February Membership Spotlight
Cameron Ruiz, an Illinois Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA, loves Western Illinois University – Quad Cities because he says it’s a tight knit, innovative community. His small class sizes and the fact that he feels valued by the faculty and staff is why he choose Western for his education, and his VISTA site. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, he works at the Student Services office promoting and developing programs, running the food pantry, and participating in new student orientations.
Much of Cameron’s day to day focuses on The Pantry at WIU- QC. The pantry is open nearly every day with select hours, or by appointment. The food pantry can be utilized by any WIU-QC student, faculty, or staff, facing food insecurity. The pantry also has a “Grab’n’go” system, where students can grab a snack such as a granola bar, pretzels, or microwavable noodles, on their way to class.
The Pantry at WUI-QC is in partnership with the River Bend Foodbank. This is how they keep their pantry fully stocked. They also receive monetary donations, and food donations. The food pantry also has a student volunteer. This volunteer is an ILCC Service Corps member. After a year of completing volunteer hours at the pantry the student will receive an education award.
Cameron makes sure that every student at Western knows about the food pantry. While he helps with new student orientation, he takes students on a campus tour and highlights the pantry so they know where it is and how they can use it.
A lot of Cameron’s recent time has been spent planning The Food Insecurity Conference hosted by Western Illinois University –Quad Cities. This event will focus on the relationship between mental health and food insecurity. This year is the third annual conference and will take place on March 22nd. Cameron is expecting around 80 people there from across Illinois, Iowa, and Missouri.
The Food Insecurity Conference was started by an AmeriCorps VISTA three years ago. The conference started because college and universities wanted to address food insecurity happening within their campus communities.
The Food Pantry is only one of Cameron’s successfully programs. He developed a program for the Rock Island High School Boys basketball team. As assistant coach, he notices that between school and practices, the team had nothing to do and often times couldn’t go home and get back to the gym for practice. Cameron began helping the players with their homework, and then bringing them snacks. This program was a way for Cameron to give back to the school that he went to. You can read a full article about Cameron and his work in the Moline Dispatch.
Although his VISTA term ends in August, Cameron will still be a part of WIU-QC as he finishes his master’s degree and continues working with the staff and faculty that have made Quad Cities his home.