Monday, December 10, 2018

A TELESCOPE LOOKING IN BY EVERETT WALKER

I find myself at odds with how to really convey much of anything in this blog.  I’m here to serve, I felt a call and had to find where that call was coming from.  I’m almost thirty with 3 kids and I’m married.  I used to sit in a cubicle and sell insurance over the phone and I was good at it.  I can connect with people quickly and serve his/her needs in about twenty minutes, another ten to get the policy or policies rolling and after 11 hours in the building I would clock out and go home with my wife. We would pick up our 3 beautiful kids and make dinner and eat, snuggle play games do bath time.  In the back of my mind, I was losing it.  I was fighting a losing battle with depression and put on a smile.

As a dad, I felt a call to be better.  As a husband I heard a call to be better, and as a patriot I couldn’t ignore the call to do better.  So I started looking, high and low, for a cause.  I looked at the UN, never heard back from that application, I looked at politicians running for office in Colorado that I could get behind, I looked so much that I lost my heart and felt nothing but a deafening call to be, what, better?  My depression and anxiety was giving me a run for my money, I was having panic attacks in my car on the way to work.  One evening I read my emails and one said, “ Hey, finish your application please. We think you’d be a good fit for this position.”  So I jumped up in my kitchen and let out a squeal.  The bird squawked at me, my dog was on alert and my wife looked at me from across the table like I was crazy.  My heart was racing as I finished the last bit.  A few days later I was having interviews for Montana and Colorado, I had this amazing opportunity at my feet.  I moved before I received the offer, in fact I was leaving Colorado Springs the morning Lana sent it to me.  My response was a picture of the UHaul.  I fell in love with Missoula just reading about it, I had to do something different and had several interviews lined up.


The best part of all of this is that I’m here right now, getting things done.  I am able to be better as a dad, as a husband and do better as a patriot.  I grew up learning to love my country, not just the land, constitution, flag or consumerism but the people.  We are all connected to one another.  We all have a stake in what is happening.  I was never able to serve my country the way my dad, his dad and his dad, so on and so forth did; but this is my way and my path.  It’s narrow right now but at the end of it are endless possibilities.  What is giving my heart and mind a rest is knowing that what I’m doing here matters.  Being a Leader, taking a huge cut in pay and dragging my family over a thousand miles was worth it.  I’m making a difference,  I’m proud to be a part of something larger than myself and to push it forward.  I appreciate being able to show my children at an early age what service is.  I also serve in a very cool host site and have felt like a kid in a candy shop the whole time.

I think the point here is that this service has helped me take care of not only my adopted community of Missoula, but also myself and my family.  The service is the true reward.

Monday, December 3, 2018

MY AMERICORPS SERVICE THROUGH THE WORDS OF BEAT POETS BY AMBER DECHAINE

Amber Dechaine“None of us understand what we are doing, but we do beautiful things anyways” -Allan Ginsberg. 

That is how my year of service began. Confusion and chaos amongst paperwork and packing boxes. I was unsure of what I was committing to and how I would budget bills and expenses with only a living stipend at my disposal. It wasn’t until orientation that it began to sink in. Three days spent with people I have never met. Team building, sharing meals, service learning. In those three days we learned about our mutual connection. The passion to give something of ourselves to those in need.

“Some people like neat suburbs. I always am attracted to the rundown and the old and the offbeat.” – William S Burroughs. 

A background in social work is what I brought to my service project. An education in how social injustice has been the foundation of our society. My career path has been an investment in serving the underserved. Hearing the stories, and the trauma, and the confusion, and the tears of the “rundown and the offbeat.”

“I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” – Jack Kerouac

I landed at the Montana Career Lab, a unit inside of the Research and Analysis bureau inside of the Montana Department of Labor and Industry. I had no background in career development, I had no background in labor and industry. I had only the experience that at the age of 18 I had no idea about what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. How could I commit four years to one degree when I didn’t know if I would use it, how much it would cost me, and if it was something I would remain passionate about for years to come.
I have come to realize that I landed at the Montana Career Lab because I wanted to make that experience better for others.
While serving with the Montana Career Lab I have been able to work with their newly developed curriculum called “Careers Build a Community.” This curriculum was developed to help expose youth, in first through third grades, to the concept of careers and the idea that every career is valuable inside of a community. So far, my service has allowed me to network with educators and parents from an age population that the Montana Career Lab has not yet connected with. We have attended conferences, spoken to organizations, and I will soon be putting the curriculum to use with afterschool programs throughout the Helena School District.
For me it has been difficult to see other AmeriCorps leaders working with students daily and doing very direct work. Part of my inspiration to serve with AmeriCorps was to get that direct experience with youth and to make a lasting impact on their lives. My background in social work allows me to take a step back and understand that I AM making an impact. Creating change on a larger, more macro level so that students for years to come can better understand what a career is and the value of exploring these ideas through every step of their education.
So not only do I get to work on implementing change on a larger scale, but this winter I will also get to directly work with youth on a part time basis. Perhaps the best of both worlds.

“Find your place on the planet. Dig in and take responsibility from there.” -Gary Snyder

I don’t know if this is “my place” but I do know that every step along this journey, things have fallen into place. My decision to serve with AmeriCorps, move to Montana, and dedicate my time to helping students of all ages gain access to career development resources, all this coming together makes it feel like a custom fitted experience, tailor made for my journey.
“And so love goes. And so life goes. And so I go.” -Neal Cassady

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Alumni Spotlight: Emily Clark

Emily served as both an AmeriCorps Leader at Montana Campus Compact, and later as a staff member! Of the service year, Emily said "I was able to witness inspirational community service occurring across the vast state of Montana. MTCC college student members served a breadth of community needs: from health classes at the Poplar Wellness Center with Fort Peck Community College to the TRIO peer tutoring at UM Western in Dillon. MTCC fostered collaborations between non-profits and college campuses to meet community needs and encouraged student members to be proactive citizens. I feel fortunate to have met many engaged and charitable Montanas while working for MTCC."
Emily is currently a hydrologist with WGM Group, Inc..Thanks for your service, Emily!

Alumni Spotlight: Sydne Campbell


Sydne served as a Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA at Fort Peck Community College from 2004-2005. Of the service year, Sydne said "It helped me to be able to work with those from other areas of the United States and see what we do have in common as one. It gave me a positive encouraging push to strive to help others in a positive way. It helped me to give back to my community and the organization."
Sydne currently works as a Legal Assistant/Administrative Assistant at the Fort Peck Tribes Chairman's Office. Thanks for your service, Sydne!

Almuni Spotlight: Katie Koga

Katie served as a Campus Compact AmeriCorps Team Leader at The University of Montana from 2010-2011. Reflecting on the service year, Katie said "This experience helped shape my view of public service and what it looks like for different individuals. Following my time with Campus Corps, I transitioned to working for a social justice organization, addressing issues of prejudice, oppression, and discrimination. As I'm transitioning to a career in healthcare, my service experience continues to strengthen my commitment to work that serves and benefits the public while engaging me as a community member."
Katie is a current student at the University of Montana, in the pre-nursing program. Thanks for your service, Katie!
 

Alumni Spotlight: Jon Stephani

Jon served as an AmeriCorps Team Leader at The University of Montana Western from 2009-2011, and was a staff member at Montana Campus Compact from 2013-2015. Reflecting on service, Jon said "I would not be where I am today without my experience with the Montana Campus Compact. My two years of National Service set the stage for my future career. While serving, I was involved in many training and development opportunities that allowed me to build skills in Situational Leadership, Group and Team Dynamics, and Project Planning and Implementation. National Service pushed me to become not grow professionally, but to become a better person. As a staff member for the Montana Campus Compact, I was able to pass on the same passion for national service and skills to other National Service Members. In a sense, I was able to pass the torch to a new generation."
"I am eternally grateful to the Montana Campus Compact for all the opportunities that were provided to me. I developed a deep sense of community involvement that I have carried with me into a new career. The Compact instilled the desire to serve my community, and to make the world around me a better place."
Thanks for your service, Jon!

Alumni Spotlight: Jennifer Gardner Newbold

Jennifer was an AmeriCorps Leader with the University of Montana Campus Corps from 1999-2000. Reflecting on service, Jennifer said "It really solidified in me a sense of responsibility to my community. I was always civic-minded, but my second year with AmeriCorps as an AmeriCorps Leader with Campus Compact really instilled in me a lifelong sense of duty in me. I think that’s because I developed a deep appreciation for service through my time with AmeriCorps. You see so many needs met, but also so many needs left unfulfilled. You learn that you actually can – and do – make a difference. It also helped me develop many professional skills that I rely on today – particularly understanding how different personalities can work together and how positivity and organization really do help you get things done!"
"I feel I can say with confidence, that without my AmeriCorps experience, my life could have taken a different path. The opportunity to engage in something meaningful after finishing college, but before moving on to the next phase of my life, is something I will always be grateful for. AmeriCorps is a unique experience, and one that without a doubt, shaped who I am today."
Jennifer is currently an attorney with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Thanks for your continuing service, Jennifer!

Alumni Spotlight: Jenny Eck

Jenny served as an AmeriCorps VISTA at the Poverello Center, Inc. from 2004-2005. Reflecting on the service year, Jenny said "The work I did during my year as an AmeriCorps VISTA helped me prepare for future employment in many ways. It was my first job in a professional office setting, and my first job in the nonprofit sector. It was also how I gained experience in grant writing and fundraising. I have since gone on to build on those skills I first learned at the Poverello Center."
"When I come across people in the professional world who were once VISTA’s, I often know it right off the bat. There’s something about AmeriCorps volunteers: their work ethic, their hopefulness, their commitment to their communities and to service. I know that AmeriCorps service members and alums are transforming our country and our state for the better, one project at a time!"
Jenny is currently the Executive Director of the Friendship Center in Helena, MT and Minority Leader of the Montana House of Representatives. Thanks for your continuing service, Jenny!!

