Tuesday, July 29, 2014

NC Campus Compact sponsors 20 VISTAs in 2014-2015

Since 2003, NC Campus Compact has sponsored an AmeriCorps VISTA program that places VISTA “volunteers” at member campuses to support community engagement projects that address local, poverty-related needs. In 2014 – 2015, sixteen sites across the state will host twenty NC Campus Compact VISTAs.

Our VISTA Partnership Project involves the development of a key campus-community partnership that serves economically disadvantaged people. The host site may be an office or unit of a member campus, or a local non-profit agency identified by a member campus. All 20 VISTA members will work to address one of the priority focus areas identified by the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal agency that oversees AmeriCorps programs. The focus areas are education, food security, and economic opportunity.

Collectively, our Partnership Project sites seek to accomplish the following goals:
1. Develop a mutually-beneficial campus-community partnership.
2. Build capacity of community-based programs serving economically disadvantaged children and adults.
3. Leverage resources of higher education institutions to address local community needs.
4. Create sustainable pathways for community engagement of students, faculty, and staff.

Three of our sites will host pairs or teams of VISTAs working to build campus capacity to meet the needs of local children. These child success sites will focus on developing community-wide collaborations that support PK-8 children and families to improve educational and nutritional outcomes.

Short summaries for each of our 2014-2015 projects are below.

Community Empowerment Fund (CEF)
Partner: UNC Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity
Focus Area: Economic Opportunity

The Community Empowerment Fund (CEF) cultivates opportunities, assets, and communities that support the alleviation of homelessness and poverty. CEF is a student-led nonprofit organization based at UNC Chapel Hill and in development at Duke University. CEF’s structure is based on the realization of a dual mission: empowering members to sustain transitions out of homelessness and developing student leadership. At CEF the VISTA will help address the need for 1) relationship- based support that leads to greater economic opportunity for individuals experiencing or at-risk of experiencing homelessness; 2) access to financial services for low-income households, and; 3) a broader, more tightly-woven social safety net for poor households in North Carolina. The goal of this project is to increase the capacity and effectiveness of CEF’s Advocate Program, enabling CEF to strengthen an impactful model of relationship-based student volunteer engagement that promotes real change on an individual level for homeless and near-homeless individuals.

Duke University, Community Service Center
Partner: America Reads and America Counts
Focus Area: Education

The Duke Community Service Center (CSC) serves as a clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities available to Duke students and employees. The VISTA will help the Duke Community Service Center (CSC) further deepen relationships with partner schools through the establishment of a new program - Partners in Print. The Partners in Print program would provide a supportive environment where parents can discover how to help their children learn to read. Partners in Print mentors will conduct evening workshops with parents and children, grades Kindergarten-2nd.  The VISTA will also coordinate complementary CSC events and programs that align with the Partners in Print Program, including National Make a Difference Day, Dive Into Durham spring break, and Dr. Seuss Day. The VISTA will also enhance the planning and implementation of the ARAC K-8 tutoring program.

Duke University, Partnership for Appalachian Girls Education (PAGE)
Partner: Madison County Schools
Focus Area: Education

The goal of the VISTA project is to help girls and young women in economically-distressed Appalachian communities achieve educational success and build futures that include high school completion and college matriculation. The VISTA will engage in a number of activities that will support these goals and help PAGE achieve long term sustainability. She will conduct needs assessment in the communities served, gathering detailed information on graduation and the reasons for dropout. She will help develop a strategic plan for fundraising through grant writing and seeking
private/corporate gifts and help implement that plan. The VISTA will provide support with community outreach through (social) media and direct communication with PAGE students.

East Carolina University
Partner: West Greenville community agencies
Focus Area(s): Education

At ECU, the VISTA will be hosted by the Volunteer and Service-Learning Center (VSLC). This VISTA project will capitalize on the strengths of East Carolina University (most notably its strong mission-based emphasis on service and community engagement) and the west Greenville community, specifically Third Street Community Center and Lucille W. Gorham Inter-Generational Community Center (IGCC). The VISTA will build the capacity for both TSCC and IGCC to address community needs related to education and youth development for K-8 low-income youth and families, provide services to local community members, and strengthen the west Greenville community partnerships and community as a whole.

Elon University
Partner: Alamance County community agencies
Focus Areas: Education, Healthy Futures/Food Security

Elon will host two VISTAs in the coming year. Both VISTAs will be hosted by the Center for Access and Success. The VISTA project will establish a cradle to college pipeline of support services for low-income children and families in Alamance County through a new early childhood initiative to be led by Elon’s Center for Access and Success. The Center already provides a number of educational and college access programs for Alamance County children in grades K-12. The VISTA project would research, design, and implement a new county-wide, comprehensive early childhood effort focused on school readiness and health and wellness of low-income children ages 0-4. The nature of programs that will comprise this initiative will be determined through needs assessment, asset mapping, and collaborative planning with community stakeholders, but resultant interventions will likely rely on parental engagement and education, literacy instruction, and nutritional education. By the end of the 3-year project, Alamance County will have a comprehensive, collaborative early childhood success plan, including assessment protocols; and the Center will sponsor one or more community-based programs that effectively help targeted parents to have their children  ready for entering kindergarten.

Feast Down East
Partner: University of North Carolina at Wilmington
Focus Area(s): Healthy Futures/Food Security

Through the Food Sovereignty Program developed by Southeastern NC Food Systems Program (also known as Feast Down East), the VISTA member will support a number of projects designed to promote and increase access to healthy food in identified food deserts in New Hanover and Columbus County. In New Hanover County the VISTA member will continue to support the Fresh Market and the Rent-A-Farmer CSA produce bags which feature produce from limited resource farmers in nearby Burgaw County. The VISTA member will work in Columbus County, a Tier 1 County, to build healthy habits in underserved communities through the distribution of Rent-A-Farmer CSA produce bags. In addition, the project provides leadership education, nutrition education, and cultural heritage.

High Point University

HPU will host three VISTAs in the coming year. All three VISTAs will be hosted by the Service Learning Program, which is home to the Bonner Leaders Program.

Partner: West End Ministries
Focus Area(s): Healthy Futures
The first VISTA project will continue from the 2013-14 year. This VISTA’s work will take place on campus and in the community with West End Ministries (WEM), a non-profit agency that provides services such as emergency assistance and adult life skill classes. The VISTA will
improve WEM's volunteer coordination and training systems to support the agency's emergency assistance program. The VISTA will also help make healthy food more available to WEM clients.

Partner: Washington St. Project
Focus Area(s): Education
The second VISTA project will take place on campus and in the community with the Washington St. Project – a partnership between HPU and the Hayden-Harmon Foundation. The Washington St. Project is a strategic effort to bolster community resources in the Washington St. neighborhood. The VISTA will improve volunteer coordination and recruitment in line with programs seeking to promote Education for K-8 students in the neighborhood. In particular, the VISTA will develop tutoring and after school programs, with a specific focus on literacy and cultural understanding.

Partner: Washington St. Project
Focus Area(s): Healthy Futures
The third VISTA project will also work with the Washington St. Project, but will have an emphasis on food security and health education. The VISTA will improve volunteer coordination and recruitment in line with programs seeking to promote Healthy Futures. In particular, the VISTA will help make healthy food more available to the neighborhood and increase healthy living educational opportunities.

All three VISTAs' work will serve as a model or pilot project to demonstrate how HPU Bonner Leaders can serve as volunteer coordinators and liaisons with partner agencies. During the course of the year, the VISTAs will help develop trainings and supports for students taking on these roles. The VISTA will also help energize community members to participate in the MLK Day of Service.

Hospitality House of Boone
Partner: Appalachian State University
Focus Area(s): Economic Opportunity

Hospitality House of Boone serves people at-risk of or experiencing homelessness in Watauga County. The goal of the VISTA project is to provide an earned income funding source for Hospitality House, act as a resource for services to meet client needs and to serve as a job skills training program and facility for residents and outreach clients. The VISTA project will build on the capacity of Hospitality House to stay sustainable and to continue impacting the community in positive ways through the increased collaboration with the Appalachian State University ACT Program. It will further increase community awareness and serve as a new way to recruit and
cultivate volunteers to give of their time, talents and treasures.

Partner: UNC-Chapel Hill Communications Studies
Focus Area(s): Economic Opportunity

The Jackson Center is a community-based advocacy organization serving historically African-American and low-income neighborhoods in Chapel Hill through public history, civic media, and community action. The VISTA will support the development of Jackson Center programs that serve the housing and economic needs of local low-income residents. Key activities include the maintenance and expansion of service partnerships with university units (including the Communications Studies department), enhancement of community programs to serve housing needs, volunteer recruitment and coordination, database maintenance, and the development of new neighborhood advocacy networks to pair long term residents with students and community advocates.

