Issues and Updates


It has truly been a while since I wrote a blog. Anyone who reads Laura's blogs, however, pretty much knows what I'm doing. My friends here in San Diego call Laura my "life partner" because we spend so much time together - living, commuting, working. Thankfully, we get along and haven’t killed each other yet :). I feel like recently most of my time has been spent in trying to overcome a lot of bureaucracy.

Issue #1: Ed Award. I recently discovered that my loan doesn't necessarily fall into the "qualified" definition of a loan for which an Ed Award can be applied. Apparently, for a loan to be “qualified” it has to be given by the state/federal government. Why then, don’t they say “qualified state/federal loan?” I received a special loan through my school’s alumni association that is interest free so it is considered private. To transfer a loan to a federal one, you have to be currently enrolled in school. Well, had these “qualifications” been explicitly written on the website when I was first looking into AmeriCorps (I was still in school) I might have been able to change it. Instead, however, I joined up and even completed orientation without the slightest inkling that my loan would not be accepted. Thankfully, after a lot of conversations and some letter writing I have been able to get my loan approved. Yae!

Issue #2: Healthcare. For details on these shenanigans, you should read Laura’s blog. The basic gist – it is pretty much impossible to find a clinic in San Diego. The one clinic listed within 30 miles on Seven Corner’s website is only for children. Believe me, it’s true, we went there twice. How many juveniles are AmeriCorps members? Probably not many. I did look into finding a doctor when I first signed up but never followed through. My bad. Honestly, though, that wouldn’t have helped in Laura’s situation unless they had after-hours, same day appointments available. It is important to be able to go to some sort of 24-hour emergency center and in San Diego, that doesn’t seem to be a possibility with AmeriCorps benefits (not insurance). By the way, downtown inner-city emergency rooms = not so fun. Thank goodness for the Purell dispenser on the wall. I read Danielle’s reply to Laura’s blog and I was absolutely shocked by the advice Danielle had been given, “…show up at the ER and declare you have no insurance - depending on the state, you sometimes get better coverage that way than if you tell them about Seven Corners.” That is so sad. I told Mike Denegal what Danielle said about asking him for advice, he just laughed and said, “I love Danielle :).”

Now that I’m pretty much done ranting and raving I can tell you all about the things I’ve been up to at Pangea. Pangea is a non-profit software development company that specializes in web-based resident data management tools (I know it’s a mouthful). Our current systems include: AASC Online, AASC Families, Abilities4RSC, and Mercy Families. Here’s a little rundown on what these actually do: The systems are designed for service coordinators (like social workers who live on-site at an elderly home, low-income family housing project, etc). These service coordinators have daily contact with their residents in which they sort of act like a concierge would at a hotel – they provide services for their residents, whatever those might be. These services are provided in hopes that residents can improve their livelihoods and/or become self-sufficient. For example, say Mr. Johnston is living with his family in government-funded, low-income housing and needs to get a job but doesn’t have many skills. The service coordinator could invite him to a computer class that he/she is putting on, set him up to attend someone else’s, or possibly even help him get involved in a degree- or certificate-earning program. Anything she does for him she inputs into one of the systems. Two months later, after finishing his classes, Mr. Johnston lands a great networking assistant job at a local company and is able to move he and his family into an independent apartment building (that is, he no longer requires financial assistance to pay his rent). Well, this outcome is also recorded into the system. So, in the end, the system has recorded the steps the service coordinator took to assist Mr. Johnston in becoming independent. Having it in an electronic format allows the service coordinators to run reports and have tangible proof of the good they are doing. This translates into more government grants and funding for their residences and, therefore, more people helped. To try to keep track of all of this by hand would be mind boggling, whereas the systems can do it in about 5 seconds.

So that’s the basic idea, and now you may be wondering, “So what do you do AmeriCorey?” Laura and I have been working on the design of two main information systems: Abilities 4 Mentoring and Abilities 4 Education. Basically we get to design all of the forms and reports from the front-end perspective. The Mentoring system tracks mentoring relationships and their outcomes: Did the mentee’s grades improve? Did he/she stay out of trouble? The Education system is specific to San Diego City Schools and is being built in coordination with a grant given to track AP testing and its effects. The schools want to see if students who take part in programs like AVID or AP classes are more likely to go to college. In addition to these new systems, all of the older systems are constantly being upgraded so we end up doing lots of testing to find the bugs and quirks as well as field tech-support calls. Additionally, we’ve been working on updating training materials for all of the systems.

By the way, we got a little gift from our buddies at Microsoft. Apparently, this is what half a million dollars looks like:


Microsoft Software

Enough about work. One thing I am very excited about is the change from CNET to the NTEN conference. I went to college in LA and I am totally over that city (No offense to true Los Angelens, I just want a change of scenery). I am definitely excited to have some Washington DC adventures: new maps, subways, dead presidents, dollar theaters, the possibilities abound! Oh yeah, and learning at the conference too I guess.

This blog has become freakishly long. I’m making up for lost time I guess. Anyhow, I hope you all had amazing holidays and are refreshed and ready to get back to saving the world!


Comment from gariet cowin on January 9, 2007 - 4:24pm

You know what also would have been nice? Somebody explaining that there is a BIG difference in the amount of food stamps you get if you sign up BEFORE the PSO, rather than after.

But cheer up! At least you have a super sweet life partner. I have to settle for my imaginary co-worker. And he's an asshole.


Comment from danielle martin on January 9, 2007 - 7:00pm

You would have gotten more in food stamps if you signed up before the PSO? I only ask because we've got a new crew starting next week so I want to give them the right story...


Comment from danielle martin on January 9, 2007 - 7:13pm

Hey Corey,

My mom has this little saying I say to myself very often in my VISTA service: "Nobody said life is fair." [I know, it used to piss me off when she said it, but I'm old enough to be ok with the fact that at some point you turn into your parents.] I know for myself, I try to remind myself that the challenges of doing a year of full-time volunteer service are only marginally comparable to the experiences of the people I'm trying to ultimately serve. Unfortunately we live in a country that doesn't have a national healthcare system and where only a quarter of the population even get a chance to get a 4 year college degree. I'm not trying to be unsympathetic - I'm admittedly idealist enough to think NOBODY should have to jump through ridiculous hoops to not be sick and get an education. So the system stinks, let's change it. Let's write some letters. Or help us make it clearer for the next set of VISTAs.

That being said, I'm impressed with all the amazing stuff your doing at Pangea. I'd love to keep hearing more often about the great things you're accomplishing this year (and hope you share some of the lessons learned and resourced you developed) and hope you let us know when we can help.


PS Tell Mike D. that I love him right back...him and his positive attitude ;)