June Membership Spotlight
As Illinois Campus Compact continues to fill our several open AmeriCorps VISTA positions, we wanted to learn why some of our successful VISTAs chose to serve with ILCC and AmeriCorps in general. Stacey Dixon and David Kintz serve with National Louis University. Both started last August so have two months until they become VISTA Alumni.
For those who don’t know, VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America. It is a program through AmeriCorps. VISTAs serve at organizations throughout America to build capacity with the goal of eradicating poverty. Thirty two VISTAs currently serve with ILCC, they are placed at higher education institutions throughout Illinois. Their positions and projects differ, but all remain true to the VISTA way by building capacity around methods to eradicate poverty.
Stacey Dixon serves with National Louis University’s Veterans Center, although this experience is certainly not her first time serving. Dixon is a retired U.S. Marine, she served with the military for twenty one years. Most recently she worked as a high school teacher for the past eight years, after receiving an Ed.D from Argosy University.
Dixon knew that she wanted to continue to serving, and that where AmeriCorps VISTA came in. Dixon found the position at NLU Veteran’s Center and knew that this would be perfect for her because she could begin working in higher education, one of her goals, and she could also make a difference with student veterans.
Day to day Dixon works to increase the visibility of the Veterans Center by creating and advertising events. She also started the campus’s chapter of Student Veterans of America. This, Dixon says, is her biggest achievement because it is something that will have a lasting effect after she is gone. Although the group has started small, it has an executive board that will continue to grow the organization throughout the years.
Stacey Dixon has worked very hard to make sure that staff and faculty know that the Veterans Center is there, and what it does. She says that much of what she does is reach out and network with the staff at NLU.
When asked what her favorite part about being a VISTA was, she said that is was the responsibility and the freedom that she has to build capacity. When starting a year of service, VISTA receives a VISTA Assignment Description (VAD). The VAD describes the goals and objectives of the service term. It lists the activities that the VISTA will do throughout their year.
Dixon used her VAD as a starting off point, she knew that her main responsibility was to enhance the visibility and capacity of the Veterans Center, but how she was going to do that, was up to her work and creativity. Dixon, like most VISTAs, is passionate about the work that she gets to do. This responsibility she is given allows her to tackle her goals in ways that not only she enjoys, but that she knows will work.
David Kintz who retired about two years ago, and holds a Masters in Psychology, is currently serving at National Louis University at Wheeling. Kintz is the Civic Engagement Center Coordinator, he found the position when he was looking for a way to work in higher education and to serve his community.
In this coordinator position David plans and advertises events, develops Get Out the Vote programing, and like Stacey, enhances the visibility of the center. Kintz’s favorite part about the past months has been his work with CEEP and registering student voters. This work feels important to him, and he believes that he is empowering students.
David said this is why he joined AmeriCorps VISTA, because he has a lot of opportunity to make a difference. He also said that VISTA has given him the opportunity to create and be independent within his work, without fearing failure. David said that his VISTA position has been a safe place to learn and grow, for this reason he encourages new and old professionals to apply for AmeriCorps.
When signing on as a VISTA, the trainings and webinars repeat a consistent phrase, “capacity building.” At the beginning this doesn’t mean very much to a lot of VISTAs, but both David and Stacey recognized that that is exactly what they do for National Louis University. In the past ten months they have been able to enhance the visibility of their offices so that more people on campus understand what the office can do for them.
Both Stacey Dixon and David Kintz found that they that had a larger ability to make a difference through VISTA. They could focus on important objectives, and create an experience that would benefit them and their program.
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