Hello Again! As a LEAGUE VISTA, my primary mission has been to deepen the level of service-learning impact within our existing teacher network, as well as to increase the participation level of Battle Creek educators. To fulfill this mission, I have been providing training and support to teachers in order to develop student projects that mobilize student volunteers and resources to local nonprofit agencies, with the goal of addressing the reduction of poverty and other needs in the local community. Most of my time has been spent in the schools, working directly with teachers and students.
By far, the most rewarding thing about my VISTA year has been witnessing a project end in success after months of planning. The last project that I was a part of was one that I began planning in September and finally ended in early June. This project involved two first-grade classes installing a butterfly garden at a local community center. Many community partners collaborated on the project, including Marian E. Burch Adult Daycare, The Monarch Watch, and The Kalamazoo Area Wild Ones Chapter. A Monarch Butterfly garden is a garden with specific native nectar and milkweed plants. The continued destruction of the Monarch habitat has posed a grave threat to the Monarch population. The first grade students learned about the life cycle of the Monarchs as well as threats to the species and then applied their lessons to planning the garden. Monarchs require specific nectar plants for food and will only lay their eggs on milkweed plants. By planting this garden, the class has beautified a community space and made a significant ecological contribution.
The last school in my cohort ended the school year last Thursday, June 18, which means I have a new challenge: keeping busy during the summer. Fortunately, I will not be too bored because there is plenty to do around my office at the local United Way. These summer tasks will primarily involve deepening the sustainability of the program so that the next VISTAs will be well-prepared to carry on the work. Tasks such as creating project files, updating contact information, updating the Legacy Binder and much more will be my focus for the next two months. Plus, there are still a few big LEAGUE events such as Youth Philanthropy Camp in July and Fisher Training in August that will surely keep me occupied.
Hello, all! I am Jordan Meeth, and I am serving as a first year AmeriCorps VISTA at HandsOn Battle Creek. HandsOn Battle Creek is a program of the United Way with the mission of recruiting volunteers for local non-profit organizations and organizing service based events throughout the community. As part of the LEAGUE Michigan, I am working hard to incorporate service-learning in K-12 classes in Battle Creek, Michigan. My co-VISTA, Kelly Williams, and I work with educators in five Battle Creek school districts. If you are unfamiliar with the concept, service-learning is an experiential teaching and learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the academic experience, teach civic responsibility, and strengthen communities. The cool thing about service-learning is that a project can be as small or as big as you desire, while still making a significant impact in the community.
I want to share one particular service-learning project because I feel it is extremely important, given current events. This project brings Police Cadets from Kellogg Community College into a Dudley STEM Elementary School. The mission of this project is to change the perception of law enforcement and students from low economic neighborhoods by working together to complete service projects. Thus far, they have created blankets to be donated to the VA Hospital. The students were asked to compare their opinions of police before and after working with the Police Cadets. The project is still ongoing, but Telicia Evil, the teacher spearheading the project, has summed up some recognizable outcomes of the project:
“It was a challenge at first getting the kids comfortable with talking to the police. Some have parents and other family members that are in jail or prison, or they have had some negative run in with the law. They expressed that they didn’t trust police and what they said prior to them coming in. They were only interested in them for their shooting or violent experiences. They then began to understand that cops are people just like we are and have feelings and families”
This project is impactful because it does not lead to a further division but rather to a feeling of unity and understanding in two conflicting populations. The project has been such a success that we are currently working on placing 10 cadets into 10 different classrooms at Dudley, a project called “Adopt-a-Cop” (updates to come). I feel that this is a project that can be replicated in any community, so please let me know if you have any questions about the logistics of this project!
In the meantime, I will continue working to implement both small and large service-learning projects with the goal of allowing teachers to sustain their service-learning projects independently. I feel that this position gives me a unique experience into the lives of teachers and educators, and I am excited to discover what the remaining portion of my service year has to offer!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!