The end of my second term is drawing near and the college is basically a ghost town (the few classes that are active are online). I have been working on a lasting connection that will connect students with apprenticeships within the local unions. I paid visits to the offices of the local carpenters and plumbers unions to get more information about their requirements and took it to the community colleges Dean of Occupational Education, making a connection that can help put students to work, in their field of study, so that going to school won’t break their wallet. They will be getting paid as they learn on the job skills that coincide with what they are learning in the classroom. This should help a lot of students that don’t have the money to continue school.
I went to my first Points of Light conference this past week and WOW! Powerful speakers, eager learners, and an abundance of networks. Lonnie Ali was amazing, along with all of the speakers, but who stood out above all of them, for me, was Yara Shahidi. She is the young actress who plays Zoey Johnson on the TV show Black-ish. Mariela Shaker, was another of my favorite speakers. The way she made that violin sing was amazing. Music is the rhythm which our souls move to; it balances us, helps us to feel deeper, and gives us an energy to our lives that makes us feel unstoppable. Well, for me it does. That’s why our MC of the week, Mike Ellison, moved mountains. His words in rhyme brought to life not only the issues at hand but the solutions that can demand a better tomorrow.
With the networking that I did at the conference, I am going into my third term up in the Upper Peninsula with so many ideas, so much enthusiasm and determination to make another giant difference!
Hey there fellow VISTAs, this has been an eventful first half of the year. I started the year getting an alternative weekend group from Central Michigan University to come up north and help with some demolition of the inside of a building for the River House Domestic Violence Shelter’s new resale shop. Hard working and energetic people helped to clear out all of the old garbage to begin the renovations. I have also helped coordinate many domestic and sexual violence awareness events, starting with a balloon launch, on Kirtland Community College’s campus. These events not only raise awareness but also honor survivors. Throughout the semester community members and students/faculty took time out of their schedule to create ceramic bowls and cups for Kirtland’s annual Empty Bowls Project. This project raises money for River House to help support their outreach programs.
In November, I helped the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society on campus to raise money to purchase a food truck to hand out just before Thanksgiving. We fed over 500 families for the holidays. I am also a board member and volunteer with St. Helen Helping Hands, and during the Christmas season our group has its busiest time of year. The weeks leading to Christmas we unload trucks and organize donations. This year we were able to provide each family with a 20-pound turkey and milk, along with all kinds of non-perishable canned foods. The giving didn’t stop there; the St. Helen Helping Hands also shops for gifts for each person in the families. Our mission is that no child or senior citizen goes without for Christmas here in Richfield Township. The community fundraises all year long and in 2015 raised a little over $19,000, all of which went to the families in need.
For Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in January, I worked with a history instructor here at Kirtland to put together an informational video, which we played on a loop in the student lounge. Here is a link to the video: https://youtu.be/-UvjdndNfn4. In January, I also worked on fundraising events for River House, including the Hoops for the House basketball tournament and Chili Cook-off. I’ve also been hard at work on the Employability Workshop, which I am coordinating with Michigan Works! and local businesses. This workshop helps students prepare for the job market by providing information on resumes and interviewing, as well as providing information on job fairs ideas and connecting them with community resources.
Amidst all these activities and happenings, I have worked on creating a simple flyer for River House that I put up in every female bathroom in all four counties that River House serves. This flyer lists all of the services that River House offers and numbers to call. The ladies can pull a tab with only the phone number on it so if their abuser finds it they won’t know what it’s for. Along with this I am creating a database that will detail the locations of the flyers and a schedule of contacting each one to refill the bathrooms. It has been made a big difference in the communities and many more ladies are able to get help.
Busy is the only way to describe my year so far, but it’s been gratifying. Helping is contagious and energizing. Making a difference rocks!
