Wednesday, October 1, 2014

VISTA Brittany Johnson celebrates grand opening of Welcome Home Thriftique


This week, NC Campus Compact VISTA Brittany Johnson, along with her host site, the Hospitality House of Boone, will officially open the Welcome Home Thriftique. Congratulations all around! Read the Hospitality House press release for more info.

 

 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Todd Carter, Director of Development
828.264-1237, todd@hosphouse.org

Welcome Home Thriftique to Celebrate Grand Opening
Ribbon Cutting Oct. 3rd for Upscale Thrift Shop Benefiting Hospitality House 
(NC Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA and Welcome Home Thriftique Project Manager Brittany Johnson)
BOONE, NC – September 26, 2014:  The Boone Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce the official grand opening and ribbon cutting for Welcome Home Thriftique, an upscale thrift store project benefiting Hospitality House. The event will take place Friday, October 3, 2014 from 11am – 1pm. Lunch will be provided and the ribbon cutting will be at 11:30am.

Welcome Home Thriftique, a nonprofit retail shop with a purpose, has been open since July 25th. All items sold in the store have been donated by the community and 100% of profits go to support the programs and services of Hospitality House. Merchandised items include art, furniture, antiques and collectibles, home goods, d├ęcor and name brand clothing, Welcome Home Thriftique always accepts donations when open. Job skills training and financial literacy classes will also be offered at the store for clients and community members.

“We are excited to become ‘official’”, says Todd Carter, director of development for Hospitality House. “Our organization has been a long time member of the Boone Chamber and we are thrilled to present this new project and resource to the community.”

This three-year project is a collaboration of Hospitality House, Appalachian State University’s ACT (Appalachian and the Community Together) program and North Carolina Campus Compact. In August 2013, Brittany Johnson joined the Hospitality House team as a N.C. Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America).

The purpose of the Thriftique is to further connect Hospitality House to the community, as well as to implement another revenue stream of continuous funding to support the organization. However, what sets this store apart from others is that it provides clients of the Hospitality House an avenue in which it can build a foundation for a successful future and learn sustainable living habits. Clients will have the opportunity to develop and further their skills and experience in the work force with the job skills training, financial literacy and internship programs that are at the heart of this project.

Local artists and entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to get involved and give back through Miss Trish’s Community Spotlight. Named in memory of volunteer and supporter Trish Burkhart, this component seeks local artists and entrepreneurs who are willing to donate a few items to be featured on a spotlight table for a month. The items will be advertised on social media and displayed on the sales floor! Participants will also have the opportunity sell their items every Saturday in front of the store.

“The Hospitality House mission is to serve the High Country community, specifically those impacted by poverty, by providing positive, supportive opportunities that teach skills and sustainability that will allow people to emerge from crisis, poverty and homelessness,” Johnson said. “I invite you everyone to come check out our store and learn about the purpose it serves for the organization as well as the community.”

Welcome Home Thriftique is located at 182 Boone Heights Drive. Store hours are Wednesday-Friday 10am-6pm and Saturday 9am-3pm. To learn more check out their Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/welcomehomethriftique and follow them on Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/Thriftique182 . For more information or to donate items, contact Brittany Johnson at Brittany@hosphouse.org or (828) 264-1237 x 115


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Thursday, September 11, 2014

VISTA Alumni Network Newsletter # 2

This page contains full text of features from our recent VISTA Alumni Network Newsletter. Scroll down to read the features listed below:

Blast from the Past photo slideshow
VISTA bloggers reflect on a year of service
Alumni Spotlight on Neil Hoefs (Duke VISTA, 2010-12)

View the complete newsletter here.

 

Blast from the Past! Photo Slideshow



 

VISTA bloggers reflect on a year of service


This summer, our VISTA VIEW blog published a series of member reflections. This project was the brainchild of our VISTA Leader Carla Davis, who solicited and edited the pieces. Each member's voice and story is distinct, but reading these reflections together reveals how much VISTA can be a year of challenge and growth.

The complete series:

Neil during his VISTA salad days in 2010.
Neil Hoefs (rhymes with “chafes”) came to Durham as an NC Campus Compact VISTA in 2010. By the time he'd finished his second VISTA term at Duke’s Community Service Center, Neil knew he wanted to stay. “I love Durham,” Neil explains. “It’s an incredibly friendly community, and it has small town feel.... I really felt there was a sense of community here.” As a program coordinator at the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership, Neil helps others make those community connections to build a better Durham. In a recent conversation, Neil explains the power of “funfetti” cupcakes, why he loves meeting new Duke VISTAs, and how VISTA taught him to listen.

So Neil, what’s new with you?

I just got back from Seattle, Washington, where I was with a group of Duke undergrads who spent their summer in Seattle working at various non-profit community partner sites, volunteering 40 hours a week. I was an on-site coordinator for that program… a program called Duke Engage Seattle. And now I’m just starting my new position with the Duke Durham Neighborhood Partnership where I’ve been working as a fellow for the past 2 years. I’m actually now a program coordinator in this office.