Monday, November 26, 2018

GUEST POST: NEWMAN CIVIC FELLOW SOPHIE MOON CHECKS IN.

Thanks to Campus Compact and the University of Montana, last week I was able to attend the Newman Civic Fellows Conference in Boston, Massachusetts as the University of Montana’s Newman Civic Fellow.

Held at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, the conference brought together student leaders from across the country to celebrate our work and strategize for the future. Fellows had the special opportunity of debating current issues, such as the DREAM Act and the Farm Bill, in a way that closely resembled real-life deliberations in the Senate. We also toured the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, and used the space to continue discussing the theory and practice of organizing for change. Connecting with other young activists in Boston helped me realize both the common threads that run through all of our work, and how we can collaborate to address big problems, as well as the characteristics that make my community unique. I left the conference feeling truly inspired by the incredible activists that I met and empowered to make a tangible, positive change in my community.
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Sophie Moon, a Political Science and Environmental Studies student from the University of Montana, is one of seven Montana Newman Civic Fellows.

Monday, November 19, 2018

GAMIFYING EDUCATION BY DAYTON SMITH

Tech Camp 1I had never heard the phrase “gamify education” before I joined the Tech4Good team at Salish Kootenai College.

Gamifying education is a trendy term for efforts to create immersive, engaging experiences as opposed to traditional lecture or classroom learning and it’s something I continue to enjoy implementing into our various programs at. Another term commonly used to describe the practices in place at Tech4Good and in the Digital Design Technology department is “experiential learning”.

Our keystone program at Flathead Tech4Good, now in its third year, is called Gaming the Future. The goal of this yearlong project is to gamify our educational opportunities and help students realize interests they may otherwise have not known existed by introducing various technologies and practices often reserved for those working at a more advanced level of study than the 6th thru 12th graders we recruit for our programming. 

Tech Camp 2Halfway through my tenure with Tech4Good, I now believe in the concept of gamifying education as strongly as I believe in the facts like reading for pleasure and practicing music increase your ability to learn and retain information, or that learning a second language has endless benefits.

In past years, the output from our Gaming the Future program has been collaborative board games based on issues stemming from food sovereignty on the reservation to preventing aquatic invasive species in Flathead Lake.

This year, our challenge theme is community health and we’ve taken a different approach to our student projects by working off of a “data jam” model we were introduced to by our partners at Flathead Lake Biological Station.

Implementing datasets and asking students to interpret them has been a challenge, but it’s a challenge I have enjoyed facing and I’m looking forward to the output projects we will see produced by our students throughout the course of the academic year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

PAYING IT FORWARD BY ADAM MAES

For just over two months now I have been serving at Montana Tech in Butte, Montana. This is not new territory for me; I was born and raised in Anaconda, MT just 20 miles away. After completing a first term of service last year in Havre, MT I wasn’t sure I wanted to complete a second. However, I felt it was my “duty” to perform one more round of AmeriCorps service – specifically at this site.

I was raised in a low-income household and neither of my parents went to college. As a result, I was never sure I would go to college, let alone afford the high costs of schooling myself or even with help of my family. College was not necessarily something I thought could or would be in my future. Then one day in the sixth grade, a woman named Holly came to my school. She was bearing candy and applications for a program called “Talent Search.” She ensured us that this was not for a talent show, but was for those of us that thought we might want to go college one day. So I signed up. I was accepted and was able to visit UM and MSU on trips where I didn’t have to pay anything. It was AWESOME.

Fast forward to high school. I was approached by a man named Brandon McLean. He said he knew I was in Talent Search and that he ran a program called Upward Bound that was similar to Talent Search, and he thought that I would be a good fit. Another application and an acceptance letter later, I was in TRIO Upward Bound and moving toward the goal of completing high school and applying for college.

I am telling this story because now I am serving with the same TRIO programs from which I am an alumnus. When I was investigating AmeriCorps sites to serve I was originally set on leaving Montana, but then I saw the listing for Tech. My head and heart were suddenly screaming at me that I could not walk away from this. AmeriCorps members helped me on my way to adulthood and college alike through serving through TRIO programs. I needed to pay that forward and give back to those that had given me all of the amazing opportunities that I would otherwise have undoubtedly never had. I would not have been afforded the experiences that were given to me. Without these programs I would not be who I am today, and I owe them more than I will ever be able to pay back.

Now I find myself back in my old communities bringing upwards of 70 students on college visits. I am helping with numerous FAFSAs, and filling out what seems like hundreds of college applications. I have become someone who has to be a hard a** and kick some butts to show some of my students their potential. I have become someone who is becoming an expert in all levels of high school math. I have become a shoulder to cry on, a trusted confidant, and a cheerleader. I am exhausted and the work seems to never end. It seems like there are always “fires” large and small that need attention, but I am not complaining. This service position gives me purpose. For what may be the first time in my “working” life I wake up and want to go to my “job.” I love every student that I work with (even the incredibly difficult ones), and I am increasingly excited to see what they will do when they leave this program, just like I did.




