One of the major projects I’ve worked on this quarter was Earth Week. As a first-year VISTA at Ferris State University, I decided to make this my VISTA Year Initiative. I’ve had experience with running an Earth Week at Central Michigan University and I noticed a lack of sustainability at Ferris. With this in mind, I partnered with the Bulldog Sustainability Alliance to help them put on a week of sustainability-oriented programs and events.
The project that I put a lot of work into was bringing a speaker to campus. With the help of the president of the RSO (Registered Student Organization), I was able to bring Dan Phillips to campus. That was an amazing experience and the highlight of Earth Week. I also helped put together several service projects with money from the Global Youth Service Day mini-grant. The first project was a deer exclosure build with a local conservancy. After that, we had a project with the National Forest Service with some mountain bike trail maintenance. We also helped keep Ferris Fest green with the aid of the High Five Program. Finally I helped the local community with a garden for children.
Ferris State University has been a difficult site to work with mostly due to a lack of VISTAs over the years. With me trying to break-through and establish the program at Ferris, I have had many struggles with my site and my community partner, the Big Rapids Housing Commission. While these difficulties have been disheartening at times, I continue to work through the problems and setbacks with hopes that the next VISTA will have an easier time. I have helped with locating a new VISTA and continue to work on resources that will help him or her settle into the position.
Hello, my name is Jake Pollock and I am a first year VISTA at Ferris State University working with the Honors Program there and the Big Rapids Housing Commission. I work on service learning projects for honors students and financial literacy for the housing commission residents. Having just graduated from a university, I am very comfortable working at Ferris with the students, professors, and staff. I love the productivity and opportunities that the college environment provides. The housing commission on the other hand is a whole different beast. With low income residents and staff much older than I, it seemed like an intimidating and strange place for me to work. Although it seemed like a difficult place in the beginning, I am starting to appreciate the varying communities that live at the housing commission. Big Rapids may be a small community, but it has a lot to offer and I have come to appreciate its diversity.
The very first project I worked on and which I alluded to in the title was “Day of Service and Learning”. This was a great project to get my feet wet in my new community. The project included several nonprofit organizations in the community and 8 different projects which were intended to be on a single day. That didn’t work out so smoothly due to time conflicts across the board. I quickly became acquainted with many students through this project and also many members of the community. It felt really good to see actual results of my efforts so quickly in my position, but this leaves me with high expectations to live up to for the rest of my term. I am hoping to turn my passion of environmental activism into a week of events in the spring that will reach such a high goal (this is also my VISTA Year Initiative). With all variety of events, projects, service opportunities, and extensive collaboration between the Ferris community and the Big Rapids community.
What I have learned to appreciate in this beginning part of my VISTA year is that collaboration is key. Working on campus there are plenty of motivated students in RSOs (Registered Student Organizations if you’re unfamiliar) to help create service projects and source volunteers. Off campus I found a useful group to work with, the Human Service Coordinating Body of Mecosta-Osceola counties. This group constantly provides me with new opportunities and ideas to integrate Ferris and Big Rapids. The opportunities for collaboration never seem to end and the ideas that I can’t come up with on my own are brought to me from students and the community.
I look forward to seeing what my VISTA year has in store and can’t even imagine what to expect next from the communities I am working with. Only time will tell as they say. Hug a tree and get ready to hear about a spectacular Earth Week from Ferris State University and Big Rapids community!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!