I’ll continue some of the work I did as a fellow and as a VISTA, working with Duke undergraduates and connecting them with service opportunities and focusing my energies on connecting with the DDNP partners.

Can you tell me a little more about the Duke Durham Neighborhood Partnership?

The Duke Durham Neighborhood Partnership is a partnership between Duke University and some of the neighborhoods that are close by within walking or biking distance. We have a relationship with the neighborhood association presidents and stay in regular communication with them, and we are also in the position to leverage some of Duke’s resources, whether they’re monetary or volunteer resources. We’ll plug students into service opportunities with agencies in these neighborhoods, that includes schools and nonprofits. Our main focus is on affordable housing efforts and on youth mentorship. We have a great relationship with Durham Public Schools. 

I should also mention the DDNP is a unit of the Office of Durham and Regional Affairs (community.duke.edu), and the Community Service Center, where I served as a VISTA, is our sister office.

You’ve told me often that you like living in Durham.

Oh, I love living in Durham!

What made you want to stay after you finished your VISTA term? What are some of the things you love about Durham?

It’s an incredibly friendly community, and it has small town feel.... I really felt there was a sense of community here.  And I was coming in at an interesting time because - even within the past four years I’ve seen tremendous growth and influx and flow of people into downtown and the surrounding neighborhoods. So there just seems to be a lot of energy right now, especially among the small business community, a lot of social entrepreneurial efforts, and Durham can kind of be seen as an incubator for innovation. So it’s just an exciting place.

So now do you consider yourself a “Dookie”?

Oh boy… I would consider myself a Dookie as far as basketball is concerned. But -- and this is off the record -- I’m definitely still an Ohio State football fan. I guess that doesn’t have to be off the record. Yes, I’m still very much a fan of The Ohio State University.

You grew up and went to school in Ohio. How did you decide to come down to North Carolina as a VISTA?

Well, VISTA was always something that had been on my mind since I graduated from Ohio State in 2008. I had interviewed with NC Campus Compact when I was looking for employment and I was being considered for a position at a site, but for whatever reason, funding was cut to that program. The same day I found that out, I got a call from the American Cancer Society in Columbus in their Ohio division offering me a job and that was a wonderful thing too. So I had VISTA in the back of my mind while I worked for ACS for 2 years. Then, I decided I wanted to go a different direction. At ACS I had worked with a couple of Relay of Life events and I really enjoyed working with college students, so I came back to my idea of NC Campus Compact, and when I pursued it, I had the chance to come and be a VISTA at Duke. And I thought, “Wow, how great would this be!” and sure enough I got hired, and it really opened up a lot of doors that wouldn’t have been opened otherwise.

What some of your best memories or projects you are proud of from your VISTA years? Don’t make me look through your old reports.

Oh, do not do that! I would say planning some of the service events, especially the MLK Million Meals event. It was a challenging experience but it was also really motivating and I got to see the event grow over time and engage more students.

But a huge highlight was communicating with some of the other VISTAs and hearing about their work. It was really inspiring and also generated a lot of ideas about how we could improve the things we were doing at Duke, hearing from VISTAs all across the state, and there was a sense of camaraderie too. It could have been that we were also in the same position in that weird gray area, kind of bizarre place working in the university offices but still be considered just an affiliate. It’s kind of an odd role because you’re somewhere in between.

Since you’ve stayed on at Duke, you’ve always been willing to be an alumni contact for your VISTA successors. Thanks for that. Why do you do it? What advice do you share with them?

The most important thing you can bring to that role is excitement about the position. I am always really excited when I meet with the VISTA volunteers who are coming in at Duke, just describing the city. Durham is an awesome place and I was really pumped to connect them to resources in the area, send along links to housing or ways to do things cheaply, because that can be potentially intimidating. It’s an opportunity to connect them to community partners who are doing great things and to other departments and administrators at the university.

So how are you going to celebrate AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary on Friday?
I didn’t even know that AmeriCorps was celebrating its… 20th Anniversary? Oh man, well, I’m probably going to bake a funfetti cake.

Did you say a “funfetti” cake? What is that?

Oh, you’ve been deprived! It’s a box cake with those little rainbow flakes. Most people have fond memories. Actually, my first year as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, during volunteer appreciation week, I baked like 250 funfetti cupcakes and distributed them on Duke’s West Campus on the plaza. Just as a blanket thank you to our volunteers.

So, this Friday I’ll celebrate the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps by baking an imaginary funfetti cake to be distributed to all AmeriCorps members, past, present, and future, and saying, “Thank you for your service.”

So besides cupcake distribution, we are trying to do more to help current VISTA members develop “career-ready skills.” What about your VISTA experience helped you move forward professionally?

Well, this sounds really basic but I think: listening. We have such a natural instinct to just talk or worry about how you’re going to respond to something. So I think the greatest bit of knowledge I gained is the fact you need to slow down, you need to listen and understand that every conversation is a learning opportunity.

I know that’s not exactly what you’re going for. You want some kind of turn-key, like, oh if I plug into this, it will be a game changer. But if you’re just mindful and aware of your surroundings that could open up all kinds of avenues.

Even to have some creativity in your role. The VISTA Assignment Description… it is black and white, but it’s not at the same time. There are still opportunities for you to take what’s on that page and fulfill your responsibilities while still considering your interests as well. I think each person brings unique talents to the table and you can have an opportunity to have those bloom if you’re just mindful.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It takes two: be part of a dynamic VISTA LEADER duo supporting 20 members across NC!

NC Campus Compact is seeking qualified candidates to fill 2 VISTA LEADER positions in our main office, located at Elon University. These LEADERS will support a 20-member VISTA cohort serving across the state.

Our VISTA program places members at campus or community non-profit host sites to support programs that benefit low-income people and create pathways for higher ed community engagement. Projects address 1 of 3 focus areas: Economic Opportunity (for low-income adults), Education (for at-risk PK-12 youth), or Healthy Food and Nutrition. VISTA members work to develop partnerships that address these issues by mobilizing campus resources, including student volunteers, faculty and staff expertise, or financial/in-kind contributions.

If you're interested in teaching, advising, or career development, apply to be our VISTA LEADER – Professional Development Specialist. You will help our team of VISTAs get the most out of their service experience by designing and implementing a professional development plan to foster members' career-ready skills. This position will also support child/youth development projects. Key duties include:
  1. Advise VISTAs to ensure success, focusing on projects serving children/youth
  2. Plan professional development to foster "career-ready" skills
  3. Engage VISTA alums through e-newsletters, events, alumni connections, social media
  4. Assess success of VISTA PD supports   
Apply online here.

If you're a systems-oriented person who seeks to develop data analysis skills, apply to our VISTA Leader - Performance Measurement Specialist. You will also work to develop and refine performance measurement systems to assess project progress, implement monthly progress reports for all members, build a  portfolio of assessments for use by sites, analyze reports, and communicate impact. This position will also support projects serving low-income adults. Key duties include:
  1. Advise members to ensure success, focusing on projects serving low-income adults
  2. Develop performance measurement and reporting systems
  3. Analyze and collate data and prepare impact summaries
  4. Monitor VISTA time logs

Apply online here.

Duties shared among the 2 positions include: 1. Enhance member communication with online and face-to-face meetings and social media, 2. Coordinate new VISTA recruitment/selection, 3. Assist with site visits and project monitoring, 4. Support community engagement of member campuses.

QUALIFICATIONS: YOU MUST HAVE COMPLETED 1 FULL YEAR OF PRIOR VISTA SERVICE TO APPLY! Strong candidates will have: Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree; experience with college service programs and programs serving low-income adults and/or youth; strong writing and organizational skills; knowledge of social media platforms and MS Office products. Role demands passion for the VISTA mission of fighting poverty and for the Campus Compact vision of higher education as a path to active citizenship. Must be U.S. Citizen or have permanent legal resident status. The VISTA Leader will serve at the Compact’s office in Elon, NC, on the campus of Elon University. Elon University is a selective, independent university renowned as a national model for engaged learning. Learn more at www.nccampuscompact.org.


BENEFITS: Education award upon successful completion of service,  Modest Housing support,  Health Coverage,  Living Allowance,  Training,  Relocation Allowance,  Childcare assistance if eligible.

The start date for these positions are flexible but we expect to fill both by mid-November.

To apply please send a letter of interest and a current resume to Program Coordinator Chad Fogleman (cfogleman2@elon.edu).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Meet the 2014-2015 VISTA Cohort!

North Carolina Campus Compact's 2014-2015 AmeriCorps VISTA cohort has started off their year
of service with lots of learning!

VISTA Breakout-session
To kick-off their year, all 15 of our new VISTAs attended the VISTA member Pre-Service Orientation (PSO) in Atlanta, GA for four days starting August 4. They discussed causes of poverty, how to make heads-or-tails of their VADS, and met VISTAs from across the country. On August 6, the Compact's VISTA Leader Carla Davis led an evening session where the new members had the chance to gather as a group for the first time (but certainly not the last)! The cohort discussed what knowledge, skills, and attitudes they need to be successful in their year of service, and all of the resources that North Carolina Campus Compact and our Host Sites provide, to ensure VISTA success.

VISTAs get the chance to discuss
project goals with Supervisors
While PSO brought together new VISTA members from projects throughout the Southeast, NC Campus Compact held our own Orientation just for our VISTAs and their Supervisors. This was the first time supervisors and VISTAs in their second year of service joined the incoming VISTA group, and there was lots of energy in the room as we learned about communication styles, MBTI's from Allan Mueller of Guilford College, and went over the Nuts & Bolts of the NC Campus Compact VISTA program. After lunch, we broke out into two groups, one for VISTAs and one with Supervisors, to have smaller conversations about the coming year.

The VISTAs brainstormed up a VISTA Survival Guide, and the five returning VISTAs shared lessons-learned in their first year, which, if we had to boil it down to one word would be: COMMUNICATION. The Supervisor breakout session allowed supervisors from different projects to discuss expectations of both the VISTAs and the project.

