Wednesday, December 30, 2015


I checked in with Coral Thede (pronounced TAY-DEE) to see how things are going down in Gillette, WY.  She is serving with the Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming.  Coral is finishing her service in January and we are excited to see what great things she will do next!  

Get To Know Your VISTA

Who: Coral (like the reef)
Where: Gillette, Wyoming
Age: 310 months
Originally From: Is this Heaven?    ..........No, it’s I O W A!
College: University of Northern Iowa Major: Communication Studies Minor: Spanish
Hobbies: Playing my guitar, bonfires, road trips, snail mail, blogging, Netflix.
Fun Fact(s): New Year’s Baby, natural ginger, once cut my hand ice skating (turns out I’m no Tara Lipinski)

Favorite Quote: “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why did you join AmeriCorps? A family friend suggested I look into it. I wanted to try something new and give back in some way, so becoming a VISTA seemed like a good idea. I think the empowerment of young women is especially important as well, so I was eager to serve alongside an organization like the Girl Scouts.

What has being an AmeriCorps VISTA taught you? My year of service came with a lot of ups and downs. It taught me to be more humble and grateful and gave me a better look into the modern day struggles everyday Americans are facing. It’s definitely been a year of growth and strength; including a lot of learning experiences. While this has probably been one of the toughest years for me, I can honestly say I’ve never given back more.

VISTA Service Accomplishments: With it being a huge rebuilding year, basically from the ground up for our Girl Scouts office, I focused mainly on service projects, revamping programs and creating partnerships.  Our main partnership is between the Boys and Girls Club and the local Gillette Community College. We had the Boys and Girls Club troop lined up and with my MTCC focus on College Positive Volunteers, I reached out to the college and luckily their Executive Student Senate decided to lead the troop. We had a very successful first semester and look forward to continuing this partnership!

In addition; we put on a camp that had been non-existent for two years and made it Reduce, Reuse, Recycle themed, received a grant for $2,000 from the Indian Education Committee to start a troop at the school on the reservation in Lame Deer, Montana, received another grant from the United Way for $5,000 for the girls at the Boys and Girls Club, participated in numerous community service projects including planting a garden in front of the Community Art Center and sending care packages to my Adopt-A-Soldier overseas, and had the most registered Girl Scouts in the whole state!

Post VISTA Life: After I complete my VISTA service, I fully plan on being rich and famous. Until then though, I will go back home to Iowa, find a full time job of sorts, pay off those student loans (eventually) and begin building my very own tiny house on wheels!


Monday, December 21, 2015


Montana Campus Compact January VISTAs gather in Missoula for their Close of Service.  We had presenters and sessions to prepare them for life after AmeriCorps.  All sessions were held at the University of Montana in the Payne Family Native American Center and the Mansfield Library.   We had delicious lunches and dinners donated by local restaurants Five on Black , Pie Hole and coffee from Starbucks.  Our members exiting service are:

Constance Johnson- Garfield Literacy Project- Montana State University Billings

Kate Johnson-Student Marketing and Outreach- Bitterroot College


As always, we wish you all the best of luck with life after AmeriCorps and keep in touch!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Deanna Linn is a Montana Campus Compact VISTA serving with the Girls STEM Collaborative at Montana State University.  She began her service in July 2015.  Below is a press release about the amazing work Deanna is doing at MSU.

BOZEMAN, Mont.—An annual Halloween festival for children received an infusion of nanotechnology when an AmeriCorps VISTA member based at Montana State University brought science outreach activities to the university’s Family & Graduate Housing.

FGH hosts an annual Pumpkin Festival near Halloween, and Deanna Linn, who serves via Montana Campus Compact within MSU’s Extended University, recruited undergraduate and graduate students from MSU’s Chemical and BiologicalEngineering Department to volunteer at the Oct. 17 event.

The team presented several hands-on science activities to approximately 115 children and their families who attended the event, which also included a costume contest, pie-eating contest and pumpkin catapult along with pumpkin bowling, pumpkin painting, bean bag toss, arts and crafts, sack race, tic-tac-toe, cookie decorating, science experiments with bubbles and dry ice, and face painting. This is the first time the annual event has included a NanoDays outreach component. MSU Extended University is part of a national program that helps the public better understand nanoscale science and engineering

Families from around the world live in MSU’s Family Housing complex, where children range from newborn to 18 and who hail from all backgrounds: single-parent families, low-income families, military families, etc. Many countries are also represented, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, India, China, Japan, Nepal, Lebanon and Brazil as well as families from around Montana and the U.S.

The partnership was a success and has opened up possibilities for future NanoDays and other STEM outreach projects between MSU Family and Graduate Housing and MSU Extended University. Linn shared information about the partnership with the national project, the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network, to inspire other organizations to partner with their local Family Housing complex.