Meredith College
Focus Area(s): Education

The three year overall goal of the VISTA will be to support and continue to form the pipeline of services for the Children’s Collaborative of Wake County including home visitation, parenting classes, preschool, afterschool program, Campus Kitchens, neighborhood advisory board, teen job training and healthy outcomes in the Kentwood subsidized housing neighborhood. The three years will follow CCW’s first cohort, Kentwood children birth to three collecting pertinent data for the pipeline of services, and tracking educational, healthy eating, and social well-being progress for
Kentwood children four to eighteen years old.

Partners: Chavis Heights Community Center
Focus Area(s): Education

At NC State, the VISTA will be hosted by the NC State TRIO Program, which is in the division of Academic Programs and Services, the lead office in the Raleigh Colleges and Community Collaborative (RCCC). The VISTA will work on campus and in the community with key partner, Chavis Heights Community Center. Chavis is the main site for the RCCC’s College Center, an effort to deliver post-secondary programs and resources at the community level. The VISTA will coordinate services and programs at the existing College Center site and seek to expand the model
to other partner agencies. The VISTA will continue to catalogue assets at RCCC partner campuses, conduct outreach and track participants, engage volunteers, and coordinate programs.

Student U
Partner: North Carolina Central University
Focus Area(s): Education

Student U is a college-access organization that believes all students in Durham have the ability to succeed. The mission of Student U is to empower students in the Durham Public Schools to own their education by developing the academic skills and personal well-being necessary to succeed in college and beyond. The VISTA project will increase the reach of programming to connect with more students in Student U's target population. The VISTA will also strengthen relationships with local universities including NCCU to increase college student engagement in programming and ultimately educating Durham’s youth. This project will increase Student U's organizational capacity by creating a sustainable system that can be followed for years after the completion of the VISTA project.

Focus Area(s): Education

At UNCA, the VISTA will be hosted by the Key Center for Service-Learning and Community Citizenship, which serves as a hub for campus/community engagement efforts. VISTA work will take place on campus and in the community with Open Doors of Asheville, a local non-profit serving at-risk youth through education, enrichment, tutoring, and mentoring. The goal of the project is to strengthen a mentoring partnership between UNC Asheville and Open Doors that improves educational outcomes for low-achieving K-12 students. Partnership will increase both Open Doors’ capacity for improving the educational success of students living in poverty and UNC Asheville’s capacity to offer meaningful experiential education opportunities and training to students. This project also will increase capacity of additional community organizations to utilize UNC Asheville students as well as UNC Asheville’s capacity to prepare student volunteers for
community-based experiences.

Focus Area(s): Economic Opportunity

At UNCG, the VISTA will be hosted by the Office of Leadership and Service-Learning (OLSL), which serves as a catalyst for the development of experiential curricular and co-curricular leadership and service-learning initiatives. VISTA work will take place on campus and in community with the Interactive Resource Center (IRC), Greensboro’s day center for people experiencing homelessness. The first year of the project focused on food security with the development of IRC’s Community Garden. The second year of the project focused on economic opportunity with particular attention on volunteer management and financial literacy. In the final year, the VISTA will continue to
refine volunteer management and economic opportunity outcomes.

Wake Forest University
Focus Area(s): Education, Healthy Futures

WFU will host two VISTAs in the coming year. Both VISTAs will be hosted by the Office of Service & Social Action. Both VISTAs at Wake Forest University will build capacity within existing programs, connect resources, and implement new initiatives in order to address the community-identified needs of increasing educational success and food security in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

The goals of the education access project include: increasing school readiness and academic engagement of at-risk elementary and middle school children in Winston-Salem, and enhancing partnerships with community-based programs, including Saturday Academy and after-school, STEM-related programs at El Buen Pastor Latino Services and Ashley Elementary School, supported by the NERD network.

The goals of the healthy futures project include: increasing access to food resources and nutritional information for low-income children and families, and enhancing partnerships with community-based programs, including Campus Kitchen delivery sites.

Western Carolina University
Focus Area(s): Healthy Futures

The goal for this VISTA project is to strengthen relationships between Western Carolina University, the Community Table, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Program (ASAP) and the Local Food and Farm to School Education Program; to build capacity at the Community Table and ASAP/LFFSEP, and to raise awareness about food insecurity in Western NC. The project aims to provide the Community Table and ASAP/LFFSEP with the food resources necessary to meet their customers’ needs, to train and manage volunteers, and to enhance publicity and outreach efforts. The project is also intended to increase awareness of food insecurity issues on campus and in the wider community.