When I started my Transmission Project assignment at KBCS Community Radio, I was already well aware of the needs of community and independent media outlets for capacity. During the year, I could feel all the ways my work was moving the organization forward (however slowly!).
A few months into my VISTA assignment, I had the opportunity to visit a brand new community radio station (KPTZ) in Port Townsend, WA in the beautiful Olympic Peninsula. The station there had been seven years in the making, with local community members organizing a tremendous amount of energy to build a small studio, go through the long FCC process, and raise the funds. The people at KPTZ were grateful for our help, and asked all sorts of questions about everything from program logs, to training volunteers, to Content Management Systems. Two things occurred to me that afternoon: how much help these small stations really need, many of them are truly building from the ground up. And the other thing was that even small stations like KBCS have a lot to offer these new, fledgling stations- and that in these times of uncertainty for many college and community stations, it is truly in our best interest to collaborate with each other across the dial. This experience has inspired me to continue to do work that can be shared across platforms and miles, between community radio, youth media and media justice organizations.
I first joined the CTC VISTA Project as a VISTA member serving as the Information Management Associate at CTCNet's then-headquarters in Cambridge, MA. This was a rare opportunity to be in the heart and soul of the community technology movement. I hit the ground running, being immediately put to work at the CTCNet Annual Conference in Austin, TX. During my two years at CTCNet, I did a lot of work on volunteer outreach, researching and writing grant reports, and coordinating the website and listservs. It was a time of great transition for the organization, with the passing of founder Toni Stone, and the redirection of the organization to become a DC-based association with an emphasis on governmental relations. These were decidedly difficult times for the organization itself, but what has continued even beyond its formal union is the dedication of its members who have worked and continue to work in this field. I was very privileged to get to meet and work with these extraordinary community leaders. I had a further opportunity to work directly with VISTA Members in my year as a VISTA Leader at the CTC VISTA Project HQ at U. Mass. Boston, where I also had the chance to continue spreading the word about the digital empowerment work being done all over the country and the world, as Assistant Editor of the Community Technology Review. With the experience that I gained as a result of my VISTA service, in addition to my previous work in media, I decided to pursue a new career path in academia where I could bring my perspectives to research and teaching. I received my Ph.D. in Mass Communications at Syracuse University's Newhouse School. I am currently a professor in the Department of Communication and Media at SUNY New Paltz, where I teach such courses as Digital Media Content and Technology, and Digital Media Convergence. I always include discussions of digital divide issues in these and other classes in the hope that some of my students will consider working in the digital empowerment field, or certainly to be mindful of these issues in their careers in media programming and management.
I kind of always knew that I wanted to do Americorps when I got out of college. My brother had served right after he graduated, and his stories of really helping his community in Baltimore inspired me. He spoke of carrying a hammer through the streets, waiting to get to the next house he was fixing up, of going to a local school to help tutor the struggling students, and of feeling like he was accomplishing something great.
As a history major, I wasn't terribly confident that I would find anything I wanted to do upon graduating, so as the ceremony approached, I started applying to Americorps. Then, the director of the Southern Food and Beverage Museum, where I was interning, told me she had just been approved for a Digital Arts Media Corps position, and would I like to apply to that. I jumped at the chance, even though I really had no clue what this group was or what I would be expected to do. To my great happiness, she decided to give me a try and I found myself in Boston meeting everyone else who was about to embark on the same journey.
I couldn't believe the energy and hope that was at that orientation. It was awesome, and reminded me of how my brother had made me feel ten years before. When I actually started my service, I learned quickly that non-profits are an incredible place for ideas, that people are passionate about what they do and help is always needed to make sure that passion works out in the real world. I was thrown into the world of website design and upkeep, teaching myself and getting help from the other VISTAs every day. Since the museum has such a small staff, I could help with any number of areas that hadn't been touched in years, like organizing the museum's membership records, researching different ways we could reach out to the community, and getting the online magazine finally off the ground.
I've learned so much, and I hope I've helped the museum as much as they have helped me. I thank the Digital Arts Corps for all their support and their tireless mission to bring technology and knowledge to every organization they can. These have been two wonderful years, and if all goes well, I'll still be here at the museum after my official service time is up. I hope everyone enjoyed their time as much as I did, and I hope that this energy won't be lost after the end of DAS Corps.
