being a cutting-edge resource that builds the capacity of people to lead this movement. To do this, SI has established The Energy Conservation Corps (EC”), a nationally recognized and award-winning, workforce training program based in Charleston, SC that is affiliated with national AmeriCorps (“The Corps Network”). The ECC trains at-risk youth and military service veterans to become certified and job-ready for employment in the rapidly expanding energy efficiency industry. The program serves a dual role of providing energy upgrades on homes for local low-income families living in inefficient homes and struggling to pay rising and unaffordable utility bills, while at the same time training Corps members with the skills needed to obtain industry employment opportunities. Members serve 6 month terms and receive a combination of national certification training, on-the-job training, soft skills training and apprenticeship training. The program has been nationally recognized for its innovative model and strong outcomes including upgrading more than 160 homes in the Charleston metro area with an average energy savings of 25% for each family, and graduating 58 Corps members from our program with a job placement rate of 94%.
For the success of ECC it was extremely important to create strong innovative Public/Private partnerships. Therefore, a diverse group of partners collaborate to make this program a success. Partnerships have been created specifically to support and enhance member recruitment, member training (classroom certification training and “soft skills” training), housing retrofit work, and job placement.
A few to highlight include:
AmeriCorps (The Corps Network and SC Commission):
The program shares an affiliation with both national AmeriCorps (The Corps Network) and the SC Commission of AmeriCorps, who are both funders/ partners. The Corps Network provides critical leadership to the Corps movement and to our nation’s Service and Conservation Corps as they harness the power of youth and young adults to tackle some of America’s greatest challenges and transform their own lives. The SC Commission’s mission is to improve South Carolina communities through volunteerism and national service programs.
South Carolina Electric and Gas Company (SCE&G):
SCE&G and The Sustainability Institute have partnered to facilitate the Energy Conservation Corps’ delivery of 80 low-income energy efficiency retrofits in the Charleston market by 2016. These retrofits target SCE&G ratepayers that also meet low-income eligibility guidelines and are facing high energy bills due to outdated systems and inefficiencies in their homes.
Metanoia Community Development:
Metanoia partners with our program in two ways: (1) they provide financial literacy training and counseling to our Corps members and help them establish Individual Development Accounts (IDAs); and (2) they subcontract energy improvement work to our program to perform on low-income houses in the Chicora/ Cherokee community that Metanoia is rehabilitating through their owner occupied repair program.
Department of Juvenile Justice/ Birchwood location in Columbia:
The agency supplies candidates in our age range that have been released from their care and the court system and are returning to the Charleston area. They supply wrap around services from their local office for the young adults once they join our program.
Ralph Johnson VA Medical Center:
As a recruiting partner, the local Veterans Administration staff refers quality AmeriCorps service candidates while continuing to provide needed wraparound services for our Veteran Corps Members such as housing assistance, medical support and counseling.
The Boeing Company:
The Boeing Company has focused their investment for The Sustainability Institute on the Veterans Conservation Corps (VCC). The VCC will recruit, engage, and train 15 veterans per year to become certified and proficient in assessing building performance and conducting performance contracting work. They will fully retrofit at least 10 homes in the greater Charleston area for energy efficiency at no cost to the homeowner and 25 energy efficiency improvements will also occur under contract of The Sustainability Institute’s CharlestonWISE program, a community-based efficiency program serving Charleston country.
The Sustainability Institute is proud of its strong collaboration with many innovative public/private partnerships. These strong partnerships have allowed SI to continue to make significant impacts in our community and continue to improve the lives of the people we serve and the environment we protect.