Our National Service: Renewed

November 10, 2016

This blog post is from our Executive Director Emily Shields. We are seeking host sites for our AmeriCorps and VISTA Programs. Please see below or go here for more information.

Last month, national President Andrew Seligsohn introduced the concept of a new era for Campus Compact, one in which our commitments to each other and the ideals of the civic mission are renewed. In Iowa we are seeing a renewal of this commitment as well. Last spring, 100% of our member presidents signed on to the Civic Action Statement and many also publicly shared this commitment through opinion pieces in newspapers across the state.

This renewed commitment extends to our programs as well. Iowa Campus Compact has led AmeriCorps and VISTA national service programs for the last ten years. These programs have provided critical capacity building support to college and university members and to their community partner organizations. Hundreds of students and graduates have served our state and earned nearly $2 million in education awards. These members have built community engagement initiatives on campuses from the ground up, supported new and expanding nonprofit organizations in meeting their missions, and strengthened transformative partnerships between campus and community.

We are proud of these successes, but also have the opportunity with new funding and new opportunities to build on what we have been able to do with new opportunities.

UNI VISTA Member Kristina Kofoot

Our AmeriCorps VISTA program focuses on ending poverty by supporting education and economic opportunity initiatives. Full-time members, usually recent college graduates develop systems, policies and sustainability on and off campus. On-campus members like Kristina Kofoot at the University of Northern Iowa are building community engagement efforts to directly support student retention. Off-campus members like Tou Xiong at The Bridge of Storm Lake are creating new programs and recruiting and training volunteers to get more people into the workforce. Other sites focus on new financial literacy efforts, expanding mentoring programs, and other initiatives.

Jacob Buster from Cornell College (left) 2016 ICAP of the Year

Our Iowa College AmeriCorps Program offers the opportunity for current college students to develop their skills through experiences building nonprofit capacity and organizing their peers to serve community organizations. These members serve 10-20 hours a week and have built on-campus programs like Student MOVE at Buena Vista University and Dance Marathon at Loras College. They have also provided capacity services directly to nonprofits including curriculum development, marketing materials design, and social media. We also recently added full-time members to this program. These members can support community engagement efforts on campuses and allow for deeper and more meaningful community partnerships and student experiences.

Emily VISTA pic240
Me as a VISTA (middle) with students from Our Lady of the Lake University

In addition to the amazing impacts we have been able to have on organizations and partnerships, we are perhaps most proud of the impact we have had on the students and professionals who have served as national service members. 15 years ago, I made the same leap of faith many of our members have made when I chose to serve as a VISTA member on a campus in Texas. It was one of the toughest years of my life and one when I learned so much about myself, about higher education, and about social change. Our members give up their free time and chances to make more money, but they gain the chance to serve their communities and their country and gain new skills and experiences in the process.

With both of these federal grants, we are poised to deepen the impact for both the members serving and the organizations being served. We have increased our staff capacity to better support the campus and community sites with which we partner and are investing in member training and development. As we seek to continue this work, we are seeking new campus and community sites interested in working with national service members. If your organization needs to increase its capacity and is interested in creating meaning campus and community partnerships and a meaningful national service experience, we want to work with you! More information here.