Monday, January 13, 2014

New Report! The Mentoring Effect: Young People’s Perspectives on the Outcomes and Availability of Mentoring

I've had the honor of working with MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership for the past year (in my previous role as Senior Education Advisor at Civic Enterprises), working to answer questions like, "what do young people have to say about mentoring?  Do they find value in it?  How many have a mentor, and how many would like one?"  Today, we released a report that answered these questions, and also brought to like the powerful impacts that mentoring has - not just on young people, but on communities and our country.

More from MENTOR:

The Mentoring Effect is a compelling new report informed by the first-ever nationally representative survey of young people on the topic of both informal and formal mentoring, as well as a literature and landscape review and insights from a variety of key leaders in business, philanthropy, government, and education. The report was commissioned by MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership with support from AT&T, and written by Civic Enterprises in partnership with Hart Research.
This report reveals a powerful mentoring effect demonstrated by the life experiences of the young people surveyed and mentoring’s link to improved academic, social and economic prospects. This mentoring effect is growing and, if harnessed, it has the potential to help meet a range of national challenges and strengthen our communities and economy.

The survey found that there are 4.5 million at-risk young people matched in mentoring relationships through mentoring programs – a tremendous increase since the early 1990s when that number was only an estimated 300,000. Another 10.5 million at-risk young people have informal mentoring relationships with teachers, coaches, extended family members or neighbors.

Despite this positive trend, the survey shows that one in three young people will reach adulthood without connecting with a mentor of any kind. It also showed that with each additional risk factor a young person experiences, the less likely he or she is to connect with an informal mentor. This finding suggests a systemic shift to leverage quality mentoring programs to introduce mentors to young people who face a greater number of risk factors is a powerful and necessary strategy.

AmeriCorps Alums Names New Co-Executive Director... me!

AmeriCorps Alums is growing!
Originally posted Jan 10, 2014 at

AmeriCorps Alums, an enterprise of Points of Light, is excited to announce that effective January 6, 2014 Mary Bruce has joined Ben Duda as Co-Executive Director of the organization. The two leaders will advance the organization’s goal of building a dynamic network of engaged citizens and social impact leaders by accelerating the potential developed through national service.
The only organization of its kind, AmeriCorps Alums supports experienced volunteer leaders to grow as professionals in the public sector through coordinated networking, professional development, and educational opportunities. In 2013, we grew our network to 75 active chapters across the country, created university partnerships with over 30 schools, and developed a robust portfolio of professional development resources available to our network of over 800,000 Alums.

Mary, a national service champion with more than a decade of experience working to grow and scale high-impact nonprofit organizations, is an AmeriCorps Alum, a Returned Peace Corps volunteer, and ex officio chair of the AmeriCorps Alums National Advisory Council. She joins the Points of Light Washington, D.C. office from her most recent role as Senior Education Advisor at Civic Enterprises, a public policy and strategy firm. She explains, “I directly attribute where I am today to my year of service 15 years ago. I was ‘made in AmeriCorps,’ and am thrilled to have the opportunity to work full-time to support the amazing network of Alums. As Corps Members, we tutored in our nation’s toughest schools, provided emergency relief services after natural disasters, and helped veterans get connected to employment opportunities. Now, as a network of professionals dedicated to ‘getting things done’, we still do that – with more impact, influence, and reach than ever before.”
Amy Smith, President of Action Networks at Points of Light adds, “Alums is thriving. We are proud of its strategic growth and excited for its future. At this important time in the organization’s growth – during the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps – I’m confident that this all-star team will build an even more robust and high-impact network of national service champions that will strengthen communities and our country.”
For more information, please visit
Ben Duda & Mary Bruce of AmeriCorps Alums
Co-Executive Directors ‘Getting Things Done’

Thursday, November 14, 2013

AmeriCorps Alums meet Chelsea Clinton... and Pitch Hollywood on National Service Storylines