Some of the most incredible media professionals, non-profit leaders, and authentic youth workers I know, I met through my work at the Transmission Project (which was the CTC VISTA project at the time). In the summer of 2005, I had just graduated from college, was passionate about working with young people to create media that could change people's lives, and had no idea where someone would pay me to do this.
I was lucky enough to get placed at the United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) in Lowell, MA, where I got to work with awesome people at LTC, the cable access station, and community artists, as well as helping to produce videos with youth for the City Council Candidate's Forum and fundraising efforts around Hurricane Katrina, which hit just a few months into my time at UTEC. Spending my first year as a full-time youth worker in such a vibrant space was a huge catapult for my work, and having a network of similarly minded media professionals that I could share best practices and get help from was priceless. The next year I was able to serve as a supervisor for one of the most talented radio broadcasters I know, who I continue to collaborate with as often as possible.
Now that I am Co-Director of Press Pass TV, in addition to the work we do with young people, I get to meet with other non-profit directors about best practices and emerging models all the time. It never surprises me when I run into one of my former CTC VISTA colleagues. This program has meant so much to me in developing my capacity to lead media-based change, and I know that dozens more have had the same experience.
I first heard of theTransmission Project when my son began work there. I am particularly grateful that our government and tax money are supporting programs like this. Not only is the Transmission Project's work vital to many -- good leverage power -- but also the Corps, through its VISTA/Americorps grants, has employed those who, but for the public support in this dismal economy, might not have found a worthy and challenging outlet for their talents, intelligence, and dedication.
We got started when the project was called CTC Vista and our program was developing a viable service year in K-12 education for creative media and technology college graduates. Over the three years that we had VISTAs Dean Gransar, Kevin Palmer, and AJ McGuire were dedicated and passionate about their work and inspired those around them. Kevin went on to make a career in public service and drupal site development after getting started with us. Dean went on to graduate school and is now working on strategic uses of the internet and social networking and HOME, Inc. has grown from working with two schools and 150 students to working with 1900 students last year transforming how the media arts are employed in the service of education.
The opportunity to work at Media Literacy Project the last year has been really great. I got the opportunity to learn about strategic communications and start the ground work for a communications plan for this growing organization. I got to meet some incredible media makers, organize a local townhall on the future of the Internet and develop my own video production skills. I am confident that my experience over the last year will position me for another great work opportunity in journalism or research. The good folks at Media Literacy Project and the Transmission Project made this last year a really great year for my professional development.
I had the opportunity to work on a project to create a collaborative among 7 community media centers in northern California. The group evolved into the California Community Media Exchange, which is working to sustainably impact community media though sharing best practices and resources.
The highlight of my time as a DASC member has definitely been working with people from the 7 stations. Everyone is so unique, passionate, and committed to what they do. I have learned so much- from how to effectively manage massive projects to how to cook killer quinoa (thanks Autumn!).
My biggest take away from this experience is that collaboration really is key. Working with other passionate people with similar goals can make projects successful in ways unimaginable if working alone.
So much to say about my nine months (so far) at Access Humboldt at a Digital Arts Service Corps member. For now, I just want to share a brief story, of how my role at Access Humboldt sometimes bleeds into my personal life in Humboldt County (in a good way).
I've been dealing with back problems (a herniated disk) that started almost as soon as I moved to Eureka—maybe working my first sit-down, 9-to-5 job has something to do with it, who knows. Anyway, after a few months of physical therapy, one of the staffers at my physical therapist's office asked about my work. Turns out his son took audio and video production classes in the classroom right next to Access Humboldt's studio (we're on a high school campus), from the same teacher who's currently helping us get more youth and students involved in studio productions.
A few months later, that staffer is sitting in the studio, attending one of our Saturday morning orientations. He's now an Access Humboldt member, and he's hoping his son can intern here this summer. It was a nice and simple reminder that even when you're not at work, you can still connect with people and get them involved in media production. I know that sounds kind of sinister—even when you're not at work, you're always still "at work," in some sense—but in this case, it just felt good.
I first heard of the Transmission Project through an AmeriCorps alum who served alongside two DASCorps members. She reported that they had better support and guidance than she had received as an AmeriCorps volunteer working independently in the field.
"Plus," she said, "It's run by these awesome hippies in Boston."
"Perfect," I thought.
I looked it up. I was in Awe.
"How can all this be managed by so few people?"
