AmeriCorp-VistaWiCC’s AmeriCorps*VISTA Program Campus-Community Partnership Program sought to increase collaboration between campuses and community organizations to meet the needs of low-income community members. WiCC AmeriCorps*VISTA members increased the capacity of local community programs with the goal of providing individuals pathways out of poverty. VISTAs also facilitated and assisted community-campus partnerships which address community-identified issues of concern. VISTA projects are deeply rooted in the community and are focused on identified community needs, and each project reflects a WiCC member institution and a dedicated community partner working together to alleviate poverty.

VISTAs worked closely with their partners to identify community needs and leverage campus and community partnerships to address these needs. The 2014-15 AmeriCorps*VISTA Project, Campus-Community Partnerships, is broadly focused at the state level to address the AmeriCorps*VISTA priority areas of economic opportunity, education, and healthy futures.

In this project, AmeriCorps*VISTA members focus on:

  • Economic opportunity
  • Educational opportunity
  • Health and healthy lifestyles

I became a VISTA because I wanted to help other people and get outside of my comfort zone. I would really like to learn more about non-profits and how they operate. I have a lot of interests and would like to work in a non-profit setting in the future. I facilitated workshops with college students as the audience so I am used to working with that population (especially since until recently I was one) and I think that will be helpful with this project. During college I also worked on different community projects which helped me gain experience with low-income communities. I am also a good listener which always helps.” – Deanna Meek, AmeriCorps VISTA with the Wisconsin Institute of Public Policy and Service

Through a $497,000 federal grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service, Wisconsin Campus Compact placed 35 full-time AmeriCorps*VISTA members at member campuses and community based organizations. Throughout the state, WiCC AmeriCorps* VISTA members are organizing and facilitating service opportunities for students that address the needs of their community. Between July 2007 and 2008,  WiCC AmeriCorps*VISTA members  recruited 9,741 community and student volunteers who have logged more than 56,270 volunteer hours. In that same time the efforts of the AmeriCorps*VISTA members have raised $293,803 in cash and in-kind donations.

UW-Waukesha Pre-College Program and UW-Extension Nutrition Education Program

The UW-Waukesha Pre-College Program has a long lasting partnership with the UW-Extension Nutrition Education Program. Representatives from this program came to the first Parent Network which was held to introduce themselves to the parents. This shows the dedication and interest in the program. The Nutrition program also attended our second Saturday workshop with the program participants as well as the second Parent Network Meeting. The program gave a presentation to the students and the parents on food safety. They provided an example of a healthy snack and gave and interactive presentation on food safety. They focused on hand-washing and on cooking at safe temperatures.

The Nutrition program is frequently involved in the pre-college program teaching the values of nutrition and health, which is very important. The Nutrition program also provides a “Nutrition Tip of the Month” in our pre-college monthly newsletter. This partnership is very important to the pre-college program.

Mount Mary University and Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin

This term the VISTA focused on building a strong partnership between Mount Mary University (MMU) and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Wisconsin (HCCW). This involved assisting in the organization of the first advisory board meeting, facilitating a talk show between MMU and a local radio station closely affiliated with the HCCW, meeting business owners in the Latino community to familiarize them with our project and introducing new program participants to the Mount Mary College campus with an end-of-semester event. It is important for the community to recognize the partners in this project and understand the goals of this type of program in their community.

The most meaningful relationship developed was with La Nueva Ritmo radio station. The staff at the radio station were excited about empowering Latino parents and excited to see MMC’s involvement in the south side community. They wanted to share MMC’s institutional mission and resources with the young, Latina community. Having this opportunity for MMC to share its mission through its connections with the HCCW and La Nueva Ritmo demonstrated the great potential this partnership has in the future.

Sweet Water Organics

One VISTA recently touched base with the non-profit agency, and current site community partner, Sweet Water Organics. The VISTA had a really productive conversation with the volunteer coordinator, because the current coordinator is different from the one the VISTA from the previous year met with. On top of that, it turns out that Sweet Water’s needs had changed from what they were when a partnership was originally created. The VISTA was able to gather all of this new information, and was then able to advertise the agencies current needs. This confirmed to the VISTA how important it is to have open and regular communication with active community partners.

Waukesha South High School

The VISTA served as the interim Account Manager when a Lead to Succeed staff member left her position with the organization. The VISTA attended four LTS meetings at Waukesha South High School (over the course of two weeks), until a new Account Manager was hired. The VISTA was able to see how LTS curriculum was put into action, what students thought were major setbacks in their academic careers, and helped them brainstorm ways to overcome those obstacles. Conversations on diversity, racism, and how to express those through a creative medium were had by one of the large groups. Some of the other groups were more eager to jump into the actual design portion of the project, like the drawing and critiquing of each other’s work. The VISTA has much experience in the visual arts field, so this was a project of particular interest! Being able to help define the high school student’s concepts and expose them to different ideas was highly rewarding.

University of Wisconsin’s Slow Food

Our partnership with University of Wisconsin’s Slow Food group has brought an entirely new element to our Saturday tutoring program. Slow Food provides a healthy, rich, home cooked meal at the end of every program, which is amazing in itself since most programs would end with greasy pizza and soda. Also, Slow Food educates the group of youth, UW-Madison students, parents and other supporters on what they’ve made and why it’s healthy. They scatter throughout the group and help build the sense of community, and expose the kids to a lot of foods they wouldn’t have a chance to experience otherwise.