Monday, April 7, 2014

NC Mayors recognize importance of National Service


mayors day
April 1st marked the second annual Mayor's Day of Recognition for National Service. Nationwide 1,760 mayors in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Guam, and Puerto Rico united in support of national service. Thirty North Carolina mayors participated, which is a large increase from last year. A full list can be found here. Together, these mayors represent more than 110 million Americans, or one-third of the U.S. population. These mayors carried a common message: National Service Works for America. We at North Carolina Campus Compact were honored to participate in several of these events alongside such a diverse and vibrant group of AmeriCorps programs.

Dr. Lisa Keyne, Executive Director of NC Campus Compact, joined the Honorable U.S. Congressman David Price, Burlington Mayor Ronnie Wall; Gibsonville Mayor Len Williams; and Mr. Frank DiSilvestro, State Program Specialist with the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), to recognize the commitment to service of the Alamance County RSVP Volunteers and local AmeriCorps members. The celebration was held in conjunction with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for the newly renovated Crump Village Education Resource Center, a community center that will provide educational space for residents of the Burlington Housing Authority as well as the broader community. BHA is also a key community partner of Elon University, and many Elon students support youth programming at Crump Village.

VISTA Camille Smith with a
signed proclamation of support
from Mayor MacFarlane
VISTA Jacob Lerner participated in an event in Chapel Hill with Mayor Mark Kleinshmidt and members of the NC Literacy Corps. VISTA Camille Smith participated in an event in Raleigh with Mayor Nancy MacFarlane. VISTA Anna Donze participated in an event in Winston-Salem with Mayor Allen Joines, and VISTAs Bevelyn UkahDevin Corrigan, and Carla Davis participated in an event in Greensboro with Mayor Nancy Vaughn. Each Mayor issued a proclamation of support to National Service and spoke of the importance of AmeriCorps initiatives happening throughout the city, and in many cases, throughout the State. VISTA Leader Carla Davis recounts her Greensboro event experience: "The feeling of community in the room was palpable as AmeriCorps members shared their service experiences and projects."

VISTA Anna Donze with other
AmeriCorps members & Mayor Joines
North Carolina Campus Compact is dedicated to leveraging higher education resources to support community organizations, and to create well-rounded programs that address K-12 education, hunger and homelessness, and food security. And we, with other AmeriCorps organizations, are working toward a common goal for North Carolina: to enhance the quality of life for its citizens. Currently the Opportunity Index ranks North Carolina 37th in the nation, but when we can align with local government, the speed at which this this goal can become a reality increases.

Thank you to all of our North Carolina Mayors for recognizing the work that North Carolina Campus Compact and each of our VISTAs is doing to mobilize college student volunteers, create partnerships with non-profits, and fight poverty. The Corporation for National and Community Service annually engages more than five million people in service at more than 60,000 locations in 8,500 cities across the country through AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, and other sponsored programs, and we are glad to be even a small part of those numbers.

Check out our Twitter feed for more Mayors Day pics and tweets @NCCampusCompact

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

VISTA-led alternative break trips and “service staycations” expand student learning, service


NC Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTAs helped lead Alternative Spring Break trips near and far this past month, engaging students both in service and in meaningful reflections of the experience to connect with their day-to-day lives. Each ASB trip built on the VISTA's primary project focus: k-12 education, economic opportunity, or food security.

VISTA Dalton Hoffer co-led a trip to the national historic city of Philadelphia for packed week of activities and service opportunities. The group served four different community organizations in the area: Philabundance Food Bank, Jewish Relief Agency, Philadelphia Reads, and Cradles to Crayons. These agencies allowed them to learn how Philadelphia is working on improving its literacy rate and interacting with volunteers. The students then took that knowledge back to Robeson County which also holds a low literacy statistic. Six of the 9 participating students are mentors in the Brave Impact Mentoring Program Dalton helped create. Focusing on leadership and citizenship, Dalton said the trip "allowed [the mentors] to work with and see how other partners utilize volunteers and interact with students" and led to conversations about how to bring that work back to Robeson county and inspire a sense of pride in that work throughout the community. Check out Dalton's video recap of UNCP's trip.