The day ended with supervisors and VISTAs alike eager to return to their projects and get started!

Now that they have had the chance to settle in to their new service positions, we would like to introduce you!

2014-2015 VISTA Cohort with Supervisors sporting the VISTA "V"!
To meet each of our new VISTAs, and our five returning VISTAs, head on over to our VISTA Annex, where each of them has shared a short biography. To read each project description, check out our recent post outlining all 20 of them!

Wish them luck as they traverse their NC Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA year!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

NC Campus Compact sponsors 20 VISTAs in 2014-2015

Since 2003, NC Campus Compact has sponsored an AmeriCorps VISTA program that places VISTA “volunteers” at member campuses to support community engagement projects that address local, poverty-related needs. In 2014 – 2015, sixteen sites across the state will host twenty NC Campus Compact VISTAs.

Our VISTA Partnership Project involves the development of a key campus-community partnership that serves economically disadvantaged people. The host site may be an office or unit of a member campus, or a local non-profit agency identified by a member campus. All 20 VISTA members will work to address one of the priority focus areas identified by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps programs. The focus areas are education, food security, and economic opportunity.

Collectively, our Partnership Project sites seek to accomplish the following goals:
1. Develop a mutually-beneficial campus-community partnership.
2. Build capacity of community-based programs serving economically disadvantaged children and adults.
3. Leverage resources of higher education institutions to address local community needs.
4. Create sustainable pathways for community engagement of students, faculty, and staff.

Three of our sites will host pairs or teams of VISTAs working to build campus capacity to meet the needs of local children. These child success sites will focus on developing community-wide collaborations that support PK-8 children and families to improve educational and nutritional outcomes.

Short summaries for each of our 2014-2015 projects are below.

Community Empowerment Fund (CEF)
Partner: UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity
Focus Area: Economic Opportunity

The Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) cultivates opportunities, assets, and communities that support the alleviation of homelessness and poverty. CEF is a student-led nonprofit organization based at UNC Chapel Hill and in development at Duke University. CEF’s structure is based on the realization of a dual mission: empowering members to sustain transitions out of homelessness and developing student leadership. At CEF the VISTA will help address the need for 1) relationship- based support that leads to greater economic opportunity for individuals experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness; 2) access to financial services for low-income households, and; 3) a broader, more tightly-woven social safety net for poor households in North Carolina. The goal of this project is to increase the capacity and effectiveness of CEF’s Advocate Program, enabling CEF to strengthen an impactful model of relationship-based student volunteer engagement that promotes real change on an individual level for homeless and near-homeless individuals.


Duke University, Community Service Center
Partner: America Reads and America Counts
Focus Area: Education

The Duke Community Service Center (CSC) serves as a clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities available to Duke students and employees. The VISTA will help the Duke Community Service Center (CSC) further deepen relationships with partner schools through the establishment of a new program - Partners in Print. The Partners in Print program would provide a supportive environment where parents can discover how to help their children learn to read. Partners in Print mentors will conduct evening workshops with parents and children, grades Kindergarten-2nd.  The VISTA will also coordinate complementary CSC events and programs that align with the Partners in Print Program, including National Make a Difference Day, Dive Into Durham spring break, and Dr. Seuss Day. The VISTA will also enhance the planning and implementation of the ARAC K-8 tutoring program.


Duke University, Partnership for Appalachian Girls Education (PAGE)
Partner: Madison County Schools
Focus Area: Education

The goal of the VISTA project is to help girls and young women in economically-distressed Appalachian communities achieve educational success and build futures that include high school completion and college matriculation. The VISTA will engage in a number of activities that will support these goals and help PAGE achieve long term sustainability. She will conduct needs assessment in the communities served, gathering detailed information on graduation and the reasons for dropout. She will help develop a strategic plan for fundraising through grant writing and seeking
private/corporate gifts and help implement that plan. The VISTA will provide support with community outreach through (social) media and direct communication with PAGE students.


East Carolina University
Partner: West Greenville community agencies
Focus Area(s): Education

At ECU, the VISTA will be hosted by the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center (VSLC). This VISTA project will capitalize on the strengths of East Carolina University (most notably its strong mission-based emphasis on service and community engagement) and the west Greenville community, specifically Third Street Community Center and Lucille W. Gorham Inter-Generational Community Center (IGCC). The VISTA will build the capacity for both TSCC and IGCC to address community needs related to education and youth development for K-8 low-income youth and families, provide services to local community members, and strengthen the west Greenville community partnerships and community as a whole.


Elon University
Partner: Alamance County community agencies
Focus Areas: Education, Healthy Futures/Food Security

Elon will host two VISTAs in the coming year. Both VISTAs will be hosted by the Center for Access and Success. The VISTA project will establish a cradle to college pipeline of support services for low-income children and families in Alamance County through a new early childhood initiative to be led by Elon’s Center for Access and Success. The Center already provides a number of educational and college access programs for Alamance County children in grades K-12. The VISTA project would research, design, and implement a new county-wide, comprehensive early childhood effort focused on school readiness and health and wellness of low-income children ages 0-4. The nature of programs that will comprise this initiative will be determined through needs assessment, asset mapping, and collaborative planning with community stakeholders, but resultant interventions will likely rely on parental engagement and education, literacy instruction, and nutritional education. By the end of the 3-year project, Alamance County will have a comprehensive, collaborative early childhood success plan, including assessment protocols; and the Center will sponsor one or more community-based programs that effectively help targeted parents to have their children  ready for entering kindergarten.


