What is AmeriCorps?
AmeriCorps is a national community service program created to address the needs of local communities. AmeriCorps engages 75,000 Members annually who complete intensive service to meet community needs in education, health, public safety, security, and the environment. Since the program’s founding in 1994, over 1 million AmeriCorps Members have contributed more than 1.4 billion hours of service to their communities. CivicSpark Fellows are full-time AmeriCorps Members, completing a total of 1700 hours over 11 months, working to assist local communities while gaining valuable experience and training. For more information on AmeriCorps, visit www.nationalservice.gov.
How is this program similar to other AmeriCorps programs?
All AmeriCorps programs have Members dedicate their time to improving the community they are placed with by addressing a specific need. Members, including CivicSpark Fellows, participate in additional Service Days, including MLK Jr. Service Day, Cesar Chavez Service Day, and AmeriCorps Week, in which they volunteer their time and give back to their community in different ways. All AmeriCorps Members gain hands-on experience in their program’s field, and receive professional development training opportunities.
Through CivicSpark, Fellows have the opportunity to work with local governments to better serve their communities needs, as well as gain extensive on-the-job training, as well as hands-on experience in their field.
Is this program an internship?
No, this is a full-time, 11 month Fellowship program. All Fellows must have at least a 4-year undergraduate degree (i.e. a Bachelor’s) to participate in the program. Fellows receive ongoing training during the program and deliver meaningful, high quality work for the public agency they are placed with.
Where is this program located?
The CivicSpark program only has projects within the state of California. Fellows who join the program will need to be in California for the full 11 months of the service year.
Our projects are spread throughout several regions, which include the Central Coast, Greater Los Angeles, North Coast, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area, San Joaquin Valley, and Sierra Nevada areas. Specific city, county, and placement sites vary from year to year depending on projects.
What is the difference between the Climate, Water, and Opportunity Access tracks?
Climate Fellows are placed individually or in teams with partner organizations in regions across the state. Fellows will serve with local leaders responding to statewide climate priorities such as greenhouse gas emissions reduction, alternative transportation, renewable energy, and adaptation.
Water Fellows are placed in teams of 2 in regions across the state. Fellows serve with local leaders responding to statewide priorities in water management, such as implementing the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) and the California Water Action Plan.
Opportunity Access Fellows are placed individually or in teams with partner organizations in seven regions across the state. Fellows will serve with local leaders responding to social equity and social mobility priorities such as affordable housing development, multimodal/alternative transportation planning, and rural broadband infrastructure assessments.
All Fellows are supported by a local Regional Coordinator who coordinates Fellow professional development activities and is their go-to for programmatic questions.
What do CivicSpark Fellows work on?
CivicSpark Fellows will provide capacity-building support to public agencies through research, planning, and project implementation activities. Fellows can work on a wide range of climate or water initiatives as long as the connection to climate or water goals is clearly defined, and the work can be completed by a Fellow within the service year.
Climate capacity-building projects can include:
- Educating community members about climate change.
- Benchmarking commercial building energy use.
- Conducting electric vehicle readiness planning.
- Inventorying greenhouse gas emissions.
Water capacity-building projects can include:
- Researching general plan options to incorporate groundwater language.
- Updating drought contingency plans.
- Implementing water efficiency ordinances.
- Implementing a water incentive program.
Opportunity Access capacity-building projects can include:
- Providing technical assistance for affordable housing programs.
- Supporting expansion of bicycle/pedestrian programs in communities.
- Supporting development of a community broadband roadmap.
- Identifying local barriers to affordable housing.
Regardless of the specific project focus, Fellows provide this support through a 4-step “intervention.”
- Gap Assessments: Review documents and conduct interviews with local government staff to determine current climate change and water resource management needs. Fellows will work with their site supervisor to confirm the project scope.
- Service Projects: Conduct a specific research, planning, or implementation project.
- Volunteer Engagement: Support increased sustainability volunteerism in the community.
- Transitioning Expertise: Provide transitional training to staff and/or share results with key stakeholders in order to transfer knowledge and build action throughout the community.
Projects will likely focus on either research, planning, or implementation, though depending on the time-frame and beneficiary, it is plausible that a single project might include multiple stages of more than one.
How many Fellows are selected for the program?
For the 2018-19 service year, 90 Fellows will be selected: 50 for the Climate track, 20 for the Water track, and 20 for the Opportunity Access track.
