Hello again everyone! Last time I wrote about being half way done with my Americorps VISTA service at Davenport University, but I recently decided to stay at Davenport and with the MNA VISTA program for a second year. I made this decision for a multitude of reasons, but one of the reasons that I kept coming back to is, I felt like I was just getting started. I need another year, at the same location, to really make the sustainable impact needed to grow Davenport University’s volunteer culture campus-wide, and increase the college access at the Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS). In this blog, I want to set myself some challenges for my second VISTA year, so that I make sure to make the most of it.
At the beginning of my VISTA term, I identified building a volunteer culture on Davenport’s campus as my top priority. I just finished putting together our campuses Community Service Honor Roll, which is a community service survey of all of our students. At DU’s Grand Rapids campus, 215 students out of 3,500 reported some level of community service with over 260 organizations this past year. I believe that one key to creating a culture of volunteerism is to simply increase the percentage of students volunteering. My goal is to reach 400 total students in the next year. Another key to creating a culture of volunteerism is to reach out to the students with volunteer projects that they want to join. The community service survey indicated, 87% of students think that an issue they care about is the most important reason for why they would choose to volunteer. The top three issues they identified were children, hunger, and health issues. Students indicated that volunteer events that are at a convenient time and are enjoyable activities are also very important attributes when deciding to volunteer. The students also indicated that factors like a graduation requirement, relation to their future career, and resume builders are their least important attributes when deciding to volunteer. I will use this knowledge to better reach out to students. In addition, I will focus on first year students, students that are a part of student groups, and students that are a part of sports teams. This will allow me to create smaller cultures of volunteerism in different parts of campus, which will hopefully spread with time.
My second priority at the beginning of my VISTA term was to increase college access to first-generation students in GRPS. This past year I did that through lunch time leadership classes at the GRPS high schools with an organization called GR Initiative for Leaders. However, this year I will be working throughout the school day with GRPS students developing the Challenge Scholar’s college access model. The Grand Rapids Community Foundation has raised enough money to offer all the West Side GRPS students a free college education, but that is only half the battle. In 2012, just 2% of these students were college ready based off of their ACT scores. However, 61% have the desire to pursue a post-secondary education. My role will to be to help coordinate the Challenge Scholar’s programming through the K-12 classrooms, so that students and their parents are hearing accurate and consistent information about post-secondary education. This is a new program and I’m so excited to help set up the framework for future efforts at GRPS. My goal is to utilize the relationships I built with the lunchtime leadership students to help create some meaningful college access programing for the students this next year.
Thank you all for taking the time to read my plans for my second VISTA year. I’m excited and energized to keep building towards these goals thanks in large part to the support system I know I have in all of you.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!