Feast Down East
Partner: University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Focus Area(s): Healthy Futures/Food Security

Through the Food Sovereignty Program developed by Southeastern NC Food Systems Program (also known as Feast Down East), the VISTA member will support a number of projects designed to promote and increase access to healthy food in identified food deserts in New Hanover and Columbus County. In New Hanover County the VISTA member will continue to support the Fresh Market and the Rent-A-Farmer CSA produce bags which feature produce from limited resource farmers in nearby Burgaw County. The VISTA member will work in Columbus County, a Tier 1 County, to build healthy habits in underserved communities through the distribution of Rent-A-Farmer CSA produce bags. In addition, the project provides leadership education, nutrition education, and cultural heritage.


High Point University

HPU will host three VISTAs in the coming year. All three VISTAs will be hosted by the Service Learning Program, which is home to the Bonner Leaders Program.

Partner: West End Ministries
Focus Area(s): Healthy Futures
The first VISTA project will continue from the 2013-14 year. This VISTA’s work will take place on campus and in the community with West End Ministries (WEM), a non-profit agency that provides services such as emergency assistance and adult life skill classes. The VISTA will
improve WEM's volunteer coordination and training systems to support the agency's emergency assistance program. The VISTA will also help make healthy food more available to WEM clients.

Partner: Washington St. Project
Focus Area(s): Education
The second VISTA project will take place on campus and in the community with the Washington St. Project – a partnership between HPU and the Hayden-Harmon Foundation. The Washington St. Project is a strategic effort to bolster community resources in the Washington St. neighborhood. The VISTA will improve volunteer coordination and recruitment in line with programs seeking to promote Education for K-8 students in the neighborhood. In particular, the VISTA will develop tutoring and after school programs, with a specific focus on literacy and cultural understanding.

Partner: Washington St. Project
Focus Area(s): Healthy Futures
The third VISTA project will also work with the Washington St. Project, but will have an emphasis on food security and health education. The VISTA will improve volunteer coordination and recruitment in line with programs seeking to promote Healthy Futures. In particular, the VISTA will help make healthy food more available to the neighborhood and increase healthy living educational opportunities.

All three VISTAs' work will serve as a model or pilot project to demonstrate how HPU Bonner Leaders can serve as volunteer coordinators and liaisons with partner agencies. During the course of the year, the VISTAs will help develop trainings and supports for students taking on these roles. The VISTA will also help energize community members to participate in the MLK Day of Service.


Hospitality House of Boone
Partner: Appalachian State University
Focus Area(s): Economic Opportunity

Hospitality House of Boone serves people at-risk of or experiencing homelessness in Watauga County. The goal of the VISTA project is to provide an earned income funding source for Hospitality House, act as a resource for services to meet client needs and to serve as a job skills training program and facility for residents and outreach clients. The VISTA project will build on the capacity of Hospitality House to stay sustainable and to continue impacting the community in positive ways through the increased collaboration with the Appalachian State University ACT Program. It will further increase community awareness and serve as a new way to recruit and
cultivate volunteers to give of their time, talents and treasures.


Partner: UNC-Chapel Hill Communications Studies
Focus Area(s): Economic Opportunity

The Jackson Center is a community-based advocacy organization serving historically African-American and low-income neighborhoods in Chapel Hill through public history, civic media, and community action. The VISTA will support the development of Jackson Center programs that serve the housing and economic needs of local low-income residents. Key activities include the maintenance and expansion of service partnerships with university units (including the Communications Studies department), enhancement of community programs to serve housing needs, volunteer recruitment and coordination, database maintenance, and the development of new neighborhood advocacy networks to pair long term residents with students and community advocates.


Meredith College
Focus Area(s): Education

The three year overall goal of the VISTA will be to support and continue to form the pipeline of services for the Children’s Collaborative of Wake County including home visitation, parenting classes, preschool, afterschool program, Campus Kitchens, neighborhood advisory board, teen job training and healthy outcomes in the Kentwood subsidized housing neighborhood. The three years will follow CCW’s first cohort, Kentwood children birth to three collecting pertinent data for the pipeline of services, and tracking educational, healthy eating, and social well-being progress for
Kentwood children four to eighteen years old.


Partners: Chavis Heights Community Center
Focus Area(s): Education

At NC State, the VISTA will be hosted by the NC State TRIO Program, which is in the division of Academic Programs and Services, the lead office in the Raleigh Colleges and Community Collaborative (RCCC). The VISTA will work on campus and in the community with key partner, Chavis Heights Community Center. Chavis is the main site for the RCCC’s College Center, an effort to deliver post-secondary programs and resources at the community level. The VISTA will coordinate services and programs at the existing College Center site and seek to expand the model
to other partner agencies. The VISTA will continue to catalogue assets at RCCC partner campuses, conduct outreach and track participants, engage volunteers, and coordinate programs.


