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Refugee and Immigrant Caseworker or ESL Instructor

Compass AmeriCorps
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Before the year of service begins, a member is matched witht one of our partner service sites. Members spend most of their week at their service sites providing case management and social services support to their clients, teaching and tutoring students, managing community volunteers, and/or serving at outreach events. AmeriCorps members also serve as a group or local corps. Members collaborate on designing community service projects and serving on AmeriCorps committees. Members also participate in semi-monthly trainings and outside professional development events.

Service Activities

Depending on the service site, a Compass AmeriCorps member may provide:

Adult ESL Education
GED Education
Workplace Behavior/Soft Skills Training
Job Placement Services
Health Referrals
Individual Interaction
One-on-One Interaction

The majority of clients and students are immigrants and refugees.

Community Need Addressed

Immigrants to the United States face many challenges, such as difficulty finding employment, language barriers, and cultural differences. Refugees resettled to the United States encounter these challenges and more, including a lack of financial resources, connecting to social service benefits, and physical and mental healthcare needs. In 2014, Pennsylvania ranked eighth in the nation for the number of refugees being resettled in the state. The most recent American Community Survey (2014) documents a growth in immigrants within the city of Pittsburgh by 48% since the year 2000, including a 72% increase in the presence of Latin American immigrants within the last ten years. This total number is predicted to grow, including up to 500 Syrian refugees who are expected to be resettled in Allegheny County within the next two years. Providing coordinated services to immigrants and refugees is a prevalent and severe need in Allegheny County that requires resources and manpower far beyond the capacity of local organizations.

Position Outcomes

Literacy Pittsburgh’s Compass AmeriCorps program was created in 2010 in collaboration with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services’ Immigrants and Internationals Advisory Council, which was concerned with the evolving needs of the community. Our intervention of increasing the intensity of individualized services leads to higher literacy rates, which are tied to higher rates of employment for this population. Since its inception, Compass AmeriCorps members have helped place hundreds of refugees and immigrants in jobs. Last year alone, our members served 2,543 unduplicated individuals. While Compass AmeriCorps has made a significant impact on Allegheny County and its newest residents over the past six years by expanding the capacity of local organizations, the growing refugee and immigrant population still needs an increase in intensity of services that local agencies are unable to provide.


Childcare assistance if eligible, Education award upon successful completion of service, Health coverage, Living allowance, Student loan forbearance, Training

Other benefits include free monthly bus pass, access to a free, 24/7 AmeriCorps member mental health support line and reimbursement for site-to-site travel. Intangible benefits for all members: Members have freedom. Members are expected to be creative, insightful and to think of new ways of teaching and serving that will benefit both their service site and AmeriCorps. Members can experience a high level of responsibility with little to no prior experience in case management or teaching. Some members’ level of service could be compared to the level of work expected from a person with high credentials. Instead, service sites welcome members with little experience but who are full of passion for their service. AmeriCorps service results in a great resume at the end of the service year for most members. Members grow both personally and professionally. AmeriCorps is a very supportive and friendly environment. Members are expected to make mistakes and learn lifelong lessons from them. Most members can look back on their year of service and point to specific personal improvements they made through the year.

Skills you will gain

CPR and AED certification, conflict resolution, time management, project planning, event planning, cultural competency, pay negotiation, interview skills, civic engagement, case management, ESL teaching, communication

Competencies You Will Develop

Demonstrate sensitivity and empathy, Lead group discussion, Listen to and consider others' viewpoints, Maintain open lines of communication with others, Speak clearly, in precise language and in a logical, organized and coherent manner, Turn taking, Write cleary and effectively
Creativity & Problem Solving
Able to identify and define the problem, Capable of generating possible solutions, Communicate the problem to appropriate personnel, Improvise, Provide relevant expertise, Select and implement well-considered solution
Derive consensus, Develop constructive working relationships and maintain them over time, Establish a high degree of trust and credibility with others, Interact professionally and respectfully with supervisors and co-workers, Stay positive and outcome oriented, Use appropriate strategies and solutions for dealing with conflicts and differences to maintain a smooth workflow
Accepts responsibility, Anticipate the consequences of decisions, Identify and prioritize the key issues involved to facilitate the decision making process, Involve people appropriately in decisions that may impact them, Quickly respond with a back-up plan if a decision goes amiss
Carefully consider which tools or technological solutions are appropriate for a given job, Consistently choose the best tool or technological solution for the problem at hand, Operate tools and equipment in accordance with established operating procedures, safety standards, and ethical guidelines, Seek opportunities to improve knowledge of tools and technologies that may assist in streamlining work and improving productivity
Able to prioritize various competing tasks, Create environment of contribution, Create plan of action, schedule tasks so that work is completed on time, Demonstrate the effective allocation of time and resources efficiently, Drive decision making, Effectively delegate tasks, Facilitate group planning, Set goals
Be pleasant, courteous, professional and respectful when dealing with internal and external customers or clients, Evaluate customer or client satisfaction, Honor the privilege of being able to work with and for those being served, Provide personalized, prompt, and efficient service to meet the requirements, requests and needs of customers, Recognize the importance of maintaining privacy and confidentiality of those being served, Understand and anticipate the needs of others, Understand the importance of one's role in the functioning of the organization, Understand the significance of maintaining a healthful and safe environment
  • Activity Types Hands On Activities, Office Activities, Professional Activities
  • Focus Areas Community & Nonprofit Development, Economic Security, Education & Youth, Health & Nutrition, Homelessness & Housing, Legal Assistance
  • Length of Service 11 Months
  • Education Requirements Some College
  • Placement Individual and Team Placements
  • Service Setting Community-based Nonprofit, Health Clinic/Other Health Organization
  • Weekly Training Hours 4

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