Vermont Youth Tomorrow AmeriCorps VISTA Program
VYT Voices Dear Readers: Inside this Issue: Callie Frey
workshops and presentations on Nonprofit Management, Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicators, Personal Goal Setting, Budgeting and Credit Building, Positive Youth Development, Grant Writing, Resource Development, Volunteer Management, Bridges out of Poverty, Navigating Difficult Conversations and more. Each of these workshops is facilitated by experienced individuals who are highly regarded in their field.
Vermont Youth Tomorrow A*VISTA Program (VYT) is very pleased to introduce to you the 2011-2012 VYT team. This year we have a 30 members serving at non-profit organizations, municipalities, and state agencies around Vermont. While some members are serving in communities where they already lived, many traveled from the distant corners of the U.S. to serve. We are thrilled that such committed and high caliber individuals chose to serve VerThis August, Vermont experienced the most mont‟s communities. destructive and costly storm in its history. In the wake of the devastation, our VISTA team The theme of this issue is ―What do you hope to assisted with ongoing flood relief efforts achieve during your year of service? Please enjoy managed by the Federal Emergency Managemeeting our new team and reading about their ment Agency (FEMA), Vermont Organizaaspirations to alleviate poverty. tions Assisting Disaster (VOAD), and Vermont Emergency Management: VYT memDuring my first few months serving as VISTA bers fielded 2-1-1 phone calls to help those in Leader, I„ve begun to develop relationships need; assisted those wishing to volunteer, and with our team members and I have been posi- created donation and volunteer databases. tively blown away by what they‟ve accomOn their own time, VISTAs helped their plished already. Many of our members are neighbors clear the rubble and clean out setting new records, such as the most volunhomes and businesses. Together, we contribteers recruited for an event, the most youth uted hundreds of service hours to help Verattending their programs and the best new op- monters in need. erational systems developed. This team is off I hope you enjoy this edition and I am lookto a fantastic start. ing forward to sharing with you our progress Throughout the year, we offer our members throughout the year. several opportunities for training and professional development. This year, we are offering Thank you, Jessica Engelke VYT A*VISTA Leader
Fall 2011 Edition
Callie Frey AmeriCorps VISTA Operation: Military Kids Burlington, VT For the 2011/2012 AmeriCorps VISTA term I will be serving my second year with the organization Operation: Military Kids (OMK) Vermont. OMK, coordinated by Uni-
stronger sustainable volunteer networks throughout the entire state. While volunteer management is a large focus of mine
versity of Vermont Extension 4-H, is a grant funded program it will not be the only hat I wear this year. I also will be dedesigned to bring community partners together in support of veloping youth programs alongside our AmeriCorps State local military children and youth. In collaboration with these member by writing grants to help with funding as well as aid community partners OMK offers educational, recreational,
in curriculum development. I will be playing a large role with
and support activities for kids to give them the opportunity to our public relations by advertising events through our webconnect with other youth in similar situations. Through these sites, creating event flyers and brochures, and maintaining positive experiences and connections, military kids are given
different listservs with event updates and quarterly newslet-
the tools they need to successfully navigate deployment.
ters. I will continue to travel throughout the state with our
Similar to last year, my position is the Volunteer and
State Coordinator to provide Ready, Set, Go! trainings cover-
Outreach Coordinator with OMK. While I primarily focused ing topics like military culture, the deployment cycle, homeon creating and enhancing our volunteer systems last year,
coming, media influences, stress, and coping strategies. Many
this year my focus will be shifting to implementing these sys- challenges lie ahead of me and I could not be more excited. I tems. We will be reaching out to a variety of organizations
am very honored to have the privilege of serving with OMK
and communities for potential partners and volunteers. By
the end of my service with OMK I hope to have helped build
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A Fond Farewell: While members of the 2011-2012 Vermont Youth Tomorrow VISTA team are making their way through the first quarter of their service, my AmeriCorps journey is now reaching its end. After two years as a VISTA member at Mobius, I am ready to embark on the next chapter of my life, and bid the Vermont AmeriCorps community a fond farewell. Being a part of the VYT program has been a terrific experience for me, and one that will undoubtedly help shape my future. I am so grateful for all that the VYT staff has done to provide me with support, professional development opportunities, and most importantly, a community of like-minded, service-driven individuals. It is this AmeriCorps community that I will miss most. I have been fortunate to meet so many caring, interesting people along the way, and I have learned so much from all of you. I‘m grateful too to my host site, Mobius, for putting me in a position to utilize my strengths and develop skills and experience that likely would not have been available to me in an entry-level job in the for-profit world. BeBenji Thurber cause my supervisors put me in a position to succeed, I AmeriCorps VISTA was able to build and expand our media outreach efforts Mobius, the Mentoring Movement and develop key relationships in the community. Because I stayed on in my position for a second year, I was Winooski, VT able to evaluate shortcomings in previous projects and use this knowledge to meaningfully expand on old projects, such as our mentor discount card, and develop successful new projects, such as our donor handout, new website, and recruitment postcards and brochures. I was also able to help improve relationships with members of our partner programs, and I am grateful for the many things I‘ve learned from all of the mentors and program staff I‘ve worked with over the past two years. Now that the continuity of my position ends, my final challenge is to pass on my knowledge and experiences to the 2011-2012 VISTA serving at Mobius. I have put systems into place, and her job will be to maintain and expand upon them moving forward. I hope that my legacy as a VISTA will be that I helped my organization succeed, but more importantly, that I set up those who came after me to build on my efforts and achieve even greater success. I‘m so thankful to everyone I‘ve worked with over the past two years. I appreciate the opportunity I‘ve had to serve the Vermont community, and I hope that I‘ve made the most of it.
Tavish MacLeod AmeriCorps VISTA VT Emergency Management Bristol, VT On Sunday August 28, Hurricane Irene smashed into Vermont, devastating a state which had already been inundated with early spring flooding. As I started my service, I had the opportunity to observe and work with some of the most dedicated and proud Vermonters as they rebuilt their state in the wake of the most devastating storm in Vermont‘s history. In my first week of service, I expanded beyond my initial scope as a VISTA for Vermont Emergency Management (VEM) to assist Bill Elwell with Vermont‘s Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD). VOAD is an organization of organizations which features groups such as the Salvation Army and the Red Cross and assists these groups in their preparation for and deployment during disasters. Bill, a volunteer chairman for VOAD, worked tirelessly during the May flooding in Northern Vermont and continued his work during and after Tropical Storm Irene. In addition to being a 20 year veteran of the Fire Department and a Methodist Pastor, Bill is now the ViceChair of the Vermont Long Term Recovery Committee, which is dispensing funds for those families devastated by the storm.
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mittees within the initial response and now long term recovery phase of Tropical Storm Irene. My role focuses on assisting Bill in VOAD operations including dispensing information to VOAD organizations as well as creating resources for these groups to use and recording information about their efforts after the storm. In addition to expanding VOAD‘s social media outreach, I am also assisting in the creation of a small exhibition table for the Vermont Emergency Management Conference in November. Additionally, I have been assisting the Donations Coordination team with their management of in -kind good donations for those recovering families.
