My name is Stacey Johnson, and I'm a first-year VISTA serving with Urban Neighborhood Initiatives in Detroit. Since becoming a VISTA, I have worked to decrease chronic absenteeism. So far, I have reached out to local schools in Southwest Detroit and have attended parent focus groups to get a better understanding of how the community feels about chronic absence. I have also been networking with schools and organizations to raise awareness on chronic absenteeism and have had members of the community sign pledge cards to support students in getting to school. When someone signs a pledge card it means they are pledging to not be chronically absent in school, make sure their child isn’t chronically absent in school, and/or to encourage students to not be chronically absent in school. My goal is to get 5,000 pledges signed by June 2018. As of right now I have 412 pledges from the schools I have visited.
In order to accomplish these tasks, I have been partnering with 482forward. As I have been a volunteer of the organization for two years, I have built strong relationships with many people in this organization and I am able to easily contact community organizers for any help with my project. 482forward, in turn, has reached out to other local organizations and told them about my project, allowing me to present workshops about chronic absenteeism at other sites and having people sign pledge cards at these workshops to continue raising awareness.
Another project I plan to work on is to create an alumni support group at my host site. This will help alumni and current youth in the community with several things including tutoring, scholarship essays, FAFSA, emotional support, and anything else the youth may need. So far, I have compiled a list of people to start the alumni group and created a group chat, but we haven’t identified what exactly it is that we would like to do. By this summer I hopeto have engaged 1,000 youth with the alumni group in the community and have a thriving Facebook group for everyone involved to be a part of.