Friday, September 20, 2013

Elizabeth City VISTA connects campus to community school

ECSU VISTA Marion Hudson describes his service in 6 words.
When he began his VISTA service at Elizabeth City State University in August 2012, Marion Hudson had some advice for fellow VISTA Tiara Pugh, who was new in town: "Elizabeth City is what you make it: if you aren't willing to go out and do something, you're gonna be bored."

From his experience as a student at ECSU, Marion knew the largest city in northeastern NC had plenty to offer, despite its rural surroundings. As an undergrad, he was involved in many volunteer and service activities with his fraternity Kappa Alpha Si, and his experiences working with kids at a nearby alternative school drew him to the VISTA opportunity at his alma mater. The VISTA positions would be used to increase the university's involvement with H.L. Trigg Community School, the Elizabeth City-Pasquotank County Public School System's alternative school for middle and high school students who have difficulty succeeding in a traditional school setting.

"I was pretty familiar with Trigg. We did service work over there such as putting on Black history programs and homework help," he recalls. "I knew the kids could use extra support."

As a VISTA, Marion worked to coordinate university student volunteers at Trigg, while Tiara planned enrichment programming that leveraged university resources, including career exploration days and college access programs. Marion also recruited and coordinated volunteers for ECSU's campus-wide community service events such as the MLK Day of Service. For Marion, working with Tiara was a "very, very great thing. Whenever I got stuck she would give me ideas. If one of us was hesitant, the other would say let's do it."

One of his proudest accomplishments this service year was the "Extreme Makeover" project for the Trigg school library. During Trigg's spring break week, ECSU volunteers spent several days re-painting the library and re-organizing materials, including new books and supplies collected
VISTA Tiara Pugh (R) sprucing up the Trigg school library.
through an earlier donation drive on-campus.

"The principal told us at the end of the year that was the most help they'd received in a long time," he recalled.

This past spring, Marion decided to re-enroll for a second year of VISTA service. He will continue working with ECSU students and with Trigg, and he is excited about a plan to develop Project Shadow, a college access program that will let Trigg students "shadow" ECSU students to see what college is like.

Already this year, Marion has had success, working with ECSU and Trigg administrators to create 4 work study positions to staff the Trigg school library that he helped renovate last year. (The school does not have a full-time media specialist.) He is also organizing a charity basketball tournament for the 9-11 Day of Service and Remembrance. In the year ahead, he'll keep working to help others "go out and do something" in the Elizabeth City community.

"The work has impacted me because it taught me to use patience with people and situations and not to let it deter me from my ultimate goals. Between H.L. Trigg and Elizabeth City State University, using the VISTA program, it's in the process of bridging the gap between the two and it's a lot closer than it's ever been."