Ely Flores, AmeriCorps Alum and an Alums National Advisory Council Member, was introduced by Chelsea Clinton for a speech that addressed his transformation through service. The Hollywood event, co-hosted by the Clinton Foundation, ServiceNation and Next Generation, brought together the entertainment industry, including content creators and executives who have a particular interest in service.  At the event, Chelsea explained, national service programs like AmeriCorps is "fundamentally about our future".  Ely's full speech is below, and more details about the event are ithe Hollywood Reporter in the Variety article Hillary Clinton Helps Pitch Hollywood on Early Childhood, Public Service Storylines
(Left to Right: Zach Maurin, Chelsea Clinton, Ely Flores, Mary Bruce) 
Ely’s speech -
Community service has been part a part of life for a long time. As a child it was instilled in me, as a teen it was forced on me as punishment, as a young adult it became my passion.
I am born and raised in Los Angeles, CA; Mother is from Guatemala and Father from El Salvador. My Father was a Christian Pastor so I understood at an early age about service to God and the Church. But at the age of 8, my father abandoned the church and abandoned my family and I didn’t see or speak to him until 9 years later. My mother was forced to raise two boys and one girl, on a minimum wage salary, 10 to 12 hours a day. You can imagine all the trouble kids can get into with so many hours on their hands.
Because of the lifestyle I chose during my teen years, I ran into the law, or the law ran into me. I don’t recall the details but you understand where I am coming from. Community service was re-introduced to me as a punishment which still happens to a lot of young people today. I did everything from working in a retirement home to cleaning/landscaping freeways to washing underwear in juvenile hall. So you can see, I was not fond of community service.
Then at 17, I was at a crossroads. Either I was going to continue in the lifestyle that had forced me into community service, house arrest, and vacations in confined environments, or choose an AmeriCorps program called YouthBuild that also talked about community service but rather used the term community building.
The year of national service and leadership with YouthBuild not only helped put my education back on track, put money in pocket, and ultimately helped me shape the foundation of social justice I stand on, but it completely transformed my view of service and is the reason why I refer to it as community building. 
I helped build community with other young people and families that were affected by the issues of incarceration. I helped retrofit affordable housing units and elementary schools that were in desperate need of resources. Most importantly I became an advocate for people from my community who were affected by the same issues I was. I became a community builder.
To make this very long story short, I continued my community service/building career through:
• Public Allies Los Angeles, AmeriCorps program

• I did community organizing for a couple of years around issues of incarceration

• Started my own youth leadership program and in 2010. It became its own organization called Leadership through Empowerment, Action, and Dialogue Inc.

• For the last 4 years I have been working with GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles and have brought over 500 solar panel systems to low-income families for free in Los Angeles, Ventura, and Orange County.

• For that last 2 years I have traveled to El Salvador and have helped 8 organizations improve their youth leadership programs that target some of the toughest communities in the country by way of YouthBuild International.

• In addition to El Salvador, I have been fortunate to build youth leadership in Israel/Palestine and Bosnia I Herzegovina by way of Realizing the Dream and Communities Without Boundaries.

• I will open up my own YouthBuild Program next year in North East Los Angeles.
I am only 26 years of age.
Imagine if at that crossroads at 17, I would have taken the other road. With the drive and passion that I put into everything else I do, I could have been a serious problem to my community, my city, and my country. But because I found a year of national service in YouthBuild AmeriCorps, instead I took the road of social justice and community building. So now I dedicate myself to solving and challenging social problems. But beyond, imagine if we could instill early in inner city young people the idea of a year of service and community building. Our communities would look a lot different and our nation would be transformed.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

American Graduate: It's Happening

It's been an honor to work with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting on their American Graduate Campaign --- and I was thrilled to see their press release today announcing the results of their work. More below and at 

-- American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen Initiative Achieves Success
In Partnership with Over 1000 National and Local Organizations --
OCTOBER 22, 2013, WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) today released a new report from the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education confirming the impact that public media stations continue to have in helping to improve high school graduation rates. Through American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen initiative, stations have engaged over 1,000 partnerships with businesses, schools, faith-based and other nonprofits working together to help young people stay on the path to a high school diploma and graduate with their peers.

“Public broadcasting stations set the stage for long-term commitments to improving the educational and life outcomes for youth at risk of dropping out,” said Dr. Robert Balfanz, co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education. “The true power of public media to improve civic life lies in their unique assets combined with their national reach and community relationships.”

Over the past three years, American Graduate has demonstrated public media’s commitment to education and its deep roots in every community it serves. Through programming that educates, informs, and inspires, public radio and television stations — locally owned and operated — are an important resource in helping to address critical community issues, such as the dropout rate.

Over 1700 hours of national and local content, including American Graduate Day, have brought disparate organizations together and inspired local citizens to become American Graduate Champions, donating time and other resources. As part of a survey among American Graduate community partners conducted by the Everyone Graduates Center, respondents confirmed that public media stations told the story of the dropout crisis in a way that enabled more people to get involved. 

“Public media has achieved this success by raising awareness and building knowledge of the issue, highlighting proven solutions, and fostering community action toward common goals – key strategies identified by education experts as essential for progress,” said John Bridgeland, CEO, Civic Enterprises, and co-author of Building a Grad Nation report.

