Thursday, February 27, 2014

Service To the Future of the Ocean State

EDUCATION THURSDAY

Isaac Lavoie
AmeriCorps Program Director
In the state of Rhode Island there are many ways to serve your community. From the lines of a soup kitchen, the halls of our schools, and the shorelines of Narragansett Bay, there are AmeriCorps members silently working away to make a difference.

We are blessed as a state in this way. AmeriCorps programs exist to help our already diverse nonprofit sector enhance its ability to serve those in need and continue to combat societal ills.

As you know, we here at Save The Bay invest deeply in the health and welfare of the Bay and its surrounding watershed. Education is one of the primary ways we do this; by educating tens of thousands of students per year, we are cultivating the next generation of environmentally literate citizens. You may not know that part of our success in education is due to our decade long collaboration with some of the state’s other leading environmental organizations.

The Ocean State Environmental Education Collaborative (OSEEC) is an AmeriCorps supported initiative taken by Save The Bay, Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Norman Bird Sanctuary, and Roger Williams Park Zoo. Of the 13 AmeriCorps programs currently nested in deserving nonprofits, this is the only corps that focuses its service on our environment.

OSEEC Americorps engages 
Central Falls third graders
Born out of a need to provide access to quality environmental education (EE) to our urban core cities, OSEEC’s mission has continued to evolve. Together, the OSEEC partners have a vision to provide all students in our state access to EE and giving every student the tools needed to make decisions in an informed and environmentally conscious way.

The time for this work has never been more pertinent, nor the need so large. Climate change continues to shape our present and future and the task of educating our youth falls squarely into our purview. We are blessed to have 16 AmeriCorps members, spread between our four organizations, who put their backgrounds to work for us in their service year. Combined, the OSEEC program was able to reach just over 36,000 Rhode Islanders last year. Of that group over 13,000 of those students came from our state’s underserved urban-core communities of Providence, Pawtucket, Woonsocket, Central Falls, West Warwick, and Newport. It is a feat no one organization could claim on its own.

OSEEC members cleaning up the
shore at Fields Point in Providence
Each member gives 1,700 hours of service from September to August. They introduce school children of all ages to age-appropriate environmental topics and contribute deeply to our education departments -- all while making below poverty stipends. For their commitment they gain in experience and gain a small Education Award, good for furthering their own academic pursuits.

It is during this wintry time of year that it is important to thank these members for their service. Their dedication receives some of its hardest tests in the wind and the cold. Whether on an education vessel hauling a net, out on a trail following tracks, exploring for owls on the rocks, or making their way to another Rhode Island classroom, our AmeriCorps members serve unflinchingly.


So the next time you see an OSEEC member clad in green, take a moment to thank them for their service. Let them know their efforts do not go unnoticed.

- Isaac