Hello everyone! My name is Elizabeth Flanagan and I’m a first year AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy in Ann Arbor. As a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, I was excited for this opportunity to learn more about the Ann Arbor community beyond campus and get fellow wolverines engaged with it. These first two months have been exciting, demanding, challenging and rewarding and I’m happy to have the rest of this year to continue making an impact.
Our Service Learning Class for the Health Professions is in full swing and our students have collectively volunteered about 450 hours so far at nine different community partner sites in the Ann Arbor area. In this class, pharmacy, public health, social work, and kinesiology students come together to serve the community while learning about health disparities and poverty. I have been responsible for meeting with our community partner sites, determining their volunteer needs, and placing student volunteers with them.
I have been working closely with two of our community partner sites, Community Action Network (CAN) and Peace Neighborhood Center, which offer after school programs for youth in under-resourced neighborhoods. Our students tutor at these sites, and with my assistance, they have been developing health workshops for the kids at CAN. The workshops involve fun activities to teach about the importance of good health habits related to hygiene, sleep, and heart health. These workshops begin today, and I’m eager to see how the children enjoy them!
At Peace Neighborhood Center, I have been assisting the students in developing a healthy eating workshop for parents. The workshop will focus on providing creative, nutritious recipes for families who use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Students have been working hard to put together this workshop, and I believe this is going to be a valuable resource for parents.
While we are only halfway through this semester, I have already been focusing on expanding the course for next semester. We are striving to increase our enrollment numbers, so I have been reaching out to faculty and staff to promote the class and encourage students to enroll in it for next semester. I have also been reaching out to more nonprofits in the area in an effort to set up additional volunteering opportunities for our students. So far, three new organizations have expressed interest in partnering with our class in January! I can’t wait to see how our service learning class grows over this year and the ways in which our students will continue to serve our community.
My VISTA year has gotten off to a great start and I’m looking forward to starting new projects and continuing to learn and grow throughout the rest of this year.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!