What is AmeriCorps?
AmeriCorps is a 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 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 can volunteer their time and give back to their community in different ways.
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 has projects only 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.
What is the difference between CivicSpark Climate and CivicSpark Water?
CivicSpark Climate Fellows are placed individually or in teams with partner organizations in eight regions across the state. Fellows will serve with local leaders responding to statewide climate priorities such as greenhouse gas inventories, alternative transportation, renewable energy, and adaptation. Fellows are supported by a local Regional Coordinator who provides partners with program level support and coordinates Fellow professional development activities.
CivicSpark Water Fellows are placed in teams of 2-3 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.
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.
CivicSpark 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.
CivicSpark 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.
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 timeframe and beneficiary, it is plausible that a single project might include multiple stages of more than one.
How many Fellows are selected?
For the 2017-18 service year, 70 Fellows will be selected; 50 for the CivicSpark Climate track and 20 for the CivicSpark Water track.
What is the time commitment for being a CivicSpark Fellow?
Fellows will serve for 11 months, during which they must complete a minimum of 1700 hours. Fellows will work full-time, with 11 holidays and 40 hours of personal and/or sick time. The 2017-18 service year will start in early September 2017 and end early August 2018.
Can Fellows serve in the program part-time?
We currently do not offer part-time positions. Fellows within the program will work 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?
The Site Supervisor is the person who has been assigned by the host agency to directly supervise the Fellow(s). They will be the ones that Fellows meet with regularly to discuss their project(s) throughout the service year. The Regional Coordinator will oversee all the Fellows within their region, and will be there for overall project support and to help with any AmeriCorps/LGC related tasks, as well as with professional development.
How often do Fellows have the opportunity to interact with the entire cohort and Fellows within their region?
We hope to have all Fellows get together 3 times throughout the service year; once at Orientation, which is a week long event; again at Mid-Year Gathering, which is 3 days long; and finally at Graduation for about 2 days. Within their region, Fellows will likely meet about once a month for monthly trainings and meetings, and may also get together with other regions for events (such as AmeriCorps Service Days) and other opportunities.
Who can apply to the program?
Anyone who is a citizen, national, or lawful permanent resident alien of the United States who has at least a Bachelor’s degree or higher can apply to the program. For a full list of qualifications, 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.
When are Fellow applications due, and when will offers be made?
Fellow applications for the 2017-18 service year opened on April 24, 2017. The third priority deadline for applications is July 28, 2017; afterwards, applications will be accepted on a rolling basis. If a candidate is selected for an interview, we will contact them about 2 weeks after they applied. Offers will begin to be made to Fellows mid-July. The application and interview process will continue until all 70 positions are filled, even if that is after the start date for Orientation.
*We only accept applications submitted via CivicSpark’s website. Resumes submitted via email will NOT be considered.
What are the benefits of applying by the priority deadlines?
We encourage applicants to apply by the priority deadlines as there is a preference for those who apply earlier. There is also a greater likelihood of being considered for the projects that you are more interested in.
CivicSpark’s first priority deadline was set for May 26th. Applicants who applied by this time were the first to be contacted and to go through the interview process. The third priority deadline is July 28th. Depending on the availability of projects/positions still available, CivicSpark will accept applicants on a rolling basis after the 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, LGC staff will review and rank each one. If you fit our basic qualifications, you will be contacted via email for an initial 20 minute initial screening interview. Those who pass the screening call will be emailed to schedule a second, more detailed interview that will be 45 minutes long. If the applicant is moved on from the second round interview, the next step will be to interview with project partners who you are interested in serving with. You can interview with more than one project partner; however, if you are made an offer, you will have to either accept or reject it as you cannot have more than one offer on the table at any given time.
We hope to notify applicants within three weeks of their previous interview to let them know if they move on in the selection process.
Can I pick the project/region where I am placed?
