Monday, March 17, 2014

VISTA Elizabeth McIntosh helps Appalachian girls dream new stories with PAGE

Elizabeth McIntosh
Though originally from sunny Winter Park, Florida, NC Campus Compact VISTA Elizabeth McIntosh is no stranger to the Appalachian mountains. Elizabeth's mother runs a summer camp for girls, Camp Glen Arden, in Tuxedo, NC, where Elizabeth has spent every summer of her life. Now Elizabeth works just 70 miles from Tuxedo in Madison County, and is following in her mother's footsteps.

In partnership with the Madison County School system, Elizabeth works with PAGE, the Partnership for Appalachian Girls Education, a project with a mission to foster 21st century literacy, social equity, and economic opportunity for Appalachian girls and young women. PAGE was founded in 2010 and has since hosted 50 girls (grade 6-9) in their summer camp program. Elizabeth officially began her year of AmeriCorps service in August of 2013 as PAGE's first VISTA member, but she had previously worked with the organization's summer camp through a Duke University internship in 2012, and then as part of the strategic development committee from 2012-2013.

Though the learning curve for institutional development is steep, Elizabeth's educational background has made the road much more navigable. Elizabeth graduated from Duke University in May of 2013 with a Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy and minor in History. Now as the PAGE VISTA, Elizabeth wears many hats, but all with the goal of building capacity and long-term sustainability for the PAGE program so that it can meet the educational needs of students in rural mountain communities.

Elizabeth with PAGE participants
Elizabeth's work so far has been quite prolific. Since PAGE is currently a project of Duke University's Social Science Research Institute, she has been working with a Duke Research Fellow on a community needs assessment. Elizabeth has also had a hand in developing a strategic plan for PAGE with a goal of helping the organization become an independent, 501c3 non-profit within the next 5 years. She has designed and implemented a marketing approach that includes building key stakeholder relationships, securing grant funding, and creating a social media and communications presence. Elizabeth has already garnered over $18,000 in support from funders since she began her work in August. As a relatively new program, Elizabeth says, "It is important to take the time to get the word out [about the program] and develop community relationships."

Currently, she is spending a large majority of her time recruiting. Partnered with Duke Engage, she is looking for both Duke students to intern with PAGE during its 6-week summer program, and also looking for middle school girls from Madison County to enroll in PAGE's summer program. Though summer is still several months away, these middle-schoolers are jumping at the opportunity go to camp, and -- eventually -- to college.

Elizabeth recalls a conversation one mother shared about her daughter Laura's recent visit with the college counselor. The counselor asked the ninth-grader (and PAGE participant) to list ten colleges she was interested in, and the girl said firmly, "I want to go to Duke." According to Laura's mom, when the counselor laughed and encouraged Laura to add nine other schools to that list, she "looked straight at the man and [said] 'No! I don't need any more schools. I am going to Duke!'"

For Elizabeth, this story embodies PAGE's mission. This program, she says, is "allowing [these girls] to achieve their dreams, even in the face of much adversity. It would not have mattered to me if this girl said Duke or the local community college, as where she wanted to go. The point is that she is following her dreams whatever they may be, full force ahead."

As a strong advocate for following your dreams, when Elizabeth heard about the NC Campus Compact VISTA position, she didn't hesitate to apply. "Few graduates get to say they have a hand in developing and running a nonprofit organization, while also making a difference in a community, and I get to say I do both!" she exclaims.

She enjoys spending her time outside of work simply being outside. All outdoor activites -- from exercising to rock climbing to sitting on a porch with friends -- are favorite past times. Water sports, especially scuba diving and water skiing, also hold places close to her heart. "I am a Florida girl after all!" she jokes.

For Elizabeth, the draw of working outside during the summer at camp, was also particularly enticing. If the PAGE program also sounds like something you would be interested in, you can check out their website, follow them on Facebook or Twitter, or send Elizabeth an email to provide you with more information and add you to their e-newsletter.  Also, if you are interested in volunteer opportunities, please feel free to reach out. As PAGE has grown they are always searching for more and more people to help with various aspects including counseling middle school girls and fundraising, all to provide the best educational enrichment program to middle school girls possible.

Elizabeth hopes to extend her VISTA service for one more year with PAGE. After that, she plans to go to law school and then either continue her work in the non-profit world or work to make change at the government level. She states, "My passion is making the world a better place; I am just undecided as of now, the best place for me to do this."

What she does know is that PAGE serves an area that is near and dear to her heart. "I am...a firm believer that any child can accomplish whatever they set their mind to regardless of circumstance and I want to be a part of an organization that help[s] children know that." These young girls at PAGE are dedicated, creative, and bright. Through Elizabeth's own dedication to this program, she has not only acted as a role model for these girls, but has developed the groundwork for their future successes.

Elizabeth says that Laura's story is becoming wonderfully common, and offers some wisdom about their future: "Watch out world, here they come!"

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hospitality House VISTA Brittany Johnson lives to serve

VISTA Brittany
Though VISTA Brittany Johnson is from the close-knit community of Dunn, North Carolina, she has found her own community in Boone, North Carolina. Brittany attended Appalachian State University, graduating with a degree in Public Relations and Sociology.

