Circles Initiative, Monroe County

Circles offers Kenning new opportunities

Tom 002

Tom Kenning took his new job as an AmeriCorps member for the Circles Initiative at the South Central Community Action Program to find a new avenue to help others.

For the past three years, Kenning has been a teacher at Portage High School in northwest Indiana, where he taught economics, government and U.S. History.

“It was great,” Kenning said. “I went into it looking to be someone who made a difference with kids and had a positive impact.”

But in thinking about his long career ahead, Tom couldn’t see spending all of it as a teacher. The 2006 Indiana University graduate may go back to teaching at some point, but he wants to gain other experiences as well.

With the Circles Initiative, Tom and another new AmeriCorps member Genese Parker will play a critical role as the Volunteer Coordinators for the program, which is part of a national campaign to eliminate poverty. Operating in several communities around the country, each Circles Initiative consists of families working to get out of poverty who are called Circles Leaders. These Circles Leaders are paired with financially stable Circles Allies who form supportive and befriending relationships with the Leaders.

Kenning and Parker will recruit new Circles Allies, as well as local people who provide child care and food that make weekly community meetings with the Leaders and Allies possible.

“I like it a lot,” Kenning said. “I’ve met a lot of really interesting people and everyone has their own story to tell about how they got here to want to be a part of this program. It’s great to be a part of this program and help out.”

Joining the Circles Initiative staff has also provided an added bonus for Tom – he’s enjoyed his return to Bloomington.

“I really like this town,” said Kenning, who grew up in Valparaiso. “The people in southern Indiana are so friendly and I like the culture here with the university.”

So welcome to Tom and Genese! We’ll soon have a story here about Genese, who has joined the Circles Initiative staff even more recently than Tom.


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