Erin Blasko | September 28, 2017
“How do you know you’re making an impact?”
The question posed, Jennifer Knapp Beudert, director of the University of Notre Dame’s Robinson Community Learning Center, scanned the room for answers, landing on a young man with black jeans, a brown knit cap and a short, bushy beard.
“It’s a little tricky, I guess,” the man said. “Art is more of a subjective type of thing.”
It was day two of orientation for the group of 13 AmeriCorps members — 12 women and one man sipping water and coffee and picking at the remains of breakfast — fruit, muffins, yogurt — inside of a meeting room at the center.
An off-campus educational initiative of Notre Dame, the Robinson Community Learning Center relies on AmeriCorps to pursue its core mission: joining with community and Notre Dame partners to strengthen the Northeast Neighborhood, south of campus, through relationship building and educational opportunities.
The man in question, Joe Russo, was returning for a second year of service with the Robinson Shakespeare Company, the center’s youth Shakespeare company, which recently returned from England where members performed “Cymbeline” in Stratford and London.
“I think a lot of it becomes anecdotal,” said Russo, continuing to chew on the question. “But a lot of our kids are returning, so seeing their improvement over the years” speaks to the program’s impact.
Yes, but there is something else, Knapp Beudert prodded, “something big you do at the end of Shakespeare.”
Russo smiled. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “We put on a play.”
After seven years, the Robinson Community Learning Center’s relationship with AmeriCorps, a network of local, state and national service programs that engage more than 80,000 Americans per year, remains as robust — and as important — as ever.
But as the center welcomes its newest group of AmeriCorps members, the future of the program remains in doubt, with the White House proposing to eliminate the agency that oversees it.