Further, in addition to national partnerships with Alma and Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and many others, more than 75 public radio and television stations in over 30 states have launched on-the-ground efforts working with community and at risk youth to keep students on-track to success. Through forums and screenings, teacher professional development and parenting workshops, youth media training and film festivals, public broadcasting stations have also worked directly with 120,000 parents, students, teachers, community leaders as part of American Graduate. Community partners reported that public media facilitated greater focus and collaboration among community organizations and that students’ participation in American Graduate programs resulted in their increased commitment to school, to graduating, and to preparing for their future.

“The accomplishments of the American Graduate initiative on behalf of the nation’s youth could not have been realized without the service and dedication of public media stations, the guidance from John Bridgeland and Dr. Bob Balfanz, and the partnerships with America’s Promise Alliance and over 1000 other national and local organizations,” said Pat Harrison, President and CEO, CPB. “We are pleased that this report affirms public media’s impact and look forward to continued progress for the country in collaboration with our stations, producers and communities.”

Monday, September 23, 2013

AmeriCorps Alums: The Return on Your Investment

Originally published in the HuffingtonPost. Sept 20, 2013.
by Ben Duda and Mary Bruce

Since the founding of AmeriCorps 20 years ago, 800,000 Americans have contributed 1 billion hours of service at 15,000 community-based organizations. And, after 20 years of testing, we know the AmeriCorps experiment worked. Our communities are stronger because of it. During their term of service, AmeriCorps members address our nation's biggest challenges - helping to turnaround our toughest schools, supporting our veterans transitioning home, and providing critical emergency response supports after natural disasters.
But the legacy of AmeriCorps extends beyond a single year of service or a single member. The legacy lives on in the more than 800,000 AmeriCorps Alums who continue to tackle national problems as leaders, from classrooms to boardrooms - and even in the halls of Congress. Our shared investment in AmeriCorps includes $500MM in private funding and in-kind contributions each year, which have been leveraged to support AmeriCorps' impact, and an additional $2.4 billion in Eli Segal education scholarship awards to defray the costs of higher education for those who served. This investment in AmeriCorps and its members is a down payment on a pipeline of leadership in the nonprofit, public, and social sectors -- as evidenced through the successes of AmeriCorps Alums.
Investment in this leadership pipeline is critical, as leadership gaps exist in the public, nonprofit, and private sectors. At a White House Convening on nonprofit leadership, the President's then Domestic Policy Advisor Melody Barnes said, "because we have historically undervalued and underinvested in nonprofit talent and leadership, these areas represent some of the greatest untapped potential for increasing the capacity of the sector. We can only succeed by ensuring that we have the right leaders in the right roles, and that those individuals are properly trained, managed, and supported." Similarly, a recent Atlantic Monthly article, "The Outsiders: How Can Millennials Change Washington If They Hate It?" showed that just 6 percent of college students plan to work for public sector institutions, and only 2.3 percent want to work at the federal level - which will not fill the gap produced by retiring Baby Boomers.
AmeriCorps alums - who have demonstrated dedication and learned key skills - are poised to fill these leadership gaps - and many already are in these positions.
For example, before Dhriti Pandaya was leading local fundraising for a national nonprofit, she was an AmeriCorps member at the Volunteer Center of North Texas, where she managed volunteers, worked with young-people and initiated the Volunteer Center's first STEM-based service-learning program. There, Dhriti's passion for youth engagement was ignited, and her skills grew. As a result of this experience, Dhriti is now a Senior Development Manager with Junior Achievement in Dallas, where talented corporate and community volunteers advance work readiness, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy for over 40,000 students in K-12 classrooms. Dhriti was made in AmeriCorps - and the legacy of our investment in her endures first, at the Volunteer Center where she served, and then through Dhriti's efforts to scale her organization's impact and reach more students in the Dallas area.
Likewise, before Shawnice Jackson was named to the National Council of Young Leaders, she was an AmeriCorps member with Maryland Public Allies program building volunteer recruitment capacity for Big Brothers Big Sister of the Greater Chesapeake. As a result of this apprenticeship within a local organization and building her outreach and community engagement skills, Shawnice, born and raised in Baltimore City, beat the odds. Unlike the majority of her peers, she graduated from high school and is on track to graduate college this May. Shawnice is a leader and advocate on two national councils that advise policy makers and funders on issues affecting low-income youth and their communities. Shawnice was made in AmeriCorps - and the legacy of our investment in her endures first though her service with Public Allies, and then through her own ongoing work improving policies and programs that support opportunity youth.
Dhriti, Shawnice, and thousands of other alums are continuing to strengthen our communities and our country. The legacy of their service endures - in the communities they serve, and in their own careers as principals in our nation's toughest schools, experts in green energy, and leaders across the social sector. So, in honor of the 20th Anniversary of the signing of the legislation that created AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Alums (the nonprofit national alumni organization dedicated to serving this alumni community) is launching a "Return on Investment" campaign." This campaign will celebrate the legacy of AmeriCorps, as demonstrated through alumni whose experience in AmeriCorps significantly shaped their professional trajectory and continues to make a stronger and more vibrant America. Please share your story with me at and register at to follow along and join us in celebrating!
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute to recognize the power of national service, in conjunction with the National Day of Service and Remembrance on September 11th and the 20th anniversary of the signing of the AmeriCorps legislation on September 20th. The Franklin Project is a policy program at the Aspen Institute working to create a 21st century national service system that challenges all young people to give at least one year of full-time service to their country. To see all the posts in this series, click here. To learn more about the Franklin Project, click here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