Tropical Storm Irene‘s wake will ripple in Vermont for years to come. During my year of service, I plan on collaborating with these organizations to ensure that not only are affected families cared for but also to assist in planning and streamlining the disaster recovery process in Vermont. VOAD moved from a periphery group to an ensconced organization in Vermont and I plan to assist in strengthening the ability of the VOAD to respond to disasters. Bill and I will be reWithin the first month of my service, I traveled viewing how disaster response worked in Vermont on to different areas of the state to observe rebuilding efforts and served primarily out of the FEMA Joint Field local levels and what the VOAD and VEM can do to Office assisting in the expansion of Vermont‘s VOAD‘s augment the process in the event of another disaster. capacity. I am also serving with several different com-
Fall 2011 Edition
When I first started at Essex CHIPS, there was only ―Rocktober‖ in the teen center, and I‘ve really enjoyed making one thing on my mind: ―Wait, what? I get an office? As in my sure we get the most we can out of the activity budget; who own office, with a window and everything?‖ In the two knew geodes were so inexpensive? I‘m not usually one for months that have passed since then, I‘ve had a crash course on shopping, but looking for bulk deals on neon yellow duct tape financial management, learned what a 990 form was and scruti- has been entertaining. nized about 20 of them, done more research on the local area Though she may never hear it, I would like to send a than any reasonable person should ever do (did you know that giant thank you to the VISTA who preceded me at CHIPS. substance use amongst area 8th graders can as much as triple Her knack for organization and attention to detail in event after the transition to high school?), and attempted to attend a planning has been a blessing. I spent most of my first days meeting of pretty much every committee CHIPS runs (and sifting through her materials, and I really admire the dedication there are many). I have been trying to congeal the entirety of to getting everything documented. On that note, I a prethe invisible force for good that CHIPS is in almost everything emptive apology to my successor for labeling my files with that happens in Essex, Essex Junction, and Westford, into one names like ―researchy things,‖ ―assorted miscellany,‖ and digestible story. ―utter nonsense.‖ I swear, I‘ll clean that up for you. It‘s been interesting. In the meantime, I‘ve got video interviews with comWhile I had nearly no idea what I was doing outside munity members about what CHIPS means to them to set up! of the VISTA Assignment Description, I‘m glad to report that Hopefully, this will help our outreach efforts and increase trafthings are really coming together around fic on the organization‘s sites. I‘ve also got a here. We‘ve got four awesome National tree lighting ceremony, a quarterly report, a Julia Klas Service members here who are really dedigala, a giant theater project, a snow sculpture, a AmeriCorps VISTA cated to helping this organization be the board meeting, several birthdays, five grants, a best it can be. There‘s a positive energy data-driven sustainability plan, the holidays, Essex Chips around the office, and it shows in the and VYT training to plan for. Here it goes! Essex Junction, VT projects we‘ve already put together. It‘s
I am excited to spend a full year state or perhaps a different country! Heather Vendola I am looking forward to serving with people being a part of Essex CHIPS. CHIPS AmeriCorps VISTA in this community who want to be involved. stands for Community Helping to Inspire Essex Chips People to Succeed. CHIPS has been I am excited to learn more about the wonderEssex Junction, VT serving the towns of Essex, Essex Juncful community in which I serve through the tion, and Westford for the past 25 years! stories that are told by the community memIn order to be successful the organization is broken down bers. I also look forward to being involved with the various into two divisions of initiatives. Direct service initiatives are programs that Essex CHIPS provides. programs that serve the people in the community directly. One of these programs is the Tween/Teen Center. This is a Teens at Essex Chips Teen Center drop in center for 4th and 5th graders on Mondays, and 6-8th graders on Tuesdays-Thursdays. The prevention initiatives programs help raise awareness on how to lead a healthy lifestyle. One way Essex CHIPS has been involved was by being a contributing factor to the Essex Junction Five Corner‘s Farmers Market. As Volunteer/Service Learning Coordinator, I aspire to create fun and diverse volunteer opportunities for high school students. I would like some of the opportunities to be local and community based but also have opportunities outside of our immediate community. My goal this year would be to create an alternative spring break in a different
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Regan Wedenoja AmeriCorps VISTA Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition &
VT Commission to end Homelessness Burlington, VT It is hard to believe that I have been living and serving in Vermont for two months now. If someone had asked me this time last year if I would be living in Vermont I would have given them a very strange look. Entering into my senior year of college last year at Miami University in Ohio, I struggled with the common conundrum of, ―what do I do next?‖ At first I was under the assumption that more school would be the only way to go; that seemed like the easy and safe route. I was already on track to apply to law schools and just stay a student for another three years. It took conversations with friends, family, and mentors to see that I wanted an adventure; I wanted to use my skills in what was scarily referred to as the ―real world.‖ A professor of mine would always end a lecture or a meeting with, ―what will you do when you get to the world of action?‖ Action … a concept that, if I went straight to law school, I would be delaying another three years. I toyed with jobs in the private and public sector before I realized that a year off would be the ideal time to experience the environment of non-profits. This is when my older sister, an AmeriCorps City Year alumna, reminded me that I could take my ―action‖ into an AmeriCorps position and the VISTA program seamed ideal. After choosing to explore an Adventure in Vermont, far away from the safety of the Midwest, I fell onto the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition (VAHC) and the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH). These two organizations that focused on housing, an outlet that I planned to explore in law school, seemed to be a perfect fit. The VAHC is a non-profit coalition made up of affordable housing providers from around the state and is run by a Steering Committee consisting of members from the Burlington Housing Authority, COTS, the Vermont Center for Independent Living, Champlain Housing Trust,
Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, the Samaritan House, and the Addison County Community Trust. VAHC is working towards providing affordable housing (less than 30% of income spent on housing/ utilities) for all that need it. In addition to the VAHC, I also serve for the VCEH. The VCEH is a coalition in Vermont that is dedicated to homeless services. This coalition consists of many homeless service providers and is in support of the Continuum of Care. Both coalitions work together for a common goal of fair housing; they simply tackle the concept from different sides. I am serving as the Joint Communications and Outreach Director for both coalitions and will be working on separate events such as creating an educational exhibit on homelessness in Vermont to be showcased this January. I hope that throughout this year I will be able to help both coalitions begin to merge their resources and ideas together which has been a thought for both coalitions for a while. I am excited to continue this year as the A*VISTA for both organizations and am happy to say that after only two months I am beginning to become well versed on housing and homelessness in Vermont.
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When I started looking at AmeriCorps VISTA as an opportunity for this year I found myself drawn to the youth based options. This was a telling insight that supporting youth with their educational pursuits would play a big part in my future. I applied to the many sites whose objectives aligned with my passions and had clear links between the service opportunities and my career objectives. I accepted the VISTA position with The Stern Center for Language and Learning, which offers the added benefit of observing and participating in the inner workings of a successful mid-size nonprofit.
Nicole Campbell AmeriCorps VISTA The Stern Center for Language and Learning Williston, VT
everyone is part of team and every role is considered just as important as the next. For example, a Program Director or an Intake Counselor might be the one answering the phone if the receptionist is out. Also, while making the invitations for the Ribbon cutting ceremony, I was called upon to help the marketing program. I sat next to The Stern Center is a good example of a thriving the Head of Development and together we folded each nonprofit. An important factor contributing to this ob- and every letter into the envelope. It was gratifying to servation is that while continuously growing, working to know that I wasnâ€˜t just an extra person called upon to do a small task, but that we were working together side update existing programs and create more, the Stern by side towards the same goal. Center never loses track of its mission of helping children and adults reach their full potential, whether that As the ribbon cutting suggests, The Stern Center be through direct service, professional learning, or refor Language and Learning is starting the New Year off search. in a new facility in January. Although this new building is only a block away from the old, it will provide the There is always so much going on here at the prospect for growth for both me and the Stern Center. Stern Center that one may wonder how anyone ever keeps it straight. But they do! Their programs, whether it This move not only opens up more opportunities to be diagnostics, instruction, development, or marketing learn about how a non-profit can grow, but also proare all part of one cohesive system, working together to vides the chance to help the Stern Center adapt to their improve lives and sustain the Stern Center. I hope that I bigger and better facilities. I hope to play a part in bringam becoming an influential and beneficial piece of this ing this growth beyond just a bigger building and to help enhance programs and systems to better serve their clicomplex puzzle. In only two months of service I have learned so ents. I look forward to sharing this future in upcoming much about the inner workings of a non-profit. I have VYT newsletters. observed the evaluations and instruction with the students to get an idea of how the mission actually plays out. Also, I have had numerous opportunities to see how the different programs collaborate on a professional level. Most recently, I attended the Annual Board Meeting of the new fiscal year where the achievements were applauded; as well as how things could be made even better. I have learned about the infrastructure but also that even the seemingly small tasks, such as making sure all the pens at a benefit will work, is important to the future of a non-profit. What I love about the Stern Center is that even though everyone has his or her own duties and tasks,
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Malian farmers, I have come to appreciate a different way of life and the struggles of others through the generosity and resourcefulness of my Malian neighbors and friends.