Great work, Deanna!  We can't wait for our next check in to see what all you have accomplished. Keep up the amazing work!

Friday, November 20, 2015


As you might know, Montana Campus Compact is a seventeen campus higher education network that advances the public purposes of colleges and universities by deepening their ability to improve community life and educate students for civic and social responsibility. This weekend, Saturday November 21,  MTCC Board Members and Governor Bullock will honor fifteen exemplary college student athletes who are model examples of our mission and vision.

“College students in Montana do amazing community work, and their investment of time, talent and energy help improve our communities across the state. Campus Compact’s Montana Athletes In Service Award honors the contributions of student athletes and volunteers.” said Josh Vanek, of MTCC.

The 2015 Montana Athletes in Service are:

Anthony Williams, Fort Peck Community College, General Studies, Weightlifting, Football, community/college gym volunteer
Brett Thompson, Montana State University-Northern, Major: Biology, Basketball, Community Volunteer
Callee Remsen, Montana Tech of the UM, Major:  Nursing, Basketball, Big Sister/Child Mentor
Cameron Lee, Montana State University Billings, Major: Organizational Communications, Soccer, Community volunteer
Emily Mendoza, University of Montana, Major: Social Work, Track & Field, Advocate for Student Advocacy Resource Cntr
Greg Thompson, Helena College UM, Associate of Science, Basketball coach, Volunteer Coach & Youth Mentor
Jesse McCloud, University of Montana-Western, Major: Art Education, Football, volunteer Coach and Youth Mentor
Kayla Johnson, Salish Kootenai College, Major:  Tribal Historic Preservation, Basketball, SKC Foundation &  Safe Women’s Shelter
Robert  Pritchett, Rocky Mountain College, Major: Athletic Training, Football, Big Brother Mentor
Taylor South, Carroll College, Major: Biology, Football, Homeless shelter Volunteer, Volunteer Counselor, Disabled Child Volunteer
Taylor Buschy,   Montana State University, Major: Health Education, Track & Field, Elementary/Middle School Volunteer
Tiffany  Marks,  University of Great Falls, Major: Business Administration, Volleyball, Elementary School Volunteer
Zach Levitt, Flathead Community College, Major: Secondary Ed., Intramural Athletics, Volunteer Coach, Community Volunteer
Vanessa Old Coyote, Little Big Horn College, Major: Pre-Med, Basketball, Youth Mentor & Local Campus Clean-up
Ben Powell, Blackfeet Community College Major: Business, Rodeo, Local Toy Drive, BCC Rodeo fundraiser/volunteer

Kayla Johnson (SKC)
MTCC is proud to honor these remarkable student athletes for their outstanding effort this coming Saturday. Each student athlete was nominated for qualities that prove they are an integral part of their communities and campuses. Campus staff who nominated of these athletes provided some insight on why these students deserve recognition, here is what they had to say:

“ Kayla Johnson  has shown other students you can be involved in various things and still maintain high academic standards. Lending a helping hand to those in need can be self-rewarding when you see others benefiting from your efforts which, in turn, lead others to step up and help” said Juan Perez, Student Activities & Gym Director of Salish Kootenai College.

Shawn Huse Head Coach of Men’s Basketball at Montana State University Northern reports that, “Brett Thompson provides help in a friendly fashion to those in need, whenever needed. It is very rewarding for him when others’ lives are affected so positively.”

Robert Prichett (RMC)
Robert Pritchett is a first gen college student in his family and he is showing all of us the spirit of being more than “just a student.” He is the very definition of an engaged student. He is an inspiration to everyone he knows and perhaps part of his legacy will be showing all the kiddos in the schools that anyone can be a successful first generation college student” said Jill Washburn of Community Involvement, Veteran Services, & Parent Relations at Rocky Mountain College.

“Anthony Williams is the first to volunteer his time for the community and college activities. He is a true leader; he is deeply engaged and concerned for others, sometimes to his own detriment. Anthony is a living example of the principle that hard work is its own reward and pays off in the long run” reports of Fort Peck Community College

These students are making a significant difference at their respective institutions and communities. Please join us in honoring these deserving award winners this Saturday during the Brawl of the Wild!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015


Montana Campus Compact has partnered with Barnes and Noble to help raise funds and awareness for MLK Read For Peace.  When you mention MTCC or Read For Peace at checkout, you are automatically supporting this initiative.  It also works when you go to the cafe for some coffee or lunch.  Bring your little ones for a pajama story time at 7pm.  A story will be read by one of our VISTAs.  Stop by and see us on December 11th to do some holiday shopping and support a great event!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


MTCC VISTA Alumni Mira Mendick
Mira Mendick had a very fruitful year as an MTCC VISTA on University of Montana’s campus here in Missoula. Recently she successfully procured a higher education position at Missoula College, and we decided to check in with her. This is what she had to say:

When and where did you serve your term as a Compact AmeriCorps VISTA?