White House Panel on Sustaining the Dream through Education

Hugh Price, former head of the Urban League and civil rights luminary (and a professor of mine from graduate school) explained yesterday at a White House Panel on Sustaining the Dream through Education that "schools can not do it alone and should not go it alone." A part of the ongoing celebration in honor of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, Price was joined by Jim Shelton (Acting Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Education), David Johns (Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for African Americans), Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell (Director of the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the US Department of Education), and other leaders from the White House, Department of Education, and the civil rights community. I was honored to be among them.

Mrs. Dorothy Height

Both Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell and Hugh Price remembered leaders of the past, while calling on leaders of the future. They paraphrased the words of Dorothy Height (the only woman to be on the stage during King's "I Have a Dream" speech) that "the table is big enough," and it's up to us to make sure community leaders have a seat at that decision-making table. Rev. Girton-Mitchell recalled the moment she met Height --- though the leader of a large organization, she was licking stamps for a mailing. Height explained she wouldn't ask others to do any work she wasn't willing to do herself. 

I had the honor of meeting Height when I was a student at the University of Virginia. I was on the leadership of the University's Minority Rights Coalition (representing the National Organization for Women, and later, serving as chair of the MRC). She was sitting in a chair, and I remember kneeling down next to her. She placed her hand on mine, looked me in the eyes, and encouraged us to keep working for equity. Likewise, yesterday, Price reminded us all that 50 years after the March on Washington, there is "urgent and unfinished business to do." According to the most recent data available, today in America, about half of African American males (52%) do not graduate from high school on time -- but that's a 10 percentage point increase from 10 years prior. So, while that's encouraging news, and success is more common than failure, there is much work to do. As he said, schools can't do it alone, so we must all continue to step up, and step in.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

New Feeder Pattern Guide for Schools & Communities!

Over the past few months, I worked with the team at Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at JHU, and United Way to produce a feeder pattern guide for schools and communities. This guide builds on the commitments made by leaders of United Way at the previous Grad Nation Summits in Washington D.C. to help drive improvements in graduation rates. The guide provides valuable information to help identify the schools where additional adult and community support for students are most needed -- which in turn will help keep students in school and on-track to graduation.  More from United Way below. 


Early Intervention Drives Graduation Success

The path to dropout starts early. So the earlier a struggling student is identified, ideally before they enter high school, the better the chances in shifting the odds for success in school, work and life.  But that identification must be based on the right data.  One effective starting point is identifying the middle and elementary schools that “feed” into the  lowest-performing high schools.

United Way Worldwide, Civic Enterprises, and Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University have developed a guide to help you and your community partners identify school feeder patterns – and help your community begin the critical discussion on using that data to boost graduation rates. 

This Guide can help you and your community partners:

·         Understand the graduation crisis and effectively convey the rationale for identifying and using school feeder pattern data
·         Understand your community’s education landscape
·         Find out where to access key education national, state, and local information and data
·         Know how graduation rates are calculated and determine your community’s graduation rates
·         Identify feeder school patterns in your community
·         Use school feeder pattern data for greater impact in your community

Download the guide here, and use these tips and this flyer with your board, key volunteers who care about education, partners, funded agencies, and other community stakeholders.  If you missed the April 24th webinar focused on school feeder patterns and featuring Bob Balfanz, the nation’s premier researcher on high school dropout on this topic, click here to view the archived Webinar.