Serving at my alma mater, Oakland University, for its community engagement initiative: Oakland University Pontiac Initiative (Partnership) in the area of workforce development and college readiness has been such a challenging, yet rewarding experience! I’ve learned how to effectively make a difference in the community, effect real change, apply my extensive skill set, and have improved both personally and professionally.
Great News Alert… I was selected to participate in the Northwest Education & Training Institute, Resource Development: Fundraising & Grant Writing class and passed with an enhanced toolkit and knowledge base. Likewise, I was selected to participate in the Northwest Education & Training Institute, Volunteer Mobilization Class, currently enrolled and learning so much!
The Partnership is essentially a collaboration between the City of Pontiac, Oakland University, and other entities across health, education, arts, and neighborhoods sectors. Recently, my primary focus has been to be supportive in creating sustainable solutions, mutually beneficial relationships, and project management guidance as well as ensuring that I leave a meaningful legacy and smooth transitioning period for the next AmeriCorps VISTA. At our community host site, Michigan Works! JobLink Service Center in Pontiac, I’ve implemented employability programming and resources, created partnerships across sectors and enlarged the organization’s community footprint. Likewise, I’ve engaged in activities that provide support and facilitate access to workforce development resources and services intended to improve employability and, ultimately lead to employment. For example, I was invited to the Oakland County Community Resource Fair hosted by the Salvation Army and Michigan Department of Corrections to provide information about the programs and services offered at JobLink and to talk about the Partnership. I connected the JobLink team to over 10 businesses that they intend to build a relationship around veteran workforce affairs. Also, I marketed the organization to over 30 interested community members and service providers whom I enjoyed talking to about JobLink and the Partnership. By participating in the Community Resource Fair, I built capacity for the JobLink team by helping them accomplish their mission of being actively connected in the community with community members and local service providers. Similarly, I have created and updated marketing materials, community assessments, information directories, evaluation systems, and programming curriculum at JobLink that can be used for years to come. According to some JobLink staff and customers, the resources that I’ve provided are “helpful, necessary, and beneficial.” Specifically, I recently played a key role conducting research and designing a proposal for a partnership with the City of Pontiac for its new youth recreational millage. The proposal project was a successful collaborative effort, and I take pride in knowing that my recommendations were seriously considered and implemented in the final proposal.
The Partnership is off to a great start with its new Khan Academy SAT Prep Program that I’ve been coordinating and spending the majority of my time making sure runs effectively. I facilitate all aspects of the program including project management, communications and marketing, data tracking and reporting, and community engagement. Recently, I’ve conducted site visits at the dedicated host sites to evaluate the program, determine any needs, and to provide unlimited support. Thus far, site volunteers, parents and students are satisfied and grateful to be a part of such program led by a collective community effort to implement a city-wide college-going culture. Furthermore, some sites have benefited from the program and have created relationships with fellow organizations and have leveraged their partnership with the University. This program has truly reinforced the true sense and meaning of “community” and what it takes to support local youth. I am truly proud of what has become of the Khan Academy SAT Prep Program.
Oakland University My Brother’s Keeper (OUMBK) is another youth career readiness initiative that facilitate. I oversee the career readiness component of the program to ensure that the students are exposed to various forms of career awareness activities. OUMBK program is based on the national My Brother’s Keeper initiative created by President Barack Obama in 2014. OUMBK is designed to support 7th-grade boys of color through exposure to opportunities for college and career readiness as well as mentoring. The program is currently in the school districts of Pontiac, Southfield, Hazel Park, Oak Park and Ferndale and the students are referred to OUMBK by the school district administration. To date, I assisted with: designing the career readiness curriculum, conducting career assessments for nearly 50 students, planned two community forums that engaged local businesses, elected officials, campus community, youth development professionals, and community members interested in being a dedicated mentor, and created the career readiness curriculum for the on-campus college experience.
Going forward, some areas of opportunity include providing limitless support and increased visibility for both communities that I serve: Oakland University and Pontiac. I look forward to continuing to build capacity, create sustainable solutions, empower the Pontiac and Oakland University communities, and serving with an open heart and mind.
Thanks for reading,
Shakita Billy, MBA, GCDF
AmeriCorps VISTA Shakita Billy presenting at the OUMBK Community Forum about the student career assessments and career readiness component of the program.
AmeriCorps VISTA Shakita Billy conducted student career assessments and career awareness activities at Pontiac Middle School for OUMBK.
AmeriCorps VISTA Shakita Billy conducted student career assessments and career awareness activities at Levey Middle School in Southfield for OUMBK.
AmeriCorps VISTA Shakita Billy working with volunteers at Guidance Opportunity Development under Construction Youth Organization (GOD-UC) at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac.
AmeriCorps VISTA Shakita Billy conducted Khan Academy training and orientation for students, parents, and volunteers at Guidance Opportunity Development under Construction Youth Organization (GOD-UC) at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Pontiac.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!