Thursday, April 7, 2016

Announcing the 2016-17 VISTA Host Sites!

We are thrilled to continue work with many of our host sites and partners and to establish new VISTA host sites in the coming project year. Below are summaries of projects VISTA members will undertake at these 14 sites.

America Reads and Counts in partnership with
Duke University
Durham, NC
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 and community agencies through a new program - Partners in Print (Print Pals). Print Pals is a family literacy program aimed at Latino parents and children here in Durham area. The program will provide a supportive environment where parents can discover how to help their children learn to read. Print Pal mentors will conduct evening workshops with parents and children, grades Kindergarten-2nd. The VISTA will also coordinate Print Pals sessions and volunteers, as well as complementary CSC events and programs that align with the Partners in Print Program, including National Make a Difference Day, Dive Into Durham alternative spring break, and Dr. Seuss Day.

Community Empowerment Fund in partnership with 
UNC-Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC
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 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

East Carolina University
Greenville, NC

Two VISTA members will be hosted by ECU’s Volunteer and Service-Learning Center (VSLC). In addition to the campus and community-based work below, these members will support campus and community-wide day of service events, including MLK Day of Service.

Partner: West Greenville community agencies
Focus Area: Education

This VISTA project will capitalize on the strengths of ECU and the west Greenville community, specifically Third Street and Lucille W. Gorham Inter-Generational Community Centers. The VISTA will build the capacity for both centers to address community needs related to education and youth development for K-8 low-income youth and families and strengthen the west Greenville community partnerships and community as a whole.

Partner: Greenville Harvest
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

The VISTA will be hosted by the Department of Nutrition Science. VISTA will work to build relationships and help support reciprocal benefits among the Greenville community, specifically through Greenville Harvest partners, a local network of community gardens and affiliated agencies. The VISTA will support collaboration and partnership development among network partners, including the university. The VISTA will plan and deploy community engagement activities centered on healthy lifestyles and healthy communities.

Feast Down East in partnership with
UNC Wilmington
Wilmington, NC
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

Feast Down East (FDE) is a university affiliated non-profit with a mission to join institutions, community-based agencies, farmers, and businesses to support, coordinate and expand the production, processing, distribution, and consumption of local foods. The VISTA placement supports FDE’s Food Sovereignty Program, which brings fresh, local produce via weekly fresh markets and produce boxes to four Wilmington Housing Authority neighborhoods. In addition to bringing fresh produce to these identified food deserts, the Food Sovereignty program engages resident leaders and UNCW volunteers in the operation and promotion of the markets, supports nutrition/garden programs for both adults and children. The VISTA will continue to oversee and improve the markets, train resident leaders and volunteers, and work with partner organizations including the WHA to plan for sustainability.

                                     Guilford College in partnership with the Guilford College Farm
Greensboro, NC
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

In Guilford County, 89,000 people do not have enough food to eat and 30 percent of them are children. In May 2011, the USDA designated 15 census tracts in Guilford County as “food deserts.” Nine are in the city of Greensboro and six are in High Point. Food deserts are census tracts where at least 33 percent of residents live more than one mile from a full-service grocery store and more than 20 percent of residents live below the poverty line. The Bonner Center at Guilford College works with community partners in every food desert in Greensboro. The immigrant and refugee community is especially hard hit. The VISTA will work with students and community partners to facilitate collaborative efforts to increase access to healthy food in the city’s food deserts. 

High Point University High Point, NC 

Three VISTAs will be hosted by High Point University’s Service Learning Program, which is home to the Bonner Leaders Program. In addition to their community-based work described below, the VISTAs will help develop trainings and supports for Bonner students who also serve with local agencies. The VISTA will also help energize campus and community members to participate in the MLK Day of Service.

Partner: West End Ministries
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

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 by developing a community garden with local stakeholders.

Partner: Washington St. Project
Focus Area(s): Healthy Futures, Education

Two VISTA members will work with the Washington St. Project, emphasizing local food security and youth development. One VISTA will create and execute a neighborhood food plan, including a needs analysis and asset mapping to increase resident access to healthy foods through community gardening and a fresh market. The second VISTA will work to grow local afterschool enrichment programs, including a community writing center, and to increase other educational programs for residents.