Student U
Partner: North Carolina Central University
Focus Area(s): Education

Student U is a college-access organization that believes all students in Durham have the ability to succeed. The mission of Student U is to empower students in the Durham Public Schools to own their education by developing the academic skills and personal well-being necessary to succeed in college and beyond. The VISTA project will increase the reach of programming to connect with more students in Student U's target population. The VISTA will also strengthen relationships with local universities including NCCU to increase college student engagement in programming and ultimately educating Durham’s youth. This project will increase Student U's organizational capacity by creating a sustainable system that can be followed for years after the completion of the VISTA project.


UNC-Asheville
Focus Area(s): Education

At UNCA, the VISTA will be hosted by the Key Center for Service-Learning and Community Citizenship, which serves as a hub for campus/community engagement efforts. VISTA work will take place on campus and in the community with Open Doors of Asheville, a local non-profit serving at-risk youth through education, enrichment, tutoring, and mentoring. The goal of the project is to strengthen a mentoring partnership between UNC Asheville and Open Doors that improves educational outcomes for low-achieving K-12 students. Partnership will increase both Open Doors’ capacity for improving the educational success of students living in poverty and UNC Asheville’s capacity to offer meaningful experiential education opportunities and training to students. This project also will increase capacity of additional community organizations to utilize UNC Asheville students as well as UNC Asheville’s capacity to prepare student volunteers for
community-based experiences.


UNC-Greensboro
Focus Area(s): Economic Opportunity

At UNCG, the VISTA will be hosted by the Office of Leadership and Service-Learning (OLSL), which serves as a catalyst for the development of experiential curricular and co-curricular leadership and service-learning initiatives. VISTA work will take place on campus and in community with the Interactive Resource Center (IRC), Greensboro’s day center for people experiencing homelessness. The first year of the project focused on food security with the development of IRC’s Community Garden. The second year of the project focused on economic opportunity with particular attention on volunteer management and financial literacy. In the final year, the VISTA will continue to
refine volunteer management and economic opportunity outcomes.

Wake Forest University
Focus Area(s): Education, Healthy Futures

WFU will host two VISTAs in the coming year. Both VISTAs will be hosted by the Office of Service & Social Action. Both VISTAs at Wake Forest University will build capacity within existing programs, connect resources, and implement new initiatives in order to address the community-identified needs of increasing educational success and food security in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The goals of the education access project include: increasing school readiness and academic engagement of at-risk elementary and middle school children in Winston-Salem, and enhancing partnerships with community-based programs, including Saturday Academy and after-school, STEM-related programs at El Buen Pastor Latino Services and Ashley Elementary School, supported by the NERD network.

The goals of the healthy futures project include: increasing access to food resources and nutritional information for low-income children and families, and enhancing partnerships with community-based programs, including Campus Kitchen delivery sites.


Western Carolina University
Focus Area(s): Healthy Futures


The goal for this VISTA project is to strengthen relationships between Western Carolina University, the Community Table, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Program (ASAP) and the Local Food and Farm to School Education Program; to build capacity at the Community Table and ASAP/LFFSEP, and to raise awareness about food insecurity in Western NC. The project aims to provide the Community Table and ASAP/LFFSEP with the food resources necessary to meet their customers’ needs, to train and manage volunteers, and to enhance publicity and outreach efforts. The project is also intended to increase awareness of food insecurity issues on campus and in the wider community.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Moving Forward Looking Back: the 2013-14 Cohort

As the close of the 2013-2014 VISTA term fast approaches, 17 North Carolina Campus Compact VISTAs spread across the state each work diligently to leave their projects on the firmest of footings. Under their watch, programs have flourished, resources have been gathered, and volunteers have been mobilized to fight poverty with the power of higher education! Now, they are sharing capstone presentations, writing final reports, reflecting back on their year, and looking ahead to the next one.

As part of the close of their year, the 2013-14 VISTA cohort gathered together for a day of service and reflection on July 11. The group began at the Greensboro Children’s Museum clearing weeds, raking, mulching and chicken wrangling in the Edible Schoolyard. Under the expert tutelage of Edible Schoolyard Manager, Justin, the VISTAs had the Schoolyard looking much more presentable by noon.

We then traveled to the campus of UNC Greensboro, where the Office of Leadership and Service Learning provided us a delicious Chipotle lunch and space in the Faculty Center to spend the afternoon looking back at our year. We started off with a slideshow, and moved on to talk about lessons learned from the year. Many expressed the desire to learn more about political systems and policies that engender poverty, while others shared a new understanding about the importance money and access to it, plays in creating pathways out of poverty. Another popular theme of the VISTAs’ age, real or perceived, and how it influenced other peoples’ opinions of VISTA-led programming, also surfaced.