Laura Schairbaum AmeriCorps VISTA Youth Agriculture Project Brattleboro, VT Livin‘ the Life – that‘s how I see myself in my current position at the Youth Agriculture Project. I‘ve followed a different sort of path to get to where I‘m at now, and I‘m hoping my job here will lead me to even bigger and better things in the world of farm-based education. Before I started at the UVM Extension 4-H‘s Youth Agriculture Project, I was finishing up my Master of Arts degree in Intercultural Service, Leadership, and Management at the SIT Graduate Institute (School for International Training) in Brattleboro, Vermont. While Intercultural Training was my focus there, my interest in farm-based education also related to my passion for global justice. When I graduated from Alma College in Michigan, I ventured out into the world (well, the US) to work on educational farms connected to the international development organization Heifer International. At their Learning Centers in California, Massachusetts, and Arkansas, I saw how education and awareness-raising about global hunger and poverty issues could really start the wheels turning in many peoples‘ minds and empower them to take action. Soon after this, I decided to join the Peace Corps, and I was off on another life-changing and eye-opening adventure in Mali, West Africa. While I was there, I lived in a rural farming community and worked with Malian counterparts to organize several workshops related to gardening, organizational leadership, and shea butter association management. I deeply value the relationships that I built there and the unique experiences I was able to have. It is true that before you can judge a man, you have to walk a mile in his shoes. While I can never truly walk in the shoes of
So here I am at the Youth Agriculture Project, and there is a lot I think I can do to help the organization meet its goals over the next year. My primary task is to promote a new agriculture-based youth development curriculum called Growing Skills: A Resource for Agriculture-Based Youth Development Programs. Since 2001, the Youth Agriculture Project has run the Summer Work and Learn program from its farm at the UVM Extension office in Brattleboro. This program serves at-risk and other youth by giving them hands-on experience in agriculture and job-skills development through workshops and working with the public. Based on their best practices over the years, the Youth Agriculture Project hopes to serve as a resource for others wanting to create positive experiences for youth in agriculture. Whether it is a single classroom lesson on farming or the creation of an agriculture-based youth development program, the Youth Agriculture Project and Growing Skills can enhance any educational program. In this effort, I hope my experience in agriculture, training, and experiential education will serve the Youth Agriculture Project in its mission ―to help young people build life and job skills through hands-on learning about food, nutrition and agriculture.‖ This year, I want to hone my training design and facilitation skills as I put together workshops for educators interested in using the Growing Skills curriculum. I also want to learn more about vegetable gardening, since I have more experience with the animal side of farming life. I feel lucky to be part of an ―agriculturally conscious‖ community in Brattleboro, and anticipate of lot of personal and professional learning over the next year serving at the UVM Extension 4-H Youth Agriculture Project.
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Vermont is in the midst of a housing crisis. In Chittenden County the rate of rental vacancies hovers around 1 percent of all apartments. The high rate of occupancy has served to drive up the market rate of housing to a level unaffordable to the county‘s population of low and moderate income residents. While there are a number of public, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations attempting to address this issue by providing affordable housing units to low income residents at a bellow market rate, the wait time to get into an affordable housing unit can often stretch into years.
they already have a residents associaJoshua Wronski tion. The Wharf AmeriCorps VISTA Lane Tenants AssoVT Affordable Housing Coalition ciation was formed Burlington, VT earlier this year when the developer who owned the property sought to sell, which could have led to the displacement of residents. Fortunately, the Burlington Housing Authority was able to purchase the property, insuring its perpetual affordability. Since then, residents have lost interest in the association and have not had an official meeting for 6 The Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition (VAHC) seeks to address the need of affordable housing by months. ensuring that all Vermonters have access to safe, decent, My first meeting went very well. I was able to sit down and affordable housing. As an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with 8 current and former residents and talk about what they the VAHC, I have been given the unique opportunity to would like to see happen with their residents association and in assist residents of affordable housing communities in the their housing community. I hope that over the course of my development of tenants associations—something the year of service I can help regenerate interest among residents in VAHC has never before engaged in. The purpose of orga- their Residents Association. I know that the year ahead will be nizing residents associations is to promote a greater and difficult; many members of the Wharf Lane community have more united community while giving residents a greater say never participated in anything like a residents association bein decisions that affect their homes. If successful these fore. Regardless of the challenges I will face, I am excited to resident associations will eventually be organized, led, and help create and participate in a vibrant residents association that sustained by residents of the community. is inclusive, representative, and effective in fostering a positive Two days ago I held my first residents meeting at community and gives all residents a say in decisions that affect Wharf Lane, an affordable housing community in the heart their homes. of Burlington‘s downtown. Wharf Lane is unique because
Lily Jacobson AmeriCorps VISTA The Willowell Foundation Monkton, VT I come to VYT and the Willowell Foundation in Monkton from Monterey, California. I grew up in Monterey and have also lived in western Massachusetts, Minnesota, Oregon, and Maine, with shorter stays in Alaska, Ireland, the U.K., and Pine Ridge-the Lakota Indian reservation in South Dakota. My most recent academic study, work, and service experiences are in ecological planning and design and sustainability education. My service at Willowell so far has mostly taken the forms of outreach, community relations, and supporting and facilitating programs.
Fall brings in another busy year at the Willowell Foundation. We are continuing to serve a diverse population of children, youth, and adults in Addison County, through workshops and school programs in environmental and arts education, and through putting produce from our garden onto cafeteria tables in a growing number of local public schools. The fall has had some major highlights already—workshops on food preservation, herbal medicine, and wildlife tracking; field trips of local elementary, high school, and college students to learn about the environment in our garden and forest, and help with our wetland restoration; the ongoing Walden Project, Willowell‘s full-time outdoor high school program; and the beginning of the second
year of the Ecology Club at Vergennes Elementary School, an ambitious group of fifth graders who hope to address their school‘s energy and stormwater management issues with Willowell‘s help. The year promises to be a full and interesting one!
Tomatillos in the Willowell farm to school garden.
Greetings! I would like to introduce myself and share my excitement to be a part of the VYT AmeriCorps VISTA program. I am serving with Community Friends Mentoring (CFM) at the Howard Center in Burlington, and have had a great experience so far. CFM supports the youth of Chittenden County by providing fun mentoring relationships with caring adult volunteers. Our program currently has around 75 active matches, where mentees and mentors get together weekly and spend time doing activities they both enjoy. I was drawn to the VISTA position at CMF because of my own experience as a mentor. In college, I had the opportunity to mentor at a local elementary school with fellow members of the track team. I joined the program expecting it to be little more than a fun weekly activity, and was surprised, as over time, I became closer and closer with my little sister. Our relationship grew as we moved past playing basketball in the gym with a large group, to study sessions, and spending time one-on-one after school. We
became true friends, and I found that my little sister often confided in me, and I was able to help her with her concerns. I truly believe that positive role models make a difference, and I am happy to be working for a program with a mission I so strongly support. Last month, I completed new mentor training, and was matched with a 9year old girl. We‘ve only met a few times, but we are both already having fun and I know that our outings are going to be very important to her. Though my time with my mentee is not part of my service, this time will help me to better serve the mentors of CMF, as I am now one too. I aim to use the insight I will gain as a mentor to help strengthen the program. I would like to build CFM‘s web presence to one that provides accessible resources for mentors, and relevant information for potential volunteers, donors and the greater community. I also hope to create a reliable database that will allow the program to efficiently keep track of mentoring matches, volunteers, donations, and program events and activities.