Hospitality House of Boone in partnership with Appalachian State University
Boone, NC
Focus Area: 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 strengthen the Welcome Home Thriftique store, which provides an earned income funding source for Hospitality House, acts as a resource for services to meet client needs and serves as a job skills training site for residents and outreach clients. The VISTA will lead all aspects of Thriftique operation, including volunteer management, and will continue development of a job skills training program. To carry out these activities, the VISTA will also collaborate with the ASU ACT Office.

Marian Cheek Jackson Center for Saving and Making History
in partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, NC

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 center will host two VISTAs to support its work.

Focus Area: Economic Opportunity
The Community Organizing and Advocacy 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.

Focus area: Education
The Education VISTA will strengthen ongoing partnerships with 6 area schools to implement “Learning Here and Now Across Generations” -- a curriculum aligned with NC course of study standards to focus on civil rights, oral history, and cross-generational education-- designed to engage and support learning of at-risk students. The VISTA will connect with university experts and develop a cadre of resident educators.

North Carolina Wesleyan College in partnership with Peacemakers
Rocky Mount, NC
Focus Area: Education

North Carolina Wesleyan College has a special commitment to the Rocky Mount area and to eastern North Carolina. The VISTA will focus on improving educational and behavioral outcomes for at-risk students in low-achieving schools by formally connecting North Carolina Wesleyan College to Peacemakers. This organization contains four structured educational programs in need of volunteer support in order to carry out its mission, part of which is to provide an affirming environment where low-income elementary and middle school students receive tutoring and other academic enrichment services at no charge.

In addition to this direct work with Peacemaker’s the VISTA will enhance volunteer recruitment efforts to engage NCWC students, faculty and staff into education-related community service projects that may be available with other organizations by creating a database of opportunities and a service placement process for groups and individuals. The VISTA will also create effective recruitment materials and strategies by first hosting campus focus groups and researching best practices.

S.G. Atkins Community Development Corporation
in partnership with Winston-Salem State University
Winston-Salem, NC
Focus Area: Economic Opportunity

The Simon Green Atkins Community Development Corporation (Atkins CDC) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization created by Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) in 1998 and named after its founder. The mission is to be a catalyst for community economic development and to create community engagement opportunities for the WSSU faculty and students. The CDC is supported by a full-time staff of three and an advisory board of local community members, businesses, and University faculty and staff.

The VISTA project will provide the Host’s primary community-based outreach working daily on increasing community engagement with the guidance and support of faculty, students and stakeholders from the partner organization. The CDC staff will supervise and provide resources for the work of the VISTA including necessary training to be successful. Two primary objectives are to convene neighborhood associations and stakeholders as a “congress” working toward common goals such as training to build capacity and membership of associations, establishing a merchants association, facilitating a community-wide event such as a community day featuring health, safety, and employment information and a community-wide clean up event.

UNC-Greensboro in partnership with BackPack Beginnings
Greensboro, NC
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

At UNC-Greensboro, the VISTA member will be hosted by the Office and Leadership and Service-Learning, which serves as a catalyst for the development of experiential curricular and co-curricular leadership and service-learning initiatives. The VISTA will focus on food insecurity and access to healthy food in Guilford County by supporting a developing partnership with Backpack Beginnings, by supporting an emerging on-campus Food Security Network, and by increasing awareness of food security issues on campus and in the community.

UNC-Greensboro in partnership with Degrees Matter
Greensboro, NC
Focus Area: Education

Degrees Matter! is a collaborative initiative working to find and assist the more than 67,000 residents of Guilford County who have some college but have yet to complete a degree or certification. Degrees Matter! is leading the effort to reach the community-wide goal of adding, by 2025, 40,000 new degree holders in the county. The VISTA placement will focus on outreach and partnership development by increasing connections to key constituencies and organizations, including childcare and early education providers, faith-based groups, and agencies providing services to low-income individuals.

Western Carolina University in partnership withThe Community Table
Cullowhee, NC
Focus Area: Healthy Futures

The goal for this VISTA project is to strengthen relationships between WCU, 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 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.

William Peace University in partnership with Hope Charter
Raleigh, NC
Focus Area: Education

Currently Hope Charter does not have interventions outside of what our classroom teachers can offer. In an attempt to increase EOG test scores we would like to implement a program in which volunteers would assist with providing leveled interventions for struggling learners. The VISTA will be charged with working closely with WPU staff, faculty, and students to build initiatives for Hope and to communicate between the service-site and WPU. This position will provide both education about service-learning and the connections and an added resource for faculty interested in building service learning into coursework. Through VISTA we’ll be working towards closing the achievement gap and increasing test scores at Hope.