AmeriCorps VISTA Service and the Mentoring Movement in Vermont Part II

November 22, 2013 AmeriCorps, Mobius

As the AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) serving at Mobius, I am part of the Vermont Youth Tomorrow Program, an anti-poverty program which supports 30 AmeriCorps VISTA members serving at community-based organizations, schools, and municipalities throughout Vermont. VISTA is one of several national AmeriCorps service programs. President John F. Kennedy created the idea of the VISTA program, founded in 1965 and designed specifically to fight poverty in America.  In 1993, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs.

Across Vermont, AmeriCorps members from several programs are serving their communities through a wide variety of projects and roles. Last week, AmeriCorps members from the Vermont Youth Tomorrow, SerVermont, and Vermont Youth Development Corps programs met in Montpelier at the Vermont College of Fine Arts for two days of professional development and training. Dubbed “AmeriCorpspalooza,” this mass meeting of service members was an important opportunity for people to connect and learn about each other’s service while further developing professional skills.

Vermont AmeriCorps members meet in Montpelier on November 12th. Photo courtesy of Vermont Youth Tomorrow.

Vermont AmeriCorps members meet in Montpelier on November 12th. Photo courtesy of Vermont Youth Tomorrow.

On Tuesday, November 12th, AmeriCorps members learned about the neuroscience behind Positive Youth Development through a presentation by Kreig Pinkham, the Executive Director of the Washington County Youth Service Bureau. Discussing development of the young brain and the social pressures that coincide with different age groups, participants explored ways to bring an understanding of brain development and function to their daily work with young people.  On Wednesday, November 13th,  Andy Robinson, an expert on fundraising with over 32 years of experience in the non-profit world, led an interactive grant writing and fundraising workshop. This type of training is invaluable for AmeriCorps members; participants will take this training and knowledge back to their host sites and carry it with them after their year of service into their future careers.

 

Small groups discuss College Positive Volunteerism during a workshop by Dr. Paul Hernandez at St. Michael’s College. Photo by Benji Thurber.

Small groups discuss College Positive Volunteerism during a workshop by Dr. Paul Hernandez at St. Michael’s College. Photo by Benji Thurber.

My work with Mobius has given me the opportunity to work with VISTA members serving through Vermont Campus Compact, a statewide consortium of higher education institutions which works to create and fortify connections between campuses and communities. This Wednesday, November 20th, Mobius teamed up with Vermont Campus Compact to host Dr. Paul Hernandez as a special guest speaker at a workshop on College Positive Volunteerism at Saint Michael’s College. Mentoring folks from across the state came together to talk about the importance of preparing young people for post-secondary education. AmeriCorps VISTA members from Vermont Youth Tomorrow and Vermont Campus Compact served as facilitators of small group discussions. These small groups discussed rural poverty, lack of access to educational resources or role models,  isolation, and other issues that limit the ability of many of Vermont’s young people to plan and prepare for college. With the guidance of Dr. Hernandez, participants devised new approaches to help young people overcome these challenges and work towards a higher education.  Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Panera Bread, Sugar Snap Catering, and Papa Frank’s supported the event with delicious food and prizes.

I’m proud to be a VISTA member and part of the inspirational movement of service in Vermont. AmeriCorps service is an amazing opportunity to connect with community members, make a difference through hands-on work, and prepare for a future in service-oriented work through professional trainings.

Daron Blake
Communications and Technology Specialist
AmeriCorps VISTA