As we strive toward progress, in which direction are we focusing our energies? Hosted March 1-3, the 2022 AmeriCorps Texas Grantee Meeting featured the theme of Inward > Outward > Upward, which recognizes that our service must be rooted in support and care. We can make the greatest impact by first looking inward to address issues like burnout and belonging. Affirming our own humanity helps us better understand and serve others—and ultimately elevates all Texas communities.
During these extraordinary and often overwhelming times, the 2022 AmeriCorps Texas Grantee Meeting equipped AmeriCorps program staff with strategies to support mental health and personal development, while continuing to provide training and best practices for effective program management.
Here are a few memorable highlights from this year’s AmeriCorps Texas Grantee Meeting:
- Emphasis on mental health and self-care. Our AmeriCorps Texas programs have been through a lot in the past year, and we wanted to acknowledge the toll serving on the front lines of complex social issues can have. During our keynote session, we were inspired by Nicole Smith from Game Day Prep 365, who offered strategies for self-care and building a strong foundation that allows us to better serve others. Grantees came away with practical recommendations, such as making self-care non-negotiable, setting boundaries, leaning on our networks, and taking that energy to elevate other. We also engaged workplace wellness experts from AllOne Health to conduct workshops on managing “compassion fatigue” and building a positive team atmosphere. Presenters from The SISGI Group provided rich insight into how to build psychologically safe and inclusive spaces.
- Adapting to COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered how we approach our work, and we wanted to hear directly from our AmeriCorps Texas programs how they have pivoted in their approach to service and member management. AmeriCorps Texas programs Literacy First and College Forward shared innovative ways they have adapted their service models, including engaging returning members, recruiting from the local community, adapting member slot types, and creating new staff positions to improve the member experience. In addition, Equal Heart and Communities in Schools of Central Texas opened up in an honest discussion about the stresses of managing an AmeriCorps program and shared brilliant strategies for supporting members, from proactive rapport building to ideas for constructive corrective action.
- Integrating Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. Centering Diversity, Equity & Inclusion is an essential skill for running an effective AmeriCorps program. To ensure we integrate these ideals into every aspect of our work, we hosted a Leadership Lab that sparked DEI discussions at an executive level, while also offering a workshop on cultural humility & intersectionality with practical applications on how to help front-line AmeriCorps members develop a lens of empathy and understanding. For our closing session, Dr. Thenara Bailey of The SISGI Group challenged all of our AmeriCorps Texas programs to create an authentic culture of inclusivity by Bringing Everything, Living Openly, and committing to Nonstop Growth (BELONG!).