Serving with pride: Service Corps workers make difference in Kent

  • BY Wire Service
  • Friday, January 2, 2009 1:17pm
  • News
Lyz Staman is an AmeriCorps volunteer working for Kent Emergency Managment. She taps into a varied career that includes work as an EMT

Lyz Staman is an AmeriCorps volunteer working for Kent Emergency Managment. She taps into a varied career that includes work as an EMT

They might not have uniforms or badges, but the men and women of the Washington Service Corps have been serving their country with pride for the past quarter century.

“This is national service,” said Caitlin Cormier, communications manager for the state Employment Security Department. “Every year, a million hours of service are given by Washington Service Corps members.”

Washington Service Corps is a community-service program operated through Employment Security since 1983. It’s also a part of AmeriCorps, the national stateside version of the Peace Corps, which means it receives both funds and volunteers from across the country.

Kent has benefitted from the help of Service Corps members for a number of years now. Two of the Corps’ members working in Kent this year are Lyz Staman, recently from Washington, D.C., and Christiana Webb of Spanaway.

The two women – coming to the program from different backgrounds, and working in separate fields – demonstrate the breadth of the Service Corps program: There’s a niche in the corps for adults willing to serve, regardless of age or experience.

Ready Corps: Lyz Staman

Staman, 56, has had a varied work and volunteer career — as an Emergency Medical Technician in Idaho, a Red Cross trainer in Germany, a high-school teacher, and an employee for the Department of Defense in D.C., among others.

“When I saw this program, I thought this would be a way I can give back,” Staman said.

She and her husband moved to Kent after she was accepted into the Washington Service Corps’ “Ready Corps” program, which focuses on emergency preparedness. She’s spending this year working with the Kent Emergency Management Department, and said that so far it’s a great fit for her and the city department.

“Emergency management is not something that’s overstaffed,” said Dominic Marzano, the city’s emergency manager and Staman’s supervisor. He added that “it was very much a win-win situation” to have a Service Corps volunteer like Staman working at the department, since she can help with some of the big-picture projects which the department’s six regular staff members don’t have time to tackle.

One of Staman’s major projects for the year is to create a plan for evacuating Kent’s most vulnerable people, including the elderly and children, in the event of major natural disaster.

“It’s a very important project,” Marzano said, noting that when Hurricane Katrina struck the South, “a lot of assisted-care facilities had no plan for how to move their people.”

Although she’s only a few months into her service, Staman said she’s already learned a lot, especially about the value of teamwork. For her vulnerable-populations project, she’s been networking with other Ready Corps volunteers working in emergency management departments in cities throughout the state, including Auburn, Renton and Shoreline.

“(The program) has taught me a lot about how we can all help each other out. It’s been a really good experience,” Staman said.

• Reading Corps: Christiana Webb

Christiana Webb, 24, came to the Washington Service Corps this year straight out of college, with an eye toward preparing herself for a future in teaching. She’s part of the Service Corps’ “Reading Corps” program, which aims to improve student literacy in schools throughout the state.

“I’ve pretty much wanted to be a teacher since sixth grade, because I had really supportive teachers,” Webb said. “I thought this (Reading Corps) would be a good step toward getting certified.”

This year, Webb is one of two Reading Corps volunteers helping with student-literacy programs at Springbrook Elementary School, 20035 100th Ave S.E., Kent.

The Reading Corps is “a great learning experience ... to grow and understand the education system without actually being employed there,” Webb said.

Webb and fellow Reading Corps member Amy Swearingen work on reading skills with children in Springbrook’s before- and after-school tutoring programs, as well as in one-on-one and small group sessions during classes. They also help out in English Language Learner and special education classes.

“We tutor kids who are below grade level in reading literacy,” Webb said, adding that she’s already seeing improvement in the children she works with. Many of the students who were slow readers in September are now “opening up more, and excited about learning,” she said. “They’re like, ‘Oh, I know that word!’”

Having the Reading Corps workers supplementing staff efforts has been a blessing for Springbrook, according to Principal Gaynell Walker.

“They have been doing an outstanding job in supporting our students here,” Walker said. “We’re so very happy to have them.”

Walker said that in addition to tutoring work, Webb and Swearingen will help plan and participate in the school’s family-involvement events — such as the school’s “Celebration of Learning” night and its annual Family Heritage Festival.

• Get involved

Service Corps members like Staman and Webb commit to a nine-month to one-year term of service, during which they work with a participating nonprofit or government agency. Volunteer opportunities aside from the Reading Corps and Ready Corps include environmental projects, building with Habitat for Humanity, working in local food banks and more.

Service Corps members do get paid, but not much. Typically the monthly stipend is $833 to $950 a month, with an education award at the end for those who complete their service terms.

Webb said she can afford the low pay, because she’s still living at her mother’s house, but noted that the stipend did present a challenge to many other Service Corps members.

“It’s a sacrifice, but it’s good experience,” she said.

For more information about opportunities with Washington Service Corps, call 360-438-4005 or visit the Web site www.wa.gov/esd/wsc.

Contact staff writer Christine Shultz at 253-872-6600, ext. 5056, or cshultz@reporternewspapers.com.


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