Reaching New Heights in 2019

When my son was younger, I loved reading him a children’s book about a community in Chad, Africa. Following the rainy season each year, neighbors came together to rebuild the local school, which they’d made the previous year from mud bricks. The bricks eroded in the rains, and people of all ages joined hands to erect a new building. It is a beautiful tale of shared experience and purpose.

I’m drawn to stories of collective action: modern “barn raisings” where communities come together to build playgrounds in urban centers, revitalize and restore our schools, and repair homes for those in need. It’s both the outcome(structures that are needed by the community) and the process (endeavors that bring people together in sweat, challenge, and joy) that make these stories inspiring.

As a country, we seem to have lost our way in this regard. As we succumb to the many forces that divide us, we lose out on both the structures, and the bonds, that result from shared experience and shared purpose.

The good news is that there are ways to restore this human characteristic and long-standing aspect of our country’s history. With your help, The Mission Continues is building a veteran-led movement to recapture unity. By locking arms in support of shared missions, veterans and their neighbors are addressing important needs in under-resourced communities across the country.

Continue reading “Reaching New Heights in 2019”

How Josue Guerrero-Uribe Continues the Mission

By Josue Guerrero-Uribe, Platoon Leader

Some people are lucky enough to have a superhero. Having one is what inspired me–but serving others, as superheroes do, is what saved me.

Donate $50 today and help The Mission Continues empower more veterans like me.

I spent my early childhood in Mexico, where my father was a doctor and my mother was a nurse. Life was peaceful at first, but the cartels took that away, and we fled to the United States–leaving everything behind in an instant. I went from being a rich kid to living in an industrial ghost town. I felt attacked on all sides, as if everything about me was wrong. My language was wrong. My food was wrong. My clothes were wrong. My skin tone was wrong. Inside the home we were Mexican, but inside my head all I could hear was Be MORE American.

Neighbors vandalized our home, and classmates beat me up. One day as I was being pummeled by bullies, the kicks and blows suddenly fell away. I looked up to see the uniformed Marine Corps recruiter who had sent the bullies packing. In that moment, he was my superhero, and I wanted to be just like him.

Continue reading “How Josue Guerrero-Uribe Continues the Mission”

The Impact of Operation Watts Is Worth It

September 12, 2018

This summer was FULL of impact, from the Summer Service Slam, Mass Deployment, a jam-packed schedule of service projects throughout the country (rockin’ it, as usual), and a ton of impressive Service Leadership Corps applications. 

Mass Deployment 2018–Operation Watts Is Worth It was a unique service opportunity, and we wanted to share the results with you. See for yourself what veterans accomplished in Watts!

Thank you to all the veterans who stepped up to SERVE AGAIN this summer! Know that you are leading positive change through your commitment to your communities. We can’t wait to see you for our September United In Service campaign!

Continue reading “The Impact of Operation Watts Is Worth It”

CarMax Cares About Operation Watts Is Worth It

August 7, 2018

A Slice of Life from Operation Watts Is Worth It

Hundreds of gallons of paint covering walls with colorful murals, tools of all kinds shuttling between busy arms, and coolers of donated water and stockpiles of sunscreen keeping volunteers protected in the waning summer sun were all part of a typical scene at this year’s weeklong Mass Deployment.

Called Operation Watts Is Worth It, this year’s Mass Deployment was a community service project of grand proportions, with over 100 veterans serving arm in arm for a week of nonstop service. Veterans along with community partners and sponsors transformed five different project sites across the Watts community in Los Angeles.

CarMax employee volunteer at Operation Watts is Worth It.

All throughout the commotion of each busy project day, our volunteers remained focused on the mission with the support of our trusted partners there serving alongside them.

Partners like CarMax, for the second year in a row, stepped up to support a Mass Deployment. As the 2018 Platinum Sponsor for Operation Watts Is Worth It, CarMax made this opportunity for community impact and connection among our veterans a reality.

