Hello all! My name is Benjamin Poirier and I am the Civic Engagement AmeriCorps VISTA at Pinckney Community Schools. My focus here is education and bringing service-learning into the classroom. Overall, since my last blog post, things have been very sporadic, but rewarding! There have been some serious successes as far as service learning projects and some serious failures to raise anything. Although both are teaching points, especially for students, they also help raise my own awareness of my position with Pinckney. The VISTA’s service here is somewhat in a transitional phase to becoming more and more college-based instead of service learning based. So, for me, that means part of my responsibility is to make the transition for the next VISTA much easier. That makes my service a little confusing at times, but believe me, that does not mean I am not involved!
When I spoke of successes earlier, one of them was undeniably the “Fresh Water for Flint” drive. The project began as a Facebook discussion among faculty members and within a week turned into one of Livingston County’s biggest water drives. In four short hours, students unloaded an estimated 3,000 cases of water (around a $20,000 value) from drivers passing by and loaded it onto three twenty-four foot U-Haul trucks. These trucks were then driven to Flint and water was dropped off at a local center called The Mission of Hope. Overall, that experience was very heartwarming and humbling to be involved in. I was in charge of getting food, cider, and other various snacks donated for the volunteers—mostly kids—to keep them warm and in good spirits. And even though it was only a small part of the project, it made me feel welcome not only as a VISTA service member, but as a member of the Pinckney community. And to top it off, all of this was done the weekend before MLK Day, making it a perfect teaching point for students.
Service projects aren’t the only thing I have been involved in. I decided to volunteer some of my time as a football coach with the high school team. We’ve had many great moments, most notably from an autistic boy scoring a touchdown in his final game. To see such sportsmanship from high school teams was truly a thing of beauty. However, my favorite part of being a part of the football team is being involved in their leadership development. I began my VISTA year initiative when the offseason came along which was comprised of an organizational development geared towards student-athletes. So far, it has been successful with the 5 students I have enrolled in the program and the head coach has agreed to enroll the students in the program next semester (Fall 2016) that are on the edge of becoming ineligible. Just last week, and perhaps the most rewarding part of my service year, I had an older brother of a student athlete come up to me directly after practice and say this: “I just wanted to say thank you for getting my brother focused on his academics. You have no idea how much that is going to help him become a better person in the long run.”
I suppose those small influences we have as a part of the communities in which we serve are the reasons why we choose to serve. In the words of the VISTA catchphrase master himself, Jim Southard, “It’s not about the income, it’s about the outcome.”
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!