Much of my last few months of service has been focused on the Lenawee College Access Network and their transition conferences. These conferences are for 8th graders that will be starting high school in the fall. The goal is to get them familiar with what high school will be like and teach them good habits to develop so that they can start preparing for their future now. We tell them about the Lenawee YOUTH Council (LYC)/LCAN college visits they can go on and how to get involved in volunteering to make their college and scholarship applications stand out more. We also had a panel of high schoolers come in and answer questions that any of the 8th graders might have about high school. It was nice for them to be able to ask people who were in their shoes not too long ago. For the Lenawee YOUTH Council, I have been planning college visits. For the month of July, we are going to visit U of M and Saginaw Valley State University. We had a lot of interest from kids outside of the youth council so that is very exciting. The LYC also started and finished their grants process. They had $20,000 of grant funding to give to program. It took three meetings for them to decide, but ultimately they figured out what programs they wanted to fund. This year has flown by and I can’t believe there is only a little more than a month left of my service. I will miss my site and being a VISTA.
Serving at my alma mater, Oakland University, for its community engagement initiative: Oakland University Pontiac Initiative (Partnership) in the area of workforce development and college readiness has been such a challenging, yet rewarding experience! I’ve learned how to effectively make a difference in the community, effect real change, apply my extensive skill set, and have improved both personally and professionally.
Great News Alert… I was selected to participate in the Northwest Education & Training Institute, Resource Development: Fundraising & Grant Writing class and passed with an enhanced toolkit and knowledge base. Likewise, I was selected to participate in the Northwest Education & Training Institute, Volunteer Mobilization Class, currently enrolled and learning so much!
The Partnership is essentially a collaboration between the City of Pontiac, Oakland University, and other entities across health, education, arts, and neighborhoods sectors. Recently, my primary focus has been to be supportive in creating sustainable solutions, mutually beneficial relationships, and project management guidance as well as ensuring that I leave a meaningful legacy and smooth transitioning period for the next AmeriCorps VISTA. At our community host site, Michigan Works! JobLink Service Center in Pontiac, I’ve implemented employability programming and resources, created partnerships across sectors and enlarged the organization’s community footprint. Likewise, I’ve engaged in activities that provide support and facilitate access to workforce development resources and services intended to improve employability and, ultimately lead to employment. For example, I was invited to the Oakland County Community Resource Fair hosted by the Salvation Army and Michigan Department of Corrections to provide information about the programs and services offered at JobLink and to talk about the Partnership. I connected the JobLink team to over 10 businesses that they intend to build a relationship around veteran workforce affairs. Also, I marketed the organization to over 30 interested community members and service providers whom I enjoyed talking to about JobLink and the Partnership. By participating in the Community Resource Fair, I built capacity for the JobLink team by helping them accomplish their mission of being actively connected in the community with community members and local service providers. Similarly, I have created and updated marketing materials, community assessments, information directories, evaluation systems, and programming curriculum at JobLink that can be used for years to come. According to some JobLink staff and customers, the resources that I’ve provided are “helpful, necessary, and beneficial.” Specifically, I recently played a key role conducting research and designing a proposal for a partnership with the City of Pontiac for its new youth recreational millage. The proposal project was a successful collaborative effort, and I take pride in knowing that my recommendations were seriously considered and implemented in the final proposal.
The Partnership is off to a great start with its new Khan Academy SAT Prep Program that I’ve been coordinating and spending the majority of my time making sure runs effectively. I facilitate all aspects of the program including project management, communications and marketing, data tracking and reporting, and community engagement. Recently, I’ve conducted site visits at the dedicated host sites to evaluate the program, determine any needs, and to provide unlimited support. Thus far, site volunteers, parents and students are satisfied and grateful to be a part of such program led by a collective community effort to implement a city-wide college-going culture. Furthermore, some sites have benefited from the program and have created relationships with fellow organizations and have leveraged their partnership with the University. This program has truly reinforced the true sense and meaning of “community” and what it takes to support local youth. I am truly proud of what has become of the Khan Academy SAT Prep Program.
Oakland University My Brother’s Keeper (OUMBK) is another youth career readiness initiative that facilitate. I oversee the career readiness component of the program to ensure that the students are exposed to various forms of career awareness activities. OUMBK program is based on the national My Brother’s Keeper initiative created by President Barack Obama in 2014. OUMBK is designed to support 7th-grade boys of color through exposure to opportunities for college and career readiness as well as mentoring. The program is currently in the school districts of Pontiac, Southfield, Hazel Park, Oak Park and Ferndale and the students are referred to OUMBK by the school district administration. To date, I assisted with: designing the career readiness curriculum, conducting career assessments for nearly 50 students, planned two community forums that engaged local businesses, elected officials, campus community, youth development professionals, and community members interested in being a dedicated mentor, and created the career readiness curriculum for the on-campus college experience.
Going forward, some areas of opportunity include providing limitless support and increased visibility for both communities that I serve: Oakland University and Pontiac. I look forward to continuing to build capacity, create sustainable solutions, empower the Pontiac and Oakland University communities, and serving with an open heart and mind.
Thanks for reading,
Shakita Billy, MBA, GCDF
AmeriCorps VISTA Shakita Billy presenting at the OUMBK Community Forum about the student career assessments and career readiness component of the program.
AmeriCorps VISTA Shakita Billy conducted student career assessments and career awareness activities at Pontiac Middle School for OUMBK.
AmeriCorps VISTA Shakita Billy conducted student career assessments and career awareness activities at Levey Middle School in Southfield for OUMBK.
AmeriCorps VISTA Shakita Billy working with volunteers at Guidance Opportunity Development under Construction Youth Organization (GOD-UC) at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac.
