Friday, January 18, 2013

VISTAs organize, serve on MLK Day

Over the MLK Day weekend, many NC Campus Compact VISTAs will coordinate service events for their campus and community host sites. Others will serve on projects with fellow AmeriCorps members.

At Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, VISTA Takira Dale is supporting the MLK Read-In Day on January 19th to promote literacy and service to young children. Participating children will receive a book on the theme of civil-rights, and volunteer reading buddies will read and complete community service activities with the kids. Takira is working in partnership with other national service members from HandsOn Northwest NC and student volunteers from WFU and partner campuses Winston-Salem State University and Salem College. Read about the event in the Winston Salem Chronicle.

At Lenoir-Rhyne University VISTA Ariel Mitchell expects over 50 volunteers to serve in honor of MLK Day at 5 community sites, including two local soup kitchens and her community partner, Centro Latino.

In Durham, VISTA Jeri Beckens is managing a canned food drive to help local food banks, part of Duke University's larger MLK Day of Service event. Led by former Campus Compact VISTA (and current Duke Durham Neighborhood Partnership staff member) Neil Hoefs, Duke's MLK Million Meals Event sets a goal to engage 1,000 volunteers to package thousands of meals through Stop Hunger Now.

In Wilmington, Feast Down East VISTA member Erin O'Donnell will team up with a local Food Corps volunteer to organize community and campus volunteers to build the LINC garden. LINC is a local non-profit that helps ex-offenders and at-risk youth become productive community members.

At Elizabeth City State University VISTAs Tiara Pugh and Marion Hudson are using an NC Campus Compact MLK Day grant to organize a event with two other local campuses, Mid-Atlantic University and College of the Albermarle to carry out an MLK Day of Service at various community sites.

In Chapel Hill, two Campus Compact VISTA's, the Jackson Center's Monica Palmiera and UNC Chapel Hill's Saarah Abdul-Rauf, are working with the Blue Ribbon Mentor Advocate Program to host a discussion dinner in honor of MLK Day so participants can talk about how to improve education for children.

A number of other Campus Compact VISTA members will coordinate service events in their communities this weekend, including Queens VISTA Christina D'Aulerio, UNC Greensboro VISTA Anya Piotrowski, Durham Tech VISTA Sally Parlier, Wake Tech VISTA Jennifer Evans, Virginia Tech VISTA Wyatt Taylor, UNC Asheville VISTA Sara Brown, and ECU VISTA Elizabeth Corney.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Queens VISTA grows healthy partnership with local school

For NC Campus Compact VISTA Christina D'Aulerio, managing Queens University's growing partnership with nearby Sedgefield Elementary School is the best kind of challenge. "It's project overload. Basically, organized chaos," she says. "Queens is connecting with the school in so many ways." Now in its second year, the partnership keeps finding new ways to engage Queens students with the students, staff, and families of Sedgefield Elementary, a Title I school where more than 90% of students receive free and reduced price lunch.
VISTA Christina D'Aulerio

One of the new connections Christina is most proud of is the Sedgefield garden, built and maintained by the current freshman class at Queens. As their Freshman Core project, the students built 8 raised beds, compost bins, and picnic tables at Sedgefield. "Each table is painted to show a theme, like math or geography," Christina explains. "My favorite is the one with hand prints of all the people who worked on project, including the principal."

A garden club comprised of Queens students works with the afterschool program to engage youngsters in planting, garden maintenance, and educational activities organized around topics like "Carrots!" "The kids are always getting their hands in the garden and doing cool projects," Christina explains. "When they wrote songs about vegetables, one kid made up a rap about radishes." The Freshman Core group will work with the garden project throughout their four years at Queens. This fall, the young gardeners have harvested over 30 pounds of produce to donate to Friendship Trays, a local non-profit that prepares and delivers nutritious meals to the elderly and infirm.

Queens engages with its school partner in many other ways. Students volunteer as lunch buddies, or with the afterschool program; they assist teachers during special classes like art and music; and two dozen serve as mentors to students at the school through a special partnership with Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Next semester, many Queens volunteers will support the school's Read-A-Thon through a book drive and participating each week in the Drop Everything And Read (D.E.A.R.) project. Christina is also working to bring a "super secret special guest" to Sedgefield who will inspire students to keep reading. In her role as a VISTA this year based at Queens' Center for Active Citizenship, Christina helps coordinate all this volunteer activity, visiting the school at least once a day. As the relationship becomes established, her goal is better "communicating with Sedgefield about what they want, trying to ask them."

"When I started, I didn't know I was capable of doing it, " Christina recalls. She has surprised herself. She learned much from her prior year of service as an AmeriCorps member with Boys Hope/Girls Hope, a residential program for urban, at-risk youth in Baltimore, MD. "It was an amazing experience and changed my life for sure," she declares. A flutist and music major at Stetson University, her "ultimate goal is to open my own non-profit music organization. I wanted to do a year of VISTA service so I could see all that behind-the-scenes work - all the business side, project management, volunteer management, finding resources - that you have to do in the non-profit field."

