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.