Hello everyone! Wow, where has the time gone? I can hardly believe that I will be ending my 2 years of service in 3 weeks. I am so thankful for this experience and it’s exactly what I needed to grow personally and professionally. Since starting my service, I have been surrounded by great people that have taught me so much. My VISTA service has made me confident in my skills and leadership, and I feel ready for the next step. This experience has humbled me, and taught me to look beyond the salary of a position, and seek out how I can contribute to make a difference. I am looking to work in Higher Education and/or Nonprofit so if you know of a position I should take a look at, please reach out.
In my short two years of service, I feel we have accomplished a great deal at my host site, the Lenawee Community Foundation. I stayed busy working with VOLUNTEER Lenawee!, our county’s volunteer center. My first task was to research and find a new volunteer matching software. We ended our contract with Hands on Connect, and successfully switched over to GiveGab. Which saved our organization over $1,000 a year, and our agency participation on GiveGab is growing more every day. The users find GiveGab to more user-friendly, and more engaging. Our office also went through a move to a new location, which I assisted with. I took it upon myself to plant flowers, and put up seasonal decorations to help make our office more inviting to the public. In addition, I created an updated version of Lenawee County’s environmental scan, which is a document that contains an in-depth look at our county’s population and resources, which is very helpful when writing grants and assessing the community’s needs.
At our community partner, the Lenawee College Access Network, I played a critical role in building what the Network is today. I helped keep things moving during the transition in coordinators, which happened twice. I took on the TIP initiative, which included determining eligibility for all 12th graders in Lenawee County for the Tuition Incentive Program, and of the eligible students, getting them signed up to receive their benefit. This secured over 1 million dollars per year in grant monies for Lenawee County students, and the initiative is now self-sustaining as all Lenawee County Counselors are aware of how to secure these funds for their students. Additionally, I assisted in writing and receiving an implementation grant and gaining the support of all 12 of our school districts to support LCAN and provide a match for the grant to sustain the LCAN for another two years. I also helped create a new website to market LCAN to the public. Our college access network has gained some state and national attention and has become a model for new and upcoming college access networks.
With all the good work I have done over the past two years, I leave all my programs sustainable and in good standing. I believe passing the reins over to the new VISTA will be a smooth transition and I am excited to see how she can contribute to the organizations with her unique skillset.
I wish you all the luck and success on your future endeavors, and it was great getting to know each and every one of you! If I can ever be of any service, or you just want to keep in touch, please feel free to reach out to me on social media, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks again for all your service and making positive change in our unsettled world. - Jim
Hi everyone! I’m Jim Southard and I’m serving at the Lenawee Community Foundation and I am working with our community partners, Lenawee College Access Network (LCAN), VOLUNTEER Lenawee!, and Lenawee YOUTH Council.
We are working on a new initiative of early interventions and have created a “Transition Conference” for our 8th grade students throughout Lenawee County. Our goal is to raise some early awareness to help our students prepare for academic success and retention in post-secondary endeavors. Some of the topics we will present on are:
• Who is LCAN (we do a brief introduction of who we are, show them our website, Facebook, email, etc.)
• What LCAN can do for you (briefly explain some of our resources, events, and initiatives)
• Talk about transcripts / academic success
• What is Post-Secondary Education/credentials
• Types of colleges / universities and trade/tech schools (benefits of each)
• Post-Secondary Affordability (Very brief, explain that it’s possible to go to college)
• How to get involved? (Volunteering, community service, teams, etc.) Why it’s important
LCAN’s goal is by 2025, 60% of our residents will have a post-secondary degree or beneficial credential. We are hoping that with early awareness, we can help students transition into their freshman year more smoothly, and not encounter as many issues especially with academic success. We also will leave them with a folder of some information about career paths and other resources that are available.
Lenawee YOUTH Council has also teamed up with the Lenawee College Access Network and I have been busy scheduling and taking students on college visits. We recently visited Jackson College and Spring Arbor University on MLK Day. We have trips planned April 4th to visit Eastern Michigan University and Concordia University, April 5th Adrian College, and April 23 Siena Heights University. We are also in the process of planning some summer visits to the University of Michigan, Washtenaw Community College, Western Michigan University, and Grand Valley State University. The college visits are a good way to engage students and acclimate them to a college going culture.
