Hi friends! My name is Shalyn Stack, and I am serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Delta College in University Center, Michigan. I am the program director for Public Achievement, a mentoring program working with at-risk K-12 schools in the Great Lakes Bay Region. This year, we were at two schools: John Glenn High School and Washington Elementary (The school I was primarily working with), both located in Bay City, Michigan. The students at Delta College are trained to be mentors to the K-12 students participating in Public Achievement and guide them towards addressing everyday issues they face such as: bullying, equality, poverty, etc. and giving them the tools to make positive change in their community. The program has finished for this school year and will start up again in the fall when classes are back in session. This year we had about 275 4th, 5th, and 9th graders involved in Public Achievement, and over 100 mentors.
This past school year at Washington Elementary was not easy. This was the first time Public Achievement has ever been in an elementary school, and it was my first time ever running a program like this. The Delta College students I worked with were mostly just out of high school and had never worked in a school setting before. There were a lot of “firsts” this year, and I am excited to have a year of Public Achievement under my belt so I know what to change next year to make it a more successful program. Something I learned about this year as a VISTA is how important and effective communication is. There was always some disconnect between myself, the mentors, the K-12 teachers, and the principal, and it made things very difficult. We are completely reinventing the program to better suit the elementary school students and teachers, and I am very excited for the program to start next fall!
I was a co-advisor for Washington Elementary’s Student Council, which was a big role to take on. We started a school store at Washington that is student led. Washington Elementary doesn’t have a lot of activities like this due to lack of budget. They don’t have any after school programs, sports, or even latch key. The school store gave them something to look forward to every week, and the students that ran it learned about responsibility as well as supply and demand. The money raised from the school store funded the service projects we did throughout the semester. One service project we did was a cemetery clean-up at the Floral Gardens Cemetery in Bay City. We bought flowers and other gardening supplies and spent the day planting flowers around the cemetery plots. It was a great day for service!
I feel that I have grown and learned so much from this past year as a VISTA. I was talking to Betsie Schoedal, another VISTA serving at Alma College, and we both agreed that we have changed so much in the last year. I feel like an entirely different person than I was last June when I had just graduated from college. I feel like I can take on any challenge that is thrown at me. I can give presentations or lead a group of people without doubting myself or feeling anxious. I feel like a leader and a role model and am excited for what next year will bring.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!