Thursday, November 8, 2018

THANK YOU AMERICORPS BY NICOLE LEMASTER

No automatic alt text available.One week ago I hit my two month mark in Missoula Montana, two thousand miles from my old Kentucky home. And of course, it started snowing transforming this valley in the Rockies into a widespread blanket of white. It went from a Kentucky September fall day to a Kentucky harsh winter day in the middle of February. Can you tell that I feel unprepared for the winter that is here? However, that’s a part of the experience I wanted when I signed up to be an AmeriCorps Leader at the SpecrtrUM Discovery Area here in Missoula Montana six months ago. Except the experience I’ve received so far is very different than what I expected.
Over the past two months there is one family that I have come to know very well from serving at SpectrUM and Empower Place. The family consists of a mother, her 9 year old daughter, 4 year old son and 6 month old girl along with their cousins. I expect this clan on Fridays after school hours and Saturdays after their morning trip to the Public Library. The older girls are pretty vocal about their living situations and their troubles, but that doesn’t impact how much fun we have while digging in the giant nose at SpectrUM or engaging in the science activity at the Discovery Bench. The baby girls sit quietly situated right next to each other in their double stroller while mom takes a break in our comfy chairs. You can see how tired she is, but nonetheless she has the sweetest and most genuine smile while her eyes dart about the museum ensuring all kids are accounted for and happy. From this family her 4 year old son has come to be one of my favorite people I’ve met on this journey so far. Cameron loves building tall structures with our Keva blocks and loves trying to figure out how to make a hotel from our geometric magnets. Cameron also works with the 3D printer and likes figuring out what the next big project is for him to build. Engineering ideas from his imagination is one of my favorite parts of the week. We have long discussions about how to plan our next project. For example we will talk about what materials to use and what is the best strategy to make his imaginary building a reality. In the hours we have spent building together I have learned that his favorite color is red, but sometimes green, his favorite song is “All About That Bass” by Meghan Trainor (I’m sure the cleanest of versions) and that even though he is always quiet he loves to tell you a nice compliment for the day. He talks to me as if we are peers and I appreciate him for that. While I am there to encourage him and support his curiosity, I am overcome with the feeling that I am gaining more from my experience with him than he is from me sometimes.
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup and outdoorI cherish every moment I have with this family and the many other families that I get a chance to connect with at SpectrUM and Empower Place. Seeing the excitement on a kids face when the light bulb in their head turns on, listening to their elaborate stories or outlandish thoughts, and getting to share a mutually new experience are all why AmeriCorps gives more than just an experience. This journey is new but feels so right. To seek curiosity in others, speak with compassion, and to have courage to try out new ideas daily is what AmeriCorps, and Cameron, have given me. Thank you AmeriCorps!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

EXPANDING YOUR COMFORT ZONE


What do you want to get out of service? 
This question is often asked when members are at the beginning of their service year. Some members say professional development, others may say the experience to travel to a new community. When I think of service, expanding my comfort zone comes to mind. It is human nature to want to stay in a familiarized state. Being pushed into a new situation can be scary sometimes. Last week Montana Campus Compact (MTCC) hosted a training called “FRAME: Expanding your Comfort Zone”. This training is to help challenge our AmeriCorps Leaders and VISTAs to get outside that comfort zone and tackle topics that are not easy to discuss.
MTCC had several different speakers that brought up difficult topics that our members may experience at their host sites. EmpowerMT had Heidi Wallace come in to discuss diversity and inclusion. She did an amazing job highlighting what it is like having “glasses” on when looking at diversity. Ivan and Ivy MacDonald spoke with us and showed us film about missing indigenous women in Montana. These stories show what is happening on reservations and how not much is being done to help. It was eye opening! Lydia Schildt from the YWCA presented about Historical Trauma and Healing. She gave insight on what indigenous people went through and how they are still experiencing hardships and healing. All the members participated in a service project for Lubrecht Experimental Forest. We cleaned up waste on the side of the highway. It wasn’t glamorous, but service isn’t meant to be glamorous, it is about rolling up your sleeves and “Getting things done”. Marc Moss was a speaker on our last day who taught us about how telling your service story is important. He gave wonderful tips on how to do that, while also sharing some of his own personal stories.

At the end of each training, you hope that each person takes something away to use at their host sites. With all the amazing speakers at this training, I don’t see how you couldn’t. In service, you have to lose your comfort zone. You will be challenged and pushed to your limits at times, but, at the end of the day, it isn’t about you. Service is about serving the needs in the community you are in.




