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!