I served as an MTCC VISTA with the University of Montana Financial Education Program from July 2014 to July-2015. The overall goal of my year was to develop an enhanced entrance loan counseling to be delivered to all University of Montana students. I assisted with the development of this project through research, which contributed to the outlines I developed to be used to guide informational videos. The state decided to take this project on as a bigger initiative, which will result in all students in the MSU system having access to this enhanced entrance loan counseling.

What are some highlights from your year of service?

Besides the main focus of my project, I worked on a communication plan, a nonprofit resource sheet, a list of emergency and transitional housing, planned and facilitated student task force meetings, created informational flyers to be used by advisers, a career comparison chart, a write up for the Foreign Student Handbook, student surveys, and a financial aid glossary. In addition, I created partnerships with community nonprofits, such as HOMEward, tabled at the VITA workshops, attended Missoula College tabling events, and partnered with the Personal Finance professor.

How did your service impact your life?

I got to meet and work with amazing individuals, who are making big changes in the world of higher education. My year of service made me aware of some of the needs and challenges that student’s face when entering college, which inspired me to continue my work in the field of higher education.

Where are you now and in what way are you still involved with civic engagement?

I’ve stayed in Missoula and I am working in the Academic Advising Center at Missoula College. I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t been so involved in civic engagement lately, because I’ve been so busy with work, but I’m excited to start looking for meaningful ways to contribute to the community. Reach out to me if you need a volunteer!


Thanks for your service Mira!

Friday, November 13, 2015


Theda New Breast facilitates Tribal Community Relationship Building 
Over the past 14 years, Building Engaged Citizens (BEC) has served as the Montana Campus Compact’s premiere civic engagement and service conference. Since 2000, through various iterations, BEC has provided hundreds of national service members and college students at-large the opportunity to explore the practical and philosophical implications of higher education’s role in civic engagement. This year,BEC continued the legacy through training in the areas of leadership/facilitation, marketing, grant-writing,  volunteerism, volunteer management and tribal community relationship building.  

This year, BEC was held in Great Falls on October 28th through October 30th.  Members and staff stayed at the beautiful Ursuline Center and sessions were held at Great Falls College.  Our guest speakers include:  Susan Wolf- Dean of Great Falls College, Theda New Breast, Roch Turner from Bitterroot College and one of our members, Kate Johnson serving at Bitterroot College.  

New AmeriCorps Program Leaders 

Three new leaders are sworn in for our new AmeriCorps Program.  Sara Sadowski joins us from the Govenor's Office of Community Service to help welcome them. These leaders will support and lead a team of college student AmeriCorps members.  Their teams will serve at least 50 high school youth in grades 9-12 to help them consider, plan for and prepare for postsecondary education.  

Eleven Members volunteer at Food Bank

One of our service projects was going to the Great Falls Food Bank to help prepare kid packs for the weekends.  In just two hours they prepared 600 kid packs.  The second group went to Great Falls Improvement District to clean and paint trash cans on Central Avenue.  In the two hour window they finished cleaning and painting thirty trash cans.  

We all had a great time in Great Falls for our annual Building Engaged Citizens conference.  We all learned a lot and made some awesome connections around the state.  We wish our VISTA members continued success and our new AmeriCorps Program Leaders the best of luck starting their terms of service!

Friday, October 16, 2015


Michele Schahczenski is currently serving with the Children's Museum of Missoula and University of Montana.  She began her service last January 2015 and wraps up in early 2016.  I checked in with her to see how things were going and here's what she had to say:

What is your background that led you to serve as a VISTA member?
I was born in Whitehall, Montana and went to college in Missoula, Montana where I am currently serving as a VISTA. I’ve lived in Montana my whole life and after my undergraduate I was excited to get the chance to give back to the state that I love so much. I graduated with a degree in Psychology and a degree in Anthropology and knew that VISTA would be a great way to transition into the working world while simultaneously helping an awesome community organization.

Describe a typical work day at your host site.
I come in at 9:00 AM and check emails and go over what I am working on for that day or week and create a to-do list for the day. What I do each day varies on what projects or events are coming up. My main projects involve Exhibit Committee work, volunteer recruitment and coordination, and developing three main documents (an Exhibit Committee Handbook, a Volunteer Manual, and a Volunteer Coordinator Handbook). I usually work on at least one or two of these projects each day. I might have an Exhibit Committee meeting for which I need to set up an agenda or write up minutes. I may write or edit a section of a handbook or I might have a meeting or a tabling event to recruit volunteers. This is one of my favorite things about my service is that each day I can chip away at multiple bigger projects that require different skills to accomplish. It keeps things interesting and it is exciting to see the goals get closer and closer to being met.