What is the time commitment for being a CivicSpark Fellow?
Fellows serve for an 11-month period of time, and must complete a minimum of 1700 hours during that time period (equivalent to working ~38-42 hours per week). Fellows will serve full-time, with 14 holidays and 40 hours of personal and/or sick time. The 2018-19 service year will start in early September 2018 and end early August 2019.
Can Fellows serve in the program part-time?
CivicSpark does not offer part-time positions. Fellows within the program will serve full-time for the 11 months, averaging between 38-42 hours per week.
What is the difference between a Site Supervisor and a Regional Coordinator?
A Site Supervisor is the person who has been assigned by the host agency to directly supervise the Fellow(s). They supervise the Fellow’s day-to-day project work.
A Regional Coordinator is an LGC staff member who oversees all the Fellows within their region, and who provides overall project support, helps with any AmeriCorps/LGC related tasks, and supports Fellows’ professional development throughout the service year.
How often do Fellows have the opportunity to interact with the entire cohort and Fellows within their region?
All Fellows get together 3 times throughout the year; first at a week long Orientation at the start of the service year, again at Mid-Year Gathering, which is 3 days long, and lastly at Graduation for 2 days. Within their region, Fellows typically meet at least once a month for professional development trainings and meetings, and may also get together with other regions for other events and opportunities, such as conferences and service days.
How do I apply to CivicSpark?
The Fellow Application for the program can be found at http://civicspark.lgc.org/join-civicspark/fellow/.
Please do not send any resumes or cover letters via email; we will only accept applications submitted via our website.
Who can apply to the program?
Anyone who is a citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident alien of the United States who has a Bachelor’s degree or higher can apply to the program. Please see sections “C” and “D” of the Corporation for National and Community Service’s regulations as to what documents are needed by AmeriCorps programs to establish legal status.
At this time, we are unfortunately unable to accept anyone who is unable to provide documentation proving their status as a U.S. Citizen, U.S. National, or lawful permanent resident alien, including anyone with:
An F1 or F2 student visa
A J1 or J2 exchange visitor visa
A G series visa (pertaining to international organizations)
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status
As a State and National AmeriCorps program, CivicSpark is under different regulations than AmeriCorps VISTA programs. If you’re interested in serving with AmeriCorps and are a DACA recipient, you can apply to serve with an AmeriCorps VISTA program.
For a full list of eligibility requirements, please see: http://civicspark.lgc.org/join-civicspark/fellow/.
Can my resume be longer than 1 page?
Due to the volume of applications we receive, and in order to review the applications as fairly as possible, we ask that all resumes be no longer than a single page, saved as PDFs.
When are Fellow applications due, and when will offers be made?
Fellow applications for the 2018-19 service year opened April 2, 2018 and applications will be reviewed as they are received. The application deadline is June 1, 2018. If you move on in the process, you will be contacted for an interview about 2-3 weeks after your application submittal. Offers will likely begin at the end of July for earlier applicants. The application and interview process will continue until all 90 positions are filled, even if that is after the start date for Orientation.
What are the benefits of applying by the priority deadline?
We encourage applicants to apply by the priority deadline as preference is given to those who apply earlier since we can begin interviews sooner. There is also a greater likelihood of being considered for the projects that you are more interested in, as they are less likely to already be interviewing and considering other applicants.
CivicSpark’s priority deadline is June 1st. Applicants who apply by this time will be the first to be contacted and to go through the interview process. Depending on the availability of projects/positions still available, CivicSpark will accept applicants on a rolling basis after this deadline. We hope to have all Fellows hired by mid-August.
What will the interview process look like / what is the timeline for interviews?
Once your application is submitted through the CivicSpark website, it will be reviewed by LGC staff. If you fit our basic qualifications, you will be contacted via email for an initial 10-15 minute screening call; this typically happens 2-3 weeks after you submit your application.
Those who are moved on after the screening call will be emailed to schedule a second, more detailed interview that will be 30-45 minutes. If you are selected to continue on in the process after this second interview, your application will be sent to the project partners who you are interested in serving with. The time between each phase of the interview process is typically 2-3 weeks.
For candidates accepted into the program, it will typically take 2-3 months between applying to the program and receiving an offer. We expect to have all Fellows hired by the end of August 2018.
Can I pick the project/region where I am placed?