VISTA Anna Donze at Wake Forest University focused her trip in the community by hosting a Staycation at her community partner site, El Buen Pastor Latino Community Services. Typically the site struggles during WFU's Spring Break as it loses the majority of its volunteer tutors for a week. The 7 WFU students on the trip served as tutors for the duration of the week, played with and supervised the elementary students during their free time and volunteered in the garden. One WFU student said of the experience, "We are helping nurture, mentor, and guide our next generation of youth. We are putting our heads together to care for the young people that will impact this world in years to come." They also designed and led a "Vocab Bowl" for the students to practice some vocabulary words that they may not use in the classroom, as the majority of the students speak only Spanish at home. Anna not only helped coordinate the trip, but also took note of the week's highlights to incorporate them next year for Staycation round two.

VISTA Takira Dale with the Duke Community Service Center also stayed close to home to host her Dive into Durham ASB trip. During this 5 day service experience, Takira and her supervisor, Assistant Director of CSC Programs Dominique Redmond, led 10 students working with various community agencies including Duke Gardens, Urban Ministries of Durham, the Durham Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, Genesis Home, Lakewood Community Garden, and the West End Mobile Market. These agencies are committed to fighting hunger and homelessness in Durham, and align with Takira's primary food security project through the Community Service Center. After the service events, Takira led reflection discussions and panels, and created a contact list for these student volunteers to stay engaged in the community throughout their undergraduate career and into their futures. She said of the week, “One interesting aspect of this ASB was experiencing the wide variety of people working on solving issues of homelessness, hunger and poverty. All these organizations may have different methods but most are surprisingly interconnected.”

WCU students conducting food
assessment surveys for the Lower
Nine Ward Food Coalition
VISTA Willie Jones also focused on food security and homelessness for his ASB, a complement to his primary project at Western Carolina University where he is establishing a volunteer gleaning program and reinvigorating the campus garden. Willie and his supervisor Dr. Lane Perry, Director of the Center for Service Learning, led a group of 17 students to New Orleans to work with Green LightThe Green Project, and Lower Nine, all organizations who's focuses are to alleviate hunger and homelessness. Willie says, "This was the first time WCU has traveled to NOLA and the first time [WCU] has worked with any of these partners." The Center for Service Learning is currently developing a system that will allow the university to have multiple alternative break locations that can be rotated out on a yearly or bi-yearly basis. "This way," Willie says, "the university will be able to maintain the relationship they built with these communities." Willie served as the food insecurity and gardening expert for the group.

ECU students maintaining a rain
garden at a local elementary school
VISTA Shifra Sered co-chaperoned a group of 9 East Carolina University students on their ASB trip to Carteret County, North Carolina, where they stayed at Camp Albemarle; ECU's long-time ASB host. The group served primarily at NC Coastal Federation, but also served with Habitat for Humanity and the Hope Mission soup kitchen. "By living in an intentional community and learning to rely on one another for support," Shifra said, "we were able to delve into service and educational experiences that challenged us to evaluate and articulate our values surrounding community, inequality, social responsibility and environmental justice." The group immersed themselves in the experience in part by limiting their food budget to the current food stamp allocation, and by adopting the sustainable lifestyle practices they learned through their service. Shifra designed and facilitated educational and reflection activities for the students as well. She says that after the trip, "We charged all of the student participants...to design and implement a sustainability project back at ECU...[which will hopefully] lead to a student-run sustainability club on campus."

VISTA Bevelyn Ukah and her supervisor James Shields, led a group of Guilford College Bonner Leaders to Charleston, South Carolina and St. Helena Island to learn about the history and contemporary realities of the Gulla Geechie nation, specifically as they relate to race and class relations in the area. The goal of this trip was to give the students the practice working in teams to analyze poverty and diversity using place-based critical thinking. 

NC Campus Compact's very own Office Manager, Rene Summers, also co-led a group of 9 Elon University students on a mission trip all the way to St. James Jamaica to serve with an organization called Mustard Seed Communities, which serves children with special needs. The group spent part of their trip with the children and the other part completing projects ranging from light construction work, painting, farming and landscaping alongside the community and MSC staff. Rene and the group arrived safely back in Elon this week, but they will continue to hold meetings to reflect on their experiences.

