The North Mississippi VISTA Project at the University of Mississippi is looking for dynamic individuals to serve as Volunteers in Service to America. Each of these full-time, one-year placements is supported by AmeriCorps with a modest living allowance, health benefits and an education award, which can be used for graduate school or to repay qualified student loans.
The five positions, starting in February 2014, will be based in Hernando, Holly Springs, Okolona and Oxford. All applications for the positions must be received by Dec. 15, 2013.
The North Mississippi VISTA Project works in 23 counties to build sustainable systems that connect the university and its resources to low-income communities in the region. VISTAs are deployed to nonprofit organizations and schools seeking to develop or expand educational programs that serve low-income children and adults.
“Those who take these positions will make real contributions to the people of Mississippi and gain valuable experience in education,” said Stephen Monroe, UM director of the project and assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts.
AmeriCorps VISTA is the national service program designed specifically to combat poverty. Founded in 1965 and incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993, VISTA has been on the front lines in the fight against poverty in America for more than 45 years.
Across the country, passionate, committed and hard-working VISTA members build programs designed to bring individuals and communities out of poverty by fighting illiteracy, improving health services, strengthening community groups and much more.
Serving in the UM School of Engineering, VISTA member Sean Ray works to connect members of the Engineering Service Corps with needs in the community.
“The Engineering Service Corps allows engineering students to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom while helping communities in need,” Ray said. “Already this year, we brought civil and mechanical engineering students together to help construct a wheelchair ramp for a senior citizen in Ecru.”
“VISTAs like Sean Ray are highly motivated Americans who serve with dedication and energy,” Monroe said. “We are seeking more great people to join our project and to make a difference in Mississippi.”
The available positions are:
VISTA in the DeSoto County Youth Court, Hernando: The VISTA will develop a mentoring program to serve low-income children who pass through the youth court. Specifically, the VISTA will work closely with the court judge to continue development of sustainable mechanisms for recruiting, training and placing local mentors.
VISTA in Excel Commons, Okolona: The VISTA will develop a computer skills curriculum designed to prepare learners for the updated GED testing format and assist the organization to find and train a computer coach to implement this curriculum. The VISTA will research and/or develop a job readiness program and work with local residents to implement it. The VISTA will also assist with the researching and writing of grants to build the capacity of this organization.
VISTA in the Luckyday Program at the University of Mississippi, Oxford campus: The VISTA will report to the director of the Luckyday Program and will work to strengthen partnerships with local poverty-fighting organizations. The VISTA will develop service projects and will recruit Luckyday alumni to serve alongside current Luckyday scholars.
VISTA in the School of Education at the University of Mississippi, Oxford campus: The VISTA will connect UM resources and expertise to educators in underperforming schools across Mississippi. The VISTA will strengthen existing programs, including FAFSA workshops and the SoE service field trip. The VISTA will also support the Jumpstart pilot, which enhances pre-K for low-income children.
VISTA at the Institute of Community Service/Head Start, Holly Springs: The VISTA will build assessment and progress reporting mechanisms to support school readiness goals. The VISTA will develop tracking systems to promote achievement for low-income children. The VISTA will also build partnerships and recruit volunteers for Head Start (pre-K) centers around north Mississippi.
VISTA in the Lafayette County Literacy Council, Oxford: The VISTA will support the development of a new adult education initiative by collecting data on existing services and identifying community need. The VISTA will research tutoring methodology, establish a system for recruiting and training volunteers, and pursue financial support to make the program sustainable.