As the end of the school year approaches for Pinckney School District I feel the service projects and service learning dwindling down. And although there is plenty of paperwork and grants still left to be written I will miss the teachers and students greatly. This AmeriCorps VISTA term was filled with valuable lessons. As a VISTA I learned the value of partnerships and communication, the importance of fulfilling your promises, how not to lose your passion in the midst of chaos, and most importantly how through service and giving we can help transform communities.
This last semester has been filled to the brink with moments of service. Perhaps one of the most rewarding and fulfilling projects would have to be 'Read N' Give', it wasn't so much the giving of books (although very impressively collected over 3,000 books) but the meaning behind where the books were going. The books collected will be going to the new #ReCreate Pinckney building, where we will be creating a library for at risk teens. It was very sentimental to see the community on board with the mission to help transform teens lives with the power of reading. Although the drive consisted of many hours and manual labor I would surly do it all over again.
I am thrilled to be ending my time with the students on a high note. Pathfinder students in the 'Choose to Lead' class will be throwing a charity dance, where all the proceeds will be going to 'All About Children'. This specific organization helps provide food for students during summer in Pinckney who rely on free breakfast and lunch during the school year.
It is hard to fathom that in just a few short months my service will be coming to an end. Luckily I will be able to see my fellow VISTA's at our 2015 Youth Leadership and Service camp, where once again I will be able to work with my teammates to help teach others about the power of philanthropy. Time and time again I hear about the long hours invested into non-profit and how time consuming it all can be, but a life without philanthropy just wouldn't feel authentic. So as my term comes to an end I can only hope to find a job where I can once again invest myself fully towards an amazing cause and community such as Pinckney School District."
Hello again from Marquette, Michigan. It is hard to believe that I am almost nine months into my VISTA year. That is, until I look back on everything that we have accomplished.
In my role as Transitions Coordinator for the Marquette-Alger Technical Middle College (MATMC), I have had the opportunity to assist in the establishment of a new and innovative educational institution. The mission of MATMC is to make a college degree a possibility to students who otherwise would not have pursued a postsecondary education. It targets students who have traditionally been underserved, especially those who are unengaged and at-risk of dropping out of high school, economically disadvantaged, and first generation college students. A key component of the program is the gradual transition from high school to college and a support curriculum that addresses college readiness, employability and social maturity skills.
In January Governor Snyder recognized the MATMC in his State of the State speech and introduced one of our students, Cody Revord. Sadly, our excitement was tempered less than a month later when Cody passed away from injuries suffered in a snowboarding accident. This was a difficult time, as I had to deal with my own grief and coordinate counseling services for the students who were close to Cody.
One of my main responsibilities is to establish and strengthen relationships with our partner high schools and Northern Michigan University. I work closely with all parties to develop systems and procedures and ensure a smooth transition for our students. I coordinate class scheduling, tutoring and study groups, and track student progress. I plan and facilitate monthly student Success Seminars covering academic and employability skills.
The first cohort has collectively raised their GPA and successfully completed their first college course (as high school juniors). The success of our pilot year has led to the planned expansion of the program for the 2015-16 school year. We hope to serve students from nine high schools and our capacity will grow from 11 to 50 additional students. In preparation for the expansion, I participated in presentations to local school boards and informational sessions for prospective students and their parents. I also spoke to several middle school classes about their future opportunities at MATMC. We are also expanding our programs. The Industrial Maintenance Academy is now Technology, Engineering and Occupational Sciences Academy with the addition of five new areas of study-Automotive Service Technology, Aviation Maintenance, Building Technology, Electrical Technology and HVACR (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration).
Looking to the future, I have updated and expanded our application packet for the 2015-16 year. We are currently reviewing applications and interviewing candidates. I am excited to celebrate the successes of our first year and spend the summer preparing for the class of 2018.
“Every individual matters. Every individual has a role to play. Every individual makes a difference. And we have a choice: What sort of difference do we want to make?” Jane Goodall. I stumbled upon this quote earlier this year and it really resonated in what I saw in my community and service this year and I want to touch on some of that.
In my last blog post, I discussed my excitement for an upcoming Day of Service I was planning through the West Michigan AmeriCorps Collaborative (WMAC) for Global Youth Service Day (GYSD), it went absolutely AMAZING! Throughout the day I had a constant smile on my face and tears in my eyes. Through supportive partnerships with WMAC, T.E.A.M. 21, Oriole Park Elementary, and the community, the school participated in 42 service-learning projects! Some projects consisted of decorating Kids Food Basket sack suppers, making sun catchers for the Home for Veterans, making fleece blankets for the Helen Devos Children's Hospital, making dog toys for the Humane Society, assembling birthday boxes for Baxter Community Center, making inspirational cards for Degage Ministries, doing a schoolyard beautification/planting flowers, planting trees, making bird feeders, and building raised garden beds! All of this was facilitated and led by AmeriCorps service members and amazingly supported by Oriole educators and students! Such a difference was made on this day and seeing how the students viewed their impact was so incredibly empowering.
