Hey everyone! I hope your VISTA experience is going as well as (if not better than) you had hoped! Throughout the past nine months I have had the opportunity to affect the lives of so many students in as positive a way as I can. Being a VISTA in the same community where I grew up has been incredibly rewarding, and I'd like to use this blog post to describe the event that left the biggest impact on me during my VISTA year thus far.
On April 21st, I loaded three Alcona students into my car early in the morning and embarked on a trip to Baker College in Owosso. These students all have extenuating circumstances that made post-secondary education seem like a pipe dream in their eyes. One of the students, Brittany, moved into the area well behind on credits and is struggling to catch up while having to help support her household financially. Another, Jared, was accused of something he did not do early in his high school career, tarnishing his reputation and lowering his level of motivation for a period of time. And the third student, Zac, is currently without a permanent address or source of money. I hoped this visit to Baker (and their previous introduction to T.I.P. by our wonderful AdviseMI person Meaghan and I) would open their eyes to the possibility of a post-secondary education. What resulted from the trip was better than I could have imagined.
All three students loved the campus and the area. We even got to speak to one of the welding instructors at the college, who provided specific information pertaining to the program in which the students are interested. As we got on the road back to Lincoln, Zac and Jared were already making plans to attend Baker in the fall and room together on campus, with Brittany (who is a sophomore) making similar plans to apply when the time comes. All three students have been working hard to improve their grades in the weeks since the trip as well.
This incredible impact was made possible by simply providing these students with the knowledge that they have opportunities to pursue education further than high school despite less than ideal circumstances. The positive response from these three students warmed my heart, and I am so excited to follow their progress. I hope each and every one of my fellow VISTAs has had at least one moment this year that affected you the way this small trip affected me.
Good luck in the remainder of your VISTA service and beyond to all my colleagues, and a quick thank you to Maggie, Shalyn, and Jake for being their awesome selves!
What's up VISTA community? My name is Walker Kelly and I am serving with Alcona Community Schools in Lincoln, MI, which happens to be the high school from which I graduated. I have never held a position like this one before, so the adjustment has been a struggle at times. But, with the help of my supervisor, coworkers, and Maggie, I have really settled into a rhythm recently.
Alcona is a small, class C high school with around 240 students in grades 9-12. We do not receive much funding from the state, so we must use our modest resources in creative and intelligent ways to help students. One of the most successful programs the school offers is a dual enrollment partnership with Alpena Community College (ACC). ACC sends professors to our building so Alcona juniors and seniors can get a head start on pre-requisites while not having to leave the comfort of their own school.
I work with the dual enrollment program to ensure its longevity and improve it in any way possible. This year, we have initiated a community service requirement into the program. Dual enrolled students must complete 10 hours of service per semester. Some students may not have the ability to travel around the county to complete these service hours, so my VISTA Year Initiative (VYI) is creating a program where dual enrolled students tutor their struggling peers. The dual enrolled kids complete their service hours while they're at school and the kids who are struggling get the help they need from a more familiar perspective. This ensures the longevity of the already existing tutoring program and creates a win-win situation for all students.
I want to wish all my fellow VISTAs the utmost success in their endeavors during their service. Being a VISTA can be difficult, but it is a rewarding position that is absolutely worth the hard work.
All the best,
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!