College of Liberal Arts

- University of Mississippi

University, Americorps VISTA Partner for Community Service

Grisham fellows help build a community garden at Crenshaw Elementary School

Grisham fellows help build a community garden at Crenshaw Elementary School

JUNE 26, 2014 | By DENNIS IRWIN

The University of Mississippi’s commitment to service was demonstrated recently when administrators took visiting Grisham fellows from Dallas, Texas, to Crenshaw Elementary School to build a community garden during a weeklong campus visit.

With help from Mclean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement and Americorps Volunteers in Service to America, the fellows helped lift some cultural barriers and made a difference in a small Mississippi community.

Kathy Trabue, Americorps VISTA federal volunteer, said she was thrilled to work with UM to help make that difference.

“We have some cultural isolation here in Mississippi and we try to break that down a bit,” Trabue said. “Seeing that happen makes my students from Dallas believe they can come to Ole Miss and serve the community.”

The fellows had a chance to work with college students and to visualize themselves as college students. They learned about the university and themselves as they prepare to make decisions on where to get a college education.

Cora Bunker, assistant principal at Crenshaw Elementary, was thrilled to partner with UM on another project. Volunteer projects can help open young people’s eyes not only to community service, but also to the endless possibilities that begin with attending college.

“Ole Miss has been an incredible partner throughout the past couple of years,” Bunker said. “The university gets out here to volunteer and they get us out there, and the kids get a different look at the college experience.”

Grisham fellow Victoria Hernandez said she traveled from Dallas because she loves the University of Mississippi and wanted to gain leadership experience.

“I thought it was a cool trip because of the leadership opportunities,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to make a difference outside the state of Texas, and taking part in this garden is a big part of making a difference for me.”

The volunteers constructed benches and tables so the entire Crenshaw community can enjoy the new community garden. An Americorps VISTA representative will stay in the area and help the community maintain the garden.

The McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement creates pathways through which the university cultivates mutually beneficial partnerships to enhance the quality of life for all Mississippians and instill a commitment to community and civic engagement in all members of the UM community.

VISTA was founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 as a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty in America. In 1993, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs.