Thursday, December 18, 2014

VISTA Host Site Letter of Intent Due 12/31/14

In early January, NC Campus Compact will release the 2015-2016 VISTA Host Site Application. NC Campus Compact member campus units may apply with a community partner OR community-based organizations may apply with a member campus partner.

Organizations planning to submit a new OR continuing host site application should send NC Campus Compact an intent to apply letter on letterhead and as an email attachment to Chad Fogleman, VISTA Program Coordinator. Letter writers are encouraged to cc your site's "authorizing official" on the email. (The authorizing official is the person who will eventually sign the Memorandum of Agreement and authorize transmission of funds).

The letter should:
  1. State your organization's intention to apply (or re-apply) as a VISTA host site
  2. Include how many VISTA positions your site would seek
  3. Identify the project focus area(s) (healthy futures/ education/ economic opportunity)
  4. Describe (briefly) what you'd expect the 2015-16 VISTA placement(s) to accomplish, including expected campus/community partners 
For more info, visit the Host Site Application Info page.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

“Ready to learn and lead: New VISTA Leaders reflect on their time at PSO”

Catherine and I are extremely excited to join the North Carolina Campus Compact VISTA family. We feel as if there has not been a moment to breathe! Moving, trying to get settled and getting oriented to our new positions all seemed to happen in a flash and before we knew it, we were packing to head to Dallas for VISTA Leader Pre-Service orientation.

Catherine and I both directly came into this position from our VISTA year without taking a break, so we are still pumped up with energy and all that we have experienced in the past year. My service year was in Bridgeport, CT and Catherine's in Cincinnati, OH and you can read our full bios on the VISTA Annex.

So Catherine and I were not able to be roommates and we were assigned to different facilitators which meant we had the opportunity to experience different styles of presentation and different groups of people which was perfect. It was really interesting to meet so many different VISTA Leaders from all walks of life: from Florida to Alaska, from six months into their service to those who have barely started and Leaders in their 20's to leaders in their 70's. I always encourage everyone to derive from the experience of those around us. People are your best resource and just listening to their stories can provide a whole different aspect to our viewpoint.

Over the three days, our facilitators threw a ton of information at us. The days whizzed by talking about leadership, connecting with members spread out over a large regional distance and serving as a resource. Something I paid attention to this time around is not only the content, but the style of facilitation as well. All of us at some point at a conference often feel as if the information is not pertinent to us. I learned that a lot can be gained from just watching these presenters. What did they do? How did they create a safe space? How did they engage those who were less vocal than others? These are all important cues I picked up that I hope we will be able to deliver to all the VISTA members over the year.

One thing I learned that I will forever utilize is the ability to look at the positives. Yes, it is important to improve upon ourselves and our projects but we often forget to look at what is going right and what can go right. We did several activities that asked us to focus just on the positives and I realized how much I have to look forward to this year.

Our theme for the training was to connect with the heart and lead with the mind. We are all leaders, even if we don't realize it. At home for younger siblings or other family members, among our friends or at school and work- we all fulfill some kind of leadership role. A good leader is able to inspire a shared vision and model the way for those they lead. We all can make a difference and it is important to focus on not only the goals, but also the people that are part of the process.

Catherine and I can go on for hours about all the specific training on diversity, distance leadership, leadership models, icebreakers and the countless conversations we had. We were also able to connect with several other Campus Compact VISTA leaders and it was interesting to see how similar we were in structure and function. We will put together a resource folder with all that we learned for future reference. For now, we are glad that we were able to attend this PSO and we know that this is only the beginning of a knowledge packed year. I will leave you with these strong words from Catherine, who has perfectly summarized our experience:

Last week at the VISTA Leader PSO I spent 4 days being inundated with information about my role as leader. Learning and sharing experiences with my fellow VISTA leaders was a powerful lesson in the creation of community. Almost instantly, a group of 60 strangers was united by our passion for service and for ensuring our VISTAs have the best possible experience.

I encourage all of you to find and create communities during your service term, both personally and professionally. If you’re looking to connect with other VISTAs in your area, use the VISTA map. Try using your college’s alumni network to make local connections with your alma mater. Use websites like and to find events that interest you.  Find communities that enrich your personal life. For me, that’s finding a local book club, a knitting circle and a masters swim team.  Putting down roots in your community, whether you’re a native North Carolinian or from out of state, will make your VISTA year more fulfilling.  