I am currently serving at the Linking Learning to Life (LLL) through the VYT VISTA program. This is my second year as a member, last year I served with the University of Vermont Extensions and 4H as an afterschool program coordinator with the Vermont Youth Development Corps AmeriCorps State Program. It was through that experience that I was able to discover LLL. I attended St. Lawrence University in upstate New York. In my four years I became very involved with the North Country community. I have found that in order for me to understand my community I need to give back to it. I became very involved in a mentoring program and it provided me with a deep understanding of the issues youth face in rural areas. I found myself profoundly interested in working with poverty, and it lead me to the AmeriCorps year of service. What influenced me to serve my second year with LLL is its mission. I believe that a well rounded education
Mary Herrmann AmeriCorps VISTA Linking Learning to Life Burlington, VT
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Kayla Schutte AmeriCorps VISTA The Howard Center Burlington, VT
should include experiential learning. What LLL provides is community-based learning that puts the students in the community and has them gain experience in the work force. The population I‘m serving is a very diverse one, and many will become first generation college students. I find it very important to help LLL assist these students and help them become successful. We provide services to schools that give students the unique opportunity to learn through an internship or job experience. LLL is working for a better youth of tomorrow by providing them with real life experiences that will take them beyond the classroom. In my year of service I hope to grow in many ways. I am currently co-teaching a class called Training Interns and Partnering for Success. In this class I offer pre-employment training and bring in community members to give job related presentations to the class. I‘m hoping to become not only an effective teacher, but a positive female role model as well. I‘m eager to develop community partners that want to help our interns reach success as well as grow long lasting relationships. I anticipate that in my year of service I am able to fight poverty by helping develop programming that sets youth up for success in their post-high school lives.
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Kelly Nolen AmeriCorps VISTA Washington County Youth Service Bureau Montpelier, VT About three years ago I was sitting in an office in midtown Manhattan: the location of one of the nation‘s leading event planning magazines. I had graduated that May and thought (no assumed) that this editorial internship would be my ―big break.‖ I would move to New York and work in the editorial department of one of the city‘s many famed magazines, newspapers or book publishers. Within a few weeks of starting my internship, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. Soon after, two of my co-workers were laid off and I sat in an office by myself. I can‘t recall the number of applications I have sent out of these last few years, resulting in only a handful of interviews. During this time I noticed that my interest in the corporate world decreased, and I began applying to organizations that promoted social change and community service. I was a temp, an intern, volunteer, babysitter and inventory taker. I was near my wit‘s end when a friend told me about AmeriCorps. It sounded like an adventure. After being unemployed for the last three years and living in a house with my parents, my brother, and my sister and her four children for the past two years…I was ready to pack my bags. Since my arrival in August to Vermont, every time I have mentioned to someone that I am a VISTA
serving the entire Washington County Youth Service Bureau, their eyes get a little wider and they respond with an ―Oh wow!‖ After encountering several of these reactions (especially during my first few days of service) I became pretty intimidated. After about two months at the Bureau, I think I‘m settling in fairly well. Although I still have skills to learn and technicalities to work out, I‘m adapting to the office culture, and really learning the ins and outs of youth service and the non-profit world. While serving here I will be tackling several new skills including volunteer recruitment/management and fundraising. I look forward to taking on these challenges and I am excited to prove myself in these areas. I am also excited to put to use the skills I have gained through my education and many volunteer and internship experiences. In addition to assisting with the creation of brochures, newsletters, and other marketing materials, I hope to help the Bureau increase its online presence through social networking and the development of a new website. I look forward to having what I hope will be a wonderful, rewarding year of service, and wish my fellow VYT VISTAs a wonderful year as well!
Kristy Willis AmeriCorps VISTA Youth Leadership Program University of VT Extension 4-H Morrisville, VT
Fall 2011 Edition
So follows my recipe for ―Anyone Can Lead a 4-H Leadership Program‖ (disclaimer: recipe is subject to change as more experience and knowledge is gathered) Total time: 6-8 months Yields: 1 Complete Guidebook Serves: Any literate 4-H Volunteer
After four years of working on the frontlines of what I call ‗America‘s War on Education,‘ I knew I would resign after my fifth year. It was a difficult decision because of prac- Ingredients: 6-8 months of 4-H knowledge tical reasons, like—having a job…health insurance was also a 6-8 months of youth leadership knowledge plus, my father constantly reminded me to ―hang in there‖ 6-8 months of understanding of local site because after Year Five, I would receive a HUGE break in 10 of each: books, articles, interviews *(adding as my school loans and also be vested in the NYC DOE system. much internet research as possible will only In the end, what made me stay, despite the challenges make the recipe better) educators face, was the love of teaching, and I had a dang 1 full cup of each: hope, desire, and fun good time doing it. All 7: 21st Century Skills (critical thinking, probIt was last spring when I applied for the AmeriCorps lem solving, leadership, communication, collaboVISTA position in Vermont—and it seemed like my pastoral ration/ teamwork, flexibility/ adaptability, and dream was meant to be because within a week and a half of innovation/ creativity) applying, I was hired. To say I was thrilled would be a gross 12 or more kids understatement. Thrilled I have remained while serving for UVM Extension‘s 4-H program located in Lamoille County. One of my tasks as a VISTA is to create a guidebook Preparation: 1. Combine both ―knowledges‖ into a bowl and to create a guidebook that in essence could be called ―Anyone beat thoroughly until mixture is smooth. Can Lead a 4-H Leadership Program!‖ The end product is to 2. Mix in half of the site understanding now and be an easy-to-read, easy- to-execute guide that has activities keep the rest for step 5. which will drastically improve the leadership skills of youth. 3. Chop the books and surveys until very fine and It might have helped if I had any idea what 4-H was all about tear the interviews and research into rough, me–horses, right? As well, if I didn‘t have an archaic concept of dium sized pieces and sauté, then keep to the leadership. However during my first few weeks my (amazing side. and very competent) supervisor plunked a pile of books on 4. Pour hope, desire and all the fun into the knowlmy desk and told me to get reading. I emerged with a much edge and understanding mixture and then add clearer definition of 4-H as well as a more precise idea of into a saucepan, bring to boiling and then let what youth leadership looked like. Thus, my reading, paired simmer. with her orientation and training, helped me to gain a better 5. At this point you will fold in the 21st century understanding of what I was truly supposed to do. skills until everything is blended into a gorgeous, bubbling mixture, when all is folded, stir in the rest of understanding. Wolcott youth & their Balloon Tower 6. Then combine all ingredients into a pan, bake under the sun, add a little rain and wait. 7. Stick a popsicle stick into the center of the pan. If stick comes out clean, sprinkle on kids (more if desired) and you are ready to serve. I have a clear vision that drives a serious mission, but truly, my goal for my sites‘ success is simple—to help the kids gain 21st century skills in the most fun and memorable way possible. I hope that by the end of the year, the kids will walk away as confident, self-aware, kind, and considerate youth leaders, remembering all the stupendously exciting, fun activities they got to do. If nothing else, they will have somehow internalized this message: I matter; I‘m wonderful; and teamwork is awesome?!
