As we hit the half-way mark in our year of service, I’m struck by how fast the time has gone by. I came to the MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA program with the hope of gaining experience working in a nonprofit environment, with exposure to both a university and community partner setting. My role as MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA has been very eventful providing me with opportunities to learn something new every day. During an average week, I split my time between Wellesley College and two of the school’s community partners in downtown Boston. In essence, I hop from the university campus-to Chinatown-to Boston’s South End where each site has its own unique organizational structure and approach to the partnership.
One of the big takeaways from the MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA program is seeing firsthand the give and take of a campus-community partnership. I had no idea just how much time and resources needed to be dedicated by all parties to create a successful partnership. I discovered that it is not just the university providing day-to-day logistics for students (i.e. funding, transportation, training, etc.), nor is it just the community partner providing the space to volunteer. There is a lot more overlap than I originally expected, and figuring out how to best leverage all available resources is something that I work on daily.
While each site, university or community partner, has its own way of looking at the relationship, one thing that they can all agree on is that they want the volunteer experience to be both meaningful and useful. One of my community partners has a staff member that is in almost daily contact with the student volunteers, serving as not only a volunteer coordinator but also a mentor for the student group’s leadership team. The result has been a stronger overall student group and a larger student volunteer presence at this particular community partner site. While student volunteers are only one part of the campus-community partnership, from my experience, students can play an integral part in the relationship. The longest lasting relationships between community partners and universities appear to be the ones where the student body is taking an active role in supporting and developing the partnership.
The rest of my time in this role as MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA will consist of continuing to work on these relationships, balancing the buy-in of the university, student volunteers, and community partners.
In partnership with Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center, Inc. and St. Stephens Youth Programs