image title

Legacy Corps program that provides respite care for veterans now part of ASU

Legacy Corps program at ASU to offer respite care to families of veterans.
Program is accepting applications for volunteers.
November 7, 2018

Service program matches volunteers with veterans' caregiving families

For veterans, their time in the military is often a significant part of their lives, and nobody is going to understand that service more than another veteran.

A longtime respite-care program that connects volunteers to veterans is now part of Arizona State University and soon will be helping local military families.

The Legacy Corps for Veterans and Military Families has been around for 15 years and was previously at the University of Maryland. But when the professor who ran the program retired, the project — and the $6 million grant to run it — was moved to the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU.

“We decided the program was too good to let go and it needed to continue on,” said David Swindell, an associate professor and the director of the Center for Urban Innovation in the Watts College. He had been involved with Legacy Corps as an evaluator and was instrumental in bringing it to ASU a few months ago.

Currently, Legacy Corps partners with agencies at 14 sites in nine states — but none in Arizona. Swindell is working quickly to change that.

“We desperately want one here because Arizona has such a large veteran population and ASU is committed to veterans, so this fits perfectly with our overarching mission,” he said.

“And respite care is a service that’s very underprovided.”

Here’s how Legacy Corps works: Nonprofit agencies that already offer respite care partner with Legacy Corps, which is part of the AmeriCorps federal service program. Volunteers sign up, get basic AmeriCorps training and are paired with a family in which either the caregiver or the care recipient is a veteran. There are no income restrictions. The volunteers spend about eight to 10 hours a week with the veteran, giving the caregiver some much-needed time off. The volunteers sign up for one year of service, which can be renewed for an additional year. Volunteers also get a small stipend to cover transportation costs.

Legacy Corps volunteers don’t have to be veterans, but Swindell said that’s the “sweet spot” the program is aiming for.

“They spend time with the recipient, and they love to talk. It’s cathartic to have this friend who understands,” he said.

Another benefit is that when their service ends, AmeriCorps volunteers receive an education stipend of about $1,600 that can be used to pay tuition, and volunteers over age 55 can transfer that money to family members.

Swindell said the 15 years of the program has produced a lot of research showing that the service increases community engagement among the volunteers — even after their term is over. Every volunteer is surveyed four times, before, during and after their term.

“We found that their sense of community attachment, and the social capital generated from training, jumps very high at the beginning,” he said.

“And after they leave the program, two years later, it goes down a little, but it’s still way higher than it was when they started,” he said.

“What that translates into is that these individuals, even after they finish their volunteer term of service with AmeriCorps, continue to volunteer. That means the dollars spent on their stipends by the federal government are getting a return on investment that’s much higher than what we’re spending.”

Surveys of caregivers also found high satisfaction with the program — a key element, according to Jack Steele, project director for Legacy Corps.

“The goal is to reduce the burden of stress and to stabilize or improve the emotional well-being of that caregiver,” he said. “Veteran and military families are heroes, and we’re trying to reach into their lives and improve their health.”

Linda Siegel, program manager for Legacy Corps, said that volunteers get training on how to interact with the care recipients.

“We do a lot on communication techniques and a whole curriculum on military culture,” she said. “They learn games and get tool kits so they can design their own way to approach this.”

There are more than 520,000 veterans in Arizona, according to the U.S. Census, and two-thirds of them are age 55 or older.

While Legacy Corps has not finalized a site in Arizona yet, Swindell said that the program is accepting applications for volunteers, and people who are interested should contact him.

“It would be great to have folks in the pipeline for when we get the site here running,” he said.

Top image by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

In celebration of Veterans Day, Arizona State University proudly honors veterans and active members of the military through Salute to Service. Your support helps veterans succeed. Text ASUVets to 41444 to donate to the Veterans Education Fund or visit veterans.asu.edu to learn how you can honor a veteran. 

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
image title

ASU scholars, students embed in indigenous communities with research in Indian Country

November 7, 2018

Sun Devil researchers are making an impact for indigenous peoples around Arizona

NCAA college basketball rarely makes it to the far reaches of the Navajo Nation. But this weekend, the Arizona State University women’s basketball team will take on national powerhouse Baylor University in Fort Defiance, Arizona.

Organized in conjunction with ASU’s Office of American Indian Initiatives, the “Showdown on the Rez” will take place on Veterans Day and serve as a celebration of Native American Heritage Month, as well as provide a platform to recognize and honor Native Americans who served in the armed forces.

Watch: ESPN2 will broadcast the Showdown on the Rez on Sunday

But athletes aren’t the only members of the Sun Devil family making an impact on indigenous communities around Arizona. The university also boasts another VIP team — faculty, staff, researchers and students who contribute to the well-being and advancement of the 22 tribes in Arizona.

Health care, language preservation, molecular science, sustainability, research methodologies, higher education experiences: ASU has a wide breadth of research and interaction taking place in Indian Country. And this is evident throughout the year, not just in November.

“One of the hallmarks at ASU for our work with tribal communities and Native students is about building capacity and creating futures of their own making,” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center for Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian affairs. “Our goal is to interface with all 22 tribes and nations and every Native person in Arizona if we can.”

They’re making a good dent in the Navajo Nation. Lamont Yazzie is currently a fourth-year doctoral student in the justice studies program in the School of Social Transformation, where his dissertation work on research methodologies is helping advance Diné learners.