While in school, she wanted to get more involved with the greater Boone community, having developed a passion for service in her own hometown growing up. She soon found the campus organization, the Appalachian Popular Programming Society, which is the campus event programming board, and eventually became the Vice President of their Public Relations team. Through this office, she worked often with the student organization, Appalachian and the Community Together, more commonly known as ACT. An apt acronym for Brittany, and act she did.

She started volunteering at the Hospitality House of Boone (HHB), a nonprofit crisis agency helping those living in crisis, poverty and homelessness rebuild their lives. Brittany volunteered at least three times a week, working at the front desk, and helping where needed. Brittany now serves as the NC Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA in the role of Project Manager for Hospitality House.

Currently, Brittany is spending most of her time organizing a a 5K fundraiser run on Memorial Day weekend. The funds raised will go to support Brittany's primary goal; creating a Hospitality House Thrift Store that will act as a source of sustainable revenue for the non-profit.

In fact, Brittany will soon put out a call for volunteers to help with the upcoming 5k, both with day-of coordination, as well as preparatory work like logistics planning, advertising design, and social media management. Earlier this year, Brittany was on the planning committee for Appalachian State's Annual Hunger Games Food Drive Event. Through the Hunger Games, Brittany helped raise over 3000 pounds of food for the community kitchen at Hospitality House.

Though Brittany is a whiz at program planning, her passion lies in the people she meets. Her favorite part of the experience is the chance to meet other people and get to know their stories. "Every day when I walk through the doors at the Hospitality House I am greeted by one or more residents. This makes my day always. I love being on a first name basis with most of the residents that we serve." Brittany explains.

Brittany with Hospitality House
volunteers, heading out for
MLK Day of service.
A constant source of rejuvenation, Hospitality House clients and residents help Brittany see the positives in her challenges. So far, the biggest set-back to the opening of the Thrift Store has been the lack of a location. After the original building location fell through, the store opening has been delayed. Brittany is looking on the bright side of this challenge, however, saying "it has allowed for other areas, such as fundraising and the business plan, to gain more attention." Brittany has recruited a team of MBA students to draft the thrift store business plan for class credit; a great example of non-profits and higher education working together. Once the thrift store project is open and running, there are plans to have a website about the project with a link that informs people about the volunteer program that will be available.

Until then, Hospitality House is always looking for volunteers.

For Brittany, volunteering was a way to get involved with an organization she loves, and that has allowed her to do the work she is passionate about. "I believe that I was born to serve, and AmeriCorps has given me the opportunity to take the skills I have and use them towards something I care about and will make a difference in the community. I cannot wait to see this project grow. I will continue to strive to reach the ultimate goal of this project: to serve our clients effectively and efficiently, and provide them with the tools that can help them succeed."

Brittany spends her time outside of work visiting family and hanging out with friends. She counts some of her favorite activities as hiking, dancing, singing, photography, concerts and music festivals, and is especially looking forward to Merlefest in April, where she will be volunteering.

Though Eastern Carolina is where she grew up, Brittany has come to love the mountain-town of Boone. In fact, she has already planning to serve a 2nd VISTA year at Hospitality House. "In the future," she says, "I would love to stay at the Hospitality House and serve permanently on staff. However, if this does not work out, I would like to work at another crisis center in the development department or start my own nonprofit in efforts to continue to defeat poverty in America. I am excited to see what is in store."

A people-person at heart, Brittany says wherever her journey leads her, helping people out of poverty and making those one on one connections with them along the way, is what she lives for. "We are here to serve and make a difference in our client’s lives, but at the end of the day it is them who make a difference in mine."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Now Accepting Applications for 2014-15 VISTAs!

NC Campus Compact is now accepting applications from candidates for 2014-2015 AmeriCorps VISTA positions. Our next VISTA cohort will begin in early August, 2014 and serve for one full year.

To learn more about our program and the application process, visit our FAQ page for Prospective VISTAs.

Please visit our position listing on when you are ready to create your AmeriCorps application and begin our application process.

NC Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTA members work with community agencies and college campuses to develop a partnership that addresses local needs in one of three areas: education (especially K-12 success or access to post-secondary education), economic opportunity (especially housing or financial literacy), or healthy futures (especially food security). The specific nature and objectives of the project vary depending on host site. Most VISTA members share work time between campus and community partner offices, and thereby gain experience in both non-profit and higher education arenas.

Members may:
  • Assess community and agency needs and identify assets
  • Recruit and train volunteers
  • Develop data systems to manage people and performance
  • Create policies and procedures that increase agency effectiveness
  • Support citizen and student leadership and participation in service
  • Seek new resources through fund-raising and grant-writing
  • Facilitate service-learning placements, community-based research, and co-curricular opportunities that support communities
  • Promote AmeriCorps, VISTA, and national service 

Program Benefits include: Living Allowance, Choice of Education Award or End of Service Stipend, Health Coverage,  Relocation Allowance, Training, Childcare assistance if eligible

Applicants must be:
  • U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident
  • College graduate (or Bachelors degree expected by May 2014)  
 Strong candidates will have:
  • passion for the VISTA mission of fighting poverty and strengthening communities
  • strong interest and experience in community service
  • experience working with volunteers, especially college students
  • proven leadership and project management skills
  • proven networking, communication, and organization skills
  • ability to work with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds  
  • ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • ability to engage others
Help fight poverty by harnessing the power of higher education! Apply today to join the NC Campus Compact VISTA team!