My service with the Transmission Project has made me familiar with its history, its service Corps, and the philosophy that forms the basis of its actions. Knowing what I know now, I am both more and less surprised at the work that gets done here. Even in my initial awe, I had managed to underestimate the effort and moral energy required to manage a national corps. At the same time, it only makes sense that this load would be carried by such a dedicated group of people.
The commitment of a few to a massive undertaking makes even more sense when one considers the role that people play in the Project's vision. At the core of what has made the Transmission Project successful as a support network for a movement is a faith in people's capacity to come together around common issues and to hold each other accountable – in a demanding but loving way - for the health of their community.
I am so proud to have been part of the Digital Arts Service Corps and grateful to the staff that made my service so valuable. Friend and CTC VISTA alum Morgan Sully once explained that when a group hires you, they're also tapping into your network, and what a network it is. Although the majority of my class only met once during orientation, I know I can connect with each of them at any moment. Even now, I'm still collaborating and consulting on media projects with staff and members of the 2008 class who are now in Boston, LA, Portland, Austin, Denver, NYC, DC and countless other places as we stay or shift positions.
I've been revisited by my association with this project: Years later, the director of one DASC site I applied to continues to share my participatory media dissertation with academics in the field, and I've met pivotal media and community building connections who recognize and highly regard DASC.
I take for granted that there's an understanding that those who sign up for DASC are incredibly passionate about community building, technology and media. I haven't listed my accomplishments because I also take it for granted that people know what a huge impact we've had. The best gift that DASC gave me in my two years of service - in opposite parts of the country - was to equip me to navigate that balance between passion and work when you're lucky enough to have those two align. No matter what people say, when you devote that much time to one thing, work becomes an integral part of your identity, and this program is an integral part of mine.
I worked as technology coordinator at a small media & arts organization in a small postindustrial city, discovering (/inventing) & documenting procedures, tinkering with websites & wiring, tech-supporting media education workshops & events, and generally building capacity, technology-wise, from July 2009 to July 2010. This opportunity brought me in touch with new and diverse faces, perspectives, and life experiences; it helped build a new critical social awareness. My time spent working with my executive director and my co-VISTA Nicole, and with dozens of committed volunteers, taught me so much more than I had anticipated about the value of service, organizational efficiency, and community empowerment. It was challenging, sometimes frustrating work, but the impact on my organization and our community was readily apparent — and the support provided and the connections fostered by the Transmission Project kept me going.
My year in the Digital Arts Service Corps profoundly shaped who I am today and what I hope to do in the future. I consider myself really lucky to have discovered and participated in DASC, and I think its demise is a tremendous loss for the community of people who see technology and media as critical parts of community service and social justice — and for the people across the country who would have been helped through stronger community organizations. It's a tremendous loss, too, for the people who might have been future VISTAs in the program, if its funding had been continued. I'm grateful to the Transmission Project for all this, and I hope we haven't seen the last of this type of program.
Our organization was blessed to get a Digital Arts Service Corps member this year - Sam Kaplan!
Two surprises to me:
1. The bright energy and motivation - with a world view of limitless opportunities!
2. The amazing network of colleagues that Sam brought with him from DASC!
Access Humboldt is benefiting immensely from our participation in hosting a DASC member - but even more - our whole media justice/reform movement has a vital network of future leaders!
I'm the executive director of Davis Media Access, community media for Davis, CA and Yolo County. This year, our organization has been participating in a regional collaboration between seven media centers sprinkled throughout northern California. The collaboration is possible because there is a wonderful DASCorp member who keeps us all on track!
Ericha Hager is the Corp member based at Community Media Access Project in Gilroy. Gilroy's ED, Kathy Bisbee, spearheaded the collaboration and brought Ericha on board to help manifest. For a modest buy-in from each center, we've met several times in person, at various centers, and by phone during the intervening months. The collaboration seeks to help us learn best practices, which it's definitely doing, but also to emerge with several completed goals. To date, we're wrapping a collaborative magazine-style video featuring footage from all 7 centers, have developed a logo and website; and met just last week in Eureka to develop a pitch and ID funders for a collaborative grant.
I've worked with folks at state and national levels before, but collaborating regionally has been quite interesting. For one, though our communities are really different, they have much in common by virtue of being located within the same rough geographic area. So lessons learned in one community are helpful in others. Travel is also doable. I can afford travel to Eureka; not so to Tucson or Boston.
