As my VISTA year comes to a close, I’d first like to thank CNCS and MNA for providing me with this opportunity to serve a city of great potential. This was a very unique position with a great deal of responsibility and reward. I’ve grown professionally as well as built relationships with individuals who are just as passionate about rebuilding this great city. We recently began our second round of needs assessments, while we finish wrapping up the first. During our first round, we were able to help organizations build capacity in a variety of ways from grant searching to outreach for community events and programs. The VISTA team has created a white paper on the barriers facing returning citizens in Detroit and an aggregate report of the first round of needs assessment which highlights the process in greater detail. We are currently working on a gap and concentration analysis of services and resources available to Detroit residents.
Since my last blog post, our office has relocated to the Buhl building, also in the downtown area. The new building lets us see Detroit from a different angle which is exciting and energizing, for me. I often find myself looking out the window envisioning what this city will look like 15 years from now. I’m eager to be involved in the process and more eager to see the hard work of Detroit residents uplift their city once again. I want to take the knowledge and experience I’ll gain to my hometown of Flint and help with its revitalization process as well. With that being said, my passion for service will continually move onward and upward. I think that serving others is one of the most meaningful and impactful ways to build up a community, which will also foster a commitment to service among themselves.
Good luck to all!
Hello again! I’m Maya, one of the two LEAGUE VISTA members hosted at Detroit Edison Public School Academy (DEPSA). In my last blog post, I was in the middle of my service and working on balancing Read n’ Give, a statewide book drive, with service-learning projects. Read n’ Give was time-consuming, but incredibly rewarding. Since then, things have been much less hectic, but just as gratifying.
Before the school year ended, I spent a lot of time helping teachers complete their last projects. One project of my favorite projects was with the DEPSA Junior Academy Leadership Team. At DEPSA, the Junior Academy (JA) houses grades 6-8. Leadership Team is composed of about 20 of the JA students, who strive to be leaders at DEPSA and in the larger community. In June, the Leadership Team shopped, cooked, and served a meal at a local church soup kitchen. With the challenges of a small kitchen and set budget, the students had to plan a thoughtful menu, utilize comparison shopping skills, and work together to make and serve their fo. The students did an amazing job! They took their work incredibly seriously and the community that they served appreciated their hard work. I feel very lucky to have played a small part in the project by helping to organize the logistics of the trip and serve as a mentor to the students on the trip itself.
Now that the summer is upon us, I have been steadily working on recruiting teachers for Fisher Training. Fisher Training is a three-day service-learning institute for local teachers. There are four different trainings throughout the state this summer. The metro Detroit training will be hosted at DEPSA in August. As part of Fisher Training, teachers receive grant money to implement service-learning projects in their classrooms during the school year. Many of the teachers that we work with during the year have completed Fisher Training. Recruitment is a special opportunity for us to spread our work to additional teachers in current schools and cultivate relationships with new teachers in new schools in metro Detroit. Although I won’t be working much with the teachers that I’m currently recruiting, it is important to me to pass along a great group of teachers to the next VISTAs!
I have also been working on creating a Little Free Library with Erik, my co-VISTA at DEPSA. During Read n’ Give, I connected with Rx for Reading and we donated approximately 1,700 books to the organization. Rx for Reading is an organization that collects books and distributes them throughout Detroit in clinics, Little Free Libraries, and Head Start classrooms. Mary-Catherine is the director of Rx for Reading and she has been an amazing partner! To help Rx for Reading and the greater community, Erik and I wanted to build a Little Free Library that will be a lasting contribution from the two of us.
With the little help that I can provide, Erik has built an incredible Little Free Library from the ground up. The library will be placed at a free clinic in Corktown. Someone has already agreed to serve as the steward for the library and will fill it up with books whenever needed. Building this library with Erik has been quite an experience. I’ve learned a lot about myself, Erik, and power tools. I wouldn’t have wanted to take this project on with anyone else!
My name is Jaylen Harris. I am an AmeriCorps VISTA serving the Michigan Nonprofit Association. I was born and raised in Flint, Michigan. I am a recent graduate of University of Michigan, where I majored in Psychology with a minor in Community Action Social Change. I am currently looking to enroll in an Urban Planning or Business Administration Program to obtain my Master degree.
As for my work as a VISTA, the team has been working to improve the economy of Detroit. Our VISTA Assignment Description outlined three areas for us to center our work around; 1. Reduce the employment rate in Detroit, 2. Increase access to entrepreneurship in Detroit, 3. Improve the physical conditions in Detroit that limit economic growth. At the start of my VISTA year of service, the three team members who began their service 6 months earlier had begun conducting a needs assessment of various workforce development agencies around Detroit. The purpose of this needs assessment was to understand the needs within their organization in order for them to continue functioning at an optimal level or to improve the overall efficiency and maximize outcomes. Some of the top needs identified were regarding staffing capacity, funding capacity, outreach and sector activity. After conducting all interviews and reviewing the findings, we then created individualized service plans for these organizations. The length and scope of how we will add capacity are personalized for each, but all are addressing similar needs found within the workforce development sector. We are currently in the process of entering each of these workforce development agencies to help add capacity, where we capable and willing.
Through my work as a VISTA I have gained great and valuable experience. I have also had the chance to network with many individuals in a variety of positions within the workforce development sector. For this opportunity I am very grateful, as I believe it will be a great tool for me, not only in the immediate but also distant future. This type of work really resonates with me, because I come from a city that has many of the same characteristics and requires the same type of attention from officials and stakeholders, as well as engagement within the community. Envisioning a more prosperous city 10-15 years from now that provides more opportunity for adults and youth, is what is what motivates me. I am very excited and eager to see what the year 2015 hold for the remainder of my VISTA year of service!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!