Fall 2011 Edition
Greetings from DREAMland! It‘s a wacky, wild place filled ment Director (PED) VISTA member with DREAM. As a with fun, care, costumes, and intention. It‘s hard to accurately de- PED, I am responsible for supporting the 5 different mentoring scribe DREAM in words; it is an organization that transcends the programs in Chittenden County in their efforts to befriend, guide, typical, but I will do my best to introduce DREAM and my role and enrich the lives of their wonderful mentees or, as some of within it. our mentors describe them, their ―tiny humans.‖ One of my focuses for this year is developing a volunAbout four years ago I was working as teer system for DREAM alums who work an experiential educator in New Hampshire Sarah Caliendo as ―Program Partner‘s‖ to assist the central when a friend of mine interviewed to be an AmeriCorps VISTA office in supporting programs. I am also AmeriCorps member with DREAM. Her reDREAM focusing on developing a system for our 3 ports were glowing, but one thing stuck out to programs out of UVM to collaborate more me: she said there was a slide in the office. A So. Burlington, VT effectively and use each other SLIDE IN THE OFFICE?!? I as resources. knew immediately that working for DREAM would be my own As I embark on my dream come true. second year of service with But DREAM is much more DREAM, it is easy to reflect than fun and slides. The DREAM back and identify countless Program is a mentoring organizaincredible ways that DREAM tion that pairs college students impacts participants. For many with children living in low income of our mentees, DREAM is housing communities. Currently one of the few things in their DREAM has 15 different mentorlives they can count on, and ing programs located across Vertheir mentor is one of their few mont and in Boston, and works consistent adult role models. with 12 different colleges and uniDREAMStock 2011 Through DREAM, kids are versities. Each program is run by offered amazing, enriching college student volunteers who plan and execute weekly group and experiences and are consistently challenged to expand their comone on one programming with their mentees, as well as occasional fort zone. Mentors encourage their mentees to DREAM big and longer trips to locations around New England and beyond (Lake believe in themselves, and then help connect kids to the reTahoe! Alaska! Canada!)! DREAM also operates a summer and winter camp in Fletcher, VT, where all DREAM kids ages 8 and up sources they need to be successful. DREAM is like a tsunami of are invited to attend free of cost. Additionally, DREAM provides goodness, and when it hits you, both child and adult, you end up soaked head to toe by a conviction that you CAN achieve your several inter-program opportunities to teens such as a teen retreat DREAMs! and teen college trip over the course of the year. I am currently serving a second year as a Program Empower-
Having just passed the one-month mark in my service at the Department for Children and Families, I'm starting to feel like things are coming together as I become acquainted with my colleagues, my fellow VISTAs, and the youth that I will be partnering with over the next year. A large part of my position in the Family Services Division is focused on youth outreach and youth governance activities. I also support youth leadership initiatives already in progress, both at the local level and State-wide. Youth Advisory Board meetings in particular provide an important opportunity for young people to connect and discuss the issues affecting their lives and work to create positive
change within the child welfare system. One of my goals for the upcoming year is to increase local board participation so that each district in Vermont has a functioning Youth Advisory Board, and each board is able to send representatives to state-wide meetings. In order to be involved in these exciting initiatives, I travel to each of Vermont's twelve districts to meet with every local board, its members, and its community partners. Over the next year I'm sure I'll get to know those districts well, but at the moment many of them are little more than names on a map. Since I have yet to install a GPS in my car and am still a smart phone holdout, navigating my way to various
Quinn Lockwood AmeriCorps VISTA Department for Children and Families
Essex Jct., VT
meetings around the state has proved challenging at times, to say the least. I've had great success relying on the extremely detailed directions of pharmacy employees and gas station attendants, and other kind Vermonters who always seem able to get me pointed back in the right direction. The upside of all this wandering is that almost every time I find myself off the beaten path, the landscape is usually postcard-worthy.
Moving from a Caroline Simpson service site in Texas AmeriCorps VISTA to a service site in Kellogg–Hubbard Library Vermont with only a three week hiatus in Montpelier, VT between created a whirlwind of planning, packing, and goodbyes. It was very difficult to leave the friends I had grown to love in Texas. Landscapes, climates and bumper sticker mantras slowly changed as I drove across the country. The abstract idea of serving in a public library in Vermont energized me as I planned the move and accustomed myself to the notion of living above the Mason Dixon line. I assist my supervisors in two areas: Outreach Services and Adult Programming and Development. Outreach is exciting because it is all about getting books out of the library and into the hands of those that cannot easily access the library. Outreach has a modicum of resources so it greatly relies on steadfast volunteers that take books to daycares, community lunches, and other groups in Montpelier, Berlin, Calais, East Montpelier, Middlesex, and Worcester. We meet with new groups that would like to receive Outreach services and think creatively about how to meet their needs and the volunteer‘s needs. I spend most of my time on Adult programs and Development which keeps me very busy with evening events and preparations
Hannah Valian AmeriCorps VISTA Big-Picture South Burlington I have spent most of my adult life testing the boundaries of commitment. Perhaps it is out of boredom, maybe it‘s a fear of settling, but I have yet to commit more than two years of my adult life to any one place or path. Since graduating high school I‘ve lived in six different cities and attended three different colleges. As my college graduation date finally appeared on the horizon, I began planning for yet another new adventure. VISTA fell at the top of my post graduation plans. In August I moved away from my home state of Colorado to begin my service at the Big Picture School at South Burlington High School (BPSB). A school within a school, BPSB provides students an alternate path to graduation. It is a program where students are given the opportunity to design their own learning plans based on their interests. They are asked to study what they‘re passionate about, an experience that allows students to take control of their education. Students work closely with an advisor, counselor, and often times a mentor to design a learning plan that they are excited about. Big Picture learning is a similar educational model to the one I ex-
Fall 2011 Edition
for Evening at the Library (one of our biggest fundraisers). Kellogg-Hubbard offers such a robust schedule of adult programs: one patron told me he calls the library ―Kellogg-Hubbard University,‖ because he attends the programs weekly and there is a constant stream of quality speakers and topics. All free and open to the public! I serve with the library at an interesting time in its history as it faces an ever-changing technology scene and a struggling economy. However, these challenges do not overshadow the library‘s bustling patronage and multifarious programming. The patrons and staff inspire me with their love for the library. Since I have been here, there has been a growing interest in how technology can help the library reach more people and increase services. Among my other projects, I hope I can play an important role by being here when they need someone to spend time with some of these new tech. tools. The library is a vital part of the community and I am excited about everything I will learn this year.
perienced in high school. It was an experience that saved me from the horrific social isolation I experienced while attending a huge public school my freshman year. When the staff at BPSB chose me for their VISTA position, I was overwhelmed with excitement. This was my chance to give back to an experience that was so pivotal to the person I‘ve become. When I began my service with the BPSB staff, I felt inspired and excited to be a part of something so important. It was a euphoric state that died quite suddenly on the first day of school. On that first day of classes I found myself occupying the bridge between student and teacher— a place no one was sure how to approach. I was both terrified of the students and clueless about how to interact with them. Suddenly, I was transported back in time, through valuable experience and progress, to be dropped off in the tumultuous world of teenage angst. Once again I was a high school freshman, faced with the task of finding a space to exist in a community I didn‘t know or even understand. I was overwhelmed by the sudden invasion of 24 new faces into my life. There they were, all at once, surrounding me, while we all wondered why I was there. I found myself sitting silently in the corner, absorbing their different personalities and learning styles while my energy levels depleted. I
was overcome by a whole new level of appreciation for every teacher who has ever devoted to educating others. In the weeks that followed I have slowly become more comfortable in my role at BPSB. Although my social world seems to belong mostly to one room full of 24 youth, I have accepted that this is the space I will grow and learn the most over the next year. I‘ve begun to recognize my strengths as an educator and found value in my abilities to share them. I have come to accept my role here as a kind of mentor, a role model, and a supportive and dedicated member of an innovative path to learning. I think it‘s safe to assume I‘m learning more from the students than they‘ve learned from me thus far. But as I move forward in my service, I hope that the bridge I've created between student and teacher will grow into an important part of what inspires these students to be life long learners.