Monday, October 22, 2018

DISILLUSIONMENT AND EMPATHY BY SABRINA QUIMBY

We all fear the unknown, but some people live it everyday, not knowing when their next meal will be or if they are going to wake up the next day. I personally feared failure in the face of ambition when I made my decision to serve Montana Campus Compact under AmeriCorps as a leader for Flagship. I feared not being able to make it here after wanting this for two years because of my financial situation, but sometimes you just have to go for it anyways.
Two flights and a car ride later, I was here not knowing what to expect. Running an after-school program for at-risk students, you want them to have fun, feel safe, with bellies full, and minds ready to learn. Some days are better than others, but knowing that they are here instead of being alone or engaging in dangerous behavior makes any stress worth it.
The photo above shows me in 7th grade
Serving middle school students makes me think about back when I was in their shoes (except for the iphones, can’t relate there). We were all so awkward and wanting to be understood.
 Using my own past experiences, even in my disillusionment of jumping into so many unknowns, I use empathy to relate to my students. I don’t see bad kids, but rather troubled souls and see the importance of working with their families to make sure that they are successful in my programs. I teach kids to look out out for one another and to see how my volunteers are trying to help them. The more that we are aware of our own impact in other’s lives, the more inclined students are to think before they act and observe before they deter.
One example of this is when I had to talk to a student’s guardian because of their constant misbehaving and it turns out that they had just recently started fostering the student, so they were just as curious as I was about how to help them succeed. They were so worried about their child being kicked out because my programs were the only option that they had for them. I worked with the guardian to make sure he can continue to move forward with us. Even among the chaos of whirlwind days, being able to serve in such ways makes it worth it.
Americorps as a whole is an incredible way to “get things done” for an amazing organization, while making an impact nationwide. It introduces you to great people you wouldn’t have met otherwise and shows how important you are in society. Whether you are working with youth outdoors, or in offices, your service is helping so much more than you realize. I’m grateful for this opportunity. I can’t wait to take on more challenges with a kind smile and open heart.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

CHASING CURIOSITY BY JORDAN FERNANDEZ

Jordan Fernandez
It was a brisk and grey day at the end of September when Head Start came for a class to help illustrate positive parent and child interactions. Outside, the hills were dressed with heavy clouds, while the Missoula valley floor felt the sprinkle of light rain. The seasons were changing and you could feel it in the crisp breeze. I had been serving as a MTCC AmeriCorps Leader at Empower Place (as part of Broader Impacts Group, SpectrUM, Missoula Food Bank, and Community Center) for a few weeks.
A family came in that early fall morning that really shifted my perspective on the basis of the people of our community. The mother of two came in with her son Chase. Abigail is a hearing impaired single mother. Her bright smile showed her love and care for her kids. She was doing the best she could for them, and it showed from the way that her son listened to her while her infant lay silently in her arms. Before meeting this family, I really didn’t have a sense of the people that I was serving or the community that I had just become a part of. I was starting to come to understand that these people are no different than my family or the millions of families across America just trying to live a full and happy life.
Image may contain: Robert Jordan Fernandez, mountain, sky, outdoor and nature
While I was still getting my bearings at EmPower Place, this young boy approached me and engaged in a positive interaction right from the start. We worked on his motor skills, while building with Geometric magnet tiles and a Duplo train set. His smile was enormous and full of light, just like his mother’s. When he saw the battery powered train move across the track that we had just constructed together, his eyes lit up with amazement. He would turn and jump. He would grab the train and turn it off and on. He never lost sight of it.
At the end of our time together, Chase did not want to leave. He didn’t respond to his mother's attempts or those of the Head Start people. I couldn’t blame him, I did not want to see him go either. His curiosity was memorable. He kept turning the train off, to flip it over and examine the wheels. You could tell the gears in his head were spinning. With the support of his community and the model that is informal education, this boy is going to make an impact. Such is life that we go from one moment to the next, unsure, but always curious.

Friday, September 28, 2018

SERVICE MEMBERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE ON SEPTEMBER 11TH

In honor of the national day of service observed on September 11th, Montana Campus Compact national service members spent the last few weeks engaging in service projects around the state. VISTA members Rachel Juel, Eli Bowe, Andrew Prior, Kaleigh Mency, and Yanet Eudave Marin collaborated with other service members and a local farm to harvest 982 pounds of apples for the Gallatin Valley Food Bank in Bozeman.


Members in the Flathead Valley, Navraj Kaler, JJ Dynneson, and Courtney Olson also collaborated with service members from other projects to volunteer at the Montana Dragon Boat Festival in Lakeside, an event sponsored by Kalispell Regional Healthcare. The members were excited to play a part in a great community event! Tansy Remiszewski in Missoula also volunteered with a community event, serving food, beverages, and hospitality at the Missoula Urban Demonstration Project's annual garden party fundraiser.

Paxton McCausland, a VISTA member serving in Helena, participated in a service project at a Habitat for Humanity build-out site in East Helena. Paxton was thrilled to not only help build a house for a family in need, but also to learn how to use a reciprocating saw, a hand saw, and a nail gun (his personal favorite).

