Hey everyone. It’s been a busy six months (has it been six months already?!) since my last blog, but it’s been a good six months. We’ve had a few theme-based trainings, a couple more Post-PSOs, and most recently Mid-Year Training. We felt like it was a good training, but it was also a good reminder that you can’t please everyone; especially in a group this diverse and at such differing stages in life. I hope everyone got something out of training that they can take with them in life after VISTA though.
About a month ago, Shalyn and I sent out encouragement packages to our respective VISTAs. Each package contained a mini Zen garden and a handwritten note encouraging the VISTAs to rake the sand and reflect on where they’ve been this year and where they’re going after it. Now that things have slowed down a little bit, I find that it’s my turn to do some reflecting. I see VISTAs now that, six months ago, were a little bewildered and overwhelmed. We’ve had some attrition, but those who have persisted have impressed me beyond any expectations I may have had for the year. I cannot praise them enough, and even those who struggle go beyond expectation in their willingness to adapt and improve their performance. By virtue of being a VISTA one is already an upstanding citizen, but this group is truly a remarkable bunch of individuals.
I’ve also gained a much greater appreciation for the “big picture”. There is a quote in the Rig Veda which translates roughly to “truth is one, the wise call it by many names”. This is no different for us. The truth is that we’re helping strengthen Michigan communities large and small, but we might call our truth college access or student engagement or financial literacy or employability services. Each piece of each of those areas is as important as any other and is a part of the greater web we weave.
But I’ve also gained many skills over the last half-year. Six months ago I could say I was proficient at project management or event organization, but having really delved into those areas recently I definitely am proficient at those things now. I have a whole resume full of skills I’ve gained since my first day as a VISTA (grant writing and review, advising, volunteer coordination, strategic planning, social media marketing, data synthesis and analysis, etc.), but the biggest skill I’ve gained is knowing myself. People who knew me before VISTA, even those very close, always tell me “I’m surprised you’re doing that sort of thing.” That, to me, is a compliment. That means I’ve grown and found something that has led me in a direction I want to go. It may not ever involve national service again, but I’ll never be able to look at the world through a different lens than the one I polished these past couple of years.
The next few months will be full of recruitment, making sure current VISTAs have everything they need before ending service, and making sure the incoming VISTAs are set to start the cycle anew and build on the success of this year’s cohort. It will also see the winding down of my own service and, I suppose, finding a job. I have been incredibly lucky to be a part of this program and I thank everyone past and present for making it such an amazing experience.
Hey guys, its Shalyn Stack, your VISTA Leader here at MNA in Lansing! I’m rolling into my eighth month as a VISTA Leader and I couldn’t be more proud, tired, overworked, and happy. What we do as AmeriCorps members is hard work, sometimes very hard, but in the end, we’re stronger, our organizations that we are serving at are stronger, and our communities are stronger.
Being a VISTA Leader has challenged me in ways I didn’t anticipate and I am a better person for it. I have grown more in the last eight months (personally and professionally) than I ever thought. As someone who has always been a “big picture” thinker, being your VISTA Leader has given me the opportunity to develop a variety of skills like learning how to be more detail oriented, being a better listener, and how to manage time and projects more effectively. I am thankful to have you all as my VISTAs this year!
My biggest accomplishment so far was planning and facilitating a successful poverty simulation, as well as planning Mid-Year Training. After our Mid-Year Training, Maggie gave both Jake and I thank you cards that said “Congratulations on such a successful mid-year training! I think this was our best training ever and it’s because of the thoughtfulness and hard work that you put into it”. Getting positive feedback on something that Jake and I had worked so hard on for the past few months made it all worth it!
If I could sum up my last eight months as a VISTA Leader in one word, it would be “blossomed”. I feel like I have blossomed into a young professional who is ready to take on the world when she is done at MNA. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes, which has resonated with me throughout my service year.
“The day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom” - Anaïs Nin
Hello all! It’s Brit from Lawrence Tech here! It’s my last 6 months in the 3 year commitment I’ve made to LTU and I’m very excited! I’ve done such great work at LTU, Michigan Works, and more recently the Engineering Society of Detroit, but I’m excited to start graduate school in the Fall! LTU has been great and ESD has been amazing as well!