Candidates can select their regions of choice within the application. During the 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. Ultimately, the public agency/local government will be the one to select the Fellow to serve with their project; CivicSpark staff will then send an offer to candidates who are selected. Candidates will have the option 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, you are welcome to apply even if you are from out of state; however, if you are chosen for the program, you will need to complete an out-of-state background check (these vary from state to state) before being allowed to log hours for the program. At this time, CivicSpark does not provide any assistance in relocating other than connecting new Fellows with other new Fellows and alumni to potentially help find housing.
What does the background check process consist of?
If you are chosen to be a CivicSpark Fellow for the 2017-18 service year, there will be several background checks that we will need to complete before you can begin logging service hours: the National Sex Offender Public Registry (NSOPR), California Livescan, and an out-of-state background check (for those applying from out of state). The NSOPR checks will be completed by CivicSpark staff, for which we will need your full, legal name. 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 Livescans can only be completed within CA; if you are from out of state, we encourage you to find a Livescan center near you as soon as you arrive to California.
Depending on the state you’re from, the out-of-state background check results may take between 1 day to 4 weeks to reach us. Livescan results can also take between 3 days to 3 weeks, so we strongly 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 pass.
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.
When does the 2017-18 CivicSpark service year start and end?
The 2017-18 service year will begin with a week long Orientation starting September 10, 2017, and will be completed by early August 2018.
When is Orientation and what does it consist of?
Orientation is a retreat-style, week-long event where all 70 Fellows, along with CivicSpark and LGC staff, will come together and get to know each other as the new service year begins! You will also learn about various components of the program, its structure, expectations, and receive basic training on climate and water issues. Orientation will be held in Sacramento, with Fellows arriving September 10th. September 11-14 will consist of various introductions and sessions, and Orientation will end September 14th.
When do Fellows begin service on their projects?
Fellows will begin their first day of service with their projects on September 18th.
How long does the service year last?
The CivicSpark service year is 11 months long, beginning early September 2017 and ending early August 2018.
Is there a list of projects by region?
A list of projects for the 2017-18 service year is now available! View a list of the projects that have been approved thus far by going to our 2017-18 Projects Catalog. We will continue to add projects on a weekly basis or as they are approved through the summer, so be sure to check back every week or two to see the new projects for each region.
Where are Fellows placed during the service year?
Our goal is to embed Fellows within the local government agency that they will be working in. Fellows will likely be placed within their partner agency, 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 within their region. 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.
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?
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. You will work as a team to be as effective as possible in completing your projects.
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 likely 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, though, and we suggest you wait until your third month of service before setting up second jobs so you have a better idea of your time commitment to CivicSpark and your daily schedule.
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/AmeriCorps members should leave the service year with an understanding of work within local governments, experience working with key climate change mitigation and adaptation 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 $5,815 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 climate/water field
What is the Segal Education Award?
The Segal Education Award is only given to Fellows upon the successful completion of their service year. It is about $5,815 and it is meant to help the Fellow pay for educational expenses, such as federal loans, grad school, certificates, or for school supplies. 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.
What types of trainings do Fellows have throughout the year?
Fellows will receive about 2 trainings per month; one training will be on sector specific topics, such as energy, water, transportation, climate adaptation, etc., while the other training will be more on professional development, such as working on your resume, cover letter, mock interviews, and avoiding burnout in the workplace. Fellows may also have training opportunities through their project partner.
Do Fellows receive any type of mentorship?
The Regional Coordinators will be mentors for the Fellows and assist in professional development and provide general support for the Fellows throughout the year. Site Supervisors will assist the Fellows with their project and any other project specific questions Fellows may have. LGC staff is also available to assist Fellows whenever they have general questions.
Is there housing provided through the program/assistance with relocation expenses?
No, CivicSpark does not currently 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 to 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 throughout the service year. Fellows will be required to request approval for time off from both their Site Supervisor(s) and Regional Coordinator. Fellows will also have 11 paid holidays throughout the year.
Does CivicSpark assist with job opportunities?
Through the 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 sends out job opportunities closer to the end of the service year and after. As part of the professional development trainings, CivicSpark also aims to prepare Fellows for future interviews and their job search by providing a training on resume writing, mock interviews, informational interviews, etc.