Where has the time gone?
In the last few weeks, my time as a VISTA at Alma College has been incredible—and incredibly busy! And now that I have a moment to breathe and reflect, I have learned a lot about myself.
In the last month I have helped coordinate a number of events including: a charity dodgeball tournament, College Goal Sunday, The Vagina Monologues, college visits for 7th grade students, Kids’ Night Out, Diversity Dialogues, Diversity Movie Nights, and the drag show by Esme’s Traveling Gender Show at Alma College. It has been a wild range of different events on campus and in the community to address different social issues and empower all to be the most successful person that they can be. By far my favorite events have been when I have partnered with Diversity and Inclusion to address critical social issues that act as barriers for why a person may not attend or complete higher education.
Throughout my year and a half of a VISTA, I have learned that more than just financial and academic reasons can hold a person from pursuing higher education. Personal struggles of identity, lack of emotional support, trauma and a number of other reasons can be a major barrier for any person; on top of academic readiness and financial support. It is when I am able to partner with Alma College’s Diversity and Inclusion to prepare events to empower all individuals that they do have a place in higher education I feel like I am making my strongest impact.
To recap my most recent event I was at, this past Saturday, I was serving at my last Kids’ Night Out event; Kids’ Night Out is a lock in event for 2-6th grade youth to interact with college volunteers and their peers in a safe environment. I always enjoy this venue to serve my community because it allows me the opportunity to connect with youth students and to encourage them to follow their dreams and to overcome any obstacle. We had over 180 youth students attend Kids’ Night Out and now I would like to share with you some of the conversation pieces:
When asked what do they want to be when they are older?
The reason I asked these two questions, is because I never believe it is too early for youth to think about their future and to take pride in their uniqueness. Over the three hours at this event, I lost count of the number of students who visited my station, because I was in awe of the sheer excitement some of the youth students had when they answered my questions. It was such a great night talking about goals, individuality and how to channel individual talents to be successful in life; something I try to incorporate in every event I am a part of.
Well hello fellow VISTAs—just wanted to give you a little shoutout from Alma College! I am settling into my second year of VISTA and cannot be more excited for the opportunity to continue national service. I love the Alma community, campus, friends, faculty and students here, so it wasn’t hard making the decision to stay another term.
A major change I have this year is a new supervisor, but I welcome the opportunity to adapt to a new management style and am excited for the upcoming projects that I will help coordinate and plan. I’m hitting the ground running this year with Diversity Inclusion events, College Positive Volunteer training and gearing up for national college access initiatives with GI-CAN (Gratiot/Isabella College Access Network). Already can check off one event as a success this year; so that’s exciting!
And, tomorrow, September 9, will be the first Diversity Dialogue panel of the year. Diversity Dialogues are opportunities to discuss critical social issues in a safe space without judgement. As we all make the endeavor to overcome challenges in our communities, having open communication and a certain level of understanding is crucial to fully address concerns; I am thrilled to be involved in the coordination of these forums and cannot wait for our discussion tomorrow afternoon.
I always joke that there needs to be an 8th day in the week solely for events and meetings, but I have finally cemented down a year’s worth of panels, movie events, and College Positive Volunteer workshops (tip: you can never plan too far ahead!).
College Access is my forte and I cannot wait for the After School Program to start up again, but alas I have a few more weeks to prepare before that program begins. Until then, I will continue to recruit volunteers, organize the schedule, and revamp last year’s initiatives. I cannot wait to get underway into the year - although I know it will be busy, it’s nice that students are back on campus and all the organizations can collaborate together for common goals.
Hope everyone is also having a great start to their year of service and are acclimating well! And if not, that’s okay, feel free to reach out to me and I’d love to problem solve/brainstorm with you! Keep up all the hard work, and I look forward to our next gathering of VISTAs in the near future!
Hey friends, it is Betsie Schoedel from Alma College, and it is about time I fill you in with all that has been happening here! Alma College volunteers have been incredibly busy these last few months to support College Access events like Kid’s Night Out, The Explorer Plus After School Program, 7th grade college visits, Open Rec Night, and so much more!