The loudest and most heartily felt reflection though, was that their year was worth it. No matter how many obstacles lay in their path, they overcame them one by one, and they did it by strengthening communities.

A prime example of triumph in the face of adversity is VISTA Brittany Johnson's experience. Brittany was promised a building to begin a Thrift Store Enterprise program for the Hospitality House of Boone at the beginning of her year, but after the building deal fell through, she spent most of her year fundraising, getting the word out, and writing a Thrift Store business plan. Along the way, she met every single resident who came through the building, and made tons of community connections. After a year of uphill work, Brittany finally secured a building, but also secured many new Hospitality House allies. The Thrift Store is now scheduled to open this weekend!

Brittany’s story is just one of seventeen, but each VISTA will tell you the same thing. The work was hard and the salary wasn’t great, but the lessons learned, the programs created, and the people met along they way, made each VISTA’s year an invaluable experience.

Five VISTAs enjoyed their VISTA year so much, they plan to stay on for a second term! Jess-Mara Jordan will return to UNC Asheville’s Key Center to continue developing a mentoring program. Will Jones at Western Carolina University will put his green thumb back to work revitalizing not only WCU’s community garden, but it’s volunteer base to maintain, harvest, and distribute food to local food pantries and soup kitchens. Brittany Johnson at Hospitality House of Boone will dive head-first into the new Thrift Store to design job and volunteer training programs for sustainable management of the store. Elizabeth McIntosh will begin her second term as she finishes up the PAGE (Partnership For Appalachian Girls’ Education) summer camp program. Elizabeth continues to build the organization by creating supplemental year-round programming, building strong partnerships in the region, and continuing the process for PAGE to become an independent 501c (3). Last but not least, Anna Mahathey will be joined by two new VISTAs at High Point University. Anna will work with senior Bonner Leader Students and begin to develop food security programming at West End Ministries. If history is any indicator of the future, we can also expect an MLK Day extravaganza next year!

As for the rest of the cohort, several are still deciding their next steps. However, the successes of their VISTA year are strong evidence that they will succeed at anything. Even without the final Quarter's numbers, the VISTA impact is clear:

$77,512 - in cash/grant resources generated
$46,789 - in non-cash resources raised
3,685 - volunteers mobilized  
23,681 - hours of service performed by volunteers

Christina Hunter will finish her second VISTA year at Queens University of Charlotte, but will stay on as the Assistant Director for the Center for Active Citizenship. She also hopes to attend graduate school for a Professional Masters of Business Administration at Queens.

Dalton Hoffer will wrap up his service term at UNC Pembroke but will stay in the Office of Community and Civic Engagement as the new Assistant Director.

Takira Dale, currently at Duke University, will stay in Durham and work for Teach for America's Eastern North Carolina region. She will act as Coordinator of Special Events and Donor Engagement.

Jacob Lerner, currently at the Marion Cheek Jackson Center, will also be close at hand working as a field organizer with Aim Higher Now NC in Wake County. He will be educating people about the current climate of Public Education in the state legislature.

Camille Smith, currently at NC State, will travel slightly further afield to work with Stop Hunger Now, an international hunger relief organization, as the Assistant Program Manager at the National Capital site in the Washington, D.C. metro area. This new position allows her to combine passions in education and world hunger!

Devin Corrigan, currently at UNC Greensboro, will enroll in a second term of VISTA service as the Development and Communications Coordinator at Brooklyn Legal Services Corporation. She will also be holding lots of babies, as she will be much closer to her family in NYC!

Perhaps the furthest flung traveler will be Shifra Sered, currently at East Carolina University. She will be a Shatil Social Justice Fellow with the New Israel Fund, an organization that safeguards human rights in Israel.

In the next few months Sarah Cohn, currently at the Community Empowerment Fund, will be working on a science outreach project with the National Evolutionary Synthesis Center (NESCent) in Durham. She will also continue working on a bilingual curriculum for elementary-aged students of all backgrounds to learn more about evolutionary biology and related sciences.

Ariel Mitchell, currently at Lenoir-Rhyne University, plans to attend graduate school out West. She is scheduled to take the GRE at the end of the summer.

Bevelyn Ukah will move back to her hometown of Atlanta, Georgia to continue the righteous grassroots activism she took part in at Guilford College with the Elimu Empowerment network.

Anna Donze, currently at Wake Forest University, will begin working as the Volunteer Coordinator at Samaritan Ministries on August 11th.

All of our VISTAs worked tirelessly to fulfill the North Carolina Campus Compact mission to fight poverty with the power of higher education. They planned Hunger and Homelessness Awareness events, MLK Days of service, met NC mayors, and led ASB trips near and far. So many of their successes can't be measured, but by reviewing quarterly increases in volunteers recruited and resources secured, we can see a sliver of their huge accomplishments. It is clear that they will continue to live lives of service in whatever endeavors they pursue.

As they move on to the next step in their careers and lives, we wish them great and humbling adventures!