AmeriCorps VISTA Shakita Billy conducted Khan Academy training and orientation for students, parents, and volunteers at Guidance Opportunity Development under Construction Youth Organization (GOD-UC) at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac.
Hello! I'm Jonathan Rosewood, the VISTA at Capital Area College Access Network! The close of the 2016 and beginning of the 2017 year were very life changing and hurtful for me, but through it all I have made it out. Losing my mother and father five months apart from each other hurt me dearly but the service I have completed over the months have helped me continue the legacy that they instilled in me. Losing my parents helped me realize that life is short and that people have a calling and a reason for being on this Earth. I re-focused my vision on serving my community by helping people realize how great life is and how important education is.
I have helped people understand life and how education leads to opportunities. I spent this term assisting in getting my students resources that could help them for life as well as open up doors that they or their families may not have ever imagined. I have assisted in coordinating financial aid workshops for students at the Capital Area Career Center and Woodcreek Achievement Center. Students were able to ask questions to financial aid officers from Oakland University and Lansing Community College, work on their FAFSAs, and find out how to search and apply for scholarships. I also helped coordinate two college fairs/conferences. The Launch Your Dream Conference at the Capital Area Career Center was held in March. At this conference we there were over 200 people in attendance and over 30 vendors from different colleges, the military, trade schools, and AmeriCorps and summer youth programs. The conference was to promote different career tech programs from different colleges and allow parents and students the opportunity to start their college search. In May I assisted in the planning of a College and Health Fair at Woodcreek Achievement Center where students in the 9th-12th grade had the opportunity to get insight about colleges, careers, and health resources.
Gathering resources was very important to me for my students. Growing up, my parents gave me resources and opportunities to succeed in life and I did not want any student closing doors before they had the opportunity to see what was out there for them. I planned college visits to Lansing Community College (Main campus and West campus) and to Central Michigan University for my students know what a college campus looked like. Students were able to take tours, attend admissions presentations and talk with current students about college life. Understanding college culture is very difficult if you have to do it alone, but I am very happy and thankful that I am in this VISTA position to help students find their path that they want for their lives.
My second semester as an AmeriCorps VISTA has been a great success. I’ve hosted multiple events and launched a website to help aid my Blue Devils to financial literacy. This semester also taught me the importance of communication and being transparent with my peers. Creating and setting up my events went a lot smoother and there was less hassle. Learning the tricks of the trade was essential to my success. I started the semester with tables in the high traffic areas of LTU to market my events and to give some basic information on subjects such a Financial Aid and Budgeting. I had music and incentives such as candy at my tables to engage more students. I believe this assisted in the success of my events this semester as well.
In February of 2017, Trinity Financial Coaching came to Lawrence Tech and spoke about preparing realistic budgets and the importance of creating a savings plan by paying yourself first. The audience was engaged and learned a lot from the coaches. Another event that was successful this semester during Money Smart Week (April 22-29) was “Geocache for Cache.” This event is themed around Geocaching which is a GPS based navigation hunt. Students were to read 8 posters focused on different areas of financial literacy, such as Student Loans, Financing a Car, Credit vs Debit Cards, etc. and answer questions regarding each poster to be entered in a drawing for a scholarship of $1,000 which was sponsored by local banks. We also held an ice cream social and had a festive DJ that drew more students to the event, making it a success.
In addition to these events I added a link onto the Lawrence Tech University website, to be launched in Fall 2017. The site showcases different PowerPoints with tips and tricks on budgeting for college students while also saving for the future. It also highlights different student discounts that can aid in saving the limited money that college students have to play with.
With two months remaining in my service, looking back on the VISTA experience, I have learned a great deal about myself and working at the collegiate level. AmeriCorps has taught me life lessons that I will carry with me into the next step in my life.
Hey there fellow VISTAs, I am writing to you from the gorgeous U.P. Trish Sanders here and I am winding down my third year as an AmeriCorps VISTA service volunteer. My host site is the St. Ignace Chamber of Commerce, and as my year is winding down the busy season is about to begin. I am still working with the Chamber’s members creating websites for their businesses so that their brand can get more traffic which leads to more sales/profits. The ones that are finished already have been profitable, which has allowed the extra money for these businesses to hire more people from the community. There are over 100 chamber member businesses that have no kind of virtual presence of their product or services so I have a lot of work to continue but it is showing immediate dividends.
Working with the youth in the school’s systems here was awe inspiring for me. These young people are engaged and want to be part of something that can help not only themselves but the entire community grow and prosper. What a great feeling! I signed on for yet another term and staying up here in St. Ignace. I have already been given ideas and interest in helping for next term. I am even more excited, if that’s possible.
Enjoy your final weeks and always remember one person can make a difference, one step at a time.
March on fellow VISTAs and make the difference that you want to see in the world!!
Hi everyone! I hope this finds you well. It’s hard to believe that the last time I wrote was in December and now it is the beautiful month of June. Like the changes in the seasons, I feel there is much life happening at my site, School-to-Career Progressions in Grand Rapids.
My attention during the last half of my service year has been placed in developing an online training for parents, students, and youth leaders in the Grand Rapids community. This training will teach strong character skills using an easy to use online platform. With my love for all things technology and small background in graphic design I have played a large role in creating this online training and teaching the staff and partners how to use it and create it themselves. You can check it out here: https://rise.articulate.com/share/pTHiz7MS9m6Xja2n76c0ev-m2gqMfwyA password: strongcharacter
Since the month of April, School-to-Career Progressions has taken a big step and started working with a marketing company. I have gotten to be a part of this process and know that the future of my site is exciting. There is even a name change coming in the near future. As I get prepared to leave in August I can’t help but look back on all of the incredible things I have learned and people I have been given the privilege to work with. Here are just 3 very simple things that I have learned this year:
What have you learned this year?
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!