Take a look at what this unique service experience was like and the work accomplished with the support of volunteers from local CarMax branches who showed up in force! Continue reading “CarMax Cares About Operation Watts Is Worth It”

Woman Fashion Designer, Veteran, and Immigrant Turns Challenges into Opportunities

July 31, 2018

Inspired by her childhood in Mexico, Carolina was destined to become a fashion designer with a purpose. Carolina said, “I used to observe my mother making clothes for my siblings and myself. Seeing her transform fabrics into garments intrigued me to the point that it motivated me to come to the United States.”

At the age of 18, Carolina left everything she knew in the hopes of attending design school in the United States. “The simple pleasures that most natives took for granted like simply understanding a movie in English was a daunting task,” she describes.

Thrust into a different culture and language was challenging — but she pushed herself to adapt to her new environment. For five years she worked during the day and completed English as Second Language classes (ESL) at night. Continue reading “Woman Fashion Designer, Veteran, and Immigrant Turns Challenges into Opportunities”

Why Watts Is Worth It

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.

Local volunteers at Operation Watts Is Worth It

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.

So last year, when The Mission Continues began looking across the country to determine the location of our 2018 Mass Deployment, Los Angeles — specifically Watts — was a natural choice. Continue reading “Why Watts Is Worth It”

The Mission Continues to Deploy Veterans to Help Revitalize Los Angeles’ Watts Neighborhood

PRESS RELEASE

The veterans’ nonprofit seeks to create ongoing improvement to strengthen historic LA neighborhood with its third-annual Mass Deployment, “Operation Watts Is Worth It”

The veterans are volunteers with The Mission Continues, a national nonprofit organization that empowers veterans to find growth, purpose and connection through community impact. Although the nonprofit has been active in the neighborhood for years, the week-long service marathon, dubbed Operation Watts Is Worth It, will provide a surge of resources to benefit under-resourced schools, aging public housing, under-utilized community spaces and much more.

“The Watts neighborhood has a long-established and vibrant identity, and it has preserved it in the face of a wide range of challenges,” said Spencer Kympton, U.S. Army veteran and president of The Mission Continues. “Through their service, our veterans, partners and community volunteers seek to help the Watts community sustain its identity well into the future.” Continue reading “The Mission Continues to Deploy Veterans to Help Revitalize Los Angeles’ Watts Neighborhood”

“When I look at the youth in Boyle Heights, I see myself”

November 30, 2017
Majken Geiman, Former Platoon Leader

For a long time I let the fear of disappointment hold me back. Life in Chicago’s south side as the eldest child of a single mother was what you’d imagine. I attended a large public high school, spent hours every day commuting on the bus and subway, failed multiple classes, pawned 35 cents off my friends daily so that I could buy reduced-price lunches, and never intended to pursue education beyond a high school diploma.

Even if I made it as far as college, I knew I wouldn’t be able to pay for it.

All of that changed when I stumbled upon the United States Army’s website. Free college and a commission as an officer? I was sold. By some incredible stroke of luck, I made the cut. That unusual success changed my entire attitude toward life.

I suddenly had people telling me I could be a leader—that I had the ability to inspire others. Being afraid to try was replaced by a belief that I could lead and change the world.

After transitioning from active duty into the National Guard I didn’t have the same type of discipline or feeling of empowerment in my life. But then a Marine friend invited me to attend a service project with The Mission Continues in Pittsburgh.

It was incredible–for the first time I found myself surrounded by people who knew what I was going through and who I could talk and joke with veterans as if I’d known them for years. Finally that sense of purpose and leadership came back.

When I decided to move to Los Angeles I didn’t know anyone, but I did know how to look up the local platoon. I ended up joining the Los Angeles 2nd Platoon, which focuses on youth development and education in Boyle Heights, a low income neighborhood in East LA.

The opportunity to lead the platoon came in 2015. My time as a platoon leader transformed me in ways I never expected. I no longer let fear hold me back; instead I remember my strengths as a leader.

After two years of dedication, we have strong connections with several schools and organizations in Boyle Heights, and regularly hold service projects with and for the students.

