I just returned from an AmeriCorps conference in Little Rock sponsored by Arkansas Reads-Adult Learning Alliance (ALA). The conference lasted two days, packed with information. The first session, presented by ALA leaders, helped us get to know one another, and then got right on with information we need, some we already knew, and some new directives. We focused on program measures, data collection, and getting things done. All completed by lunchtime.
After lunch, we enjoyed a presentation on soft skills by Kim Freeman. Many of these were things we all knew, but had not considered as job skills. They included such things as punctuality, personal hygiene, courtesy, consideration of our co-workers, respect toward our supervisors, and loyalty to our employers. These were all considered skills to help one get a job, and skills needed to retain a job once they are hired. This finished day one and left us with plenty to talk about between ourselves.
Day 2 began with a bang! Jamal Williams of Engage-Arkansas came in and spoke about using social media in recruiting and in spreading the word about who we are and what we do. He is an effervescent speaker. We discussed types of social media available, and the problems and advantages of each one. It was a lively exchange of ideas and experiences.
The second speaker for that morning was Jerry Wilson of the Enterprise Financial Group. He led a lively discussion on public speaking. He brought out that public speaking is the #1 fear of most people. He had us all tell our neighbor a story about a pivotal moment in our own lives. He reminded us to tell it like a story with details that would make it more memorable and more engaging. I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation. I am not afraid to speak to groups, but I can remember a time when it was a serious problem. He suggested things to do to overcome that fear.
We continued with one of our best presenters, Amanda Dolan. Amanda shared with us about “Our House”. I had never heard of Our House before and I am so pleased to know that it does exist. It is a homeless shelter, which offers such services as a place to stay short term, food to eat, childcare, medical care, and training to help people get a job and become productive citizens.
Amanda then led a thorough discussion of the education awards that available to AmeriCorps members after each year of service. We were able to ask many questions, and now I have a good idea about how to access the grants and what to expect from them; this includes the tax situation, the amount of time we have to use them, and even the ability to better handle student loans.
I found this to be one of the best conferences I have attended since I joined AmeriCorps a year ago!
By Mary (Penny) Rowe
Arkansas Reads AmeriCorps Member 2019-2020