Candidates can select their regions of choice within the Fellow application. During second round interviews, candidates will have the opportunity to let CivicSpark staff know the projects they are most interested in being placed with. If candidates are moved on to third round interviews, their application will be sent to their project(s) of choice; the staff at that agency will then review the applicants and select those who they’d like to interview. While you will have the opportunity to share what your interests are and the public agency you would like to work with, ultimately, the public agency/local government will be the one to select the Fellow to serve with their project. After the project partner selects their top choice(s), CivicSpark staff will send an offer to the selected candidate(s). Candidates will have 48 hours to accept or reject offers, but keep in mind that you will likely not be made an offer by each project partner you interview with.
Depending on project availability, some projects may no longer be interviewing for Fellows at the time of your application. We strongly encourage anyone who’s interested to apply as soon as possible in order to have more options available.
I do not currently live in California. Can I still apply?
Yes, CivicSpark accepts out-of-state applicants; however, if you are chosen for the program, you will need to complete both an out-of-state background check (specifications for these vary from state to state) and an in-state background check (California Livescan) before being allowed to log hours for the program.
What does the background check process consist of?
If you are chosen to be a CivicSpark Fellow for the 2018-19 service year, there will be several background checks that will need to be completed before you can begin logging service hours: the National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR), California Livescan (includes both CA DOJ and FBI), and an out-of-state background check (for those applying from out of state).
The NSOPR checks will be completed by CivicSpark staff. If you are applying from out of state, we will let you know what the background check process will be like for your state of residence/current state as it varies from state to state. All Fellows MUST complete a California Livescan, which will bring up results from the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ). The California Livescan can only be completed within California; if you are from out of state, we encourage you to find a Livescan center near you upon your arrival to California.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Depending on the state you’re from, the out-of-state background check results may take up to 4 weeks to reach us. Livescan results can also take up to 3 weeks, so we encourage you to complete these checks as soon as you decide to accept a position with the program. To find a Livescan location near you, please visit: https://oag.ca.gov/fingerprints/locations.
*Fellows must pass ALL of the background checks required of them before they can begin logging hours for the program. Fellows cannot receive a stipend check until their background checks are received, reviewed, and cleared by LGC staff.
What are the top qualities you are looking for in an applicant?
Working on projects with local governments on a low living stipend can be difficult, so applicants who are optimistic, flexible and adaptable, resourceful, and self-motivated are strong candidates for the program. We also look for candidates who are service-oriented and really want to help the communities they will be working with.
What is the timeline between applying to the program and being offered a position?
Applicants can expect it to take about 2-3 months from the time of application to having a position offered with the program.
When does the 2018-19 CivicSpark service year start and end?
The 2018-19 service year is 11 months long. It will begin with a week-long Orientation in early September 2018 and will be completed by early August 2019.
When is Orientation and what does it consist of?
Orientation is a week-long event in early September with all 90 Fellows and CivicSpark and LGC staff. You will learn about various components of the program, its structure, and expectations, and receive basic training on climate, water, and opportunity access issues. You will also have the opportunity to meet and connect with everyone in the program!
Is there a list of projects by region?
When do Fellows begin service on their projects?
Fellows will begin their first day of service with their projects mid-September (exact date TBD).
Where are Fellows placed during the service year?
Our goal is to embed Fellows within the local government/public agency that they will be serving with. Fellows will likely be placed within their partner agency’s office, but they may also be placed within a non-profit or in another local office depending on space availability.
What type of hours do Fellows typically work?
Fellows will likely be required to work traditional hours (typically 8am-5pm on weekdays; however this will depend on your project partner), as well as occasional after hours and weekends when necessary. Most Fellows will work between 38 – 42 hours per week, or more.
What is the volunteer engagement component of the program? And what are some examples of volunteer projects that Fellows have done in the past?
Fellows are in charge of coming up with and implementing a volunteer engagement project, in which they will plan a project, recruit volunteers, and implement the project to support their beneficiary. This can be done as a regional team, with other members of your region, or it can be done alone.
Over previous years, Fellows have chosen to either assist their project sites with any volunteer events they are conducting, or assisting another organization of their choice. The volunteer engagement projects have ranged from assisting an urban agriculture non-profit in gleaning citrus fruit, to creating a collaborative to recruit volunteers to assist in landscape assessments to help reduce water use.
What is the difference between a Site Supervisor and Regional Coordinator?