Missoula area VISTA members Emma Giron, Ashley Hettler, Alexi Corbett, Syed Hossain, Marlena Weiss and Maryelizabeth Koepele worked to pack snacks at the Missoula Food Bank to help out with their EmpowerPack Program, which sends snacks home with school children over the weekends.


Alexis Burton organized two community clean up events in Troy. Her first cleanup event was with a group of sixth graders. Alexis was pleasantly surprised to see how much the students enjoyed the event; they spent three hours happily picking up trash and asked her when they could do it again! Her second event was with another service member, and the two of them were able to collect twelve 10-gallon buckets buckets worth of trash from around Troy’s community dump and the back side of the Frisbee Golf Course.




AmeriCorps Leaders and VISTA members created care packages for first responders in their host site areas. Care packages were delivered on 9/11 to thank first responders for their service.  Leader Daniele Vickers presented her care package to Mr. Willy Torros, who is the Department Head of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital EMS. Maryelizabeth Koepele, Lana Petrie, Sabrina Quimby, Jordan Fernandez, Nicole Lemaster, Clara Moser, Loni Neilson-Kattel, Marlena Weiss, and Syed Hossain visited Missoula Fire Departments to show their gratitude. Not pictured: Dayton Smith, Adam Maes, Amber Dechaine, Chandler Padgett, and Amon Barry delivered care packages in their respective host site towns.

Montana Campus Compact service members were thankful to have the opportunity to engage in such a wide variety of projects in Montana!





SERVICE MEMBERS MAKE A DIFFERENCE ON SEPTEMBER 11

VISTA members at the Missoula Food Bank
In honor of the national day of service observed on September 11th, Montana Campus Compact national service members spent the last few weeks engaging in service projects around the state. VISTA members Rachel Juel, Eli Bowe, Andrew Prior, Kaleigh Mency, and Yanet Eudave Marin collaborated with other service members and a local farm to harvest 982 pounds of apples for the Gallatin Valley Food Bank in Bozeman.

Members in the Flathead Valley, Navraj Kaler, JJ Dynneson, and Courtney Olson also collaborated with service members from other projects to volunteer at the Montana Dragon Boat Festival in Lakeside, an event sponsored by Kalispell Regional Healthcare. The members were excited to play a part in a great community event! Tansy Remiszewski in Missoula also volunteered with a community event, serving food, beverages, and hospitality at the Missoula Urban Demonstration’s annual garden party fundraiser.

Paxton McCausland, a VISTA member serving in Helena, participated in a service project at a Habitat for Humanity build-out site in East Helena. Paxton was thrilled to not only help build a house for a family in need, but also to learn how to use a reciprocating saw, a hand saw, and a nail gun (his personal favorite).

Missoula area VISTA members Emma Giron, Ashley Hettler, Alexi Corbett, Syed Hossain, Marlena Weiss and Maryelizabeth Koepele worked to pack snacks at the Missoula Food Bank to help out with their EmpowerPack Program, which sends snacks home with school children over the weekends.


 Alexis Burton organized two community clean up events in Troy. Her first cleanup event was with a group of sixth graders. Alexis was pleasantly surprised to see how much the students enjoyed the event; they spent three hours happily picking up trash and asked her when they could do it again! Her second event was with another service member, and the two of them were able to collect twelve 10-gallon buckets buckets worth of trash from around Troy’s community dump and the back side of the Frisbee Golf Course.

AmeriCorps Leaders and VISTA members created care packages for first responders in their host site areas. Care packages were delivered on 9/11 to thank first responders for their service.  Leader Daniele Vickers presented her care package to Mr. Willy Torros, who is the Department Head of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital EMS. Maryelizabeth, Lana Petrie, Sabrina Quimby, Jordan Fernandez, Nicole Lemaster, Clara Moser, Loni Neilson-Kattel, Marlena Weiss, and Syed Hossain visited Missoula Fire Departments to show their gratitude. Not pictured: Dayton Smith, Adam Maes, Amber Dechaine, Chandler Padgett, and Amon Barry delivered care packages in their respective host site towns.

Montana Campus Compact service members were thankful to have the opportunity to engage in such a wide variety of projects in Montana!










Monday, August 20, 2018

CAMP REACH MORE CHALLENGES YOUTH TO REACH HIGHER


(Guest blog by Gina Wiezel , MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate with Missoula Parks and Recreation)

The Montana CampusCompact Summer VISTA and AmeriCorps Program offers Montana students and residents the opportunity to serve in their local communities, or across the state, to help run summer learning loss prevention camps, summer feeding programs, and summer college prep camps. This summer 53 national service members participated in diverse activities to help Montana community organizations fight local poverty, including increasing tutoring and mentoring resources, managing various summer activities and support services for children and families, supporting feeding programs to help alleviate hunger within the community, mobilizing hundreds of volunteers to assist with events, developing programs to help literacy rates among disadvantaged youth, and planning for future VISTA members’ efforts. We’d like to highlight one particular story from a member serving with the MissoulaParks and Recreation REACH MORE program.