All of these VISTAs have been planning their trips for months. Though each of project may seem different, the goal of all is to engage students in a deeper conversation with and understanding of their communities. Whether the groups went North to Philly, South to NOLA, stayed in the state, or stayed right in their neighborhood, NC Campus Compact VISTAs are shifting the conversation these students are having and preparing the next generation of leaders and community organizers.   

More information about organizing and implementing alternative break programs can be found on the NC Campus Compact website on our Alternative Break Resource page.   

One student from from Takira Dale's Dive into Durham aptly sums up the ASB mindset: “Volunteering is so easy and refreshing, we should do it more often…I have no good reason to not be doing more.”

Monday, March 17, 2014

VISTA Elizabeth McIntosh helps Appalachian girls dream new stories with PAGE

VISTA
Elizabeth McIntosh
Though originally from sunny Winter Park, Florida, NC Campus Compact VISTA Elizabeth McIntosh is no stranger to the Appalachian mountains. Elizabeth's mother runs a summer camp for girls, Camp Glen Arden, in Tuxedo, NC, where Elizabeth has spent every summer of her life. Now Elizabeth works just 70 miles from Tuxedo in Madison County, and is following in her mother's footsteps.

In partnership with the Madison County School system, Elizabeth works with PAGE, the Partnership for Appalachian Girls Education, a project with a mission to foster 21st century literacy, social equity, and economic opportunity for Appalachian girls and young women. PAGE was founded in 2010 and has since hosted 50 girls (grade 6-9) in their summer camp program. Elizabeth officially began her year of AmeriCorps service in August of 2013 as PAGE's first VISTA member, but she had previously worked with the organization's summer camp through a Duke University internship in 2012, and then as part of the strategic development committee from 2012-2013.

Though the learning curve for institutional development is steep, Elizabeth's educational background has made the road much more navigable. Elizabeth graduated from Duke University in May of 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and minor in History. Now as the PAGE VISTA, Elizabeth wears many hats, but all with the goal of building capacity and long-term sustainability for the PAGE program so that it can meet the educational needs of students in rural mountain communities.

Elizabeth with PAGE participants
Elizabeth's work so far has been quite prolific. Since PAGE is currently a project of Duke University's Social Science Research Institute, she has been working with a Duke Research Fellow on a community needs assessment. Elizabeth has also had a hand in developing a strategic plan for PAGE with a goal of helping the organization become an independent, 501c3 non-profit within the next 5 years. She has designed and implemented a marketing approach that includes building key stakeholder relationships, securing grant funding, and creating a social media and communications presence. Elizabeth has already garnered over $18,000 in support from funders since she began her work in August. As a relatively new program, Elizabeth says, "It is important to take the time to get the word out [about the program] and develop community relationships."

Currently, she is spending a large majority of her time recruiting. Partnered with Duke Engage, she is looking for both Duke students to intern with PAGE during its 6-week summer program, and also looking for middle school girls from Madison County to enroll in PAGE's summer program. Though summer is still several months away, these middle-schoolers are jumping at the opportunity go to camp, and -- eventually -- to college.

Elizabeth recalls a conversation one mother shared about her daughter Laura's recent visit with the college counselor. The counselor asked the ninth-grader (and PAGE participant) to list ten colleges she was interested in, and the girl said firmly, "I want to go to Duke." According to Laura's mom, when the counselor laughed and encouraged Laura to add nine other schools to that list, she "looked straight at the man and [said] 'No! I don't need any more schools. I am going to Duke!'"


For Elizabeth, this story embodies PAGE's mission. This program, she says, is "allowing [these girls] to achieve their dreams, even in the face of much adversity. It would not have mattered to me if this girl said Duke or the local community college, as where she wanted to go. The point is that she is following her dreams whatever they may be, full force ahead."

As a strong advocate for following your dreams, when Elizabeth heard about the NC Campus Compact VISTA position, she didn't hesitate to apply. "Few graduates get to say they have a hand in developing and running a nonprofit organization, while also making a difference in a community, and I get to say I do both!" she exclaims.

