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!