Kent State Students Serve as Volunteers in Service to America
Ten Kent State University students are serving as AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members in local communities. A VISTA member, who is not a Kent State student, also is serving with Kent State’s Division of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, helping to support retention of low-income and underrepresented students.
AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program, originated by former President John F. Kennedy, designed to fight poverty.
“It is the first time that so many of Kent State’s students have engaged in this type of service at one time,” says Ann Gosky, senior special assistant at Kent State’s Office of Experiential Education and Civic Engagement. “I think it says so much about our students, their view of themselves, their view of the world and their willingness to respond and serve.”
Gosky says she selects her VISTA members based on their academic credentials and their passion to make a difference.
Alexandra James, graduate student in Kent State’s hospitality/tourism management program, is a volunteer with the Office of Experiential Education and Civic Engagement in the Department of Undergraduate Studies. In her role, James focus is on food poverty and hunger in the Kent, Ravenna and Akron areas. James first began volunteering with the Campus Kitchen at Kent State in 2011, and Gosky encouraged her to apply for the VISTA program.
“Had it not been for Ann Gosky, I would not have known about this position,” says James. “It has been a great experience so far.”
James helps to run the cooking shift for the Campus Kitchen on Wednesdays, where 180 meals are made for those in need at Kent Social Services and Center of Hope in Ravenna. James also works with children’s programs, recovering food from various sites and maintaining a booth at the Ravenna and Kent farmers’ markets to showcase the work of the Campus Kitchen at Kent State University and educate and recruit volunteers.
James says VISTA has helped her to think on her feet, be more creative and realize how much of an impact her work has on the community.
“It has opened my eyes to how big of a problem hunger is, and I’m glad that I can help make a difference,” says James. “This job comes with its challenges, but the result in the end is definitely worth it.”
Rob Young, post-undergraduate psychology major, volunteers at Family and Community Services Inc., the largest private nonprofit social service agency in Northeast Ohio. Young shadows and assists CEO Mike Frisone in all of his daily duties.
“I gained so much the year I spent volunteering on Super Service Saturdays through Kent State and the Honors College that I decided that some type of nonprofit internship or volunteering would be a rewarding way to spend the summer,” says Young.
During his experience as a VISTA member, Young has learned a lot about how nonprofits govern their boards, raise money, hire staff and deal with internal issues. Young says he has also been an integral part of the redesign of an online M.P.A. course, Nonprofit Law.
“The VISTA experience has been tremendous. I am receiving an inside perspective that many executive-level employees never get to see,” says Young. “Best of all, I know that at the end of the day I am helping an organization that feeds, clothes, houses, counsels and employs those in need.”
VISTA members are chosen based upon the tasks, responsibilities and expectations of them at their service site. They are expected to have some volunteer experience, reliable transportation and a high school degree, says Ryan Tipton, AmeriCorps VISTA coordinator.
“Candidates who express their care and commitment to the community around them and show excitement about serving others are likely to be accepted,” Tipton says.
For more information about Kent State’s Office of Experiential Education and Civic Engagement, visit http://www.kent.edu/oeece/index.cfm.
For more information about AmeriCorps VISTA, visit www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps/americorps-vista.