How have you incorporated your campus partner into your efforts?
My campus partner, the University of Montana, has been most helpful in the volunteer mobilization aspect of my service. The University is an awesome resource for volunteers. The different tabling events put on by the Office of Civic Engagement (where my campus partner is located) have helped the Children’s Museum to increase its visibility and get students involved in volunteering.

What motivates you to serve as a VISTA?
For me the biggest motivator for doing this type of work is the tangible improvements I see VISTAs like myself making in such a wide variety of impactful organizations. This work has allowed me to take up a personally challenging position and entrusted me with the opportunity to make a real difference for an organization that I truly believe is making a positive impression on my community and the world. That is a lot more than a lot of other young adults my age can say about their work and that alone motivates me to do my best. 

What are your plans after VISTA?
Right after VISTA I plan on taking three months off to go on a bike tour in Central America. I am also applying for graduate school for the fall of 2016 at American University for a Master’s International in Public Anthropology. I will be continuing my community service work, as a Master’s International is a program that includes a 2 year Peace Corps term during your studies.

Thank you for checking in, Michele!  We wish you the best of luck with the rest of your service and your future plans.  

Friday, October 9, 2015


Sam Garetson serves with Salish Kootenai College
Sam Garetson has had a lot of success since he started as a VISTA this past January. He currently works from Salish Kootenai College with with the Upward Bound office, helping open the doors to postsecondary education wider to more first generation and low income Montanans. Recently, we decided to check in with him. This is what he had to say:

Why do you serve as a VISTA member?
I think an intuitive as well as learned desire to be in service to others is what drove me to AmeriCorps VISTA. Throughout my undergraduate studies I found myself gravitating towards classes and areas of study that reflected this. My final senior thesis essay on poverty became a turning point in my life. It made me wrestle with some of the most uncomfortable, pre-conditioned beliefs concerning our society and its divorce from humanity. It took me until the final semester of my college years to understand why I had been studying what I had. AmeriCorps provided an outlet for the skills I cultivated in college and an environment to continue to grow academically, professionally and spiritually. VISTA has been a blessing, allowing me to learn the processes associated with community activism, at the same time granting creative freedom in exploring new ways to serve and connect with community. 

Describe a typical work day at your host site.
AmeriCorps VISTA Sam Garetson (pictured far right)
with fellow instructors and students participate in
 Bob Marshall Wilderness trail restoration
 as part of Upward Bound's summer program. 
My day typically starts with me checking emails. Since that lasts a whopping five minutes, I have a lot time to spend on my primary function, which is to research and create sustainable programs and curricula to be used by Upward Bound (UB) in improving communication and empowerment of our students. By the end of the day I have a pile of post-it notes, scratch printer paper, and more ideas than I know what to do with. I spend subsequent days making sense of the previous day’s research, tending to the ideas that work and throwing out those that don’t. Throughout the summer, I piloted student assessment tools that could assist UB in improving student academic success by paradoxically going beyond mere academic evaluations and focusing on character development. My research has spawned a multi-faceted teaching tool that hopes to build on characteristics of grit and resilience, essential to a student’s investment in learning. The long-term goal is to maintain an instructive system that supports the actualization of self-awareness and empowerment for our students.

How have you incorporated your campus partner into your project?
Salish Kootenai College (SKC) has been an excellent community partner. SKC is the hub of academic activity in the Flathead Valley affording me access to college level instruction, Native American cultural life, and important networks that expand my scope of work. SKC also provides transportation and logistics to and from the many college tours, cultural events and programs around the state that support the personal and academic development of our students. Our cooperative relationship with SKC is essential to the operations of Upward Bound and its continued viability in the region.

What motivates you to do a year of VISTA service? 
High School is hard. We often look back on that time, frustrated at our lack of understanding of the bigger picture, wishing we had known then what we now know. The motivation to work with underprivileged students to expand their internal and external life horizons comes from this perspective. Upward Bound is a college preparatory program administered by the government, sure, but to make it effective requires forward thinking. Students need more than a manufactured roadmap to get them to and through college. We have a responsibility to meet our students where they are individually in order to facilitate a deeper ecology of self that will help them become resilient, aware, ethical persons. Working from this mindset brings the student back into the equation allowing us to address the web of personal experiences that effect academic success.

What are your plans after VISTA?
Working at the University of Montana (and MTCC Network Office) as a VISTA leader and supporting new, wide-eyed VISTAs sounds pretty plush. An alternative route would be to pursue a joint master’s program incorporating Peace Corps service and cultural ecology or who knows. In a beautiful way my goals are adaptable. AmeriCorps, and the environment it placed me in, has taught me humility and contentment in the process. Ultimately, losing myself in this process of serving others will be my own selfish life reward.