She enjoys spending her time outside of work simply being outside. All outdoor activites -- from exercising to rock climbing to sitting on a porch with friends -- are favorite past times. Water sports, especially scuba diving and water skiing, also hold places close to her heart. "I am a Florida girl after all!" she jokes.

For Elizabeth, the draw of working outside during the summer at camp, was also particularly enticing. If the PAGE program also sounds like something you would be interested in, you can check out their website, follow them on Facebook or Twitter, or send Elizabeth an email to provide you with more information and add you to their e-newsletter.  Also, if you are interested in volunteer opportunities, please feel free to reach out. As PAGE has grown they are always searching for more and more people to help with various aspects including counseling middle school girls and fundraising, all to provide the best educational enrichment program to middle school girls possible.

Elizabeth hopes to extend her VISTA service for one more year with PAGE. After that, she plans to go to law school and then either continue her work in the non-profit world or work to make change at the government level. She states, "My passion is making the world a better place; I am just undecided as of now, the best place for me to do this."

What she does know is that PAGE serves an area that is near and dear to her heart. "I am...a firm believer that any child can accomplish whatever they set their mind to regardless of circumstance and I want to be a part of an organization that help[s] children know that." These young girls at PAGE are dedicated, creative, and bright. Through Elizabeth's own dedication to this program, she has not only acted as a role model for these girls, but has developed the groundwork for their future successes.

Elizabeth says that Laura's story is becoming wonderfully common, and offers some wisdom about their future: "Watch out world, here they come!"

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hospitality House VISTA Brittany Johnson lives to serve

VISTA Brittany
Johnson
Though VISTA Brittany Johnson is from the close-knit community of Dunn, North Carolina, she has found her own community in Boone, North Carolina. Brittany attended Appalachian State University, graduating with a degree in Public Relations and Sociology.

While in school, she wanted to get more involved with the greater Boone community, having developed a passion for service in her own hometown growing up. She soon found the campus organization, the Appalachian Popular Programming Society, which is the campus event programming board, and eventually became the Vice President of their Public Relations team. Through this office, she worked often with the student organization, Appalachian and the Community Together, more commonly known as ACT. An apt acronym for Brittany, and act she did.

She started volunteering at the Hospitality House of Boone (HHB), a nonprofit crisis agency helping those living in crisis, poverty and homelessness rebuild their lives. Brittany volunteered at least three times a week, working at the front desk, and helping where needed. Brittany now serves as the NC Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA in the role of Project Manager for Hospitality House.

Currently, Brittany is spending most of her time organizing a a 5K fundraiser run on Memorial Day weekend. The funds raised will go to support Brittany's primary goal; creating a Hospitality House Thrift Store that will act as a source of sustainable revenue for the non-profit.

In fact, Brittany will soon put out a call for volunteers to help with the upcoming 5k, both with day-of coordination, as well as preparatory work like logistics planning, advertising design, and social media management. Earlier this year, Brittany was on the planning committee for Appalachian State's Annual Hunger Games Food Drive Event. Through the Hunger Games, Brittany helped raise over 3000 pounds of food for the community kitchen at Hospitality House.

Though Brittany is a whiz at program planning, her passion lies in the people she meets. Her favorite part of the experience is the chance to meet other people and get to know their stories. "Every day when I walk through the doors at the Hospitality House I am greeted by one or more residents. This makes my day always. I love being on a first name basis with most of the residents that we serve." Brittany explains.

Brittany with Hospitality House
volunteers, heading out for
MLK Day of service.
A constant source of rejuvenation, Hospitality House clients and residents help Brittany see the positives in her challenges. So far, the biggest set-back to the opening of the Thrift Store has been the lack of a location. After the original building location fell through, the store opening has been delayed. Brittany is looking on the bright side of this challenge, however, saying "it has allowed for other areas, such as fundraising and the business plan, to gain more attention." Brittany has recruited a team of MBA students to draft the thrift store business plan for class credit; a great example of non-profits and higher education working together. Once the thrift store project is open and running, there are plans to have a website about the project with a link that informs people about the volunteer program that will be available.