Your VISTA term will fly by- you’re almost half way done!  The holiday break provides an excellent opportunity for reflection. Reflect on the connections you’ve already made, the ones you want to deepen, and the ones you have yet to make!-Catherine

Getting Things Done for America

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Carla's big goodbye: A year in view as your VISTA Leader

I started off my year by writing a blog post introducing myself, so it seems only fitting that I close with one as well. It seems like such a long time ago that I sat in a UNC Greensboro conference room (on my first night on the job I might add. Chad wasn’t shy about getting my feet wet.) listening to the Executive Director of the Interactive Resource Center speak about homelessness. I still remember what she said that day when a student asked, “but what can we do?”

She replied, “you might think you can’t do anything now, because you don’t have any money to donate, or any time to volunteer, but there are lots of people to do those things.” She told us a story about a group of people sitting by a river and suddenly they see babies starting to float by.

Immediately, they jump into the strong current and form a chain to pull the babies out of the river. It is tiring and the babies just keep coming. But these people are so busy and caught up in getting the babies to safety, that no one has the time or the thought to go upstream and see who is throwing the babies in the river in the first place (no babies were harmed in the making of this analogy).”

This is what a system of oppression looks like. It is so insidious that you can’t see it, and you are so caught up in it, that you don’t realize that your actions aren’t creating sustainable change. She went on to say that what we can do is learn. Keep learning about these systems, grow your passion and thirst for knowledge; get to know people and their stories. And above all, never stop asking why. Because ultimately, “we’re a community of people, not a community of systems.”

That’s hard for me sometimes, because I’m a numbers person. Here are some of those numbers from the past year:

Counted 5,678 volunteers
Reviewed 288 timesheets
Wrote 50 Tuesday mails
Wrote and edited 30 blog posts
Sent over 3000 emails
Put in 1,800 of work

Those numbers mean I accomplished something right? Maybe, but as much as I love bulleted lists and data, it can never tell the full story, because it isn't really the core of the work I did or helped support. The numbers are only a small glimpse at trying to quantify the immeasurable. How can you really count how much community you had a part in building?

I feel confident in saying that not a single one of these NC Campus Compact VISTAs enjoyed my phone calls to remind them of a deadline, or to guide them through editing reports or blog posts, but they humored me, spending hours trying to get it right.

Each of these VISTAs wants to get it right, and that’s what is really at the core. I may have called with critiques, but as I spent hours reading  reports, and signing off on timesheets, I didn’t see the numbers. I saw each of them spending day-in and day-out, weekends and nights, and over-nights, in pursuit of their passions and in pursuit of the change they know is possible.

I saw them worrying about how events would go, or how much volunteers would like them or if they would even show up, or finding the best way to communicate with their supervisors or community partners, or running out of time. And I saw them on the other side of it all, having met new people and gained new experiences, ultimately invigorated by the work that not only they achieved, but by the guidance they facilitated in others to realize their own passions and goals and purpose.

So VISTAs, maybe your accomplishments aren’t the most quantifiable right now. Maybe you feel like a single disconnected cog, or a footnote under someone else’s name. But just because you are only the spark of an idea, that spark brings a light. It has illuminated a way of doing and being present in the world that either wasn’t there before or wasn’t noticed.

We can invent new technology, review spreadsheets, come up with outcomes and improvements, algorithms and quantifiable impact, but each of those numbers is a person and each of those people has a story that is meaningful. Gather them together and share them with others. After all, we’re not a community of systems, we’re a community of people.

I’ve lived in Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Kentucky, North Carolina again, and now I’m off to Virginia to serve as the Operations Associate for the D.C. region Teach for America team. The people I have met along the way have helped shape my path to this point, and it’s much easier to see what it looks like looking backward, than looking ahead, but I suppose that’s part of the journey.

I am so excited to join the TFA team and continue to learn and grow and meet new people. The climate of education in the country is over the burner right now, and education reform is taking lots of different avenues. I am excited to get into the thick of things in the nation’s capital to continue my own education of social justice. I expect that some people will touch my life with meaning, and others will confirm what I dislike about society and stoke my passion for change.

Someone wrote me a letter once, with the best advice I’ve ever gotten. I’d like to share it with you here, because as I wrap up this year of VISTA service, and this period in my life, I am struck by how many people I have met along the way who have reached out when they didn’t have to, or spoken up when they witnessed injustice, or taken initiative to start something new, whether or not they thought it would be successful.  These people continue to inspire me to pursue not just my own passions, but the ability for everyone to have the same opportunity of their own pursuits.

“You don’t have to get a job that makes others feel comfortable about what they perceive as your success. You don’t have to explain what you plan to do with your life. You don’t have to justify your education by demonstrating its financial rewards. You don’t have to maintain an impeccable credit score. 
You do have to be kind. You have to give it all you’ve got. You have to find people who love you truly and love them back with the same truth. 
But that’s all.”

