June 29, 2018 By Regan Turner, West Region Executive Director
The Mission Continues launched our service platoon program in Los Angeles just over four years ago. Since then, we have engaged more than 1,000 local veterans and community members in service with our three service platoons, and have grown our local staff from two remote employees to seven full-time staff in an office in the LA Promise Zone.
It was actually right here in Los Angeles that The Mission Continues piloted our very first “operation,” which has now become our national model for collaboration and community impact.
Thanks to encouragement and introductions made by our friends at Bad Robot and The Wasserman Foundation, we connected with an organization called the Partnership for LA Schools more than three years ago.
The Partnership serves some of LA’s most under-resourced schools in Watts, Boyle Heights and South LA by providing their staff and community with additional resources to improve educational outcomes.
In speaking with the Partnership staff, we realized that they had not just one school in need of renovation work, but an entire portfolio of almost 20 schools that could use the help of The Mission Continues and our veterans.
Since our first project at Stephenson Middle School in 2015, The Mission Continues has performed more than 15 projects at Partnership Schools. We were honored to receive their Community Partner of the Year award in 2016.
Many of those school projects were in Watts, at Markham Middle School, Grape Street Elementary, Gompers Middle School, and 107th Elementary School, among others.
April 20, 2018 By Brian Wilson, Mission Continues alumnus
Brian Wilson is a Mission Continues Fellowship Alumnus and a veteran of the US Army. He is currently the Creative Technology Manager at Combined Arms in Houston, Texas.
I have volunteered since I was 12. My dad talked to a person at the Parks and Recreation department in our small town and for six hours a week I pulled weeds at parks and picked up trash. I was paid in free soda, which was priceless to a 12-year-old.
Since then, I have volunteered at a variety of different places. From being a volunteer firefighter to cleaning up an inner-city school. Each time I volunteered, I came in contact with a new person or group of people that I never would have met through my normal channels. I would be landscaping next to a CEO of a major company, putting together hygiene kits for disaster relief while chatting with an IT manager, or proofreading a resume with a fellow military veteran.
After spending six years in the military, I entered college and once again found myself volunteering. It seemed like a natural place to go meet people. Do some good for others, do some good for yourself. My volunteer work landed me my first corporate job in human resources at a medical school. They found me at one of my volunteer projects, setting up networking events for military veterans. From there, I moved on to working at a non-profit, where I now recruit more volunteers.
Each volunteer opportunity that I had, I learned more about aspects of business and program management that are usually reserved for employees. One of the main complaints I hear when people are job hunting is that they are turned down for not having enough experience. Their first response is, “How am I supposed to get the experience if I can’t get the job?” And the best answer is to volunteer to get the experience.
A lot of people of people mistake volunteering with physical labor, such as building homes or cleaning up parks. The truth is that most non-profits work in the social services sector, providing after-school programs, career counseling, refugee services, crisis centers, and many, many more. Volunteers at these organizations have an opportunity to work in a variety of programs and operations management, administration, finance and grant writing, social services, and career services.
Do you have a goal to work at a law firm? Go volunteer at a legal clinic and you could meet your future employers. Not sure if you should be a social worker? Volunteer at a community center and see if you find that spark. There are hundreds of opportunities for you to jump-start your career, build your resume, and grow your network.
Check out The Mission Continues, especially if you are a veteran or otherwise military-connected. There are also plenty of other opportunities. Vist the local United Way in your town, VolunteerMatch, or head over to the new LinkedIn volunteer opportunity site. There are some full-time volunteer opportunities that pay a living stipend as part of the program, such as AmeriCorps VISTA. Each of these programs can help you access the perfect volunteer position that meets your skills and your goals.
Now, go forth and do great work.
The Mission Continues is proud to connect veteran leaders to community service through our programs, but we need your support to continue the work our volunteers do in communities–please donate in honor of National Volunteer Week!
We recently welcomed veteran David Diaz to The Mission Continues as our Vice President of Regional Operations. Here’s a sneak preview of the impact David plans to bring to the team.
How do you plan to support the mission as its new VP of Regional Operations?
I plan to support the mission of The Mission Continues by synchronizing our program execution for maximum impact. I see my role as a conductor of an internally-acclaimed orchestra. I have the honor of leading a talented team of dedicated professionals and volunteers who possess a diverse array of skills and abilities. l look forward to synchronizing the program execution of our five individual regions into a harmonious delivery system.
Why are you excited to be at The Mission Continues?
I am super excited because our team is at the forefront in innovating and ideating on solutions that promise to transform the lives of our veterans and our communities across the country. The Mission Continues is poised to develop a comprehensive and unified approach to an outcome-based delivery system for veterans.
How do your experience and interests enhance and weave into your new role?