Until then, Hospitality House is always looking for volunteers.

For Brittany, volunteering was a way to get involved with an organization she loves, and that has allowed her to do the work she is passionate about. "I believe that I was born to serve, and AmeriCorps has given me the opportunity to take the skills I have and use them towards something I care about and will make a difference in the community. I cannot wait to see this project grow. I will continue to strive to reach the ultimate goal of this project: to serve our clients effectively and efficiently, and provide them with the tools that can help them succeed."

Brittany spends her time outside of work visiting family and hanging out with friends. She counts some of her favorite activities as hiking, dancing, singing, photography, concerts and music festivals, and is especially looking forward to Merlefest in April, where she will be volunteering.

Though Eastern Carolina is where she grew up, Brittany has come to love the mountain-town of Boone. In fact, she has already planning to serve a 2nd VISTA year at Hospitality House. "In the future," she says, "I would love to stay at the Hospitality House and serve permanently on staff. However, if this does not work out, I would like to work at another crisis center in the development department or start my own nonprofit in efforts to continue to defeat poverty in America. I am excited to see what is in store."

A people-person at heart, Brittany says wherever her journey leads her, helping people out of poverty and making those one on one connections with them along the way, is what she lives for. "We are here to serve and make a difference in our client’s lives, but at the end of the day it is them who make a difference in mine."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Now Accepting Applications for 2014-15 VISTAs!

NC Campus Compact is now accepting applications from candidates for 2014-2015 AmeriCorps VISTA positions. Our next VISTA cohort will begin in early August, 2014 and serve for one full year.

To learn more about our program and the application process, visit our FAQ page for Prospective VISTAs.

Please visit our position listing on my.americorps.gov when you are ready to create your AmeriCorps application and begin our application process.

NC Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTA members work with community agencies and college campuses to develop a partnership that addresses local needs in one of three areas: education (especially K-12 success or access to post-secondary education), economic opportunity (especially housing or financial literacy), or healthy futures (especially food security). The specific nature and objectives of the project vary depending on host site. Most VISTA members share work time between campus and community partner offices, and thereby gain experience in both non-profit and higher education arenas.

Members may:
  • Assess community and agency needs and identify assets
  • Recruit and train volunteers
  • Develop data systems to manage people and performance
  • Create policies and procedures that increase agency effectiveness
  • Support citizen and student leadership and participation in service
  • Seek new resources through fund-raising and grant-writing
  • Facilitate service-learning placements, community-based research, and co-curricular opportunities that support communities
  • Promote AmeriCorps, VISTA, and national service 

Program Benefits include: Living Allowance, Choice of Education Award or End of Service Stipend, Health Coverage,  Relocation Allowance, Training, Childcare assistance if eligible

Applicants must be:
  • U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • College graduate (or Bachelors degree expected by May 2014)  
 Strong candidates will have:
  • passion for the VISTA mission of fighting poverty and strengthening communities
  • strong interest and experience in community service
  • experience working with volunteers, especially college students
  • proven leadership and project management skills
  • proven networking, communication, and organization skills
  • ability to work with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds  
  • ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • ability to engage others
Help fight poverty by harnessing the power of higher education! Apply today to join the NC Campus Compact VISTA team!

Friday, February 28, 2014

WCU VISTA cultivates community, gardens, future

VISTA Willie Jones
VISTA Willie Jones hasn't had a life that most people would call traditional or easy, growing up in foster care and periodically experiencing homelessness throughout his adolescence. However, despite a hard road to college, Willie has not only flourished personally, but found he has a knack for helping others grow as well.

Willie serves at Western Carolina University as the AmeriCorps VISTA Community Outreach Coordinator for the Center of Service Learning. In this role, Willie coordinates gleans and is the glean leader for the Jackson County Glean Team, a group which he created. Gleaning, in this sense, means to gather excess crops from local farmers and distribute it throughout the community to those in need. You can get Willie's insider perspective on gleaning from this documentary he put together!

