MACC AmeriCorps*VISTAs serve a dual role on college campuses; we coordinate with community partners and leverage college resources to work with those community partners while providing students with leadership and service opportunities. As I shift my focus from developing partnerships and instituting trainings to making those initiatives sustainable I find the focus of my work shifting. I am now spending more time than ever preparing students to take over facilitating trainings and reflections so that the tutors in their programs will be prepared to effectively serve in the community after I finish my second term as a MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA.
With this new focus on sustainability, rather than just building initial capacity I have been able to focus even more on providing students with ways to explore their understanding of community and service and their own ability to create positive change. Encouraging the development of engaged community members is a vital part of the MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA role on a college campus. Providing students avenues to escape the campus bubble and engage in their community in a meaningful way benefits the community, provides students with opportunities for personal and professional growth and allows students to explore community involvement before graduation. This I think is critical, because it is unrealistic to expect students to live in a college bubble for four years and emerge transformed into engaged and responsible members of a broader community. It is also important for students to engage in critical discussions about social justice issues that affect them on campus, and that affect the community in which they are living. It is through these discussions that students can begin to understand the kinds of issues that face communities, including the ones they will be joining once they graduate, and by trying to address issues on campus they can understand how to work to rectify them.
Students are seeking this as well. Recently after working on Western New England (WNE) University’s America Reads work-study tutoring program with our two student coordinators the two students began discussing areas of dialogue they found lacking on campus. Topics as diverse as gender and sexuality issues, race and stereotypes all came up, both in a broader community context and in the context of interactions and dynamics on campus. These two students will be taking over much of the America Reads program next year, including facilitating reflections and social justice discussions with students, and this discussion with them proved without a doubt to me that students at WNE recognize a need for more discussion of their role in Springfield and the dynamics of their WNE community. During this year I hope that I will be able to help provide a safe space for these discussions to take place, and I hope one of my lasting impacts at Western New England University will not only be that students enter the community better trained and prepared to effectively serve, and serve in greater numbers, but also that students are able to have important discussions on campus about social dynamics on campus that impact them every day.
2nd year MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA
Western New England University