Fall 2011 Edition
―There's no use trying,‖ Alice said. ―One can't believe impossible things.‖ ―I daresay you haven't had much practice,‖ said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.‖ DREAM encourages kids to imagine things that they never thought possible; not outlandish things, but just small things that a kid from a low-income housing project might deem unattainable. The DREAM Program‘s mission is to build communities of families and college students that empower children from disadvantaged circumstances to recognize their options, make informed decisions, and achieve their dreams. DREAM pairs college student mentors from 12 colleges and universities throughout Vermont and in the Boston area, with kids from 17 different low-income housing neighborhoods. College students are empowered to design their own program that works for their specific group of students. Typically mentors meet once a week to plan an activity to do with their mentees. This can be either a one-on-one or group activity. Then, later in the week, mentors go and pick up the kids from their housing development and the fun begins! Some great highlights so far this year from my programs have included a big chili cook-off and a super fun karaoke dance party. As one of two VISTAs at DREAM, I serve as a Program Empowerment Director. My role is to provide support to three different DREAM programs. I serve Castleton State College, which is paired with the
Forest Park development in Rutland; Bennington College, which is paired with the Willowbrook development in Bennington; and Green Mountain College, which is paired with the Poultney Development. Though I don‘t get to spend much time with the kids, I am an asset to the mentors and help them keep on track with their programs. For this year of service I am looking forward to getting to know the mentors and mentees in my three programs. I think these relationships are going to be the most rewarding part of my position. DREAM is so much more than just a mentoring organization; it‘s a wacky group of passionate people. I Britt Wedenoja hope by the end of my year of AmeriCorps VISTA service I can say that I‘m just as DREAM wacky and passionate.
Jessica Avison AmeriCorps VISTA Mobius, The Mentoring Movement Winooski, VT I am an AmeriCorps VISTA serving with Mobius, a youth mentoring partnership in Winooski, Vermont. Mobius partners with 14 youth mentoring organizations in Chittenden County; it provides program support through training, recruiting, allocating funds, and public awareness in order to create a culture of mentoring in our community. I work mostly with public awareness, and serve to enhance the culture of mentoring through local papers, television, social media, our website and newsletter. Originally from Maryland, I studied Studio Art and Environmental Studied at The University of Vermont. Throughout my studies in Burlington I have harbored im-
mense appreciation for non-profits and wish to bring marketing, promotion, and branding techniques to non-profits who seek to get their voices heard. Just like for-profits, not forprofit organizations must sell their ideals, their visions, and their way of life in order to obtain financial stability and thus grow and flourish. This year I plan to get significant press and media attention for mentoring, as well as advocate for youth in Chittenden County. Outside of VISTA, I enjoy brewing, gardening, hula hooping, and long bike rides along the lake. You can often find me attached to a cup of coffee, roaming around town, or down by the beach.
I hail from the mountains of North Carolina, where I grew up, spent thirteen years of my life in public schools and then five more at Appalachian State University—you may recall our claim to fame for the 2007 defeat of Michigan‘s football team. I love the small-town feel and the comfort of home; I‘m extremely close to my family and core of friends. This paired with a restless, curious spirit and a passion for traveling creates quite the paradoxical existence. That I am here, I consider one of my greatest accomplishments. I am serving at the Washington County Youth Service Bureau, located in the smallest capital in the country. I am capacity building for the Basement Teen Center in Montpelier—serves youth ages 1318, and Barre CityScape afterschool program—serves youth fifth-eighth grade. For each program I am responsible for resource development, and volunteer coordination. For CityScape, I am developing the volunteer system, community outreach, and some curriculum.
Fall 2011 Edition
workers, I had accomplished my first trip out of the country and I had crested that mountain of impossibility; I could go anywhere and do anything that I have a passion for. This led to another ―what next?‖
Burnt out on school, I took a semester off during which I waited tables and half-heartedly applied for jobs; I was really taking a spiritual breather. I began looking into options that would take my passions outside of Boone, NC. Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, Global Ministries, WWOOFing, just taking off and ending up somewhere, Casey Leigh anywhere…they were all considered. I AmeriCorps VISTA had my AmeriCorps and Peace Corps applications all filled out and sitting in Basement Teen Center & CityScape anticipation. They collected dust for Montpelier, VT another year or so. I went back to school to finish my final two semesters and swore off grad school. I found a job for the summer and planned to be out of Boone by August but plans fell through; I was back in restaurants. January became my next deadline…then April…this is how my life tends to go; again, an accomplishment that I‘m here.
While my (progressive) parents taught me to say please, thank you, and sorry, they also inspired me to be civically engaged and care about my surroundings. When I was fourteen, my family became part of a group of founding members of our local chapter of the United Church of Christ. I was an awkward teenager making my way through high school and just so happened to find a passion in traveling and social justice through service trips. This track led me to stay in my hometown for college, spend an extra year trying to figure out ―what next,‖ and settle on Social Work as my major because it seemed most practical. After a trip to Costa Rica with twelve other aspiring social
Hannah Snyder AmeriCorps VISTA enVision Montpelier I‘ve always enjoyed working within my community, and serving enVision Montpelier is a great opportunity to get involved with a very unique city. I was raised in Illinois and recently graduated from the University of Indianapolis with a degree in international business. I have interned with various organizations, but none of them have had the unique ideas and people that I have found in Montpelier. I‘m looking forward to learning more about my new hometown, even during this coming bone-chilling Vermont winter!
So after revamping my applications and resume, I decided that I would get an AmeriCorps position and that I‘d end up on the West coast or in Colorado…and here I am… one of the last places I expected to be: in a town on the opposite end of the country that‘s even smaller than Boone and probably has less diversity; a super progressive state with one of, if not the best VISTA programs in the country, and serving two programs at a really wonderful agency. I am now doing something that is soulfully fulfilling and I‘m finally being challenged well beyond my comfort zone to do more than I‘ve ever been held responsible for.