Specifically, his research compares the space between Western society in America and indigenous communities, the structural oppression that exists and how their people have responded to education hurdles in the past.

“It’s paying homage to the knowledge systems of our ancestors because everything we have needed has always been there,” Yazzie said. “Looking at education through a Navajo lens, we can legitimize our thought process, legitimize our perspective and legitimize our way of life.”

Colin Ben, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and a postdoctoral research scholar in the School of Social Transformation, is also researching Navajo education. His paper, “Navajo Student Decision Making,” was presented at the “Doing Research in Indigenous Communities" conference, a partnership between ASU’s Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development and the Office of American Indian Initiatives that was held Nov. 1–2 at ASU SkySong.

His research examines decision-making factors influencing Diné students’ pursuit of doctoral education and their experiences of persisting in graduate school despite difficult and discouraging experiences.

Ben discovered that indigenous students face more hurdles than most, including cultural transitions, isolation, financing programs, obligations to the tribal community, taking care of elderly parents, driving long distances to school and maintaining a full-time job.

“There’s a toll that it takes on them, not only financially but physically and mentally. It was wearing them out,” Ben said. “But what pushed them through was the fact that they wanted these advanced skill sets to enhance their career opportunities and trajectory. Also, they had a strong desire to give back to their community.”

Ben said he has shared his findings with his tribal elders, as well as with ASU administrators to address policy issues to better serve Native students.

That’s exactly what Deborah Chadwick is doing in her work as project director of the Center for Indian Education. In 2014, she developed a first-of-its-kind program that trains future teachers on their home reservation with a focus on tribal history and keeping alive the Akimel O’otham language. The first master's cohort graduated in spring 2018.

This year Chadwick is thinking beyond the borders of the Akimel O’otham reservation and has been an integral part of the newly offered online master’s degree program in indigenous education being launched next spring. The 30-credit program will be taught by mostly indigenous faculty and is specifically geared toward Native Americans who live in remote sites and on reservations.

“It’s not just for people in Arizona but nationally and internationally,” Chadwick said. “We’ve had inquiries from around the world.”

Tennille Marley, a citizen of the White Mountain Apache Tribe and an assistant professor in the American Indian Studies program, recently finished research on two papers dealing with diabetes in tribal communities and data sovereignty in the research process.

Her paper “History: A Determinant of American Indian Health” examined how history has impacted diabetes. She said colonization, especially by the U.S. government, heavily influenced dietary practices of Native Americans by placing them on reservations and introducing rations, which many were forced to take for survival.

“They replaced our traditional diets. For example, fry bread and tortillas, which are not traditional dishes, are now a staple,” Marley said. “I’m hoping the paper will encourage Native American communities to go back to our traditional dietary practices and to help health care providers and research better understand diabetes in Native American communities.”

She has a willing ear in David R. Wilson, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and an ASU doctoral graduate. Wilson is the first director of the Tribal Health Research Office at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, which was established in 2015.

Wilson also attended the conference at ASU SkySong, which was a gathering of approximately 175 Native American faculty and researchers at ASU and visitors. Wilson was a keynote speaker, but he was also there to communicate the work that happens across the NIH with tribal nations.

“The overall goal of the NIH’s engagement in this event is to not only introduce the Tribal Health Research Office but also to convey the importance of the NIH’s commitment to health in tribal communities through research,” Wilson said. “An important part of that is to increase opportunities for professional development to the Native American student base that exists here. Also, to collaborate with tribes that are interested in research. The best way to accomplish this is to increase communications between the university, the NIH and tribal nations. A successful collaboration will lead to a more diverse biomedical research community that also understands the cultural competencies that are important and respectful to ethical research in the tribal communities.”

While most of the research being conducted by indigenous scholars at ASU is being carried out in the field and in the classroom, some of it is being done in labs. Gary F. MooreMoore was the recipient of the National Science Foundation’s CAREER grant, a prestigious grant to support emerging academic scholars. This year, he was one of three doctoral advisers recognized nationally as an exceptional mentor by the ARCS Foundation., an assistant professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and a researcher in the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery, studies what plants can teach us about solar energy storage, which currently is too expensive to use on a mass scale.

“My research group is investigating the molecular science required to produce fuels and other valuable chemicals from sunlight, water and air, thereby replacing fossil inputs and creating renewable processes,” said Moore, a chemist from the Powhatan Pamunkey tribe in Virginia. He is researching methods to harness sustainable energy using approaches inspired by nature’s process of photosynthesis.

He said that although his lab is not currently working with an Arizona tribe, he believes this type of approach has great appeal to nations looking to harness energy in a decentralized fashion and with minimal environmental disruption.

“Each house could become its own power plant,” Moore said. “It’s an approach that could potentially fit well with tribal communities if those communities are willing and receptive to adopting such technologies.”  

Read: New magazine, ASU initiatives help Native students reach a ‘Turning Point’

Top photo: ASU Associate Professor Angela Gonzales speaks during a panel discussion on "What is indigenous research? What does research in indigenous communities look like?" The panel was part of the two-day conference on "Doing Research in Indigenous Communities" at ASU SkySong on Nov. 1–2. The morning panel discussion drew around 60 people including several ASU students. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now