|Monica (center) during a visit to Parrish Farms|
SP: What previous volunteer or work experience led you to becoming a VISTA?
MP: I have actually been involved with the Jackson Center and this work since 2009. I have volunteered with the food program the Center supports, Heavenly Groceries, throughout college and served as a Food Justice Fellow this past year since graduating from UNC. Beyond that, I've spent some time in Honduras working with an organization tackling issues around food sovereignty and worked with the APPLES program at UNC.
What really attracted me to apply for VISTA was the commitment to supporting people working on issues of poverty beyond the capacity of a volunteer. If we're really going to work on these problems, we need to have people dedicating their full time and energy to the fight. I love the idea of being part of a group of people with a similar vision and I'm excited to learn from all VISTA has to offer.
SP: What is the primary focus of your project? What community partner(s) or populations will your project serve?
MP: I will be working as Community Services Manager at the Marian Cheek Jackson Center. The Center works in traditionally African-American neighborhoods in Chapel Hill with preservation and community development. They are a public history center, conducting oral history interviews with residents of these communities and then modeling community development initiatives from the examples of leadership and service those interviews convey. They aim to listen with responsibility, recording the stories of everyday history makers and responding accordingly to help preserve the future of these diverse communities.
I will be working primarily with the Food and Housing Justice initiatives of the Jackson Center, helping with the capacity and sustainability of a key food pantry in the Northside neighborhood as well as with different housing strategies aiming to ensure these neighborhoods and Chapel Hill as a whole are affordable for diverse families.
SP: What are you most looking forward to during your term of service?
MP: Though I've been involved with this work here in Chapel Hill for a while, this year I will be dedicating my full attention to the Jackson Center and be stepping into some major new territory with housing policy, town politics, and university-community relations. I'm looking forward to being a part of an organization that has so much respect from community residents as well as key town and university players. Probably most importantly, I'm so excited to be working with such talented and inspiring people that believe wholeheartedly in the importance of dreams and community.