Each new hour holds new chances
For new beginnings
Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

The horizon leans forward,
Offering you space to place new steps of change.
-- Maya Angelou, excerpted from "On the Pulse of the Morning"

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Let’s Talk Taboo: My experiences with race and poverty as a NC Campus Compact VISTA

In June and July, North Carolina Campus Compact will be publishing articles written by our VISTA members. These pieces give readers access to first-hand experiences and reflections of VISTAs serving throughout the state. We are excited for them to share their perspectives on community and service with us! 

Please note: Any opinions expressed on the VISTA VIEW blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views, opinions, or policies of North Carolina Campus Compact, the AmeriCorps VISTA program or the Corporation for National and Community Service.

By Shifra Sered
NC Campus Compact VISTA at East Carolina University and the Third Street Community Center

Shifra (Left) with ECU student volunteers.
The AmeriCorps VISTA program was founded in 1965 as “a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty in America.” Throughout our VISTA Pre-service Orientation (PSO) we discussed theories of poverty and were asked to think critically about how to alleviate poverty in our communities. As VISTAs we are asked to build the capacity of organizations to alleviate poverty and are assessed on our ability to do so. Both VISTA and North Carolina Campus Compact have provided us with online and in-person trainings on topics ranging from utilizing social media in our work to creating asset maps for our community.

Throughout PSO and my year of service, I have been struck by the lack of intentional conversation about race in trainings provided by VISTA and NC Campus Compact. As shown by a study completed in 2012, a staggering 34 percent of African-Americans in North Carolina were living in poverty compared to 13 percent of the white population. As race and class are deeply intertwined, I believe that it is counterproductive to talk about poverty in North Carolina without evaluating the role of race. Focusing on one while ignoring the other can, at best, make VISTA's service less effective and can, at worst, run the risk of perpetuating systemically racist power structures.


I currently work at East Carolina University as the VISTA in the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center, as well as the Third Street Community Center (TSCC), a local faith-based community center. ECU and Third Street are both located in Greenville (Pitt County), a city still reconciling a past of deeply entrenched and often racist social norms. As recently as 2013, a court case was brought against Pitt County for school assignments that effectively re-segregated certain school districts. There are 12 members on the board of the Pitt County school system, but only 3 are African-American despite the fact that almost half of Pitt County school children are African-American. This unequal racial distribution, perhaps itself an effect of long standing racist attitudes, is a possible reason why governing Boards such as the Pitt County School Board allows current segregationist policies to stand and in fact continue to pass such policies.

The Third Street Community Center is located in “West Greenville,” an area more defined by its population than its physical boundaries. In fact, it seems to me like no one can decide the physical boundaries of West Greenville, but we can all agree it refers to the black and poor neighborhoods on the west side of the city. When I first moved to Greenville, I was warned to stay away from West Greenville as it was “the bad side of town.” Others refer to it euphemistically as the “inner-city,” despite the fact that Greenville is not a particularly large city. The area of West Greenville, as we try to vaguely demarcate it, is almost exclusively African-American. Poverty rates are as high as 100% in some neighborhoods. Third Street Community Center is very much dedicated to working within West Greenville. That said, the staff (including myself), the original board and the building owners of the Center, are all white. I believe it is important to openly recognize and discuss the potentially problematic implications of an all-white community center staff serving a black community. I fear that we, as a center, are stripping away the agency of the local community by insinuating that outsiders are the only ones capable of making profound, positive change. I fear we are continuing the widespread cultural narrative of the “white savior” who has the ability to “save” a community (see Teju Cole for more on the “White Savior Complex”). I believe this discussion about the ways that race informs our work at TSCC could be fostered with more intent. I do not mean this as an indictment of the community center and I believe that the center has the potential and the desire to do a lot of good in West Greenville. However, if we, as a community center, ignore the role that race plays in the perpetuation of poverty in West Greenville, then we run the risk of preserving the inequality that we are committed to fighting.

From my observations during my year of service, I believe that VISTA and NC Campus Compact need to intentionally include topics of race as part of our training and on-going dialogues around poverty as race heavily informs my work in the community. I believe that it is not enough to attempt to alleviate the effects of poverty; we must also target the root causes of poverty, which include racism. VISTAs do great work by building the capacity of organizations, strengthening tutoring programs, building responsible homeownership programs and creating nutrition programs. However, when schools in African-American neighborhoods are underfunded, racist housing practices lead to segregated neighborhoods, and places like West Greenville continue to be “food deserts,” providing communities with VISTAs is not enough. Our service needs to be evaluated as part of a larger system in which racism, both direct and indirect, is a contributing factor. Without acknowledging the way that racism shapes the experience of the communities we serve and the ability of the VISTA to effect positive change, we cannot create truly sustainable solutions to systematic and complicated issues.

I want to end by saying that I have learned tremendously from my year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I believe that AmeriCorps does important and necessary work that, on an individual level, can make all the difference in someone’s life. I believe it should continue to provide volunteers to strengthen non-profits and engage with communities. However, I also believe that the work of AmeriCorps is not done in a vacuum and must take into consideration the ways structural inequalities work in our communities, in our organizations and within AmeriCorps itself.