The overall goal of our program is to support youth with disabilities in recreation summer enrichment programs to increase the chances of succeeding in and outside the classroom. Our program is incredibly successful.  We serviced 130 youth in the REACH MORE program, our 10 week summer program, that might of otherwise struggled to find summer enrichment programming appropriate least restrictive learning environments and abilities. Research has found that people with disabilities often fall within poverty guidelines.  Providing community based inclusive summer services has proven to enrich and increase their school and social behaviors and lead to a stronger likelihood for job placement.

During my time serving with REACH MORE, a 
Missoula Parks and Recreation camp for children of all abilities,  I had the opportunity to work with a diverse group of children. One boy came to our camp for multiple weeks. Every week we have our campers do a ropes course. The first few weeks that this boy was in camp he didn’t want to climb at all, preferring to just watch. After two weeks of him not engaging and not participating in the ropes course the other counselors and I decided that we would push him a little to try climbing the rock wall. We told him that he only had to take 2 steps and after that if he chose not to climb for the rest of the day he didn’t have to. That day and he only climbed two steps, but last week we had him try again. We had a great group of kids and they all cheered for each other. With everyone cheering, he climbed about halfway on the wall.
      I think this kid got stuck in a pattern of believing himself incapable of doing certain things, but once he had people believing in him, encouraging him to try his best he discovered that he was capable of climbing more than just the two steps we were challenging him to. With everyone cheering he pushed himself to go higher.

This experience taught me that it is important to have people that support you to challenge yourself and that when you decide to challenge and believe in yourself you can accomplish a lot. Too often we focus on what we can’t do and forget how much we truly are able to accomplish.  We put limits upon ourselves and don’t appreciate our capabilities. We fall into patterns and routine and don’t push ourselves or try situations that test our abilities. I believe it is important to challenge ourselves to things that may be difficult or scary, because when we challenge ourselves we discover capabilities we might not have known that we possessed. 

The ropes course in general taught me that it is important to challenge myself, to not compare and weigh my successes against others, that it is okay to step back from a challenge, and that if I don’t succeed or go as far with my ambitions the first time around that I can come back and perhaps will go further or accomplish more. I also learned that it is okay to not get as far as I wanted or expected. What is important is not how far you come, but how much you tried and how much effort you put into getting to where you are.




Wednesday, May 30, 2018

BATTLING HUNGER AND BUILDING COMMUNITY IN THE GALLATIN VALLEY!

Guest blog by Aubree Pierce, MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA with Montana State University
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My project is at the MSU campus food pantry, Bounty of the Bridgers (BoB). We began having pop-up pantries in October of 2017 so we are making adjustments and trying to improve the pantry as we go. My role with this project has been integral in building capacity and creating sustainability for the BoB Pantry. Through this project I have developed relationships with many campus and community partners who have helped push this project forward and are helping create permanence and sustainability on campus. These relationships as well as the support of student volunteers are so critical to the pantry’s success. 

Two of the most important relationships established are with the grocery stores, Rosauers, Safeway, and Albertson’s, and with the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. We currently serve mostly shelf stable items and bakery recovered from local grocery stores. We are greatly supported by the Gallatin Valley Food Bank. They provide us with some produce and we also pick up some produce from grocery stores. However, the supply is often limited and lacking in variety.

I had been in some communication with the campus research farm, Towne’s Harvest Garden, but I felt that this relationship could be stronger and would be a good source to bring more produce to the pantry. I reached out to the farm managers and they were very excited to work more closely with us. They gifted us a space to grow our own produce for the BoB Pantry and are growing extra rows of their normal crops to donate to us in exchange for occasional volunteer help.

After the partnership with Towne’s was established, I applied for and was awarded a grant from Youth Service America and the Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation to host a Global Youth Service Day project. For our Global Youth Service Day event, we held a Garden Kick-off and Earth Day party. This event was a huge success because we were able to get more students involved with volunteering as well as some of the pantry clients, and this event helped raise awareness of the BoB Pantry and our dedication to providing fresh, healthy foods to the MSU community.

At this event, volunteers helped prepare the garden beds, plant seeds in the field, plant seeds for transplanting, and plant seeds to take home. We also had a kid's planter pot decorating station, a local food tasting station, and a farm to table educational station.

We will continue to have students and youth volunteer and be involved with the garden through the summer. We are excited to see fresh, nutritious food come to those in need, and we are excited to provide a learning opportunity for children to learn more about gardening, local food, and where their food comes from.

This event was so much fun and a great way to end the semester. I am filled with pride and I am in awe of the enthusiasm of the students and community who came together to work on this project. The students have made the pantry a success. It’s incredible to see so many young individuals engaged in service to better their community. The student volunteers that I am so lucky to be surrounded by are an inspiration and they have made my VISTA service feel so impactful. 