Photos of GYSD: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.817103551672778.1073741984.172476226135517&
This past April, I also had the pleasure of seeing a much awaited and planned for project take place. Crestwood Elementary worked very hard to organize an Empty Bowls event and their success was so heartwarming! The school was able to obtain a grant for ceramic supplies, donations for food from Gordon Food Services and The Gilmore Collection, and have media present for their Empty Bowls dinner on April 21. Each student made a clay bowl to represent the empty belly of a hungry child in art class. To support this, each classroom participated in at least one in-class service-learning project, such as building a sack supper diagram, blue sky, writing essays, making posters, and educational PSA’s. At the dinner, families had the opportunity to view all the of the in-class projects as well as pick up their children’s bowl, and families have the chance to donate to Kids Food Basket, an organization that feeds over 6,000 students dinner in West Michigan everyday! One-hundred percent of the donations went to Kids Food Basket and at a celebration assembly held by Kids Food Basket at Crestwood, the school presented them with a check for $3,400, which will feed 3,400 children! Seeing the hard work, dedication, and compassion of the educators, students, and families at Crestwood was truly rewarding in respect to seeing the difference one can verses what all can make.
Photos of Empty Bowls: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.822469587802841.1073741985.172476226135517&
4th Grader’s Kids Food Basket PSA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LRoBO3zdRc&feature=youtu.be
Over the course of my service year, I have been wanting to create sustainability in my work and how I can create a platform for my partners to use to utilize all of these resources and tools. I created a website: http://tlmkentcoservicelearning.weebly.com/ ! This site provides users with community organizations and contact information, service-learning ‘how-to’ project documents, environmentally based service-learning project documents, and information about opportunities such as Fisher Training and our Youth Service & Leadership Camp. I am confident that this site will allow educators to better incorporate service-learning and philanthropy opportunities into their classes and am happy to create this stronger sense in my community!
Hi there, I’m Lauren Zlotecki serving at Carson City-Crystal District Area Schools (CC-C) with AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer In Service To America) and The LEAGUE Michigan. I get to work with the districts teachers, administration, and community partners in Carson City and the surrounding area focusing on service-learning to benefit the students and fight poverty. Before they graduate from school in the next couple weeks and move on from their CC-C experiences, we are currently in the middle of the high school seniors’ portfolio presentations. The seniors create a website then walk the interview panel through the portfolio while sharing their favorite work, memories, and future goals. Then, the volunteer panels compiling of community members including school board members, a county commissioner, and president of the local hospital, along with several other full-time professionals ask follow up questions. A grand total of 65 soon-to-be grads are scheduled throughout the week in 15-minute time slots to present and answer a series of reflective and professional interview questions posed by the panel. It was great to note, after talking with the president of the local hospital, he express how beneficial this practice of interviewing job applicants was to his employees.
After talking with the students about what they thought of the new way to deliver their final English project, all feel better prepared for future interviews and professional experiences. The interviewing community members are excited to see what the students have to offer and “love the chance to help the students” prepare for their next step be it full-time work or further education. Everyone who was involved is looking forward to this happening again in the near future.
As the VISTA I was so happy to work on this project with the senior/AP English teachers who have seen and helped these students grow over the years. This project was a prime example of my goal with service learning where the students apply what they’ve learned directly to a real life situation while members of the community also benefit from the experience creating a self-improving unity.
This also comes at a time of reflection as I head into the final segment of my VISTA year. I can’t believe how much I have truly learned while helping the community in what feels like such a short time. I will always look back on this as a decision that was incomparable not just for the year after graduating college but for my future and the life I want.
Hello, once again! This is Brian reporting from Volunteer Kalamazoo, where I am serving as a dual Volunteer Centers of Michigan (VCM) and LEAGUE Michigan VISTA with the Michigan Nonprofit Association (MNA).
It has been a wild and crazy (but fun) month here at Volunteer Kalamazoo. The past month has seen four major programs through completion, beginning on March 27th with our annual fundraiser, Eat, Drink, Give and ending on April 22nd with our annual volunteer recognition and award ceremony, STAR (Sharing Time And Resources) Awards. While I did lend a hand at both of these events, it was actually the two service days sandwiched in between that took most of my focus.
As many of you reading this know, Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) was on April 18th (I encourage those of you who are not familiar with GYSD to check out gysd.org to learn more about this world-wide day of service). I am happy to report that GYSD was a success and would like to recognize Volunteer Kalamazoo’s Youth Service Council on their hard work in making the day a hit.
