Ambassadors for QUALITY Wanted!

By Mallory R. St. Brice , Program Manager Highland Street Corps Ambassadors of Mentoring

MMP has begun planning for the third year of the Highland Street Corps Ambassadors of Mentoring program. We have been spreading the word about this great opportunity to serve communities in Massachusetts in an effort to build our corps for the 2010-2011 program year, which begins this August. I can’t believe that we are already embarking on the third year of this program! So much has happened in such a short time.

The Ambassadors are a group of 20 full-time AmeriCorps volunteers who serve at youth mentoring programs in Massachusetts. Ambassadors receive over 40 hours of training to develop and run an effective mentoring program. Ambassador projects vary in design, but all projects are capacity building projects in key areas.

Quality in programming and building strong, lasting systems in these areas is paramount to an Ambassador’s service. To date, about 34 individuals have:
- served over 41,000 hours at youth mentoring agencies;
-recruited over 300 mentors and trained over 200 mentors, mentees and parents; and
-planned and implemented two successful youth mentoring days and four additional field-wide projects to benefit the field of mentoring in Massachusetts

As the program manager, the end of the service year is bittersweet for me. The comfort of knowing the current members and sites is mixed with the exhilaration of expanding our services to some under-served areas, and meeting a new set of passionate and enthusiastic volunteers.

Each year during recruitment, MMP and our site partners face a special challenge of building a diverse corps that racially, ethnically and economically reflects the demographics of the youth being served at the programs. The reality is that a year of service is a challenge and almost a privilege. Ambassadors need strong support systems at home, along with those built into the program.

Our other challenge is recruiting more men, a challenge not unique to the volunteer world, as it is faced by programs recruiting mentors, too.

The Ambassador program is open to recent college grads, graduate students, baby boomers, retirees—just about everyone looking to make a difference and learn more about the nonprofit sector.
The projects for the upcoming service year are very exciting. Next year, Ambassadors who choose to serve with us could be starting a new mentoring program to serve youth in a college access program; developing social media strategies to enhance an existing mentor recruitment plan; piloting a mentoring program at a community college for young adults at-risk of dropping out of college; spearheading an outreach initiative to target African-American males in Greater Boston, and more!

Ambassadors who serve with us gain onsite experience unlike any entry level job out there. But of course this is not a job—it’s service!
As we gear up to apply for yet another three-year funding cycle to run this program, we are carefully taking the time to track the progress of the Ambassador projects and evaluate the implementation and success of the program. We currently have a satisfaction rate of about 90% with both site partners and members, and we plan to increase that number.

Serving as an Ambassador -- and in AmeriCorps -- is both a challenging and rewarding experience. It is an opportunity to give back while developing professionally and learning about the nonprofit sector. Our members are well-supported, and we are always looking for more ways to enhance their experience.

We hope that our Ambassadors get as much out of the year as they have put in. Ambassadors, after all, are not just Ambassadors for their host sites and MMP, they are Ambassadors for quality and youth, statewide.
See what this years Ambassadors are up to in their Blog