Last week, the Corporation for National and Community Service hosted the AmeriCorps Symposium—a multi-day conference that brings together AmeriCorps and state commission staff. It is a great opportunity for us to learn from experts in the field as well as each other, and to connect on a variety of topics and learning opportunities that impact AmeriCorps programming.
The Symposium is traditionally held in Washington, D.C., but like many recent large-scale gatherings, this year’s event was hosted virtually, where participants accessed workshops and plenaries via webinar. I have reluctantly embraced the virtual setting that many of us find ourselves in due to COVID-19 social distancing recommendations, and I had my reservations about how well a digital Symposium would be executed. But the opportunity to connect online in breakout sessions, townhalls, discussion boards, and workshops provided some surprising insight and encouragement. Here are the top three themes that emerged for me during this year’s training:
- Connectivity seemed to be one of the primary themes for the conference and sessions – how do we continue to stay engaged with our work, our members, and our beneficiaries when the in person means to do so isn’t viable?
- In addition to the need to stay connected, workshops and townhalls focused on how AmeriCorps members and staff are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion work within programs, commissions, and AmeriCorps State and National.
- One of the highlights of this year’s Symposium was the Excellence in AmeriCorps Awards ceremony, which overflowed with examples of creativity and innovation. Unsurprisingly, this year’s Symposium focused on how programs across the country had adapted and re-structured to meet the needs of their communities and members in a COVID-19 world. It was beyond encouraging to hear so many success stories, and to see flexibility at CNCS in regards to programming.
At OneStar, we are committed to helping our programs reach for more, and in doing so, we must be committed to educating ourselves, stepping outside our comfort zone, and embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion. I’m excited for what the coming program year will bring and to see all of our programs, members, and beneficiaries shine!
Angela Pinckard-Hale is a Program Officer on the AmeriCorps Texas team at OneStar Foundation.