I started with the ESD this past August, and it has been exciting getting to know the staff and working with the Future City Competition, which is comprised of middle school teams building their own cities to be displayed to judges in a one day event. Throughout the Fall semester, these teams are given tasks towards completing their city and the completed city is what we saw this past January. I was the mentor coordinator for Future City; making sure that each team has a mentor who is an engineer in the workforce to help them succeed in this competition. It was wonderful getting connected with such talented and smart students and employers, and seeing how their hard work came together. We had about 20 teams participate which was more than the last few years, and the competition took place at the Suburban Collection Showplace; it was great! I helped with registration, tallying the winners of the competition and placing judges on the day of the event. I had a really fun time participating in such a great and fulfilling event. In the future I will be connecting with the student chapters of ESD at various universities to coordinate events, workshops, or anything in particular they may need. I will also be working with another competition which is the Smart City competition.
At LTU we’ve had fun coming up with new ways to reach and engage more students with career services. We had an event in January that targeted First Generation College students by providing them with useful resources that would aid in the success of their collegiate careers. We’ve also had our Career Week: 3 days of career related events that would help students gain professional development, networking and other career related skills. Our first event was the Etiquette Dinner, and we invited staff of the university, students, and employers to join us while our Etiquette Speaker, Mari Lash, gave us tips and tricks on what to do and what not to do during an important and upscale dinner. Our second event was Speed Interviewing! Set up similar to speed dating, employers were able to ask interview questions to multiple students during a small window of time. This event was great because employers were able to meet a lot of students and students were able to connect to different employers. Students were also able to get direct feedback from employers about how to answer interview questions and even how to conduct yourself in an interview. Our third and final event was the Future Fair, which I am in charge of coordinating. The Future Fair focuses on more non-traditional post-graduation plans such as graduate school, nonprofit work or the armed forces. We had 10 organizations present at the Future Fair this year with a wealth of information to share!
Overall, I am having a wonderful last year at both LTU and ESD, and I look forward to closing my year of service with an abundance of knowledge, experience, and wonderful connections that I will utilize in grad school!
A seed grows into a plant, which blooms a flower, then bears a fruit, only to fall onto the ground with another seed, to grow another plant, to bloom another flower, only to bear another fruit and so on…
This circle has become quite evident to me in my work as a Service Learning Coordinator in Grand Rapids Public Schools. A student who cares about a piece of the community, and a teacher who sees that care and is able to empower that feeling to become action, is truly a beautiful flower. Over the past one and a half years in my AmeriCorps position, I have been exposed to many schools. The resources, the teachers, the students, and the communities are all different, but wherever there are students and teachers who communicate their care great things happen.
At Forest Hills Central Middle School, though the students are quite rowdy this time of year, Ms. Sevigny brings them outside in her Natural Expressions class. Her class is one of the only classrooms in the school that connects students with nature on an almost daily basis. Together, she and I are combining the students desire and care for the environment into an awareness project about the watershed in our area. The students are creating an interactive sculpture to be featured at the River City Water Festival to encourage people to make one commitment about one thing they will do to protect the watershed. By combining science curriculum with art and community expression this service-learning project provides an environmental reflection for all those who participate.
My strengths in this position include an ability to plan large projects while still focusing on the details. By working with teachers to plan large school-wide projects, I am able to empower them to connect a bigger community, larger than their classroom, to each other. I have had much success with taking a leadership role for the first large scale project, then a side seat for the next, and finally they have begun to plan them on their own. I cannot fully express how excited this makes me because I feel like I am truly doing my job as a capacity builder.
If you would like to gain some insight into my perspective on planning school-wide service projects, read this article I wrote for Learning to Give: 11 Steps to Plan a School-Wide Service Project.
As all of us AmeriCorps members work hard to finish out the last half of our service year or all the professionals begin a new fiscal year, I encourage everyone to think about their current place in the circle. Is it time for growth, for blossom, for production, or is it time for reflection? By taking a moment to think about this, you may find some insight into how you can be your best at this time.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!