Hey everyone! It’s Zekiye. I’m back with an update on the second half of my service year. Just a reminder I am serving up in University Center, Michigan with Delta College. Since I last updated you all, I have spent a lot of my time coordinating our now bi-annual Race to College Event which was on April 7th. I recruited two new schools and one returning school to bring eight fourth and fifth grade classes to Delta College to learn about health and wellness and college access. Some of the activities we had for kids including setting up a business station where the students could operate their own bike shops and a station where they learned all about different parts of bicycles and bike safety. It was really great to see the kids have fun and it gave college kids at my site the opportunity to engage with youth while completing some of their graduation requirements in civic engagement.
In addition that, my department has been working on orientations for incoming students. Delta College hasn’t required an orientation for new students before but they have been shown to improve academic performance and retention. We lead tours and run academic orientation presentations, teaching students about various resources on campus, where they are located, and how to access them. Additionally, we tell them what they can expect coming to campus such as how many hours they should be studying a week per class and different ways they can pay for college. We will be gathering data to see how this orientation impacts students’ performance and graduation rates and are currently tweaking the orientation with student input so that we can make sure it is as effective as possible.
Lastly, I spent May 19th serving with AmeriCorps members throughout my region at the Russ Mawby Signature Service Project in Flint. Collectively we removed over 10,000 gallons of illegal dumping and approximately 700 additional pounds of bulk waste from various residencies and the river trail. Additionally, we prepared over 100 law enforcement appreciation bags for our public safety partners in both Flint and Saginaw and made 175 cards to tell children participating in summer programs this year that they are supported by the AmeriCorps community. Overall there were 115 volunteers representing 17 AmeriCorps programs across the state and 14 community partners. It was a really great experience to not only make a difference but to also get to talk with AmeriCorps members in different programs, like the Flint Urban Safety Corp and members of the NCCC. Additionally, we had several community members join in to help as they saw us serving, many of whom would help take care of abandoned properties by cutting the grass whenever they cut their own. It was really a demonstration of the community pride and support that exists within Michigan and I am so thankful I got to take part in it! Until next time, happy serving!
Hey everyone! My name is Zekiye Salman and I am a first-year VISTA serving at Delta College in University Center, MI with my fellow VISTA’s Andy Straub and Destyn Graves! A large portion of my VAD so far has been helping Andy with Race to College, an event where we bring 5th graders from two local schools to Delta College to learn about health and wellness and college access. Since he talked a little about that in his blog post, I won’t go into too much detail, but currently I am working on launching a spring version of the program with three new schools—one from each of the surrounding counties. Since we are trying to bring three schools instead of two and will be held entirely indoors (we ALL know how unpredictable Michigan weather is in the spring!), this comes with figuring out how to tweak logistics from the program already established, still stay true to the mission, and still remain effective in the work that is being done.
In addition to expanding Race to College, I am in the process of establishing a few other programs. First, as part of my VISTA year initiative, I have been trying to provide free and accessible menstrual products to people with periods. I have secured some donations from a local non-profit (that wishes to remain anonymous) and corporations (such as DivaCup and I Heart Guts), have had marketing drawn up, and am currently waiting on final approval from administration to begin distribution and education beginning in January. This will entail setting up information tables with trivia and monthly raffles for anyone who donates products or money.
Second, I am in the beginning stages of developing a Philosophy for Children program to help teach kids critical thinking skills. Research I have come across has mentioned that talking about philosophy and holding philosophical discussions at an early age can help increase performance in math, reading, and writing, especially for kids who are on free or reduced lunch. Programs like these also help kids learn how to support their arguments, disagree with opinions and still participate in dialogue, encourage kids to participate and ask more questions in the classroom, and become more at ease with not knowing all the answers. I am currently looking at different places to partner with to actualize this program, but I have a few options in mind both on and off Delta’s campus.
Since starting my service I have also been helping to develop a Volunteer Center and a Volunteer Incentive Program with a tracking system that compiles data based on when, where, and why Delta students are volunteering. The hope is that this data will eventually convince the Office of Information Technology to create our own database when we demonstrate the need for such programming. Andy and I have also started a volunteer club at Delta to get students more involved on campus and in their communities. These responsibilities are in the process of being passed off onto our newest VISTA, Destyn Graves, and I am sure she will do wonderful things with (to) them as they are all very skeletal at the moment.
All in all, I’m really excited about the work that I have been doing since I’ve become a VISTA and am even more excited (and hopeful) to see these programs implemented!
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!