My passion for revitalizing cities and my experiences as a city planner help me to understand how to elevate our community impact on our host cities. I am working closely with our research and evaluation team to take our community impact to a new level. My experiences as an Army captain will help me explore opportunities for aligning our operations with every function in our organization. Our operations are at their best when we are collaborating with our wonderful partners and funders.
How are the regions going to rock it this year?
The regions are going to rock it this year through the launch of a new Summer Service Slam campaign across the country. This is the first time that each region will simultaneously launch dozens of service projects during the month of July. We also plan to establish our presence in new cities across the country later this year.
Stay tuned for more about Summer Service Slam and how you can take part!
February 15, 2018 By Rahiel Alemu, City Impact Manager
I’ve discovered that “helping” is not as simple as it sounds. It takes a lot more than just “showing up” to make the kind of impact that is actually needed in a community.
I have always been passionate about nonprofit work, and have dedicated my career to the nonprofit sector. Part of what fulfills and drives this passion is my background and my desire to pay it forward.
Let me take you back twenty years ago when Ethiopia instituted the Diversity Immigrant Visa program. It’s a lottery system with a prize of a life-changing opportunity: a plane ticket and green card to America. With its unveiling, tens of thousands of people applied.
Over the year, marks of our individual identities were on public display like never before: on hats, stickers, and t-shirts – and almost inescapably – on our social media profiles, banners, hashtags, retweets and newsfeeds.
Unfortunately, our reactions to these displays have not made our country more unified.
Instead of embracing our differences as opportunities to understand one another, we’re using them as grounds to divide into teams and to separate these teams with walls. More unfortunate yet, our team uniforms, mottos and chants prevent us from seeing the countless ways our identities are similar.
To name just a few: We are all Humans. Residents. Children. Survivors. Servants. Consumers. Friends.
At The Mission Continues we too are deeply focused on identity.
Veterans and their families were once members of a distinct and identifiable institution: the military. One of our primary missions as an organization is to restore this strong sense of identity they may have lost as they transitioned from lives in the military to lives in new communities.
We do not, however, restore this sense of identity by emphasizing their differences as veterans. Instead, we seek to connect veterans to non-veterans through their similarities: as Civilians, as Neighbors, as Community Members and as Servants. When veterans and non-veterans embrace these shared identities, new venues for unity and connection emerge at the local level.
I was fortunate to see these venues emerge, and to see this unity and connection on display throughout the year.
I saw them on Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in the Sunnyside neighborhood of Houston, where hundreds came together to help build a nine-acre urban farm with the mission of eliminating a local food desert.
I saw unity and connection on Earth Day in the South Bronx, where hundreds gathered in the rain to remove litter and debris from the Bronx River.
I saw them this summer in Atlanta, when hundreds gathered over six days in the Westside community to provide a surge of effort supporting local efforts to revitalize the area.
I’m proud to report that in 2017, these hundreds joined thousands of others who unified and connected in similar ways – as humans, as neighbors and residents – at over 1,300 different events in 38 metro areas across the country.
Our work is long from over. As The Mission Continues moves into 2018, we’re seeking even greater unity and connection – as an organization, as a network of communities and as a country. Many of us are veterans or their family members. Some of us are still in the military.
But we are also teachers, doctors, cops, artists, techies and grandparents. Some are liberal, some conservative. We represent all ethnicities, ages, genders, sexual orientations and religions. We hail from every state, and our heritages trace across the globe.
We are unified by our humanity, and by our shared desire to grow, to connect and to have impact – through service. It’s with this unity of effort that we’ll march forward into 2018. We have high aspirations for the upcoming year.
We’ll roll out our new Empowered Veteran Index, which will enable us to assess the Personal Growth, Connectedness, and Community Impact of our programs as they engage veterans in service.
In July, we’ll introduce a new-and-improved fellowship program that will further prepare veterans for reintegrating into civilian work and life.
We’ll deepen the impact of our operations in the 38 metro areas we’re currently serving in, and we’ll lay the groundwork for expanding to other communities in need.
We’ll deploy to the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles with a major infusion of resources and energy, plugging into on-going efforts to make progress on fighting under-resourcing, depopulation, disinvestment and underemployment.
We’ll conduct major service campaigns around MLK Day, 9/11, and Veterans Day.
We need you to make this vision come to life. A gift today will help us build stronger communities in 2018. Many young and impressionable eyes are upon us. It is our duty to ensure they don’t only see our bumper-stickers and banners, our hashtags and tweets – but also see what happens when we choose to unify and connect as humans.
September 7, 2017 Barry Mattson, Central Region Executive Director
It has been heartening to see our Mission Continues family rally together to help us in Houston during Hurricane Harvey. As we have worked with Houston communities for years, it is saddening to see the damage done. While our platoon members and staff are focused locally with neighbor-helping-neighbor efforts as well as working with their operational partners right now, we are planning our long-term recovery efforts too.