Growing, moving, storing, purchasing, and promoting local food access throughout Washington County and Montpelier has encompassed much of our work in the first quarter. Serving the Central Vermont Food Systems Council, we helped promote the Third Annual Growing Local Fest in Montpelier. With workshops on using local food in innovative ways, Vermontbased bands, and a flash mob, it was an inspiring event for the local community. The event drew over 600 people, and raised money for the Garden in Every Washington County School initiative. Over the past few weeks, we have been encouraged by the progress made at school gardens across central Vermont and are excited to help these educators make school gardens a crosscurriculum tool. We have also discussed food storage with neighborhood leaders in order to help prepare Montpelier for potential emergencies. In addition to discussing food storage, our meetings with CAN! (Capital Area Neighborhoods) leaders have encompassed disaster preparedness and public participation in the City‘s rezoning initiative. CAN! leaders
Fall 2011 Edition
When I graduated from college, I rebelled against the life that was planned out for me: I bought a kayak, broke up with my boyfriend, and moved into my van. I emerged from my college student cocoon an itinerant intellectual hobo. While paddling up and down the East Coast, West Coast, and in Mexico, I earned money as a professional River Goddess and paid my Donna Kohut way through a masAmeriCorps VISTA ter‘s in Women‘s HisThe City of Winooski tory. But my wanderlust wouldn‘t quit, and I found myself teaching in Arches National Park, learning dry stone masonry in Yosemite‘s backcountry, and sleeping under creosote in the Mojave. Rescued from the desert by a friend, I spent the last year on the majestic North Coast of California – unemployed and going bonkers. Most folks have a romantic view of the vagabond lifestyle. And while mine was filled with sleeping in the moonlight, roadtripping across the country, and bathing in rivers, I eventually lost my sense of purpose. One day I went for a solo hike among the Redwoods, trying to sort things out in my head. For no particular reason, I just decided to leave the West Coast. It just felt
right. Once I opened up my job search to New England, the energy in my life shifted. I was stagnant in California, desperately trying to process all I experienced working in small communities in the wilderness. I realized that when I immersed myself in nature, I was challenged physically and emotionally – my work was selfish in that way. It gave me tunnel vision. I longed for something more. Moving to a different state, community, and ecosystem every few months is fun. Every day is an adventure. It is a challenge to discover how little one needs to get along in life. But it can also be isolating. I knew it was time for me to come to Winooski not only because I was interested in the work, but because I was ready to settle down and become part of a community. I was ready to look outside of myself and participate in society again. I knew I belonged in Winooski after the first interview I had with my supervisor. I immediately felt comfortable talking with him. Winooski is considered the Brooklyn of Burlington, and I love Brooklyn. I could not believe that I would have the opportunity to spear-head the Girls Only! program. My biggest fear I had was wearing office appropriate attire. I learned a lot those years on the road and in the wild, experimenting with concepts of community, communication, and work. There are some experiences from which I continue to heal and reflect upon. What excites me about my year of service is that I have the opportunity to apply what I learned on these adventures. As it turns out, the ability to go with the flow on the river applies just as well to the fast-paced office life in Winooski City Hall.
decided to partner with the Planning and Community Development Department on the inaugural Neighborhoods Day, a city-wide event on November 19th. Our role is critical in ensuring the event has wide appeal and reaches broad ranks of Montpelier‘s citizens. The three topics for Neighborhoods Day are—food security; emergency preparedness; and rezoning. We hope to facilitate the conversation between citizens of Montpelier and appropriate city staff in those three areas and relevance to safety and quality of life. Following the city-wide event, we will work with CAN! leaders as they continue the conversation on the neighborhood level, sharing helpful and pertinent information as winter sets in and before potential spring flooding.
Scott Humphrey AmeriCorps VISTA enVision Montpelier I graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2010, where I pursued degrees in Political Science and Spanish. Upon graduation, I moved to Seguin, Texas where I served my first AmeriCorps VISTA year with Teatro De Artes De Juan Seguin. Currently serving with enVision Montpelier has been an enlightening experience replete with engaging projects that embrace the unique diversity of Montpelier. My work would be incomplete were it not for the support of my amazing co-VISTA, Hannah Snyder. Together we fight poverty on a daily basis and get things done!
Greetings from the Forest! I am the VYT VISTA serving with Montpelier Parks, which includes two 190+ acre public parks. The parks are full of pine, oak, hemlock trees and more; it is home to a diverse habitat of other plants and animals. The primary park which many people frequent is Hubbard Park; has accessible trails from behind the State House, Winter Street, and the North Branch Park. There are over 10 miles of hiking trails in Hubbard Park and 6 miles of hiking trails in the North Branch Park. The public can also enjoy cross-country skiing, bird watching, dog walking and picnics in the area, where there are numerous benches. My first 2 months as a VISTA have been hectic and there is never a dull moment. Right away I was thrown into a busy system where one has to be prepared for everything, whether it be a lot of volunteers to supervise or a doomed muffler on a truck. I have worked with department of labor trainees, court diversion programs, paroled individuals, 4th grade class trips, and most recently, the River Rock school on Barre Street has started an educational experiment involving invasive plants in the North Branch Park. One of my long term goals for the Park is to improve the community garden system throughout Montpelier. That means maintaining and implementing growth of the existing ones and finding areas where more can be created. I‘ve made several strategic moves to carry out this goal. I‘ve contacted the Montpelier Capital Area Neighborhoods leaders and an individual, Joseph Ferris, from Apple Corps. There is a plot of land owned by National Life about ¾ mile up Northfield Street that hopefully can be transformed into a thriving community garden. It is in the very early stages, but I am excited and confident about its potential. I‘ve also made it a point to attend a Conservation Commission meeting and will proceed making important contacts within its system.
Jessica Johnson AmeriCorps VISTA Franklin Grand Isle Bookmobile Swanton, VT
Transitioning to life in Vermont and my new position as an AmeriCorps VISTA wasn‘t easy, to say the least. Driving out from California was a wondrous adventure, to be sure, but arriving and settling in to the state that was to be my home for the next year was no walk in the park. It turned out the vacancy rate for housing in Burlington, VT hovers around an astonishing 1% - and finding a suitable place on a budget can be nothing short of agonizing. Now that it‘s been 2 months things have settled down, and I couldn‘t be happier. I‘m extremely grateful for the support and kindness of my fellow VYT VISTAs who extended helping hands to me when I was in need. I really couldn‘t have pulled through otherwise. Despite my struggles, I know many other VISTAs haven‘t had the smoothest start to their service years either. The literal whirlwind of Hurricane Irene affected
Fall 2011 Edition
For the past few weeks I have been engrossed in promoting and organizing an event called ―The Enchanted Forest,‖ which is geared toward younger children and families. The event will have hayrides, story-telling, singing and volunteers dressed up in woodland creature outfits. I will be swinging from the trees in a ―Green Man‖ costume. The organization has been a little chaotic as we started planning it only a month in advance, and my supervisor Geoff Beyer says that this is the latest the Parks has ever started the preparation. However, in the last few weeks I‘ve managed to print tickets, hand out posters, create promotional devices, assign volunteers and procure pumpkins. It will be October 22nd and I am very excited for it; it is a fundraiser for storm damage in the Parks and Tower Restoration. Within the year, I hope to make a positive impact on the youth that come through the Park system looking to improve their situation. I would like to serve as a positive role model and someone who can provide support and a strong reference for future jobs. I plan on maintaining the system so people can continue to enjoy the park free of charge. One other major goal I hope to achieve is the Community Garden Park Initiative and increase the number of gardens in Montpelier, so people can have a place to grow fresh produce in an effort to become self reliant and promote sustainability. It is also a great hobby and educational opportunity. Until next time, So long from the Forest.