Second, climate, watershed, culture, politics--all share more commonalities within our region than say, Left Coast and east Coast. I believe geographic collaboration is appealing to funders, and I hope we're setting a good model for others to follow.
Ericha has been great to work with--smart, flexible, collaborative, good at gleaning info and keeping us all on track. I'll miss working with her when this year is up.
I've also benefited from getting to know two other DASCorps this year: Gavin Dahl, who works with Common Frequency here in Davis; and Rachel Allen at NAMAC in San Francisco.
Thanks to them all for their fabulous work. So long and thanks for all the work...:(
Anne Simmons, our Digital Arts Service Corps member, was able to implement a grand vision we had for a community news network program in a way that we never could have without her help. She helped us to form partnerships with local organizations, wrote curriculum, conducted trainings with youth and adults, and has generally been a joy to work with and a great asset to us.
Similarly, in our Northern California Collaborative (California Community Media Exchange), Ericha Hager herded cats (the Executive Directors and staff of eight community media centers), offered leadership and facilitation, and made sure our collaborative was productive and supported all year.
Anne and Ericha, and the Digital Arts Service Corps, will be sorely missed. The fact that the program is going away is an indicator that our priorities as a nation are out of whack. I saw today that General Electric lobbied Congress to get out of paying taxes on the $4.3 billion profits they made last year. And I couldn't help but think of how just a tiny fraction of tax dollars from that one corporation could fund an initiative like Digital Arts Service Corps, reaching into local communities all across the country in service, building community, helping media centers thrive, and serving the underserved.
Thank you to all of the Corps members from this year and the past; I hope you will go on to continuing lifelong service in the nonprofit media sector.
It takes people to connect resources to a community - and I have so many stories...
helping start a digital storytelling project at the San Diego LGBT Center
using Google Docs while is was still called Writely
getting turned on to Drupal (via Ben Sheldon and Dave Chakrabarti)
having Paul Hansen call me up one day to suggest I work at NAMAC (changed the course of my life!)
hanging out with Danielle Martin and Ben in Austin during NAMAC 2007 conference (and wearing hats!)
building the current website for NAMAC (with a LOT of help from fellow DAS Corps/nptechies from around the country - hope I didn't take too long, Jack, Helen and Dewey!)
feeling that connection to the DAS Corps network
Paul Hansen's robots
breakdancing in Washington D.C. with Dave, Ben and Danielle
saying hi to Ben and Belinda from the middle of the Australian outback
removing bee's stingers from Dave in Washington D.C.
being with DAS Corps when they were named the Community Technology Centers Project
getting turned on to open source software via Jeff Benton
helping work on the wonderful DAS Corps wiki
avoiding writing those field reports (and only later seeing the importance of writing them for personal and for reporting reasons)
meeting with Belinda Rawlins at one of the last CTCNet conferences to convene thought leaders in the field of CTC
missing Ben, Belinda and the rest of the awesome staff at DAS Corps HQ
feeling part of a community of fellow changemakers around the country (and world)
wondering what's next...and if IMG tags will work in this post.
Driven by passion, commitment, and opportunity to empower others are three distinct words that come to mind when thinking of those who serve as an Americorps Digital Arts Service Corps VISTA and a VISTA Leader.
Those are at least the three key words when I think about my experience as an Americorps VISTA. To put it bluntly, spending the last two years as a paid public service member has not been in part because of the huge stipend, rather, it has honestly been the opportunity and rewarding satisfaction that comes with working with a non-profit organization, focused on providing a platform for community members to get share their own stories. This in itself was a huge piece of community that I have grown to love and appreciate. Seeing community building and alliances come into fruition and in other cases, been in existence for decades has been an inspiration both personally and professionally.
I have met over hundreds of local volunteer producers here at Quote Unquote, which operates the Public Access TV station here in Albuquerque, NM. All of these producers come with their own unique, and oftentimes, unheard voices. Community media was a vague concept I learned about prior to serving, and then once coming on board with the Digital Arts Service Corps, I found myself empowered and motivated by passion to learn more about grassroots community and community media. I truly have learned what it takes to build community partnerships with other organizations locally, state-wide and even regionally. The experience is one that will never be replaced with any other future job. These two years of service have prepared me for a different step towards transitioning in my life.
