Friday, September 28, 2012

VISTA Profile: Elizabeth Corney

Elizabeth Corney, a native North Carolinian and graduate of Campbell University, is serving at East Carolina University. At ECU, Elizabeth supports various food security projects in the Greenville area, including the Campus Kitchen at ECU (CKECU) project.

SP: What previous work or volunteer experience led you to becoming a VISTA?
EC: While in undergrad, I participated in many one day service events and short term service projects. I also worked as an intern at a church where I was able to coordinate service activities for a youth group. I'm looking forward to my AmeriCorps year as a chance to grow, personally and professionally.

SP: What is the primary focus of your project? What community partner(s) or populations will you serve?
EC: The primary focus is food security. ECU is a member of Campus Kitchen, a national organization that helps colleges set up food rescue programs. We recover food from campus dining halls, prepare meals, and deliver to three community partners in Greenville: Ronald McDonald House (houses families of hospitalized children), The Little Willie Center (after-school program for at-risk children), and Operation Sunshine (after school program for at-risk girls).

CKECU student volunteers serving food at a community partner site.
SP: You’ve been on the job now for over a month. Any successes so far that you’d like to share? Exciting things coming up?
EC: I am really impressed with the CKECU student leadership team and shift leaders. We have about 16 students who take on these roles. I am also looking forward to “double shift Fridays” in October.  We will be delivering meals to two community partners every Friday.  Previously, we were delivering to each one on alternating weeks. I am also excited about attending a Campus Kitchen Project conference at Lee University in Tennessee.  I will get to meet other Campus Kitchen coordinators, learn some best practices, and show off CKECU.

SP: Tell us something unique about yourself. 
EC: I love being outside-camping, hiking, kayaking, etc. I am 22, but I still enjoy climbing trees.

SP:  Since you love the outdoors, I expect you’ve cooked over a campfire. How does camping cooking compare to campus (kitchen) cooking?
EC: Cooking over a fire is less precise, not as consistent, and you can’t cook as much as fast.  The upside is that you can see the stars, and you can’t beat the smell of a good campfire.  

Friday, September 21, 2012

VISTA Profile: Tiara Pugh

First-year VISTA Tiara Pugh is already an AmeriCorps veteran, having served last year with NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) in the Pacific Region, a far cry from her hometown of Siler City, NC. She is now serving at Elizabeth City State University to build a strong partnership with the H.L. Trigg Community School, an alternative school for middle and high school students.

CC: What previous volunteer work or experience led you to
becoming a VISTA?
TP: I did AmeriCorps NCCC these last 9 months. I have worked in the rain, snow, and ice planting trees and chopping wood in the North West and worked in the blistering 100 degrees of Utah searching for beaver habitats while wading in waist deep water and closing roads. It was hard but all worth it in the end.

Tiara served last year with NCCC in the Pacific Region.
CC: What drew you to the project at ECSU with the H.L. Trigg Community School?

TP: At NC Central University, my alma mater, I majored in psychology with a minor in child development. I eventually want to end up in the education field but I don't know for sure if I want to teach just yet. I did an NCCC round in south central LA and saw first hand what a low income school is like. It was my favorite placement but also my most challenging. I served at an elementary school doing after school tutoring and the kids were both challenging and loveable. I worked with 2nd and 3rd graders. I wish I was super woman so I could help all children succeed in school! My VISTA project gives me a chance to know more about the NC education system and how I can help low income school systems succeed.

CC: Tell us a little more about your work with Trigg.

TP: Marion Hudson (another NC Campus Compact VISTA based at ECSU) and I are working to start a tutoring and mentoring program to support the school. We're recruiting ECSU student volunteers, training them, and setting up the program. We've also spent time in the school observing and talking with staff, and we've seen needs like new weight room equipment and grade-level reading material, so we are working with groups at ECSU to donate used equipment and put together a book drive.

CC: You're a North Carolina native, but you're new to Elizabeth City. How is it so far?
TP: They have a farmer's market here on Saturdays so I've been down there and it was nice. I also went to a football game that was fun. Everyone here has been really friendly.

CC: Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
TP:  I want to travel as much as possible. India is a must see for me so I hope to get there one day. I'm a great dancer! No, just kidding, but I love to dance.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Queens Celebrates Partnership with Local Elementary School

One year after the Carolina Panthers challenged the students, faculty and staff of Queens University of Charlotte to perform 75,000 hours of community service throughout the 2011-12 academic year, Queens officials announced yesterday that Queens did meet and exceed that goal.

NC Campus Compact VISTAs based at Queens played an important role in this success by supporting a partnership with a local elementary school.

"Our motto at Queens is 'Not to be served, but to serve,' and through our 80,353 hours of service this year I'm confident we're living our motto in a meaningful way," said Dr. Pamela Davies, president of Queens.

In September of 2011, the Carolina Panthers challenged Queens to perform 75,000 hours of service throughout the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools system and beyond. Sedgefield Elementary School was identified as a key community service partner in 2011 and teachers identified areas of need throughout the school year for Queens to offer assistance.

Last year, Queens VISTA Abby Burkland acted as a key liaison with the school, facilitating a number of initiatives that supported Sedgefield student success, including the development of a mentoring program that matches Queens students and Sedgefield children with help from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Charlotte. In the current project year, NC Campus Compact VISTA Christina D'Aulerio will work to expand and institutionalize the partnership.