This second quarter of my VISTA experience has been a whirlwind. Chaos and energy all rolled up into excitement. I was able to initiate a new event that will help not only the students at Kirtland Community College, but the entire community around the college. I recruited many of the departments at Kirtland Community College to help out with the event, along with the director of River House domestic violence shelter. Amiee, the director of River House, said anything they could do to help give back to the college who helps them with so much, they would do. Well, I planned and recruited an awesome team to pull off the most amazing “Employability Workshop”. I only had 25 students in the audience but added to that amount were online viewers. We received some wonderful feedback, not only from students and instructors but from local business owners and managers saying that, this project was long needed. This workshop made it apparent to the participants that soft skills will get them the job they seek and give them the tools to keep the job long term. I had two instructors come to me afterwards and tell me that their students that came were so excited that they learned the proper ways to interview, fitting your resume to the type of job you’re seeking and the proper attire you need to land the job you seek. It was an eye opener up here and Michigan Works in Prudenville and Grayling want to become partners with our next event because they said it was great information and well-put together, for the first time ever. So I take that as a plus and am already planning next year’s event. The event it will be interactive with online audiences as well as, the ones in the auditorium. I am putting my interactive media design degree to big use next year. What an amazing feeling it is to have made such a huge difference in a short period of time.
Hi there, my name is Patricia Sanders and I am in Roscommon County putting the re-building blocks in place. I have lived in this community for over eight years now and when I decided to become a VISTA in my own area, I saw it as a big potential to help my own community grow and prosper. I am at Kirtland Community College to work with the community and increase education and higher learning.
Working with Kirtland Community College and all of their groups, and River House Domestic Violence Shelter has given me a deeper knowledge of cycles that people live throughand ideas as how to break them and help a person, family and community thrive again. This little college in the woods always amazes me with its generosity and kindness. They pull together to help each other and their district community. At the beginning of my year, I was proud to help Kirtland’s Phi Theta Kappa chapter (Alpha Omicron Gamma) raise money to purchase a semi-truck full of food to hand out just before Thanksgiving. It doesn’t sound like much to most big cities but this fed over 500 families.
I have been working on a project that will get fresh produce vouchers from our district’s local grocery stores into the Kirtland Community College’s food pantry, helping students to better nourish their bodies to further nourish their minds. This will help with learning retention, student getting better grades, graduation rates and getting a good job in the field they want. I believe this project is in the final stages so it can soon be implemented. I have recently joined Kirtland Community College’s community garden team to help provide food for not only the students but the surrounding communities as well, and maybe create a service-learning class from it. This projecthas just begun this past week but we have big ideas and many connections to make the vision a reality.
After moving up to Northern Michigan eight years ago, I was baffled as to why schools were in session on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Schools are not closed for this day up here so I asked a few questions. Most responses were that MLK was about race and his speeches didn’t pertain to them. Well, I had to reach at least one person with the facts that Martin Luther King, Jr. wasn’t only about helping the black community but all people living in poverty and despair, so I had a History Instructor create a video to play throughout Kirtland on MLK Jr day in hopes to reach just one student. The look on most of the students’ faces when watching the video was priceless. They realized that MLK was about all humanity living in poverty and he educated people about living a better life. The video was a huge success. http://youtu.be/-UvjdndNfn4
The partnership with River House Domestic Violence Shelter has helped me to be able to raise more awareness about the epidemic of domestic and sexual violence. I have helped fundraise and have put on a few events for them. The first was to bring awareness to Kirtland Community College’s campus, faculty, staff and student body. The event was held on the campus and I had many speakers. The balloon launch symbolizes the survivors and the strength it has taken them to go forward after such an ordeal. 1 in 7 men and 1 in 4 women will be assaulted or abused by someone they intimately know. River House is there not just to help the victims move forward and not repeat the cycle, but to enlighten the community and the world about this problem, so one day there would be no need for shelters. The second project I put on was the Empty Bowls Project. We held it at Kirtland Community College to help raise money for River House Domestic Violence Shelter so they can continue to help all of the district counties. http://youtu.be/2N3HLYHZ40o. We also have another project coming up for River House which is a take back the night march. This march brings awareness that all violence needs to be STOMPED OUT!!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!