In addition to serving as a VISTA at Quote Unquote, I also served as one of two VISTA Leaders for the Digital Arts Service Corps, along with Billy Brown. It has been an interesting, challenging, and rewarding position to be able to better connect and engage with other DASCorps VISTAs. Sometimes communication and connection is lost with others while serving, but this allowed me to stay informed with what our fellow VISTAs were working on, or even just coming to me for support, guidance, and resources. Each VISTA was placed at such a wonderfully unique non-profit organization that focused on public media & technology, so every with conversation from my VISTAs came an opportunity to to learn from them as well.
For all of this opportunity, I will always be grateful to have served as an Americorps DASCorps VISTA!
In community always & forever,
Of all of the committed people I worked and served with at Lowell cable access TV station, one woman---Charlotte---sticks out in my mind the most. Charlotte was long retired and volunteered at LTC, but she also served an important role in the retirement housing where she lived: she provided the electronic link between her retired neighbors (few of whom had computer skills let alone a computer) and their far flung families. Charlotte would receive emails from her neighbors' families, print them off and deliver them around her complex. Her neighbors would come to her for help in sending a reply, too.
When technology is involved, there can be a big emphasis on building something "new and innovative", and Charlotte taught me that sometimes "the solution" can just as easily be found in people and the roles they play.
(BTW, Charlotte also served in the Corps in 2002.)
The thing I always remember about being a VISTA was how friendly and connected the non-profit community is. Even though I worked at the Community Software Lab, by the end of the year I was helping out teaching music production at UTEC, going to events held by other organizations in the area, and even got my current job thanks to the connections of those within the community. I felt a sense of belonging that year that I've never experienced before, surrounded by great people trying to achieve great things. While I might have gone from a one-man non-profit to one of the biggest for-profits around, I still find the lessons and skills I learned over that year invaluable almost every day. Having experienced the joys of trying to make a difference and being involved in my local community, I now feel that pursuing service and social activism is an important aspect of a rich and fulfilling life. I'll always be thankful to the Transmission Project for enabling this experience.
I came to VISTA from a different place than most of my colleagues – I jumped at a chance to expand my experience as an experienced youth educator, to serve with a program that encompasses a nationwide scope and unique partnerships with academia and respected community tech and media membership organizations. And after a quick year of documenting and expanding those relationships, I also got a chance to lead and to bring my ideas to unique digital storytelling train-the-trainer workshops with fellow VISTAs, youth development professionals, and community activists. But in all of this, the best part of my service was becoming “teacher.” One of the trainings I was able to organize was comprised of housing development staff from Roxbury and Dorchester, many of which supported youth programs or tenant organizations. These people are constantly pushing residents and youth to amplify their voice, to make an example of their experience, to take a stand. But my digital storytelling workshop gave them a hands-on chance to explore their own experience, to learn instead of teaching, to put their own voice in the forefront for once and be recognized for their often deeply personal reasons for doing the work. In years since, I still get greeted as “my teacher” by these amazing individuals, when I learned so much from just hanging out with them for three short days and witnessing the power of telling their stories. THAT’s the beauty of my VISTA experience: my service taught me that a teacher must first respect how much he/she can really learn from students, and I’ve brought that kernel of truth into every facilitation experience I’ve had ever since.
I worked at a food pantry outside of New Orleans for my first service year. We had very little office space so my office was shared with the receptionist desk and it was not uncommon for people to come in and ask for food or how to sign up for food stamps or how to get someone to help rebuild their homes. We had this one program called Food for Seniors where every 3rd Friday Seniors could come to our food pantry and get a special box of food just for them. Sounds easy enough until you realize its not easy for seniors to travel and its not easy for seniors to remember. There was this one older gentleman that came 3 times in a row on the 4th Friday of the month...one week off. This guy looked like something straight out of a movie; he was gigantic in both height and girth, completely bald, he had one lazy eye and wore overalls every single time he came in...usually with one strap unbuckled. Each time we had to turn him away and he would just laugh at himself and count the weeks off on his fingers. The 4th time he came on the wrong day he got angry. He yelled at us and pleaded with us to just give him some food. Unfortunately another member of the staff got in a yelling contest with him and he starting shouting, “Are you a God fearing man?” By this time our food pantry coordinator had heard the ruckus and came in to save the day. Usually there is some extra food lying around that might go bad before our next distribution day and she gave him some things to go home with. He left muttering something to himself about food and God. I’m glad I had the opportunity to interact with people like this guy. I grew up quite sheltered and I’m thankful I chose to do something like this for a year or two.