I’ve taught a group of teenage girls how to use a drill, and saw their faces light up when they built a bench completely by themselves. I’ve talked to students about college and shared my own experiences. I’ve put veterans and kids together in charge of things when they weren’t sure they knew how, and watched them crush it!

When I look at the youth in Boyle Heights, I see myself. I see kids who have the drive and ability to make it, but who might be afraid to try.

The military helped me push myself at a time when I needed it the most. In the same way my mentors did, I hope I can look the youth of the next generation in the eye and tell them, genuinely, “you can change the world.”

With your support today, veterans like myself can make an impact in neighborhoods like Boyle Heights across the country. I serve and will continue to serve all of them. Please join me by giving this year.

 

Yours in Service,

Majken Geiman

 

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.

My Opportunity to Serve, Lead and Learn

November 25, 2017
Brayden Yoder, Platoon Leader

As every Army officer knows, the best job you’ll ever have is Platoon Leader.

No matter how far up the ranks you travel, no command or staff position would ever rival what it was to be a young lieutenant with soldiers not much younger than yourself – and with NCOs who are older, wiser, and tougher.

If you have ears to listen, those sergeants will train you while calling you “sir” or “ma’am” – and they will even brag on you if you become a squared away LT because they know that you are a reflection of them.

Gaining their trust is the name of the game, for what truly makes a leader is people’s desire to follow.

I learned those leadership lessons in the military and I kept them close this past June, as I stepped into service as a Mission Continues platoon leader for Los Angeles. No matter how much I thought I might have to offer, I needed to first learn what this platoon was all about from the volunteers who had built it up long before me.

This would present a different challenge than I faced during my 2016 Mission Continues fellowship, when I had to learn how to fit into a civilian workforce again. As a Mission Continues platoon leader, I had to represent the operation within the community, which I could not do without understanding just what those operations were.

The Mission Continues Boston
Brayden Yoder at a service project for Charlie Orientation in Boston.

Thankfully, I was fortunate to fall in on a strong leadership team, beginning with my predecessor and fellow soldier, Majken Geiman. Majken took me on a right-seat ride of a service project at Roosevelt High School, which she had begun planning but would fall on me to execute even before my official induction at Charlie Class Orientation.

From Majken, I learned how to do a site visit and to make the principal’s priorities for the school our own – and I saw how much she cared about the work and the platoon. I knew I would have some big shoes to fill, and I resolved to do my best to maintain the standard for the Los Angeles 2nd Platoon.

Since June, I have now served as platoon leader for two successful service projects, including our combined 9/11 Day of Service at Carver High School, which attracted some 170 volunteers.

Yet the truth is that we have had several outstanding leaders who helped to ensure their success, like my CIM, Behkie Aguilar, and 2nd platoon’s indispensable man, Chris Barreras.

If it takes a village to raise a child, then the Mission Continues family has picked me up through my platoon leader infancy and nurtured me through the growing pains as I’ve gotten my service legs under me.

Brayden Yoder with the principal of Carver Middle School, Letasha Buck

As I look forward to my third service project scheduled for MLK weekend in January, I am ahead of the curve and further along in the planning process than before – and I know it is because of the great support The Mission Continues and the 2nd Platoon has afforded me.

It is a special thing to be part of a team and to have others invested in your success as you are invested in theirs.

The mission of the Los Angeles 2nd Platoon is to serve public schools in Boyle Heights, and I am thankful for a job that takes me to neighborhoods in my city that I never knew of before. I am humbled by the work of the dedicated educators and volunteers I have met, who strive every day to provide a quality education for the children in Los Angeles.

But above all, I feel blessed to be part of something bigger than myself again, which demands connection, commitment, and community.

In this week of Thanksgiving, I am truly grateful for this opportunity to continue to serve – and I hope when it’s my time to pass on the guidon, I can pay it forward to the next platoon leader as my teammates did for me.

 

Report for duty in your community with The Mission Continues. Serve with a Service Platoon at an upcoming service event near you or apply for a fellowship. You can learn more about our programs on our website and stay updated on the latest news and announcements on Facebook and Twitter.