Thanks for your service, Sam!

Monday, October 5, 2015


Tonight! October 22nd at 5:00 PM in Missoula
Have you ever wondered about Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, or getting involved through volunteering? Do you know what it takes to become a member of one of these programs or to get involved in your community? Maybe you don't know where to look, or who to talk to, right?

Well, you are in luck! Because on Thursday, October 22, at 5:00 PM 2015 there will be a Volunteer Service Panel in Missoula to discuss how to get involved and what the perks are to being a part of the National Service movement. The event is hosted by the University of Montana's Peace Corps recruiter and Career Services. Attendees will be able to visit with current and former members of the programs and find out why they are serving.

Some of the national service programs such as AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and Conservation Corps see tremendous support in Montana. Peace Corps ranks Montana 7th (per capita) in 2014 for number of volunteers per 100,000 residents, and Missoula, Montana ranked 2nd (per capita) for Peace Corps Volunteer generation. AmeriCorps and Senior Corps in Montana has ‘more than 5,900 people of all ages and backgrounds helping to meet local needs, strengthen communities, and increase civic engagement through national service’.2  Montana Campus Compact, the Office for Civic Engagement, and Global Youth Development Program all strive to engage students,  and community members. These programs develop civic engagement opportunities and service projects which will strengthen communities and the world at large.

We hope to see you all there on Thursday, October 22, 2015!

What: Volunteer Service Panel

When: October 22, 2015 from 5 PM – 6:30 PM

Where: University of Montana - Payne Family Native American Center (NAS) 105

Information taken from:

Friday, October 2, 2015


Christina Dock: MTCC VISTA alum 
Christina Dock served from July 2014 to July 2015 in a partnership position between the the Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming and Rocky Mountain College in Billings, MT. Christina worked hard to build a strong, reciprocal campus-community partnerships and we asked if she could discuss what went into them, reflect on what she accomplished and share her successes and challenges.

Campus Partnerships
"At the Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming (GSMW) headquarters office, we tried to make connections and recruit students from every college in our region including Rocky Mountain College, Montana State University Billings, Montana State University, Little Big Horn College, Fort Peck Community College, Dawson Community College, etc.

Our main partner is Rocky Mountain College in Billings. Last year our partnership consisted of a meeting space on campus and hosting Rocky Work Study students. This past year our partnership with Rocky expanded to include hosting Work Study students; holding a Troop on campus; co-hosting events; and introducing girls to faculty, staff, and students. Rocky Mountain College troop 2435 met every other week and has the opportunity to meet with college professors, athletic teams, and/or staff members once a month. The members of the college came in, discussed what they do, how the girls can take steps to getting into college (in a way a 5 year old can understand), and did activities pertaining to their professions with the girls. That gave the girls an opportunity to see that they can attend college and be anything they want whether it is a chemist, an artist, and anything in between. We have also worked with RMC to create a higher education patch which the girls can earn at the end of the year. With all of our successes, we are planning for next year already!"

DCTA Project
Rocky Mountain College
"Many people think that Girls Scouting is about the "3 C’s" Camps, Crafts, and Cookies. This is not the case! GSMW’s main focuses for 2015 are Science Technology Engineering and Math (or "STEM"), financial literacy, and the outdoors. I encouraged my Rocky student volunteers to use STEM to create engaging lessons that get the girls pumped to learn. We hope that this will carry over into their school work and get the girls ready for higher education!

My project was called "Discover, Connect, Take Action (DCTA)," and we have recruited 575 girls to participate in our council-led troops just last year. These girls meet at one of our 13 partner troop locations including the YMCA, Friendship House of Christian Service, Discover Zone, CARE Academy, Rocky Mountain College, various middle schools in Billings, and many churches. The main goal of the DCTA project is to create a sustainable campus partnership that leads to a reliable stream of college student volunteers to lead these troops and encourage the girls to pursue higher education. I have successfully recruited and retained four long-term volunteers, so if you know of anyone in eastern and southern Montana who wants to volunteer, send them to GSMW, we have opportunities across the region!"

Friday, September 18, 2015


Bozeman Fire Fighters and MTCC AmeriCorps VISTAs
On September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance 2015, MTCC AmeriCorps VISTAs gave back to their communities all over Montana and  northeastern Wyoming.  Every year Compact VISTAs participate in the September 11th National Day of Service, and this year they did not disappoint. From Gillette, Wyoming up to Havre, Montana VISTAs volunteered at special events and led and supported local service projects.  Here is what our amazing VISTAs did:

Bozeman: Cards, Letters and Treats to First Responders
VISTA members In Bozeman created a program that engaged 500 local children to create thank you cards for their fire stations. They were able to garner free supplies from local businesses (ACE Hardware, The Children’s Museum, Costco and Staples) to create cards and received a donation of free donuts from Granny’s Gourmet Donuts. On September 11th they delivered all of the cards and treats to four Fire Stations in the Bozeman area; the fire fighters were very grateful for the recognition.

