Hello! My name is La’Shawnda Mansfield and I’m serving in Battle Creek as an AmeriCorps VISTA Service Learning Coordinator with the League Michigan. My host site is HandsOn Battle Creek, which is a volunteer center that connects people from the community with volunteer opportunities. I work with all five school districts in Battle Creek. When I began my year as a VISTA it was difficult to communicate with the teachers to get started on Service-Learning projects. Because it was the beginning of the school year teachers were busy settling in their classroom and revising lesson plans. To get around this, I decided to go to the schools to meet with teachers face to face, and reach out to superintendents and principals.
As a result of communicating face to face rather than through email, one of my first big service projects included students from St. Joseph Middle School; the students created hygiene bags that were donated to Haven of Rest homeless shelter. The donations were collected by The Bibles for Mission Thrift Store, and the store would call my office when they had full boxes ready to be picked up. In a couple of months I had about 3 boxes of hygiene items for the homeless shelter. Donated items included hair products, deodorant, toothbrushes, and cologne. I reached out to the principal of St. Joseph Middle School about Service-Learning; and she scheduled a meeting with four teachers to discuss the benefits of Service-Learning in the classroom and some easy projects to do with little to no cost. The day after our meeting, we implemented the Service-Learning project. I went to the school with four boxes and a large bag of donated items, as well as brown lunch bags. The students decorated the brown lunch bags and wrote a prayer or words of encouragement and inserted them in the bag, along with the hygiene products. We discussed the importance of education to prevent poverty and how homelessness can happen to anyone.
Another big and impactful service project that I am helping with is Bridging the Generation Gap through Reading with Calhoun Community High. Once a month a group of 20 students visit the Marian E. Burch Adult Daycare to read with or to senior citizens that reside at the center. Students are able to improve their reading skills, gain confidence in public speaking, as well as gain a mentor. Students are able to eliminate the negative attitude and gain perspective on the stigmatization of senior citizens. Students have grown close to some of the residents at Marian E. Burch and there are also students who have not been able join us who want to get involved in future.
Now that the holidays are here I am doing much smaller projects with schools. Students are writing a letter to Santa to raise money for Make-A-Wish Foundation through Macy’s. For each letter turned in, Macy’s will donate $1 to the Make-A-Wish Foundation to help children with life-threatening diseases.
I am looking forward to future projects that are still in the planning process to be implemented in the spring.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!