Thursday, May 3, 2018

TROY HIGH SCHOOL VISTA HALEY SPURLIN UTILIZES STORYBOARDING!


Guest Blogger: MTCC VISTA Haley Spurlin
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In the Fall, I had the opportunity to attend the 2018 GEAR UP West Conference in Portland, Oregon with the Troy Junior/Senior High School (THS) GEAR UP team. During the conference, I attended a session titled “Storyboards – Collaborative Plans Connecting Students, Schools, and Families” led by Washington State GEAR UP team members. This session focused on explaining the value of collaborative goal setting throughout students’ time in high school so that students would have a clearly defined post-secondary plans upon graduation. Since my VISTA project revolves around creating resources to assist students in their post-secondary planning process, this session was a perfect fit.

Essentially, the Washington State GEAR UP team created individualized posters for each grade level so that students could begin to write down their plans and aspirations for the future. At the end of each year, the posters are displayed in the hallways for a “Gallery Walk” which families are invited to attend to celebrate the students’ goals; then, the posters are mailed home for parents to keep.  By the end of their high school career, students are able to look back and see how their goals and interests have shifted and can then turn the goals into action plans.

Examples of what could be included on a Storyboard are: career aspirations, advice from teachers/family, team members (who is supporting you), top college choices, grades, GPA, test scores, potential college majors/programs, scholarships you are applying for, deadlines, etc. Think of the Storyboard as a checklist of sorts. What does a student need to do each year in order to be prepared for college? What do students need to be thinking about when they are making decisions for their future? This way, students and families are aware of needs to happen each year which can help ease the anxiety associated with transitioning to college.

We started our Storyboards with the 7th and 8th grade students as a part of their “Strut Your Stuff” projects (students create a tri-fold board with their Storyboard, examples of their best work from the year, results of a career interest survey, information about their learning style, and whatever else they want to include about themselves. These tri-fold boards are displayed during the JR High Awards Ceremony) and we were able to use class time to help them complete their posters.

Thus far, student response has been positive. Having creative and fun posters to talk about your goals definitely helped, and telling them that they would be displayed at the “Strut Your Stuff” Ceremony motivated students to take the project more seriously.

I have attached a photo of the 7th and 8th grade Storyboard I created using the amazing and FREE canva.com (100% recommend for all your graphic design needs!!). If you would like view Storyboards for each grade level, they are available on the THS GEAR UP blog (thsgearup.blogspot.com). If you have any questions or ideas to add to our Storyboards, please share! You can reach me via email at spurlin@mtcompact.org.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

MTCC VISTA AUBREE PIERCE TRAVELS TO INDY!

Guest Blogger: MTCC VISTA Aubree Pierce
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The BoBPantry at MSU relies upon student support and enthusiasm for the project. Not just as volunteers during pantry operating hours, but to help spread awareness of food insecurity and food waste on campus and to break down the stigma around hunger and receiving food assistance. The Food Resource Council student club is the driving force, the lifeblood, and the reason why the BoB Pantry has been so successful during its pilot year.


Over the weekend of March 24th-25th, 2018 I traveled to the Campus Kitchens Food Waste and Hunger Summit in Indianapolis with my VISTA supervisor, who is also the faculty advisor for the Food Resource Council (FRC) student club, along with three other students who are part of the FRC leadership team. This experience gave these students an opportunity to hear about other initiatives to alleviate food waste and food insecurity nationwide and helped reinvigorate their passion for the work that we are doing through the BoB Pantry.


At this conference, the FRC students and I presented on the Bounty of the Bridgers MSU Food Pantry, and we held a problem-solving decision making open house session. We asked that attendees of the session pair up, present a problem or obstacle that they have been facing to their partner, and discuss potential solutions with their partner. This activity gave individuals an opportunity to receive an outside perspective on obstacles or barriers that they have been facing and a chance to talk about their problems with someone new. Our presentation also provided perspective on our pantry model that some in their beginning stages may take direction from. My supervisor attended this conference in 2017, and she said, “It’s amazing to see how far we have come in the last year. When we were here last year, we were the ones asking the questions and now we are the ones answering the questions.”


We also had the opportunity to learn about the campus pantry at IUPUI, the host college for the conference. This pantry is in the stage that the BoB Pantry is currently transitioning into, so being able to network with the pantry coordinators at this site and familiarize myself with their operations was exceptionally beneficial to beginning planning the BoB Pantry’s phase 2 operations.

This was a wonderful experience to share with the students and for myself as a young professional. I am happy that the students were able to immerse themselves for a weekend into these important issues motivating them to keep working diligently to improve food security and food access. This conference exposed me to several national initiatives to combat hunger on college campuses and boosted my enthusiasm for and dedication to alleviating food insecurity. I hope that next year’s VISTA for this project will have the opportunity for this experience as well.