Hello from the Great Lakes Bay Region! This is Andy Straub, first-year MNA AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Delta College in University Center, MI. I’ve only got about a month and a half left of my first year of service but what a year it’s been! Since February 2015 I have been able to work very closely with some great community partners such as Washington Elementary School in Bay City, Jessie Loomis Elementary School in Saginaw, the Michigan State Police, St. Mary’s Hospital Field Neurosciences Institute, and the Ezekiel Project. I hope to add even more organizations to this list as I plan for a volunteer fair as my final hoorah – my VISTA Year Initiative.
As for the projects on my VAD, I feel very happy about the work I’ve been able to accomplish with them all. In August 2015, I worked with my fellow VISTA Shalyn Stack to put together the Citizen’s Boot Camp. We invited roughly 20 6-8th grade students from low socioeconomic backgrounds to come to our campus and go through a hands on workshop that helped them select an issue, research it, and develop a service project to go with it. In a few weeks we’ll be having those students come back to campus to see their service projects come to life.
In October 2015, I helped coordinate the Race to College event with a Political Science instructor Kim Klein. We invited over 100 fifth grade students from two local schools to come to our campus and engage in interactive stations meant to expose them to college access, self-empowerment, and the importance of living healthy. We had instructors and students from 5 disciplines put together the various stations to teach the kids, but the highlight of the day was the race track. We built a 150m track in the grass, bought 25 bicycles, and were able to give away a free bicycle helmet to every student who participated in the event. Since the event, I’ve been able to present statistics to the Board of Trustees at Delta College, helped Delta students and their fifth grade partners prepare a presentation to local house representative Vanessa Guerra, and I was even on TV (thanks ABC12)!
Perhaps my most rewarding experience though has been a project that is not on my VAD. Due to some staffing issues here at Delta, I was able to take charge of the school’s Alternative Breaks program. This was a program that was very special to me as an undergrad, so to have the opportunity to help a smaller program grow has been truly moving to me. I’ve helped implement student leaders, kept costs down, and even got a proposal approved to create a yearly budget for the program (starting next year :P).
Yes, my first year as an AmeriCorps VISTA member has been exceptional, and I’m proud to say that I’ll be back again next year!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!