Centers and After School Programs
The VISTA was involved in establishing the HOPES Center. The center opened in fall 2008 and provides mental health services for low-income and under insured individuals, the focus is not only on tradition mental health counseling, holistic approaches are also integrated. The center provides a small number of employment opportunities for those in transition. Currently an ex- offender and an individual who has struggled with severe mental illness are employed through the HOPES Center Fair Trade Store and Coffee Shop.
Waukesha County Community Dental Center
Since summer 2009 a VISTA has been placed at Waukesha County Technical College to engage more dental assistant students at a free dental clinic for low-income youth. For low-income families in Waukesha, limited access to affordable dental treatment has resulted in significant dental decay in children and adults. In April 2008, a baseline assessment of 228 third grade children from nine Waukesha Public Schools revealed high levels of unmet oral health needs, poor oral health status, and frequent difficulties in accessing dental care. In the short few months the VISTA has been there she has been able to better organize the placement of the dental assistant students, as well as create an agreement with a local daycare center to provide free transportation to the clinic for the clients. Coming months will hopefully show an increase in the number of youth provided with free cleanings.
After School Science Clubs
The VISTA working with the UW-Madison Center for Biology Education has helped develop the infrastructure for over 35 after-school science clubs. The science clubs work closely with existing after-school programs to develop curriculum that provides low-income youth access to science in a fun setting. With the inquiry-based, hands-on approach the Science Clubs offer, kids who may not have had an opportunity to enjoy science in a classroom setting now have the space to explore and discover science in a new way. Children also have the opportunity to interact with a role model who is enthusiastic and knowledgeable about science.
The VISTAs at UW-Eau Claire have played an invaluable role of starting up a Campus Kitchen at the campus. The Campus Kitchen addresses local poverty issues by recovering leftover food from the campus dining halls, farms, and the food pantry and using the food to make and deliver meals to individuals who are food insecure. The project will expand this year to also include more empowerment based programs, such as nutrition classes and gardening workshops. On a monthly basis over 400 meals are served in the community. In the coming spring, through working with community agencies and members, a community garden will be started and a portion of the food grown will be given to the Campus Kitchen to provide fresh, nutritional food.