One could argue that there has never been a more important time to become an AmeriCorps *VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America). VISTAs are individuals who dedicate a year of their life to eradicating poverty—these volunteers pledge to “get things done for America.” As poverty and unemployment rates have climbed sky-high nationwide, VISTAs have worked diligently to create effective, sustainable programming to stem these crises and strengthen communities. As Michigan Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTAs, our work is particularly vital to a state with the nation’s largest joblessness rate. MCC *VISTAs are placed on college and university campuses across the state of Michigan in order to provide indirect service by building the capacity of the campus to connect to the community in which it belongs. This is an enormous need for Michigan—post-secondary training will be essential for Michiganders to return to the work force. Allying higher education institutions with their communities helps individuals to see college as a possibility and view these campuses as important members of their neighborhoods.
As large of a task as this seems, this year’s Michigan Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTAs are up to the challenge. On July 26, our group of 21 VISTAs flew to Boston, MA to participate in a Pre-Service Orientation on the campus of Northeastern University. Alongside the Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut Campus Compact VISTAs, the 09-10 MCC *VISTA cohort learned the principles and foundations of service-learning, explored the assets of Boston’s many diverse communities, participated in civic reflection, honed their leadership skills and gained knowledge that will prepare them for the year ahead. This Pre-Service Orientation was very valuable for all of us. We gained Campus Compact-specific skills that will aid us all in the year ahead as we strive to create and expand programming to end poverty in the communities where we live and serve. We also grew to know, respect, and like each other–integral aspects of succeeding in the critical and often challenging work that we do across the state.
This is my second year as a Michigan Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTA, and my first as *VISTA Leader. I am thrilled to resource, train, and support the 09-10 cohort of MCC *VISTAs. Our group is passionate, intelligent and deeply dedicated to both the mission of the VISTA program, eradicating poverty, as well as the mission of Michigan Campus Compact. MCC VISTAs are placed on 18 diverse campuses across Michigan; they serve at both public and private, and 2 year and 4 year institutions. On these campuses, our VISTAs serve as the on-the-ground presence of Michigan Campus Compact: doing the daily work of building civic and community engagement into campus and academic life through college access initiatives, alternative breaks, service learning courses and programs, days of service and countless other projects and programs. We are taking up the task of rebuilding Michigan, and not a moment too soon—Michigan Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTAs are “getting things done.”
Submitted by Amber Toth. Amber is a 2008 graduate of Michigan State University. She is serving as the Michigan Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTA leader, coordinating MCC VISTAs in their work with students and community partners on Michigan college campuses. Prior to becoming VISTA leader, Amber served as an MCC VISTA on the campus of the University of Michigan-Dearborn connecting campus to community through service-learning.