Friday, October 09, 2015
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Two AmeriCorps Volunteers Join Rising Tide Capital Staff

In November, the Rising Tide Capital staff welcomed two new AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, Ian Tyson and Jay Koo, to support the Programs staff as RTC expands its reach across Northern N.J.

Sometimes called the “Peace Corps in the U.S.”, AmeriCorps VISTA is a government-funded service program founded in 1964 to fight poverty and social inequalities across the United States. VISTA members commit to serve full-time for a year at a nonprofit organization or government agency, to work on issues including economic development, education, and health.

Ian_Tyson_Portrait_12-11_choice_27New Jersey native, Ian went to Rowan University to major in History and learn to be a teacher, but after taking a few education classes and interning with the New Jersey legislature, he realized that teaching might not be the best fit after all.

“I discovered that I loved being able to work directly with constituents and positively impact their lives by connecting them to resources,” said Ian about his internship. After he graduated in May 2011, he looked for public service opportunities and discovered Rising Tide Capital.

Inspired by RTC’s commitment to empowering low-income communities and excited about the opportunity to work a grassroots level, Ian applied for the Volunteer Coordinator position.

In neighboring New York, Jay Koo came across another Rising Tide Capital job post on the AmeriCorps website. An avid social activist and community organizer, Jay was attracted by the opportunity to transform communities by harnessing the entrepreneurial spirit in low-income communities.

While studying entrepreneurship at the State University of New York (SUNY) in Plattsburgh, N.Y., he applied his studies by organizing a number of programs including a financial literacy campaign which he activated in the neighboring community and his hometown in lower east side Manhattan. However, he knew he could make a bigger impact by gaining experience from a non-profit organization.

Jay_Koo_Portrait_26“When I saw the position for the Program Development Assistant, I knew it’d be the perfect fit for me,” said Jay, who hopes to one day run his own non-profit organization. During his year of service, Jay hopes to develop programs that empower entrepreneurs and build deeper connections with community partners.

In the month since they’ve joined RTC, Ian and Jay have been instrumental in helping organize and execute some of the biggest events of the year including Global Entrepreneurship Week, the Community Business Academy graduation, and a number of CBA orientations. They serve alongside three other volunteers: Grace Chung, Bryan Franklin, and Shantia Smith. The three were recruited earlier this year when for the first time, RTC was awarded an AmeriCorps grant for five, full-time volunteers.  

“We’re so excited to have the support of AmeriCorps VISTAs on our staff,” said Alfa Demmellash, “They not only bring a lot of energy to the team, but also demonstrate a clear commitment to Rising Tide Capital’s mission. We hope that this is a partnership RTC can continue in the coming years.” 

With the addition of the five AmeriCorps Vistas, Rising Tide Capital now has a staff of fifteen to support the CBA’s expansion into Essex County and across northern N.J. In December, a record number of entrepreneurs will graduate from the Community Business Academy, Rising Tide Capital’s flagship program which teaches the nuts and bolts of starting a business.

“It’s great to work with such a cohesive and like-minded group that’s so committed to social justice,” said Jay Koo, “I know this is where I’m supposed to be.”


AmeriCorps Vistas welcome guests to the Open House at Rising Tide Capital's new office on 334
Martin Luther King drive in Jersey City. From left to right: Grace Chung, Bryan Franklin, Shantia Smith,
Ian Tyson, Jay Koo 

Learn more about who’s who at Rising Tide Capital by visiting our staff page

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