The other major event was Spring Into The Streets (SITS), which I was actually given complete ownership of. This program is done every year in collaboration with Western Michigan University’s Office of Student Activities and Leadership Programs. This year SITS happened on April 10th. My role in SITS was to set up sites for students to register to volunteer and to manage the event on Volunteer Kalamazoo’s site. In all, I was able to set up over 530 volunteer slots with about a dozen organizations throughout the Kalamazoo area – which proved to be more than enough.
As if these two youth and young adult programs were not enough, my focus has also been on Volunteer Kalamazoo’s VolunTEENS program. VolunTEENS is a year-round youth volunteering program that has been around for 45 years, but for the past few years has only existed as youth tagged opportunities in our annual Guidebook due to staffing capacity. I have been working for the past few months to revitalize VolunTEENS, with plans for a summer kick-off to happen in June. Thanks to a grant from Allegra Printing, and with input from area youth, we have been able to create a new VolunTEENS logo and promotional materials. As part of the revitalization, I am also working on recreating the whole youth section of Volunteer Kalamazoo’s website. I hope to have the new youth pages online later this week.
Never a dull moment here, especially as I visit schools to promote the new VolunTEENS program and service learning. As the cold slips away and we truly transition into spring, I look forward to the extra time I will have with all the events of this past month over and done. I will need the time as I begin working on my Legacy Binder, to ensure all this momentum continues when I depart in August. Until then, wish me luck as I enter the final quarter of my service year strong!
This second quarter of my VISTA experience has been a whirlwind. Chaos and energy all rolled up into excitement. I was able to initiate a new event that will help not only the students at Kirtland Community College, but the entire community around the college. I recruited many of the departments at Kirtland Community College to help out with the event, along with the director of River House domestic violence shelter. Amiee, the director of River House, said anything they could do to help give back to the college who helps them with so much, they would do. Well, I planned and recruited an awesome team to pull off the most amazing “Employability Workshop”. I only had 25 students in the audience but added to that amount were online viewers. We received some wonderful feedback, not only from students and instructors but from local business owners and managers saying that, this project was long needed. This workshop made it apparent to the participants that soft skills will get them the job they seek and give them the tools to keep the job long term. I had two instructors come to me afterwards and tell me that their students that came were so excited that they learned the proper ways to interview, fitting your resume to the type of job you’re seeking and the proper attire you need to land the job you seek. It was an eye opener up here and Michigan Works in Prudenville and Grayling want to become partners with our next event because they said it was great information and well-put together, for the first time ever. So I take that as a plus and am already planning next year’s event. The event it will be interactive with online audiences as well as, the ones in the auditorium. I am putting my interactive media design degree to big use next year. What an amazing feeling it is to have made such a huge difference in a short period of time.
It is my ninth month of service at Lawrence Tech University and I can say that things are going great. I’ve been able to train more diligently in resume critiques and mock interviews here and data entry and resume critiques at Michigan Works in Southfield. Being in this professional atmosphere has opened my eyes to not only a new and challenging environment, but has helped me establish some great connections and new friendships.
This year, I was able to participate in and make presentations at many events; one being on a panel at Lawrence Tech’s “Future Fair”, providing students post-graduation opportunities and direction in their future plans. I represented the MNA AmeriCorps VISTA Program where I was able to promote our wonderful organization. I learned about other organizations and their purposes through the participation of the Air Force, Teach for America, Peace Corps, Michigan State University School of Law, Wayne State University Grad School, to name a few. It was a great experience and I am thankful for that opportunity. It gave me perspective of my plans after AmeriCorps and the various options I have.
Other presentations I have made have focused on Resume Writing and “Dress for Success”, hosted by Student Housing on LTU’s campus and the SCHOLARS program ( a program for high school seniors to experience college life through college living and classes). I am learning so much about both communities I am serving and what they need. I love the experience.
Attending the Diversity Conference, compliments of the Dean of Students at Lawrence Tech, was one of the most remarkable experiences I’ve had. I was able to hear some spoken word from a Hispanic hip hop star, Michael Reyes, and some intriguing conversation on topics such as diversity, race, religion, and stereotypes, giving me insight on how we should never judge anyone and always lend a helping hand.
In conclusion, I love my supervisors, Margaret Pierce at Lawrence Tech and Eileen Bagley at Southfield Michigan Works, and all the people I have been working with throughout my VISTA term. They have not only been patient with me, but they are teaching me some very vital information. I can’t wait to see what other projects I will be a part of in the future. Oh, I did some Salsa dancing at Lawrence Tech’s International Week celebration. It was amazing!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!