Thursday, June 27, 2013

VISTA Profile: Jennifer Evans

A favorite question for both existing and potential new VISTAs, is, "If you could have any superpower what would it be and why?" The answers are surprisingly telling. Jennifer's preferred super power was a pretty common one this year: the ability to read people's minds. The 'why,' however, was unique. She believes the ability to read someone's mind would help her to better understand how to reach out to them and provide them with the help they need. This heart of gold and instinct to help is part of what makes Jennifer a great VISTA.

Jennifer Evans is the North Carolina Campus Compact VISTA serving at Wake Tech Community College in Raleigh. Her work supports a partnership between Wake Tech and Communities in Schools (CIS) of Wake County.

Like many VISTAs, Jennifer's first exposure to AmeriCorps service was the result of a conversation. Unsure what to do after completing her master's degree, she recalled the dialogue between her and a coworker about the life-changing nature of national service. Jennifer's coworker described her experience as an AmeriCorps member as having shaped her character and helped her find what would ultimately become her career path. "She told me if I ever have an opportunity to become an AmeriCorps member I should take it." With that strong push, Jennifer found her way to the AmeriCorps website and the North Carolina Campus Compact program.

While she's happy to be back in the world of higher education, being placed at a community college is a departure from her prior experience in a college environment. When working at a traditional, 4-year institution you work primarily with students who are 18-24. At a community college the age range is much broader including students who are right out of high school all the way up to grandparents. This has been both a challenge and a learning opportunity for Jennifer. She elaborates,

"How I explain what we do at the Wilmington Street Men's Shelter will differ for my 19 year-old student (who's going home to party after the event) from the 45 year-old student who's going home to cook for her 10 year-old son. It's an entirely different environment, but we all have the same purpose: to give our students the best possible education with sustainable skills once they leave our institution."

Jennifer Evans (left) and Rachel Rogers
Jennifer's work supports a partnership between Wake Tech and CIS of Wake County. Through this work she's come to realize exactly how much her community partner does for the students in Wake County's public schools. Jennifer is currently developing a proposal to further develop Wake Tech's partnership with CIS of Wake County that includes a long-term volunteer initiative.

Jennifer says she never imagined she would be in a position where she could constantly help the community and recruit others to do the same. She's had a good year so far and finds her experience as a VISTA rewarding and enjoyable. She likes the work she's doing and enjoys being able to meet new people and teach them about AmeriCorps VISTA.

Jennifer is one of the rare NC Campus Compact VISTAs that will finish her term of service in November instead of this coming August and she's already about how her next steps will fit into her long-term interest in higher education: She plans to pursue a PhD in Higher Education Administration or Higher Education Organizational Leadership. She completed her graduate work in Leadership and Training at Liberty University in 2011 and her undergraduate work in English at NC Wesleyan College in 2007.

The youngest of five children, Jennifer is 13 years younger than her oldest (and only!) brother. She describes her family enthusiastically: "Growing up my family was a little like 'The Cosby Show' meets 'Tyler Perry's House of Payne.' There were tons of laughs, tons of food, tons of family, and tons of dancing to the soundtrack of Saturday Night Fever...not much has changed." She loves to spend time with her nieces and nephews. When she's not on call as a VISTA, Jennifer is an avid reader, enjoys writing, sewing, arts and crafts, and is a fan of NCIS and the WWE.