Site Supervisors are staff members of the agency Fellows are placed with, and will directly oversee their day-to-day project work, and assist with any project specific questions Fellows may have. Site Supervisors will also provide mentorship and guidance in their sector of work, as well as in the Fellow’s professional development.
CivicSpark Regional Coordinators (RCs) support the teams of AmeriCorps members in a given geographic area by providing guidance to Fellows and assisting them in their broader professional development goals. They provide trainings for their Fellows, and can assist with programmatic questions.
For Fellows working on two or more projects, how is their time split?
Fellows working on two or more projects will typically work on these projects simultaneously over the course of the service year. Fellows will receive support from their Regional Coordinator and Site Supervisors to ensure the successful completion of their projects within the 11 months.
For Fellows working in teams of 2-3, how are tasks split?
Project tasks are usually split between the Fellows themselves, usually depending on who is comfortable doing different aspects of the project. For example, if your project has a GIS component, anyone with GIS skills will likely be in charge of this task. Much of this is determined on a case-by-case basis with the Site Supervisor after the service year begins.
If I am selected as a CivicSpark Fellow, can I still have another job?/ Are Fellows allowed to work a second job?
CivicSpark Fellows are allowed to work a second job if they feel it necessary, although we encourage you to find a position with a flexible schedule, as you will be required to work traditional hours (8am-5pm) for CivicSpark, as well as occasional after hours and weekends when necessary. AmeriCorps service years are intensive programs, and we suggest you wait until your third month of service before taking on a second job so you have a better idea of your daily schedule and your time commitment to CivicSpark.
What are the benefits of the program?
AmeriCorps was created to address community need through service. AmeriCorps Members have the opportunity to make an impact in their community while gaining valuable career and life experience. All CivicSpark Fellows are AmeriCorps Members, and should leave the service year with an understanding of work within local governments, experience working with key tools, ability to analyze data, and ability to work successfully in a team office environment.
In exchange for their service, each Fellow receives the following benefits:
- $16,000+ Living Allowance (before taxes), spread evenly over 11 months
- Segal Education Award of $5,920 at the completion of service
- Forbearance on existing qualifying student loans and payment of interest accrued during service
- Health Insurance
- Childcare Assistance – (to qualifying Fellows), paid to an eligible provider of your choice
- SNAP (Food Stamps) – for those eligible
- Significant professional development training
- Network development with regional and statewide contacts in the environmental field
What is the Segal Education Award?
The Segal Education Award is given to Fellows upon the successful completion of their service year. For the 2018-19 service year, the amount is $5,920 and it is meant to help the Fellow pay for educational expenses, such as loans, going to grad school, getting certificates, or for school supplies post-AmeriCorps. The award is not given to the Fellow as cash or a check; the Fellow must request that AmeriCorps make a payment to an eligible loan provider or school, and AmeriCorps will make payments directly to them on your behalf. The Segal Education Award must be used within 7 years of completing the fellowship.
What types of trainings do Fellows have throughout the year?
Fellows will receive about 2 trainings per month; one training will be a statewide training focused on technical topics and themes that cut across sectors, while the other will be an interactive, regional training focused on soft skills needed for professional development, including resume and cover letter development, interviewing, and avoiding burnout in the workplace. Fellows may also have training opportunities through their project partner.
Do Fellows receive any type of mentorship?
Yes, Fellows will receive mentorship from LGC staff and project partners at various levels. Site Supervisors will assist the Fellows with their project and any other project specific questions Fellows may have, as well as mentor them in their field. The Regional Coordinators will assist in professional development and provide general support for the Fellows throughout the year. LGC staff is also available to assist Fellows whenever they have questions.
Is there housing provided through the program/assistance with relocation expenses?
No, CivicSpark does not provide housing or relocation assistance for Fellows; however, we have a housing board to make it easier for Fellows to connect with one another before the service year so they can find housing together or learn about housing opportunities within the region they’ll be placed in from previous/current Fellows.
Can Fellows take time off during the service year?
Yes, Fellows are allowed up to 40 hours of time off (vacation/sick time) throughout the service year. Fellows will be required to request approval for (vacation) time off from both their Site Supervisor(s) and Regional Coordinator. Fellows will also have 14 paid holidays throughout the year.
Does CivicSpark assist with job opportunities?
Through exposure to networking events that the majority of Fellows receive during the service year, we hope Fellows will have a range of options and connections by the time the service year is over. Through the CivicSpark listserv, LGC staff also send out job opportunities throughout the service year.