Currently, Willie is spending the majority of his time revitalizing WCU’s Campus Kitchen Garden, which is maintained primarily by students, staff, and volunteers, who then distribute the produce to local agencies that combat food insecurity. Though there are many moving variables in this project, Willie is excited to see how it will turn out, because through all of these partnerships, there is room for a really creative and collaborative venture that, in Willie's words, "will create a more environmentally aware, and sustained community through incorporating organic farming techniques and gleaning. When it's all set in place, we will have a constantly evolving program that is sustainable, educational, and will actually strengthen and be beneficial for the community!"

Willie recalls his first glean at Ms. Bonnie's garden picking apples. "It all started when she came into the office and gave us 10 gigantic jars of apple sauce."

Jackson County Glean Team
It turned out Ms. Bonnie had an apple tree in her garden, and she had more apples than she knew what to do with, so Willie convened some gleaners to give Ms. Bonnie a hand. "As I climbed Ms. Bonnie's apple tree and we exchanged life stories and experiences, I was reminded of my life being homeless, [and] it reminded me of something that was embedded into my mind at a young age: everyone is a person, everyone has a message, and everyone has something to teach you, whether you [think] the information [is] valuable [at the time] or not...and this has made a world of difference in my VISTA year." This reaffirmed for Willie the importance of sharing stories and connecting with these community members in a more meaningful way.

The way Willie learns has helped him shape this shared-story approach to recruiting and training volunteers as well. "In some cases I have to teach myself how something should be done or learned...This...allows me to gain a better connection with not only myself, but [also] my volunteers. It allows me to see things from different perspectives: my struggles, strengths and weakness...I know the struggle of trying to learn the information or method, so that personal experience [helps] me to relate to them on a personal level when I’m teaching them."

Pumpkin gleaning with the Jackson County Team
Eventually, Willie hopes to have local growers and farmers, the Cullowhee Community Garden, the Campus Kitchen Garden, the food pantries at Community Table, The Market, and United Christian Ministries, and educational institutions and programs like Western Carolina University, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Program, and the Dietetics and Nutrition Program at WCU, all working together. Willie notes however, that the most important group to engage is the community.

His biggest hurdle so far has been creating a gleaning calendar so that he can send out a notice to recruit volunteers a couple weeks before (as opposed to a day or two) farmers need their crops gleaned. Coordinating schedules is easier said than done, but ultimately will benefit the community with more fresh, organic produce, and benefit the farmers with a bigger tax deduction.

Revamping the Community Kitchen and gleaning the fields of local farmers is hard work. If you're interested in volunteering, and you are a WCU student, join the Campus Kitchen Garden list serve by either emailing or calling Willie. If you don't go to Western, but are interested in volunteering, join the Jackson County Glean Team Facebook page! By joining either of these groups, you will have access to weekly garden and glean reports. As soon as Willie's gleaning calendar is ready to roll, he will also be placing that information in the local paper. Make sure to read about Willie's Homecoming Food Drive and MLK Day of Service event successes too!

Willie embarked on his journey as an NC Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA back in August, and has been working on Campus Kitchen's organic farming part of the program since January, but Willie isn't new to the environmental or community engagement scene. In fact, his undergraduate degree from Brevard College is in Environmental Science, with a concentration in Environmental Science, and while at school, was the service coordinator for the Multicultural Center. It was here that he met and worked with several AmeriCorps VISTA members, through whom he first learned about AmeriCorps. Immediately he noticed that as an AmeriCorps VISTA, he could combine his degree with two of his other passions; higher education and service, all the while gaining valuable skills, paying off student loans, and staying in touch with his community, family, and friends.

Willie volunteering for MLK Day of Service
Outside of the office (and the garden!), Willie lists some of his favorite past times as working out, backpacking, bouldering, rock climbing, and gardening. Originally hailing from the very flat Cincinnati, Ohio, it sounds like Western North Carolina may be the perfect place for Willie! Apart from all the fun in the sun, Willie also enjoys playing with animals, taking pictures, watching Netflix and HGTV, hanging out with his girlfriend, and "EATING."

"I think my girlfriend and I spend a lot of our time, and a lot of my VISTA stipend, eating!" Willie says enthusiastically.

