Veterans have already given much for their countries. They leave family behind for months at a time, give up holidays, and volunteer for missions that place their lives at risk. Is it possible that those who have already given so much could want to give more?
For those who serve with The Mission Continues, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ The Mission Continues is a national non-profit that empowers veterans to continue giving back to their communities through service. Four times a year it gathers together a class of nearly 100 fellows and platoon leaders for orientation. After a weekend of training, team building, and community service, it sends them out to locations across the country for six month or one-year terms of service.
This year, ClearanceJobs is proud to be sponsoring a fellow from the 2016 Charlie Class. Throughout the rest of this year we’ll be updating you on what The Mission Continues does, why partnerships like this are so important, and how you can get involved.
The Mission Continues invited us to sit in on the 2016 Charlie Class orientation held in Minneapolis, MN. I’m not sure whether I expected a military muster or a weekend of campfire songs and Kumbaya, but this was neither. Fellows were charged to get out of their comfort zones, but also recognized for the accomplishments they’ve already made. It seems The Mission Continues will meet vets where they’re at in terms of their reintegration to civilian life – and then challenge them to be more successful than they were before.
Spencer Kympton, a US Army veteran and the president of The Mission Continues, launched the weekend by reminding the class of the important role veterans play in their communities.
“We’re coming back to an America where the colors – literally – are bleeding,” said Kympton. “As a result, our America is on fire…In order to go into countries that are on fire, you have to do it street by street, block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood. The veteran voice has to be present.”
Kympton noted that while many express an interest in solving the complex issues facing our country today, few have volunteered to serve. Veterans are a group who has already stepped up to the plate. They have the knowledge, the ability, and most importantly, the desire.
Looking at the make-up of the 2016 Charlie Class you’re reminded of one of the key things that makes the military great – its diversity. In a room of nearly 100, almost every table is a melting pot of cultures, colors and backgrounds. Fellows arrived from coast-to-coast, but quickly formed teams – not based on their differences, but based on their shared passions.
The Mission Continues fellows are matched with local non-profits across the country, where they serve their fellowships. They’re paid a monthly stipend in exchange for 20-hours per week of community service for 26 weeks. Some fellows are college students, others have other full-or-part time jobs.
Fellows aren’t randomly placed into organizations. They’re encouraged to help select their host charity, and many are launching new veteran outreach programs with their charity partners. These programs include creating a veteran outreach program at a major east coast college, launching a substance abuse and addiction counseling service in a local community, and helping conserve endangered carnivores (yes, endangered carnivores).
“It drastically changed things for me,” said Lakesha Stringer, the most recent recipient of The Mission Continues’ Mark Weber Legacy Award. “It took my service to a whole new dimension.”
Stringer already volunteering in a number of ways prior to starting the fellowship. But she described her service as unfocused. In applying for a fellowship with The Mission Continues, she was able to garner ideas from her mentors and get direction as to how she could better serve her fellow veterans. She said a conversation with one of her program specialists opened her eyes to possibilities she hadn’t considered. She went from being a volunteer, to being a leader.
What’s Your Story?
“When you step in this family, you’re changing the lives of thousands of people around you,” said Christopher Randall, a fellowship program specialist with The Mission Continues. He energized the 2016 Charlie Class, but just the year prior he had been a fellow himself.
He was working as a St. Louis police offer when he took on a fellowship with The Mission Continues. He fell so in love with the organization that he went from full-time cop and part-time volunteer, to a full-time staff member with The Mission Continues.
Sitting down and talking to tables full of post-9/11 veterans with a variety of backgrounds, you see that his story, while remarkable, isn’t rare. The Mission Continues isn’t just getting veterans out to complete community service hours – it’s training leaders and it’s changing communities. Many fellows reported their conversations with their mentors and program directors had opened them up to new possibilities for what life could be life after the military.
“We want to take an oath, we want to come back, we want to make a difference in our communities,” said Alexis Wormley, who received the Weber Award in 2015.
For more information on The Mission Continues visit https://www.missioncontinues.org/.
Check out photos of the 2016 Charlie Class in action here. Fellows spent half a day revitalizing areas throughout the Little Earth neighborhood in downtown Minneapolis. Fellows built a stage and benches for the community to use, installed a basketball hoop, painted, and cleaned up a variety of locations across the community.