Friday, November 7, 2014

VISTA site visits: an engaging fall tour

The last month has been a whirlwind of activity for North Carolina Campus Compact's VISTA Program!

Not only did October's end represent the 3-month mark for our 14-15 VISTA members, but we also visited SEVEN of our VISTA sites and were visited by our CNCS Program Officer Alexandria Cooley.

With all of these exciting happenings, we wanted to pause and share them with you!

On Tuesday, October 7th, we made the long drive to Cullowhee to visit second-year VISTA member Willie Jones. On Monday, October 20th, we met with NC State University and Meredith College. On Tuesday, October 28th, we met with Alexandria here at Elon, then visited our Elon-based VISTAs, as well as Elizabeth McIntosh at PAGE, Jessica Cagle at Student U, and Catherine Okafor at Duke!

VISTA Willie Jones works to fight
hunger in western NC.
At Western Carolina, VISTA Willie Jones explained the work he has been doing for the past 14 months to develop programs that address hunger. During the trip, we visited three local sites: the Cullowhee Community Garden, a frequent source of surplus food for the gleaning program Willie coordinates; a new local discount food market where gleaned produce is distributed; and the Sylva Community Table, a key partner fighting hunger in the region.

VISTA Meghan Engstran
at Kentwood
At Meredith College, VISTA Meghan Engstran has recruited 58 student volunteers to support programs of the Children’s Collaborative in the Kentwood neighborhood, including the school’s Campus Kitchen project, a Communities in Schools afterschool site, and a project that pairs Social Work students with Telemon Headstart professionals conducting pre-K home visits.

VISTA Christian Gray has partnered with NC State's TRiO Program through the Raleigh Colleges and Community Collaborative to prepare low-income and first-generation students and their parents for post-secondary education. He creates and facilitates programs like free SAT prep sessions and FAFSA FAQs in community centers throughout Southeast Raleigh, including the Chavis Heights Community Center. Read about our last VISTA in this role and her reflection on her time in Southeast Raleigh.

VISTAs Immanuel Bryant and
Jessica Eller layout their early
childhood education research.
At Elon’s Center for Access and Success, VISTA members Jessica Eller and Immanuel Bryant are gathering data and program models to lay groundwork for a university-supported early childhood success initiative in Alamance County. This early-childhood initiative would be one step closer to completing a cradle-to-college pipeline in Alamance county, supported by Elon's new Center for Access and Success.

VISTA Jessica Cagle has Student U's
programs all mapped out.

VISTA Jessica Cagle has been recruiting tutors to expand services at Student U in Durham, and is already gearing up for summer to recruit tutor interns!
PAGE's Elizabeth McIntosh and Dr. Deborah Hicks-Rogoff
represent the VISTA V with Program Officer Alexandria
Cooley and coordinator Chad Fogleman.

Second-year VISTA Elizabeth McIntosh showed us two videos made by Madison County teens for PAGE's digital literacy project. Liz also secured a $5000 donation from a private family foundation to support the PAGE project. Read more about Liz and her project in this profile.

Duke Community Service Center VISTA member Catherine Okafor will pilot a parental engagement and literacy support program at two elementary schools within the Duke Durham Neighborhood Partnership group.

VISTA Catherine Okafor, VISTA Leader Carla Davis, and
State Program Officer Alexandria Cooley are
"Getting Things Done for America!"
We haven't visited everyone yet, but each VISTA has been sharing their monthly progress with us via their monthly reports. Stay tuned for a full progress update!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Impacting Communities through Strategic Partnerships: East Carolina University and Third Street Community Center

North Carolina Campus Compact sponsors 20 AmeriCorps VISTA projects throughout the state of to develop sustainable partnerships and programs between higher education institutions and community partners.

East Carolina University acts as host to one such partnership between its Volunteer and Service Learning Center (VSLC) and the newly established Third Street Community Center (TSCC), located in Greenville, North Carolina.

TSCC created this video to highlight its partnership with ECU. The piece includes interviews with TSCC's Executive Director, Walter Strathy; the VSLC's Associate Director, Nichelle Shuck; and the NC Campus Compact VISTA, Shifra Sered, who supported the partnership during the 2013-14 project year!

This partnership is now in its second year, and the current AmeriCorps VISTA member, Hannah Paek, is working to develop a neighborhood-wide collaborative of agencies that provide educational after-school programming, including TSCC. 

To learn more about our other VISTA projects, and about NC Campus Compact, follow our VISTA View blog, and subscribe to our Email Digest by entering your email on the bottom left side of the page!

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.



Contact: Todd Carter, Director of Development

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 and follow them on Pinterest . For more information or to donate items, contact Brittany Johnson at or (828) 264-1237 x 115


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 (, 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.