A native of central Florida, Christina had never visited Charlotte, NC before coming as a VISTA, but she's found it very hospitable. "People are so nice here!" she marvels. In her free time, Christina is active in a local church, and she enjoys taking advantage of the cultural and social events at Queens.

You can read more about the Queens-Sedgefield partnership in a VISTA VIEW post here.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


The 2013-2014 NC Campus Compact VISTA Host Site Application is now available for download. The application deadline is Feb. 22.

What do NC Campus Compact VISTAs do?
AmeriCorps VISTA members serve full-time for one year to develop or expand programs that fight poverty. NC Campus Compact VISTAs will build a campus/community partnership designed to fight poverty by meeting community needs in one of three priority areas: 

  • Economic Opportunity
  • Education
  • Healthy Futures/ Food Security

Rather than performing direct service with clients, VISTAs undertake capacity-building activities such as: recruiting or training volunteers, writing grants and soliciting donations, creating publicity and outreach materials, conducting needs assessments or creating sustainable systems and structures.

Who can host an NC Campus Compact VISTA?
Member campuses are invited to host a VISTA in partnership with a community-based organization. Community-based organizations are also invited to host a VISTA with a member campus partner. 

Traditionally, our VISTAs serve in an office of community engagement or center for service-learning, and we support this model. But we also encourage Campus Compact liaisons to share this opportunity with other university-based departments or programs OR with key community partners who might be interested in hosting a VISTA.

If your organization currently hosts a VISTA, you can continue the same project and partnership, but you must re-apply. (You will have the option to omit some sections of the proposal.)

What is the cost to host an NC Campus Compact VISTA?
Approved host sites must pay an administrative fee of $3000 (in the first 3 years of VISTA hosting) or $6000 (in host year 4 and beyond) to NC Campus Compact by July 1, 2012. The Corporation for National and Community Service provides VISTA members with a living stipend, health benefits, and an educational award upon completion of the year of service.

Host sites must also provide supervision, office space, computer and phone access, and a small budget for work-related travel and transportation. Sites are also encouraged to provide meal or housing assistance, though such support is not required.

How can I learn more?
NC Campus Compact will conduct 2 Technical Assistance sessions for potential applicants on 1/23 at 10 AM and 1/29 at 1 PM. The sessions will be conference call/webinar format.

You will find links to application materials and more information on our VISTA Host Site page here.

Please contact Chad Fogleman via email or phone (336-278-7197) to discuss any questions related to your proposal. And be sure to review other VISTA View blog posts to see examples of VISTA work throughout the state!

Thursday, January 3, 2013


scrum [skruhm] (noun) -
  1.  a Rugby play in which, typically, three members of each team line up opposite one another with a group of two and a group of three players behind them, making an eight-person, three-two-three formation on each side; the ball is then rolled between the opposing front lines, the players of which stand with arms around a teammate's waist, meeting the opponent shoulder to shoulder, and attempt to kick the ball backwards to a teammate.
  2. British. a place or situation of confusion and racket; hubbub.
In November of 2012 we decided to try a new way of communicating with our VISTAs. Right before the Thanksgiving holiday we had our very first VISTA Scrum.

The idea stemmed from conversations with NC Campus Compact VISTAs from all over the state. The volunteers expressed their desire to communicate and bond with their cohort. Many also wished they could meet the group face-to-face. NC Campus Compact's response? The VISTA scrum.

Screenshot of a December Scrum
The VISTA scrum is a 30-minute, online event that happens twice a week and uses webcams and chat software to help NC Campus Compact VISTAs connect. Together they solve problems, and refine ideas in a mostly casual, occasionally loud, slightly chaotic environment. The sessions take place in a meeting room in Adobe Connect, but Skype or Google Hangouts (both of which are free) would work equally well.

Each scrum starts with a set of round robin questions:
  1. What have I been working on since we last talked?
  2. What do I plan to work on this week/month? or What projects/events do I have coming up?
  3. What challenges or obstacles am I facing/might I face?
VISTAs are asked to reflect on their projects, examine their goals, and hold one another accountable. Sometimes this process takes the majority of the allotted 30 minutes, sometimes it goes by in a flash. The important part is not the length of time, but in the self-reflection and group accountability. Any time left is devoted to any of a wide range of subjects including MLK Day of Service preparation, reporting, resume development, and skill development.

The sessions end precisely at the 30 minute mark. If the conversation is good, participants may stay and continue, but their obligation is done at half an hour. They're busy people, their time is valuable, and nobody likes a 30 minute meeting that lasts an hour.

VISTAs are required to attend just two a month and so far the response has been positive. Some have attended every scrum and each time they have something new to contribute. The hope is that by getting to see and interact with one another, the NC Campus Compact VISTAs will feel more connected to their cohort and their projects, and treat one another as resources and allies as they continue their service.