After completing his VISTA years, he will have the skills and tools to conquer his next challenge; graduate school. Willie plans to attend graduate school for Higher Education and Sustainability, so that he can continue helping communities grow, develop, and become sustainable. Willie Jones is taking his growth and his story with him and he has a clear vision for his future.

"I’m striving for creating highly educated and environmentally aware communities throughout the world."

Monday, February 17, 2014

Mid-term progress report: VISTAs in the news

Since our 2013-2014 cohort of NC Campus Compact VISTAs began service in August 2013, they have made headway building the capacity of campus-community partnerships that serve low-income people. Here are some impressive tallies from our mid-term progress report (August - December, 2013):

2013-14 VISTA Cohort with Supervisors
  • 20 VISTA members (including 1 VISTA Leader)
  • 1,934 volunteers mobilized    
  • 10,611 hours of service performed by volunteers
  • $28,017 in cash/grant resources generated
  • $39,568 in non-cash resources raised
Here are some stories and news clips from the past 5 months of our VISTAs fighting poverty with the power of higher education:

VISTA Willie Jones serves in Cullowhee at Western Carolina University in partnership with Community Table. Check out his Documentary of Gleaning and the Jackson County Glean Team he has created! Read more about the Jackson County Glean Team, and read about their Homecoming Food drive!

VISTAs Melissa Rogan and Erin O'Donnell serve in Wilmington at Feast Down East in partnership with UNC Wilmington. Hear what Melissa has to say about Feast Down East at the 3rd Annual Parking Day! You can also watch Erin in a documentary on Food Deserts!

VISTA Brittany Johnson serves at the Hospitality House of Boone in partnership with Appalachian State University. This November, for Hunger and Homelessness Awareness week, Brittany organized the 3rd Semi-Annual Hunger Games Event to raise awareness of food access issues and host a food drive to support Hospitality House's food pantry. More than 3000 food items were donated as a result of the Games and word spread widely through the local news circuits!    

Whether you are in the far east or the far west of the state or somewhere in between, Willie, Brittany, Erin, and Melissa can serve you up a large helping of information on food security issues.

VISTA Devin Corrigan serves in Greensboro at UNC Greensboro in partnership with the Interactive Resource Center for people experiencing homelessness. Though Devin's main focus is Economic Opportunity, she also planned a slew of events during Hunger and Homeless Awareness Week last November, and she will be the first to tell you that food security and economic opportunity go hand-in-hand.

VISTA Anna Mahathey serves at High Point University in partnership with West End Ministries. Anna works in the Office of Service-Learning, which recently launched a Reading and Writing Center. Anna also helped coordinate 26 different MLK Day projects that turned-out over 400 volunteers!

VISTA Shifra Sered serves in Greenville at East Carolina University in partnership with the Third Street Community Center where she attracted the local media to highlight TSCC's future plans.

VISTA Elizabeth McIntosh serves in both Madison County and at Duke University with the PAGE Program, which stands for the Partnership for Appalachian Girls' Education. In the past couple of months, Elizabeth helped launch the organization's new website with all of the students' digital stories on it, and National Public Radio hosted PAGE's Director where she speaks in-depth about the new organization. Notably, Elizabeth is the first VISTA to serve in Madison County for 44 years, after the last VISTA in 1970 was murderedElizabeth has picked up the mantle of her predecessor however, and has been largely welcomed in the community. 

VISTA Dalton Hoffer serves in Pembroke at UNC Pembroke in partnership with the Pembroke Housing Authority. Check out Dalton's video of Pembroke's 9/11 Day of Service Activities. You can also read Dalton's full story of accomplishments here!
   
VISTA Jacob Lerner serves in Chapel Hill with the Marion Cheek Jackson Center in partnership with UNC Chapel Hill. Jacob is working on an initiative to funnel community-minded students to off-campus rental housing in the Northside neighborhood, on the theory these students will make better neighbors. In a continuing effort to build relationships with students and community members, Jacob has also helped organize UNC students to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity's program, A Brush with Kindness, to rebuild the porch of a long-standing community member.

Our VISTAs provide support for their communities in so many ways, seen and unseen. Check out even more of their achievements here for their MLK Day highlights!