Meet Kelsie LeVan, Shriver Program Fellow

By LIFT on July 2, 2015

Categories: First Person Perspective, Real Stories

My story began during my undergraduate study at Elizabethtown College, where service was integrated into every facet of my education. I left Elizabethtown with a passion to serve and do meaningful life work, and went on to complete a year of service with City Year Greater Philadelphia, where I worked with inner city youth to combat the nationwide dropout crisis. Following City Year, I decided to dedicate a second year of service with LIFT-Philadelphia, serving with AmeriCorps National Direct. I was so moved by my service at LIFT, that I gladly accepted the offer to serve with the first ever Shriver Corps, to combat poverty from a new perspective.

One of the aspects I admire most about LIFT, over the course of the last two years, is how ambitiously we embrace thoughtful programmatic changes to our organization. Our diligence in figuring out what works and what doesn’t work helps us make informed changes that benefit our Advocates, staff, and most importantly, the quality of service for our Members. LIFT is dedicated to improving our services and changing our program in whatever way is necessary to have the greatest impact. Adding the Shriver Corps to LIFT’s current staffing structure is just one example of LIFT’s growing impact and focus on supporting our efforts over the long-term.

During my first year at LIFT, my responsibilities were largely focused on direct service with community members and coordinating our daily office operations. I knew going into my second year that I would be taking on a brand new work plan with a brand new title. I also knew that my work would switch from direct service to capacity building, with a new focus on recruiting and training Advocates. What I didn’t know was how these responsibilities would play out in my day-to-day work plan, but I was excited for the opportunity to experience LIFT from a new perspective.

One of my biggest responsibilities as a Shriver Corps Program Fellow is to create and maintain partnerships with roughly 20 Philadelphia area colleges and universities. In line with our evolving program, our recruitment strategies have also evolved. In previous years, LIFT recruited Advocates who could commit four hours of service per week. However, in an effort to provide higher quality service to our members, that number recently increased to a minimum of eight hours per week.

One challenge I was tasked with when I first entered this role was discovering new avenues through which to engage students with increased hour commitments. In developing my recruitment plan, I recognized that LIFT’s hour requirement was not realistic for many college students with full course loads and other professional responsibilities. As a result, I decided to focus my effort on reaching out to specific academic departments and engaging students as interns. Interns and Advocates have similar responsibilities, the main difference being that Interns are required to commit 16 or more hours each week in addition to an academic component.

Through my efforts, I have been able to form countless relationships with students, professors, faculty, and staff at our partner colleges and universities in and around our community. These partnerships have allowed me engage with a greater number of students to talk about the work LIFT is doing and spread the word about our growing movement through as many avenues as possible. Another successful part of my work has been creating stability in order for us to continue having an impact year after year.

Following my year as a Shriver Corps Member, I will be joining LIFT as a full time staff member to further my work on Advocate recruitment and training. By having a consistent person in this role to focus on relationship building, it is my hope that LIFT’s partnerships will continue to grow and flourish with the ultimate goal of facilitating the recruitment of highly engaged and dedicated Advocates to help LIFT individuals and families out of poverty for good.

The Shriver Corps is a once-in-a-generation cohort of AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteers committed to helping people across the United States lift themselves out of poverty for good. The program is a collaboration between LIFT, Maria Shriver’s A Woman’s Nation, and AmeriCorps, and was created to honor the legacy of Sargent Shriver, the founder of the landmark VISTA program.