Wednesday, May 30, 2018


Guest blog by Aubree Pierce, MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA with Montana State University

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


Guest Blogger: MTCC VISTA Haley Spurlin

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 (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 ( If you have any questions or ideas to add to our Storyboards, please share! You can reach me via email at