This is Tish, and I am the new VISTA Leader for the Cradle to Career Initiative. I've been serving with project for over three years, and it is awesome to see the impact the VISTAs in our cohort are making. We have some exciting things happening this year with our project, so stayed tuned!!
October 17th was the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, a day in which people of all global communities are encouraged to highlight and address the challenges of living in poverty. As part of this international day, the Cradle to Career VISTAs were encouraged to share their stories of how poverty has impacted them or someone that they know. Stephanie Enyeart is one of the VISTAs who chose to share her story:
"Until I began serving with AmeriCorps VISTA, poverty did not directly affect my life. But it indirectly affected me through my mother's experience with it. I'm not actually certain whether she ever lived at or below the poverty line, but she did grow up poor. Neither of her parents went to college. Neither of them gave her encouragement to do so, much less the financial support. Her only goals after graduating high school were to get a stable job. She decided on nursing, a field which only required an associate's degree at the time. Though there was a waiting list to get in the program at the local community college, she was given a spot because of her excellent grades. Being completely independent from her parents and having to pay for everything herself, she worked full time while also going to school full time. She graduated in two years, passed her licensing exam, and has been working as a nurse for 30+ years now. Because of her tireless work ethic, my sister and I never experienced poverty, even when my mom went through other financial hardships.
To be fair, I didn't grow up in a single parent household. But I did rely on my mom for many financial matters. When it was time for my sister and I to go to college, she made it clear she would help pay. There was no question. We didn't have to take out as many loans because of her support. We didn't have to work full time to put ourselves through school. That's why I serve for an organization that focuses on education as a means to lift individuals out of poverty. I believe in the impact of education because I'm a product of it."
Hi, everyone! I’m Cara, and I’m beginning my year-long VISTA service as the Communications Coordinator with the 55,000 Degrees program. However, my experience with VISTA began earlier this summer when I applied for a Summer Coaching position.
In May, I was fresh out of college and uncertain about what I wanted to do in the future. As I weighed the pros and cons of graduate school, a professor suggested I spend the summer with AmeriCorps helping prevent “summer melt” – when students that have already been accepted into college suddenly decide not to go. During the summer, I worked one-on-one with incoming college freshmen every day, whether we filled out paperwork together or whether I simply gave them advice and guidance. I quickly learned the importance of my role: VISTAs who work year-round aren’t allowed to provide direct service, so we (the summer mentors) were the connections between students and the resources and support they needed. Without us, VISTAs wouldn’t be able to help students nearly as effectively.
Time has flown by since I began that position. Before I knew it, I hit the end of my service and I was applying for a new position, this time as a year-round Communications Coordinator for 55k. Now, I’m three days into my new job, and I’m already feeling the difference between this and summer mentoring. I’m still supporting students – but I work much further in the background, managing social media accounts and making communication with our affiliates smoother. Rather than directly interacting with students, I’m interacting with other 55k staff and their affiliates. The environment, while not lacking in friendliness, feels much more professional here.
Of course, I do miss talking students who were preparing to head off to college. I went through all kinds of emotions with my students: excitement for what’s to come, nervousness from wondering whether it will all work out, confusion in putting together details of this new part of life… It was challenging, but incredibly rewarding. I won’t have that sort of thing here, but in its place, I’ll finally get a real taste of what being a working professional is like, and I’ll still have the satisfaction of helping others in doing so. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.
In participating in the AmeriCorps VISTA program, I will serve as a change agent by leading the charge to push the boundaries of what can be done in my community to help youth and adults living in poverty. I will be the connector between community leaders, entrepreneurs, and other community stakeholders to help improve the education of youth and adults coming from poverty circumstances. In addition, I will trigger growth in learning within my organization and community to help individuals living in poverty overcome obstacles.
Hi everyone! I’m Tish and I am the VISTA for the College and Career Connection at the Shawnee Branch. Here is a look into what my day is like:
7:30: I wake up! After hitting my Beyoncé “Diva” alarm. I get dressed; I usually have my clothes laid out the night before, so no worries about finding something to wear :)
8:20- I usually eat a yogurt and toast a bagel for a quick breakfast, make oatmeal, or Cream of Wheat, if I am in no rush that morning.
9:00- I arrive to Shawnee Library and check my emails and updates from my supervisors. With working with the Shawnee Library is very important since it is a pillar for the Shawnee neighborhood. Shawnee is a predominantly African American neighborhood that is rich with history and culture. The library is a hub of social, political and literary discussions. As the coordinator for the College and Career Connection, I create programming to help patrons attend college. These programs include FASFA Completion, Choosing a Major, or ACT Prep.
Mayor Greg Fischer honored Louisville’s national service members April 5th in the Mayor’s Gallery at Metro Hall. The small press conference was Louisville’s local event for Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service. Mayors and county officials across the nation hosted public events to thank AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members for serving their communities.
Five 55,000 Degrees VISTAs stood on stage as Mayor Fischer spoke about their positive impact on the city’s college-going culture. He also announced our initiative’s expansion to 36 VISTA members as we change from 55,000 Degrees to Cradle to Career. The new model will address further issues along the education and workforce pipeline.
In addition to the 55K VISTAs, Mayor Fischer recognized the Senior Corps and REACH Corps members in attendance. He highlighted the fact that more than 1,000 individuals volunteer in national service programs in Louisville.
Through my AmeriCorps Summer Associate VISTA experience, I was lucky enough to spend 10 weeks working in the Mayor’s Office for the Office for Safe and Healthy Neighborhoods (OSHN). This office works to reduce violence in the city of Louisville. One important component of violence reduction work is education. During my summer with AmeriCorps and OSHN, we partnered with Metro Parks and Recreation, and I helped implement a summer learning loss computer program into local community centers for kids to use a form of summer tutoring. I met regularly with kids to help them work through the program and served as a liaison between the mayor’s office and community centers. I worked closely with OSHN to help implement this summer program as well as further their violence prevention initiatives. I attended meetings surrounding their action plan implementation and data monitoring, as well as engaged in community outreach events. I saw first-hand how important and complex community violence reduction is and how great the need is for more public interest and engagement.
In January 2015, Mayor Fischer officially launched Cradle to Career to establish a systematic approach to eliminate barriers that interfere with lifelong learning and success. This system of integrated public and private services that begins in the early years and leads to post-secondary and career success will result in a skilled workforce and ensure all citizens have the opportunity to succeed. The Mayor’s Cradle to Career AmeriCorps VISTAs are placed at partner organizations directly connected to this pipeline in order to engage the community, strengthen cross pillar coordination, and assist with implementation of key projects and programs. Sites include the Louisville Free Public Library, Jefferson County Public Schools, 55,000 Degrees, Jefferson Community and Technical College, Louisville Metro Government, KentuckianaWorks, Louisville Urban League and more.
Many students who begin at the community college do so with the intention of transferring to a four-year university once they've completed their core credits. For them, the community college is a stepping stone to their bachelor's, master's, or doctorate degree. But when they transfer before earning their associate degree, they unknowingly become one of the students who "failed" to earn their degree according to state measures. For a long time, these students have been counted as stop outs at the community college, even as they go on to earn their higher credentials. If the student stops out of their university, they often end up without a credential, even after all of their hard work and academic excellence.