Guest Blog Post by Val Callaway, AmeriCorps VISTA Leader for the Flagstaff STEM Education Project
It is AmeriCorps week! Time to celebrate all things AmeriCorps! From its thousands of host sites to all its amazing members “Getting Things Done!”, AmeriCorps works to build stronger communities, alleviate poverty, respond to disasters, and create healthy futures.
Since its inception in the 1960s, VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) has been working on the alleviation of poverty in the U.S. After joining the overarching AmeriCorps program in the 90s, VISTA has continued to grow and develop a rich history and culture of service, caring, dedication, and community.
Here in the greater Flagstaff community, there are currently 14 VISTAs serving at various locations. These VISTAs commit to a year of fulltime service at their host site where they focus on building capacity to increase the overall academic performance and well-being of under-served youth populations. These VISTAs are highly skilled and extremely talented. Working on different projects, tied together with a common goal (STEM VISTA Education Project), these VISTAs have increased opportunities for youth to engage in STEM activities and have paved new paths to STEM inspired careers.
Flagstaff is STEM City! Let’s take a glimpse at what just a few of these amazing VISTAs having been doing around town!
VISTAs Sally and Julia currently are working with Grand Canyon Trust to complete grant applications and present conservation programs to local youth. Way to go! Grand Canyon Trust is a non-profit organization that advocates for the conservation of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado Plateau.
Next stop, the Flagstaff Bordertown Dormitory (FBD) where VISTA Vicki Anderson spends her day working on a variety of awesome projects! The FBD provides residential and educational services to the youth (9-12th grade) who stay there while attending Flagstaff High School. As the Educator and Curriculum Developer, Vicki recently worked with the youth at the dorm to plan and implement a “Second Chance” Valentine’s Day Dance that incorporated STEM concepts into the design and logistics. Currently Vicki is writing grants and coordinating with the local CAVIAT program to recruit and retain youth in their programs.
Let’s drop in on Mary Berta who represents VISTAs at CCESA (Coconino County Education Service Agency) writing grants and doing community outreach. The CCESA supports the local school district through professional and community development, school elections and financial services, as well as in the area of political advocacy. Recently Mary has been working on an EPA grant focused on environmental education. This grant would increase the CCESA’s professional development initiative. The F.A.R.M. (Food and Resource Management) grant targets 6-8th grade science teachers. This grant would create an opportunity for these teachers to participate in high-quality, standards- based professional development. Keep up the good work Mary!
While we have a bunch of great sites and awesome VISTAs to celebrate, our last stop for this post will be STEM City where Camille Alexander serves as the Evaluation Coordinator. STEM City’s vision is to collectively work to strengthen STEM literacy, promote STEM-related business, and sustain STEM initiatives. Camille enjoys her work creating a STEM inventory of local businesses, schools, and non-profits. Her mission will help evaluate the “state of STEM” in Flagstaff in order for community agencies to better be able to connect and serve youth effectively by creating increased access to resources for STEM education.
BIG SHOUT OUTS to all the VISTAs and their sites that we will continue to highlight in the upcoming months: Brian Travers at Killip Elementary (STEM Curriculum), Chelsea Silva at Friends of the Rio (Watershed Stewardship Coordinator), Erin O’Keefe at Flagstaff Open Space (Open Space Aide), Madison Ledgerwood at NAU Rethink Possible (Education Connect Specialist), Nick Siskonen at CAVIAT (Recruitment Specialist), Whitney Yarbrough at NAU CSTL (Database Coordinator), Charlie Humphrey at Grand Canyon Youth (Volunteer Coordinator/ Fundraising), and Sarah Michal at NAU CSI (Opioid Education and Abuse Prevention).