Yesterday's celebration brought Sedgefield students and teachers to the Queens campus, where they danced along with the Panthers' mascot and Queens cheerleaders. Every child received a book to acknowledge their hard work toward academic goals.

NC Campus Compact Executive Director Dr. Lisa Keyne attended the celebration, along with Sedgefield principal Ivy Gill and representatives from the Charlotte City Council, CMS district, and Habitat for Humanity. "Queens' Center for Active Citizenship has made a deep impact by connecting college students with elementary students. This partnership is a model for focused, sustained community engagement," Keyne said.

"Volunteering at Sedgefield had more of an impact on my life than any other service activity I have ever taken part in. I became not only more humble, but felt even more blessed," said Whitney Liotti, a Queens' student. "A young girl told me she dreamed of attending Queens when she grew up. In that moment I realized my reality was another child's dream. The impact of this experience made me value my education at Queens... and heightened my desire to be my best as a Queens' student and Sedgefield volunteer.

Read more here: Queens Celebrates Win with Carolina Panthers and CMS
Check out this video:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Western Carolina hosts 9/11 Day of Service

The Western Carolina University Center for Service Learning hosted its second annual 9/11 Day of Service on Saturday, September 8th.  Forty-four students, faculty and staff volunteered for a total of 174 hours at seven locations throughout Jackson and Haywood counties.  The day began at 8am and wrapped up at 3pm. 

Service sites included Appalachian Homestead Farm and Preserve, the WCU Campus Kitchen Garden, Catman2 cat shelter, the Cullowhee Fire Department, Full Spectrum Farms, Habitat for Humanity, and the Pathways Thrift Store. 

WCU students, faculty and staff remembered 9/11 with a day of service.
Volunteers assisted partner sites with various tasks, including picking beans and spreading fertilizer at the Appalachian Homestead Farm and Preserve, cleaning facilities and equipment at several locations, building with Habitat for Humanity, and garden clean up at Full Spectrum Farms, where participants also learned about Full Spectrum's work with autistic adults.  

Senior Julian Dunst, an exchange student from Germany, said he appreciated the opportunity to learn more about this area of the United States and that reflecting on his experience was a new and welcome change from service experience in his home country.

Lane Perry, director of the WCU Center for Service Learning, also reflected on the day of service experience. “Two of my mentors, Dr’s Billy O’Steen and Patti Clayton, have described service-learning like this: in class students do not get credit for reading the textbook, but they get a grade for further analysis of the book and how their analysis is presented,” Perry said. “Similarly, students do not get a grade for service, but they get a grade for the critical analysis and reflection on their experience.

“The 9/11 Day of Service allowed volunteers to have the opportunity to take a moment to remember the tragic event that occurred 11 years ago and to participate in service that can serve as a text they carry back with them into their classes at WCU,” said Perry.

VISTA member Derald "Banjo" Dryman helped coordinate community service placements for the event, as part of his work to support national days of service, including the 9/11 Day of Service.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Hands on Hickory puts Lenoir-Rhyne frosh to work!

When most young people head off to college, they don't expect to spend their first days on campus doing yard work, painting park benches, and playing Bingo with folks at a retirement home. But that is exactly what incoming first years and transfer students at Lenoir-Rhyne University do during "Hands on Hickory," the school's annual orientation service event.

LR students helping out at the YMCA at Hands On Hickory

On August 18th, 360 new LR students and 35 faculty and staff volunteered at 19 sites in the Hickory community. The students, organized in groups according to their First Year Experience class, worked at a local site during the Saturday morning event. Associate Dean of Engaged and Global Learning Charlotte Williams says, "Hands on Hickory is a great way to introduce new students to the concept of community engagement and to needs in our area. We hope this experience is a springboard for service during their time at LR."

During their three-hour tour, students completed projects at community organizations like the Flynn House, Centro Latino of Hickory, and Eastern Catawba Cooperative Christian Ministry (ECCCM). ECCCM Executive Director Rev. Robert C. Silber was very satisfied with the volunteers' work, stating it was "great working with the LR students - again." Other partners described the students as diligent and pro-active; together, students volunteered 987 hours of service. As the First Year Experience classes continue to meet throughout the year, many will return to their Hands on Hickory service sites for additional service projects.

Like the student volunteers whose efforts she organized, Ariel Mitchell had just arrived on campus in a new role, starting her service as LR's new AmeriCorps*VISTA a week before the event. Ariel's successful coordination of the day's community placements built on the planning of her VISTA predecessor, Saarah Abdul-Rauf, who currently serves as the NC Campus Compact VISTA at UNC Chapel Hill. So, along with being a great experience for student volunteers and community partners, the Hands on Hickory event is also an example of successfully transitioning VISTA work!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

VISTA Profile: Monica Palmeira

Monica Palmeira, from Kinston, North Carolina, is a first-time VISTA serving at the Marian Cheek Jackson Center, a public history and community development center in Chapel Hill. This year, NC Campus Compact is placing VISTAs at community host sites as well as college campuses to better develop sustainable connections with community partners fighting poverty.

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.