Monday, May 18, 2015


Flathead Valley Community College
On Friday I was lucky to help honor some of Flathead Valley Community College's exemplary student leaders, volunteers and service learning students at the campus's Arts and Technology building. Each year, Campus Compact awards its Newman Civic Fellows Awards to students whose work addresses root causes of problems and help develop effective means to address problems creating lasting change. This year, FVCC's Newman Civic Fellow was Scott Brooke, a second year student and Navy veteran who helped build the base of support for the Veterans Association and an endowed scholarship to help benefits-ineligible student veterans pay for college. I spoke with Scott and was impressed by his love of his work, gratitude for the opportunity to serve, and drive to make his campus a welcoming and supportive place for student veterans to learn. The Flathead Daily Interlake recently ran this piece on Scott. It's hard not to be inspired reading it.

A few things struck me about FVCC's event:
1) Community-supported. The room was full with partners, parents, grandparents, spouses, children and family all their in support of college students. 

Scott Brooke, 2015 Newman Civic Fellow
2) It drew on support from across campus: the event was collaborative, with probably ten offices participating, and taking on unique roles in celebrating students accomplishments. FVCC's top administrator and MTCC's board chair Jane Karas attended and opened the event.

3) Diverse. FVCC's Leadership awards were made to service learning and AmeriCorps students, as well as intramural athletes, theater students and other student clubs. FVCC defines leadership broadly, gives students lots of opportunities to develop their civic and social responsibility and improve community life.

4) Authentic. Each advisor spoke for a few moments about student accomplishments and brought genuine appreciation, humor and gratitude to their award.

Congratulations to FVCC's and all of Montana's classes of 2015!

Friday, May 1, 2015


Rey participates in MTCC's Service Selfie day!
 Recynthia Robinson served as a Montana Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA member throughout 2014 and into February of this year. Rey worked with the Lewis and Clark region of the Troops to Teacher Project and Montana State University in Bozeman. Troops to Teachers helps military veterans transition into teaching careers and links those teachers with parts of the country suffering teacher shortages. I talked to Rey about her life and the changes that have occurred since making her commitment to serve as a VISTA. I wanted to know how her life had changed from before her VISTA service to now, a few months later.  Rey said she had heard about VISTA from a former mentor at University of Arizona. She was near graduation and applying for jobs, but she realized that she was lacking real world experience and that was a challenge when applying for tribal or state employment. She originally applied because of her mentor’s encouragement after graduating in the fall of 2012, but when she received a call from a program in Maine, she chose not to accept because the distance was too great for her to move.
Rey with
MSU Dean Lynda Ransdell,
& Supervisor Le Gaub

Instead, Rey waited a year and when she saw the Troops to Teachers position with Montana Campus Compact and it was dealing with higher education and Indigenous people. Education and working with native youth was a very important factor for her in applying.

Rey said what she appreciated about her VISTA service was applying her personal experiences to the Troops to Teachers program and learning how to interact with and serve indigenous veterans. She enjoyed being able to ask questions and learn the history and background of the outreach, and then to add a different perspective to the conversation of developing teachers in a teacher shortage area.
Rey said some of the challenges she faced were cultural, political, and personal. She said as a Navajo and the only indigenous person at her host site, whose project was to reach Indigenous veterans and develop teachers, sometimes it was hard because she felt like she needed to be an expert on native culture and indigenous peoples. She said she was able to tell others when they asked what to call her, to refer to her as either Navajo, which is her tribal affiliation, or as indigenous. She said those terms were okay for her. Another challenge she faced were the political viewpoints which came with working with many veterans. She said many times people would discuss political or social issues, and although she had viewpoints, she knew as a VISTA it was better to seek common ground. The biggest challenges Rey faced were family emergencies back home. She said in her culture, nieces and nephews are considered immediate family; and on two occasions she was called upon to make the long and expensive trip home.

Recynthia Robinson,
MTCC VISTA Alum 2014-2015
Service helped her develop professionally; she especially learned how to communicate well. She said networking and following up with others was a big aspect of that. She said it was a very valuable tool to use for her host site and developing the project. Her biggest accomplishment during her term of service was completing the VISTA project. Rey was able to input over 120 entries of institutions of higher education into the database she helped create, including over 60 teacher preparation programs and over 40 veteran centers.
 Rey said she will use her VISTA experience to continue helping Indigenous people and after her service ended, she stayed in Bozeman and began to work with Ed Ready Montana, a program led by the University of Montana. She is working on outreach to reservation communities in the Southeastern Montana to help middle, and high school students  improve academic skills and increase educational opportunities. She said she has also started looking into Veterans associations closer to her home in Arizona and finding a way she can be involved in helping her own community. One idea she has is becoming a language teacher to younger Navajo children in her rural community.

Rey’s service to the Montana Campus Compact helped expand the capacity of MSU Bozeman and Troops to Teachers program, and provided tools to indigenous veterans as they transition to serving high needs communities stateside.