Bozeman: Community Café Clean Up and KidsPack lunch preparation
The rest of the VISTAs in Bozeman participated in the KidsPak program, which benefits students who lack access to healthy/proper amounts of food. They also helped organize the local Community Café’s food pantry which benefits low income schools by providing lunch and dinner services to a few low income schools.

MTCC VISTA members and a Food Corps AmeriCorps member in Kalispell.
Dillon: In Case of Emergency
Down in Dillon the MTCC VISTA planned a disaster preparedness simulation. The goal was to educate the staff at her organization, the Women's Resource/Community Support Center on how to react in a disaster situation, while also engaging the Montana Western college students as mock victims of a disaster.

Kalispell: Red White and Blue Run
The VISTAs in Kalispell volunteered at Flathead Valley Community College’s Red, White, and Blue Color Run that was held in honor of the 9/11 day of service. Proceeds from the event benefited the Veteran’s Association Endowment Fund.

Billings: 14th Annual Community Celebration of Life 
The MTCC VISTA member in Billings participated in the Annual Community Celebration of life, where in, community members helped clean-up the south side park and then attended a ceremony that included speeches from military members and awards given to those in service.

Gillette, WY: Girl Scouts American Heritage Badge
The MTCC Girl Scout VISTA in Gillette, Wyoming helped a local troop gain their American Heritage Badge. This included educating the girls on what happened on 9/11 and then helping them reflect on the importance of the event to our country.

Havre: Havre Remembers
Our members in Havre put together a service event at MSU-Northern to honor Havre’s service members and also victims of 9/11. Their local Salvation Army addressed the current forest fire disaster and collected donations for fire fighters and victims. Finally our members received 1500 American flags, from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, which they used to decorate their campus on September 11th.  

Missoula: Disaster Response Simulation
Several of the MTCC VISTAs based in Missoula put together a disaster seminar to address the proper way to address an emergency situation. Keynote speaker Sgt.  J.C. Denton discussed the importance of safety when involved in a high stress/emergency situation.

Missoula: Veteran Scholarship Fundraiser for Montana Code School
The rest of the members in Missoula raised funds to create a scholarship to the Montana Code School which will begin its Pilot Class this year. They solicited donations from local businesses including; the University Center at UM, The Dram Shop, The Montgomery Distillery, Five on Black and the Big Sky/Sentinel High School Booster Clubs.  They were able to gather $1,644.89; this amount will benefit a veteran scholarship at the code school.

Hamilton: Veterans Benefit Materials
The VISTA in Hamilton with UM Bitterroot College collected information from veterans organizations all over Ravalli County and created a display at Bitterroot College. The college now has a centralized location with all of the services/benefits available to veterans.

Great Falls: Great Falls Community Food Bank
The MTCC VISTA member in Great Falls helped out the Great Falls Community Food Bank by helping to unload trucks and organize donations. She also helped with the creation of 200+ backpack meals for students with limited access to food.

Overall, MTCC's members made positive impacts in each community where they serve.  I hope these examples of exemplary service and program creation inspires everyone to step-up and become a larger part of their community. 

Monday, September 14, 2015


MTCC VISTA Erik Swanson
Public libraries are community hubs for information, activities, and support for community members and families. Missoula PublicLibrary offers these services, as well as unique programming. The Missoula Public Library in partnership with the Univervsity of Montana's SpectrUM science museum is a current host site for an MTCC VISTA project. the project is developing infrastructure to help alleviate poverty in a community by generating early interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (or "STEM") careers.

One of the new and unique services available atthe Missoula Public Library is the MakerSpace. This new area is located downstairs and can help anyone “turn an idea into a physical thing” according to VISTA Erik Swanson. Some of the examples of things people have made are replicas of arrowheads, a zebra, a fox, and a frog. 

Fox and Frog 3D prints
During the first year of the project VISTA member Rebecca Rice, helped increase the community awareness of the MakerSpace area and develop an interest for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) through outreach to economically disadvantaged youth and community. Visits to the MakerSpace increased each month from 78 to 229, a 290% increase. Near the end of this first project year, the Missoula Public Library offered summer camps, which enrolled 10 children, aged 8 – 12 years old, to learn about STEM and how to make things in the MakerSpace. MTCC VISTA Summer Associate (and former staffer!), Kathy Peterson, currently a full-time college student at University ofMontana, served during the summer for 10 weeks to support these camps with direct service. Kathy built partnerships with spectrUM and recruited UM students, and faculty, to help teach STEM lessons to young people.