Greg White AmeriCorps VISTA Montpelier Parks Montpelier, VT
many Vermonters and many of us too. I‘m continually amazed, not only at my resiliency and that of my fellow VISTAs to pull through hard times, but also at the resolve of people in this small state. The Franklin Grand Isle Bookmobile had its first fundraising event of my year with them, our 3rd Annual Cake Auction, on Sept 18th. It was so rewarding to work on this event and get to know my other team members and my community, and to savor the sweet success of raising over $1,000 to promote early childhood literacy in the small rural communities of Northwest Vermont. Many other projects are in the works and I‘m finally shaking off my newbie nervousness and digging in to the challenge of resource development for a very small non-profit (with only 2 full time and one part time staff sans AmeriCorps members). I‘m finally putting on the rubber gloves, buckling down and ready to get scrubbin‘! Despite my rough start, I feel prepared now to really get things done for this disadvantaged community. I am especially grateful to be serving alongside AmeriCorps State member, Karyn Norwood, as we work together to provide exciting after school programming, fulfilling song and story-time
Fall 2011 Edition
Ryan Stratton AmeriCorps VISTA In-Sight Photography Brattleboro, VT
sponsibility of local photographers to document what made their community Because the In-Sight Photogra- important—famous buildings, county fairs, parades. These photographers phy Project provides affordable photography education to youth in Wind- also saw the necessity to document Although Brattleboro has largely ham County and because the organiza- things that are not the causes of celebration in their communities, such as recovered, the flooding that we and the tion has had so many participants in rest of Vermont experienced this August the area, it was not long before photo- fires, floods, or log jams. There was a has left me contemplative about the ways graphs of the damage were posted on desire to document these events just in which such an event has affected our Facebook, many coming from former the same. In the 1927 flooding, and community, how my new role as a VISTA and current In-Sight participants. The even in the 1869 flooding, as photograin this community relates to this event, desire to catalog the phenomenon and phy was a newly developing technology, not only were photographs and the use of photography as a made but they were often made means for communication and directly onto paper with postcoming to terms with disaster. card stampings on the back. Each morning, on the walk to my People would send a postcard site, I pass over the Whetstone depicting one of these disasters Brook, the culprit of the flooding to family members simply inin downtown Brattleboro this forming them that such a thing year, and I am awed by its calmhad happened and that they had ness, now knowing its full potensurvived. This act of sharing tial to escape our control. Nearly images allowed community two months ago, this unassuming members to collectively cope brook breached its bank and overwith the damage to the larger took Flat Street, sparing the community. (fortunately raised) In-Sight Photography Project by a few inches but distribute the images to friends and I can only hope that, through claiming many businesses, non-profits, family seemed to be an act of observ- my position as a VISTA at the In-Sight and homes as its victims. As my cowork- ing, sharing and coping. Photography Project, that I can work ers and I watched the news flow in online meaningfully toward building a Something that these young at a coffee shop that Monday morning, I stronger and wider-reaching program. photographers may not realize, howwas constantly reminded of the impact It is our hope that, with the skills in ever, is that photography has a long that images have on our internalization of relationship with disasters in local com- artistic expression and communication events. Even though I was just a block that our participants learn, youth who munities. Back when only a few camaway from most of the damage, I was both can make photographs which are ineras existed in a town, it was the rescouring the news sites for images of our our own unique ways this year. I‘m learning that in this position I will be able to leave my own signature on the bookmobile, now and for years to come. All said, I know I have a lot to learn this year - I‘m reminded of this every day, but I can‘t help feeling that the worst is behind me and that soon I will really to spread my wings and put the rubber to the road for childhood literacy at the FGI Bookmobile!
suffering little town and rapidly consuming images of other towns.
activities and other events for children. We‘re also looking into grants for future programs and planning even more promising fundraising events. It is both daunting and exciting to be able to take the reigns ourselves and shape the FGI Bookmobile in
Fall 2011 Edition
my time to volunteer for the flood relief behind the scenes. I spent quite a few days fielding 2-1-1 calls and inputting Department for Children and Families information from Flood Damage forms. I also had the opportunity to attend sevEssex Jct., VT eral conferences and meetings that My first two calendar weeks at the DCF helped me to build my understanding of were wonderful. In my first conversation the Human Services culture, as well as to with my supervisor, it was stressed to me continue acclimating myself to the comthat it is not the Department of Children munity even while serving from home. and Families, but for Children and Families, because all of the work that is done Now in the sixth week after Irene, I am should be done for the children‘s benefit. writing this article on my first day back in I felt so welcomed into the community; an office, at a real desk! Everyone is geteveryone was very friendly and went out ting settled back into a routine, and I am beyond excited to be able to throw myof their way to include me in projects, chat with me, and let me eat lunch with self completely into the rest of my year of service. As my VISTA Assignment Dethem. I had my desk all set up and homey and was starting to get into a rou- scription states, my role at DCF centers on the use of the Northeast Caribbean tine…. Implementation Center (NCIC, in the (Cue the sob story) acronym-laden world of DCF) Grant, out of Maine‘s Muskie Center. I am asThen Tropical Storm Irene came on through, and along with horrible devasta- sisting in policy and research development to eventually improve social work tion across Vermont, the little touristy practice at the state level, as well as intown of Waterbury was also ravaged. Right in the middle was the State Offices crease family and youth engagement in Complex, where DCF was housed, and the use of the grant funds to improve that building is now destroyed and out of practice guidance and greater system collaboration. For the next ten months, I am commission indefinitely. Irene put a stop to my lovely new routine, as well as going to have a direct impact in the number of youth participating in youth govto the routine of the over 1,600 DCF ernance activities, as well as in the numemployees. The next few weeks were very chaotic. I was able to use some of ber of families providing their input in
Rebecca Angeloff AmeriCorps VISTA
the improvement of practice guidance. If I can also develop a system for social media to be used to consistently build family involvement when VISTA members transition in and out, I will feel that I have been successful. All the work that I will be doing for the next year has the goal of increased permanency for Vermont‘s child and youth population. My younger brother was adopted when he was 15 months old. Last weekend I went home to Connecticut for a wedding and got to spend a few days with him – and he has grown so much since I last saw him! He learned how to play my favorite Beatle‘s song on the bass (Ob-La -Di, Ob-La-Da) and he was so excited to show me. Hanging out in the living room with my family, it occurred to me how safe all of us are. We have that sense of belonging – a state of mind, a confidence that no matter what, you have someone in your life who will miss you when you don‘t show up. This is what permanency is, so much more than a permanent place to live, and this is the driving force behind my service. Improving the way social work is done, and amplifying the voice that the youth have in that work, can only better the system! I am thrilled to be doing anything to contribute to permanency being achieved by more children and youth.
My name is Cara Melbourne, Illinois-born, and I was on the search for an adventure. Luck was with me, and now I am here, on an adventure. I am serving at The Collaborative in Londonderry, Vermont, and it has been exciting. Right away I was assigned projects and had to move around in this new community. Everyday is slightly different from the last. I am working with Vermont Kids Against Tobacco, The Collaborative‘s Mentor program, the community garden, and the Refuse to Use program.
Cara Melbourne AmeriCorps VISTA The Collaborative Londonderry, VT
If I learn nothing else this year, I will take away the skills and the desire to be a positive, active member of my community and the knowledge of the importance of such a role. So I am here, on my adventure, and like all good adventures, I had to jump in the deep in, feet first. It‘s a good thing I like to swim.
Fall 2011 Edition
VYT 2010-2011 Team At-a-Glance Accomplishments:
“The 2010-2011 VYT Team was tremendously successful. The program exceeded all of its performance measures.”
Together, VYT members during the 2010-2011 service year: Procured more than $635,662 in cash and in-kind donations Developed over 792 public relations tools Created or enhanced 295 operations systems Collaborated with 185 community groups Served 6,924 youth directly and another 51,507 indirectly Implemented 36 community service projects in which 951 people participated Recruited and/or managed 1,738 community volunteers and mentors who gave
8,821 hours of service Gave 185 presentations to community groups and reached a total of 4,539 people Developed or enhanced 200 program curricula benefiting 7,482 individuals
100% percent of the members on last year’s team are employed, in school, or reenrolled in service.
Vermont Youth Tomorrow A*VISTA Program P.O. Box 627 / 38 Elm Street Montpelier, VT 05601-0627 Phone: 802-229-9151 Fax: 802-229-2508 Contact us: Program Director: M. Kadie Schaeffer VYT.VYDC@gmail.com Assistant Directors: Meghan Jaird email@example.com Luong Huynh firstname.lastname@example.org Member Support Coordinator: Lauren Pyatt email@example.com AmeriCorps VISTA Leader: Jessi Engelke VYT.VISTALeader@gmail.com The opinions expressed in the articles in this newsletter belong to the individual writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the site where the VISTA serves, Vermont Youth Tomorrow, the Washington County Youth Service Bureau, the Boys and Girls Club, SerVermont or CNCS.