I know there are no quick fixes for all that Houston has endured. We weathered this storm and we are committed to rebuilding our communities. We are adjusting the objectives of all five of our Houston operations to include long-term, ongoing recovery operations. This is what Mission Continues is all about — we’re in it for the long haul.
Today is a big day for The Mission Continues — it’s our 10th birthday! Over the years we have strengthened and expanded beyond our core programs, and now have even more innovative opportunities for veterans to serve again, so that the next decade of service can be as kickass as the first.
The Mission Continues family is made by its people — fellows, alumni, platoon members, and supporters. We know that if you want to be part of a community of motivated veteran leaders, this is the place to be. To best support our dedicated volunteers, we are are constantly looking for ways to empower veterans and communities, and do it well.
Here’s what we’ve done to improve and expand our impact, and how we’re going to make it even better:
Expanding Our Reach
Today we have a presence in 36 metro areas, dedicating attention to cultivating relationships with veterans and communities in each. By 2020, we plan to be in at least 40 cities. This means more veterans across the country will have access to a service platoon, a fellowship, and our network of veteran leaders.
Deploying to a New City Each Year
In June 2016, our first Mass Deployment brought 75+ veterans to Detroit for Operation Motown Muster, and proved this model could work. With our second Mass Deployment, Operation Westside Surge, we took the program a step further, focusing our efforts on the learning and development to seed future leaders.
Future Mass Deployments will build on the successes of their predecessors, so that communities and veterans will both reap the benefits of the lessons we learn along the way. You can expect to see an evolution of the training and leadership development components, as well as the role Ambassadors play as team leaders.
Supporting Women Veterans
Over the years it has become clear that women veterans participate in our programs at higher rates than expected — a whopping 30-40%. This inspired us to create an annual Women Veterans Leadership Summit. The goal of this summit is to empower women veterans to serve in their communities with the confidence and tools to lead.
Summits feature inspirational speakers, hands on workshops and networking opportunities — not to mention a service project. We’re excited to see that this is an effective way to support women veterans, and aim to make each Summit new, unique and empowering.
Opening our Doors to Guard and Reservists
In January of 2018, we will pilot a new effort within our Fellowship Program to award a limited number of fellowships to Reservists and Guardsmen. (Applications are now being accepted for our next fellowship class!)
It is still true that all fellows must have served in the United States Military after September 1, 2001, and must have residency in one of their 36 metro areas.
Giving our Platoon Volunteers a Boost
The leadership development for Platoon Leaders has gone from 2.5 days at orientation to a continuous full-year curriculum. The full scope and sequence of the 12-month curriculum includes a variety of learning opportunities that utilize self-paced learning, in-person learning with regional staff, as well as self-identified areas of focus.
We have also re-imagined our Platoon Leadership Summits. We bring every platoon leader and one member of their leadership team together once a year to focus on connecting to learn from others, to provide established learning from an external source, and task our platoon leaders to leverage their leadership to improve the Platoon Leadership Program.
We’ve got a strong start on building the leadership skills of our volunteers — and will continue to innovate to address volunteer needs and interests.
On May 26-29th, two teams of amateur baseball players, including military veterans, will gather in the St. Louis, MO area in an attempt to break the world record of the “Longest Marathon Baseball Game” ever played. The game is being held in support of The Mission Continues in order to raise awareness for veterans. We empower veterans to reintegrate into civilian life through community service, and are excited about this opportunity to share our message with the greater population. The players will try to establish a new record of over 72 uninterrupted hours of baseball, surpassing their 2015 record of 70 hours, 9 minutes and 24 seconds.
Imagine you were barred from legally getting a job, a driver’s license, or if you wanted to go to college, financial aid. This was my reality for many years and it made me fearful and confused. I want to share my story with you to show you the struggles and experiences that led me to find my purpose in life which is to contribute to my community and country. And I want to discuss how my experiences relate to those of immigrants in America.
I was born in Guadalajara, Mexico. And when I was three years old, I was brought to the U.S. by my mother. She wanted a better life for me and my sister but she couldn’t bring us here legally. As a result, I lived the next 20 years of my life undocumented. A few years later my father reunited with us.
When I was seven years old my father casually told me at a family gathering that I was undocumented and that I was different from other people. His words seared in my mind. Undocumented. How could one word change my life? I didn’t feel different; I didn’t look different, but I was now set apart. Growing up I had a difficult time resolving in my head that I was undocumented and I was going to be legally barred from getting a job. At the same time, I had people around me encouraging me to do well in school. I remember in 7th grade my teacher told our class: “each of you has the opportunity to go to college and get a good job. You just have to work hard enough.”Continue reading “Undocumented: How One Word Changed My Life”