One accomplishment I am fairly proud of since my last update is completing my VISTA Year Initiative. In November, I applied for a Mini-MLK grant and was awarded funding to complete the project in January for MLK Day of Service. My VISTA Year Initiative was to have my partnering school utilize youth volunteers to create college awareness signs for teachers during the After School Program. The college awareness signs have helped to further sustain a college going culture, and has further prompted college related conversations between students and teachers. To further engage students, students and volunteers created their own college signs to hang up in their classrooms or lockers. There is so much college pride at the elementary school now!
One of my favorite college access events is Kid’s Night Out (KNO). KNO is where on one Saturday night a month, local 2-6 graders are invited to a lock-in at the High School to partake in activities with Alma College volunteers. Last month, we had nearly 300 youth and 40 Alma College volunteers attend. As the serving VISTA, it is my joy to bring college access related activities for youth during KNO. This month’s KNO, I have a variety of different games, books, and interactive tasks youth and volunteers can partake in to further cultivate a college going mentality.
On the docket for this week, I will be helping to bring in a third group of local 7th graders to visit Alma College for the day. It is so amazing to see youth filled with excitement during their visit at Alma College, mostly for the unlimited ice cream during lunch, but excitement nonetheless. As a VISTA serving in Alma, it has been a theme to target middle school students especially for college access events to encourage youth it is never too soon to consider future plans, value the importance for proper planning and doing well in high school.
Each one of these College Access events presents new opportunities and challenges to encourage youth to pursue higher education. In the next few weeks, I will be continuing college access activities with the GEAR UP visits, the Summer Parks Program, additional College Positive Volunteer trainings and other community events; should keep me plenty busy for the rest of the year!
Hello friends! This is Betsie Schoedel, from Alma College, giving you a little update of my life in the Alma Bubble. As some of you may know, I attended Alma College for undergrad and loved every moment of it. Needless to say, I am very excited and have been very fortunate to continue my involvement in the Alma Community as an AmeriCorps VISTA. As a VISTA, I learned that Gratiot County has a very large need for programs to push youth students to pursue higher education because only about 23% of the adults (ages 25-64) in Gratiot County possess at least an associate’s degree.
It has almost been 3 months, so many things have happened and I am continuing to grow and love my position more each day! My favorite aspect of the service position is capacity building with one of our community partners, Donald L. Pavlik Middle School in Alma.
My major role with this school is to bring in new volunteers each week so that the youth may have positive role models and receive assistance with their spelling and math skills. I am SUPER excited because the Boy’s Alma College Lacrosse team has offered to help out on November 19th! To have such a large group help out will hopefully make a positive impact for the youth and will act as an example for other Alma College organizations to volunteer their time as well. The Boy’s Alma College Lacrosse team has even offered to help out on November 15th for Kid’s Night Out. Kid’s Night Out, is one Saturday a month where elementary school youth have a Lock-In at the Alma High school for a few hours of games, activities, and fun with friends and college students. Our last Kid’s Night Out event had over 260 youth students attend and the fundraised grossed about $3,000 (which will be used to sustain the After School Program).
I enjoy Kid’s Night Out because I get to bring my awesome College Positive Volunteer’s (C.P.V.) and other students from Alma College, and together we host activities for the youth that secretly implant the idea of pursuing higher education—but don’t tell them that! They just think that they are having fun with us.
What is so awesome about being a C.P.V.?! Well, let me tell you! First off, if I help out with the training, I always bring candy, and everyone loves candy. Two, you gain the skills, resources and conversation pieces you need to connect with youth (K-12 students) and bring up higher education opportunities. *SPOILER ALERT* I get to help C.P.V. certify the crew of AmeriCorps*VISTA’s who will be attending the Lansing training on the 14th! Super stoked to help pass on the knowledge to my fellow VISTA’s.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!