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AmeriCorps VISTAs Will Benefit Greater Gratiot County Community

Student volunteers will live at Alma College while working with local service orgs

ALMA — The Corporation of National and Community Service recently awarded Alma College two AmeriCorps VISTA positions for four 1-year terms.

Erin McCreedy, a graduate of Indiana University and a native of Indianapolis, and Kysia Jones, a graduate of the University of Michigan and a Detroit native, were selected to take part in the program. McCrFrom left, Kysia Jones and Erin McCreedy pose for a picture at Alma College. The two will live at...From left, Kysia Jones and Erin McCreedy pose for a picture at Alma College. The two will live at Alma for a year, pursuing projects to benefit the greater Gratiot County community, as part of the AmeriCorps VISTA program.eedy and Jones will be living on campus for the duration of their service, working as volunteer coordinators and participating in the new Scots in Service Living-Learning Community.

“We are grateful to the Corporation of National and Community Service for awarding Alma College these AmeriCorps VISTA positions,” said Sheryle Dixon, a professor and director of academic grants support at Alma College who coordinates the program on behalf of the college. “We have a focus on service at Alma, which means doing work to benefit the entire community. I’m extremely excited for what these talented and dedicated VISTA volunteers will be able to offer us in the coming term.”

The Scots in Service Living-Learning Community is a new opportunity at Alma College, in which a group of up to 20 students will focus on community service and building leadership skills, while living in a supportive and welcoming community. While at Alma, the VISTAs will be living with students in this area.

Besides working with the Scots in Service LLC students, the AmeriCorps VISTAs will both work to connect interested Alma College students to community organizations in the areas of food insecurity and college access programs.

McCreedy, who majored in religion, ethics, and arts and culture education at IU, will work with organizations in the greater Gratiot County community to fight food insecurity. She will oversee recruitment and retainment of Alma College volunteers for the First Presbyterian Food Pantry and Community Cafe, as well as assist with programs like Alma Public Schools PAWS (Panthers Always Willing to Serve).

Programming through First Presbyterian Church directly serves all of the Alma, St. Louis and Gratiot County by providing space for food collection and distribution, as well as a weekly community meal. The PAWS program, through Alma Public Schools, focuses on providing students with meals for the weekend and off days of school.

McCreedy said she hopes to help each organization grow capacity and to further integrate Alma College students in more philanthropic endeavors throughout Gratiot County.

Jones, a public policy major at UM and a first-generation college graduate, will help youth in Alma prepare for and enroll in postsecondary education institutions, including vocational, 2-year and 4-year colleges. She will recruit and manage Alma College student volunteers for the Donald L. Pavlik Middle School after-school program and ASAP, a mentoring program between Alma College and Alma High School students, coordinated by Alma High School teacher Kathy Bush.

She will also work with student volunteers as part of the newly formed College Club at Alma High School, a peer support program for students going through the college application process, coordinated by AHS seniors Adam and Danny Dixon.

According to Dixon, the VISTA members will also assist Alma College faculty who are interested in adding service learning to their courses. Service learning enables students to participate in a service activity, then reflect on it and connect it to content in their curriculum.

“For example, when helping at a food pantry, as part of a course that includes an analysis of the economics of rural life, students will have a more real sense of what it means to be economically disadvantaged,” Dixon said. “The combination of hands-on experience at the food pantry and theoretical reflection of the causes and extent of poverty in rural Michigan, will hit home to students just how urgent the situation is.”

If you are interested in learning more about service learning at Alma College, contact Sheryle Dixon at sddixon@alma.edu or (989) 463-7967.

Story published on August 03, 2020