VISTA member Erik Swanson started his  service in July and is currently recruiting University of Montana college students to help in this center and to develop training and programs for the MakerSpace. So far, he has seven volunteers who help him with the space and he is busy trying to get internships set up to help keep the MakerSpace available even more to the community.

Erik has taken on the task of increasing volunteers and implementing strategies to create sustainability within the MakerSpace. He is currently looking for volunteers and interested persons to teach classes on all kinds of STEM topics. Some of the electronics equipment currently in use at the MakerSpace is the Raspberry Pi, a microcomputer that hooks up to a standard monitor, keyboard and mouse, and it helps learn programming. There are electronic snap circuit board sets, soldering, and a 3D printer and scanner, which can help make “an idea into a thing”. Erik explains this 3D printing technology is something many industries are using and it is becoming an important skill to develop in our youth and community as it can build a path out of poverty. 

Missoula Public Library's MakerSpace is located in downtown Missoula at 301 E. Main Street and are open seven days a week!

Friday, September 11, 2015


MSU-Northern's Chancellor Kegel and VOTG recipient Joseph Vernon.
Every year, Montana Campus Compact (MTCC) collaborates with the Montana Governor’s Office of Community Service to support volunteerism and service in Montana. We believe in supporting college students who make a difference within our communities. Through this collaboration, the Volunteer of the Game award recognizes five student volunteers from college campuses in Butte, Havre, Helena, Dillon and Billings.

Two examples of the student leaders recognized with Volunteer of the Game distinctions include Joseph Vernon and Mathew Foster. MSU-Northern Chancellor Greg Kegel awarded Joseph Vernon the Volunteer of the Game at the Northern October 18 home game. Joseph was recognized for his coordination of the recycling program at the university and his volunteerism in the community of Havre. 

Montana Tech’s Mathew Foster served as Circle K International club president and helped organize Tech’s inaugural Student Veterans’ Association. Both students embody Campus Compact’s core values of community engagement and social responsibility. 
Montana Tech's Mathew Foster

Recommendations for student nominees must be submitted or three weeks prior to the game day presentation. The nominee must be enrolled at a Montana Campus Compact affiliate institution. Recommendations for student nominees are sent to ServeMontana, the Governor’s Office of Community Service via email or fax. Check out the application here or on the website!

Below are the dates the 2015 Volunteer of the Game Awards will be made:

October 24: Carroll College, Helena and Montana State University Northern, Havre         

October 31, 2015: Montana Tech. Butte       

November 7, 2015: Rocky Mountain College, Billings and   University of Montana Western, Dillon

Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Salish Kootenai College's DJ Fish
Since 2001, the colleges and universities that make up the Montana Campus Compact have honored the commitments of student athletes with the Montana Athletes In Service award. Whether it's basketballer Jordan Johnston from Carroll College who worked with Four Georgians Elementary School on the Kids College project as well as Big Brother Big Sisters or SKC basketball player DJ Fish who mentored students with Student Support Services and youth basketball campus, Montana's college student athletes offer some inspiring examples of what community leadership can look like.

Campus Compact's blog recently ran an interesting piece called "Building Civic Muscle" in which Engaged Sport's Kerri Heffernan argues that sports have huge and untapped "civic potential."

"While many are eager to offer criticism on the place of sport in the academy, we need to balance such calls with recognition of the democratic and civic values that sport helps to cultivate and inculcate." 

Carroll College's Jordan Johnston
Heffernan calls on greater collaboration among academic and athletic departments, encouraging better communication about learning goals and tapping into the large potential that collegiate athletics offers for citizenship development, and practicing the democratic principles on which higher ed. was founded. It's compelling stuff in the era of huge sports scandals and polarized rhetoric around college sports.

This year, during Montana's Brawl of the Wild football game, hosted by Montana State University, (on Saturday, November 21st) Governor Bullock and the Montana Campus Compact board will present the Montana Athletes In Service awards, we hope you'll tune in and send your support for the initiative! If you work for an MTCC campus, please note that our nomination form is live on the MAIS page.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


Dalya Kefi has served in since this January with Montana State University and the Greater Gallatin United Way's kidsLINK Afterschool Program, so we decided to check in and share the great work she has been doing.

What is your background that led you to serve as a VISTA member?
MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA Dalya Kefi
My mother was in the Peace Corps when she was my age, and both of my parents worked with the refugee community while I was growing up. I was exposed to non-profit work and international development as a child and always knew I would work with disadvantaged populations. I have always had in interest in issues of poverty, equitable access to education, and social justice, so when I was looking for a job after graduating, AmeriCorps VISTA was a natural step.