It’s hard to believe we are halfway through February. This year of service is flying by and I am looking forward to seeing you all in Lansing on the 3rd and hearing about all the exciting things you all are doing. Keep up the good work! - Jim
Hello from Tecumseh at the Lenawee Community Foundation! Where has the time gone? It’s hard to believe that some of us will be wrapping up our service in August. I have been very busy since my last blog. With the change of seasons comes new projects and tasks. We moved to our new office in January, and time has flown by ever since.
One of the new initiatives that I have been working on through the Lenawee College Access Network (LCAN) is verifying our senior class county wide for TIP (Tuition Incentive Program). The Tuition Incentive Program (TIP) encourages eligible students to complete high school by providing tuition assistance for the first two years of college and beyond! To be eligible for TIP, a student must have (or have had) Medicaid coverage for 24 months within any 36-consecutive-month period, as identified by the Michigan Department of Human Services. Students can become TIP eligible as early as age 9. Since the student must be Medicaid eligible for 24 months out of a 36-consecutive-month period, the state begins to look at the 36-month period prior to the date of the student’s 9th birthday and goes forward until high school graduation.
We held our first annual LCAN Transition Conference for the junior class county wide. We invited several people from our community to come talk to the students about things they need to prepare to do for their senior year. We discussed career options, college access and affordability, military, and technical and trade schools. This was a success and plans are in place to continue it next year. I also have been dealing with some staff changes with the LCAN Coordinator, but I think we should be in good shape in time for fall and college application week. I have been busy taking students on college visits to various college and universities in the state of Michigan.
VOLUNTEER Lenawee! has been keeping me very busy. We launched our new volunteering matching software, GiveGab. I have been out visiting with agencies and community partners training them to use it. The response has been great so far and they really like the new platform. I worked with a class of seniors in Morenci, Michigan. This is one of Lenawee County’s smaller districts. They piloted a new leadership class that offers a unique curriculum that teaches life lessons in leadership, teamwork, responsibility, credibility, and philanthropy to name a few. I taught them about poverty and economic disadvantages, and they decided to roll up their sleeves and get out into their school and community and make a difference. Some of the activities included manual labor such as yard work, painting, cleaning, etc. Others took on a commitment to tutor children in the elementary school, some served as a teacher assistants in some of the classrooms, and some even crocheted blankets to give to young mothers in the community. It was great to see a class step up and take the initiative to improve their school and community.
As you can see I have many irons in the fire. I feel like I finally got the momentum I need to build capacity to educate, encourage, and engage Lenawee County residents to find their way to higher education and how to get involved and take action in their community. However, there is still work to be done here, therefore, I have decided to stay for another year of service!
As you all start to plan your next chapter, I want to wish you all much luck and success in your future endeavors!
2015 College Visit to MSU - Sparty On! Sponsored by the Lenawee Youth Council
and the Lenawee College Access Network.
Hi everyone! I’m Jim Southard and I’m serving at the Lenawee Community Foundation. I am working with our community partners, Lenawee College Access Network (LCAN) and VOLUNTEER Lenawee! I have been extremely busy working directly with LCAN and just successfully wrapped up the Michigan College Application Week campaign.
LCAN’s goal is by 2025, 60% of our residents will have a post-secondary degree or beneficial credential. Michigan College Application Week took place the week of November 3-7. During MCAW several college and universities waive their enrollment application fee, enticing students to apply. Our area high school’s celebrated MCAW in a variety of ways. Including visits from college mascots and recruiters, playing college fight songs while changing classes, college trivia, teachers and staff wearing swag from their alma mater, giveaways, and other fun activities. This year, with my help, we were able to get 9 out of 10 school districts to participate in Michigan College Application Week in some capacity!
VOLUNTEER Lenawee! Has been going through several changes as well. We were using Hands on Connect volunteer matching software and we are now in the process of switching to GiveGab. GiveGab was created as an AmeriCorps VISTA year initiative project, so it was designed by an end-user. This software is a simple solution to managing and promoting volunteers and matching them with opportunities. GiveGab is a web-based platform that is designed like popular social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. This site offers a few features such as the ability to log volunteer hours, create groups, and match volunteer opportunities based on passions and interest. I am excited to complete this transition and launch the new site in January.
It’s hard to believe another year has gone by. In spite of the challenges we’ve all faced, it has been a year filled with many blessings and I am very grateful. I have achieved much recognition for my work and that wouldn’t have been possible without the support of you all! As we say goodbye to 2014, I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New Year!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!