Describe a typical work day at your host site.
This summer, I supported afternoon youth enrichment programming  at the YMCA Y Achievers summer literacy camp. That means my days are constantly changing. Every day at noon, the campers come to us from their morning teachers, where they work on literacy from 8-12. In the afternoons, they participated in a normal camp setting. We played games, made crafts, went on field trips and visited the local swimming pool. This is a big change from my normal day while at the Greater Gallatin United Way. While working on the kidsLINK Afterschool program, I spend most of my day behind a desk in the office. I will attend meetings in the community, plan for the upcoming 2015-2016 school year, and work with the World Language coordinators to establish a sustainable afterschool world language program for elementary students.

How have you incorporated your campus partner into your work?
My campus partner, the MSU Department of Education, works closeup with the kidsLINK Afterschool program during the school year. Education students host afterschool book and tech clubs for students in the various elementary schools. The World Language classes also work with MSU, and have student assistants from the MSU Department of Modern Languages for larger groups in the afternoon lessons.

What motivates you to do a year of VISTA service?
Quality education is a necessity. All children, regardless of socioeconomic factors, should have access to quality, affordable education. In the kidsLINK Afterschool programs, we support working families and make sure all students have the opportunity to enjoy extracurricular activities, receive a healthy snack, and have a safe place to be afterschool while their parents are at work.  kidsLINK Afterschool also provides homework help, helping kids complete homework for the next school day. By supporting families and kids in this way, we are helping students reach their full potential and be successful in school and at home.

What are your plans after VISTA?
After my VISTA year, I hope to attend law school and focus on international human rights law. I would like to work in international development with refugees and live overseas.

Thank you for your service with the Compact, Dalya!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Montana Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates served ten weeks terms begining in June of 2015. These VISTAs focus on community needs like summer learning loss, nutrition, and STEM education.  This summer we had the pleasure of placing 28 VISTA Summer Associates across Montana. They came from near and far, and today we checked in with Alex Fowler who came to serve all the way from North Carolina!

Where are you from and how did you decide to come and serve in Montana?
I am from the foothills of North Carolina. I live in a rural town of 1,500 with pretty views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I currently am a junior philosophy major with minors in Health and Human Services and Entrepreneurship and Social Enterprise at Wake Forest University located in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Montana has always intrigued me as I have a love for nature and wilderness. I am halfway through college now and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to get out west and experience things in a new light to refresh and rejuvenate myself as I go into the last half of my college career. I plan on pursuing a career in criminal/family law. Who knows? I could return to Missoula and attend law school at the University of Montana which I’ve heard has a rather prestigious program.

Where are you serving?  Can you describe a typical day or week?
I am serving at spectrUM Discovery Area in downtown Missoula. It was created to provide a place for children to interact with science in ways that they never could in a typical classroom setting. My position is the Americorps VISTA SciNation Summer Associate. SciNation is an organization of STEM and education leaders from Tribal Health and Human Services, Ronan Elementary School, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Wildlife Management Program, and Salish Kootenai College on the Flathead Reservation. They cooperate with spectrUM to help plan our outreach efforts and curriculum on the reservation. In a typical week I am either helping to plan the logistics and activities we will be taking during our events/conducting the events. We typically rent out a university vehicle, load up all of our supplies, and head out to the reservation site for that week to engage with students in numerous science activities.

What is the main focus of your project?
The main focus of our project is outreach. The youth we work with would typically have minimal opportunities to visit our museum during the summer. With summer break in full swing, there is a definite lack of educational endeavors that youth on the Flathead can participate in, and spectrUM and SciNation have collaborated to fill that gap. By partnering with school districts and other community partners, we have created a program called Science Bytes, which is in its inaugural year. You might be asking what Science Bytes actually is. For the majority of our outreach events, we have helped teach summer school for the first half of the days. During the second half, we transition to the area’s federally funded feeding site, located on the school’s premises and interact with even more students from the Boys and Girls Clubs Foundation to local church youth groups. Not only do the students get an enriching, nutritious meal for free, but they also get enriching science education at the same time. In one effort, we are helping to fill an educational barrier and aiding in promoting food security on the Flathead Reservation. Our shining achievement, however, was during the Arlee Celebration. We erected a large tent deemed as the “Science Learning Tent” manned with STEM role models from the Flathead community as well as numerous staff of our own. We served over 1,000 people in the two day period. The event was indisputably a success and was the climax of my service here. I was able to interact with the native culture in ways that I could never imagine, and I know I am a better person from the experience.

What do you plan on doing after your service?
I mentioned this earlier, but I will be making the 35 hour road trip with my best friend who is flying out to accompany me on the trek home. I will hope to finish school with high marks and enter the legal field.

From all of us at the Montana Campus Compact affiliate campuses and network office, we thank Alex deeply for choosing to serve in Montana, and we wish him the best of luck in the future and hope to see him again in back in Montana.