2011 University of Cincinnati Ohio Campus Compact VISTA Report
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2011 University of Cincinnati Ohio Campus Compact VISTA Report 2011 University of Cincinnati Ohio Campus Compact VISTA Report Document Transcript

  • Impact  Report   Fran  Larkin   University  of  Cincinnati   Center  for  Community  Engagement     This  past  year  has  been  my  second  term  of  service  through  an  AmeriCorps  program,  last  year  I  served  in  an  underperforming  school  in  Columbus,  and  this  experience  gave  me  a  good  foundation  for  the  work  I’ve  been  charged  with  as  a  VISTA.  By  spending  a  year  in  an  underserved  school,  I  learned  first  hand  how  much  of  an  impact  a  positive  role  model  can  have  on  a  child  who  is  struggling.  More  importantly  I  learned  how  intense  of  an  impact  simply  spending  time  in  an  underserved  urban  school,  or  with  a  child  living  in  poverty  can  have  on  a  volunteer   To  give  context  to  this  discussion,  I  want  to  make  clear  what  I  mean  when  I  say  I’m  the  Ohio  Campus  Compact  AmeriCorps  VISTA  serving  through  the  Center  for  Community  Engagement.  In1963,  President  John  F.  Kennedy  envisioned  a  national  service  corps  “to  help  provide  urgently  needed  services  in  urban  and  rural  poverty  areas.”     Less  than  two  years  later,  Lyndon  Johnson  realized  Kennedys  dream  by  launching  the  “War  on  Poverty.”  Johnson  welcomed  the  first  group  of  20  VISTA  volunteers  saying,  “Your  pay  will  be  low;  the  conditions  of  your  labor  often  will  be  difficult.  But  you  will  have  the  satisfaction  of  leading  a  great  national  effort  and  you  will  have  the  ultimate  reward  which  comes  to  those  who  serve  their  fellow  man.”  With  the  signing  of  the  National  Community  Service  Trust  Act  in  1993,  Bill  Clinton  expanded  national  service  to  create  AmeriCorps.  The  programs  merged  to  create  AmeriCorps  VISTA.   Throughout  the  decades,  VISTA  evolved  to  respond  to  local  problems  and  the  changing  face  of  poverty.  Today,  under  Obama,  VISTA  is  larger,  stronger,  and  more  vital  than  it  has  ever  been.  Its  6,500  members—who  serve  at  1,200  projects  nationwide—continue  to  address  the  root  causes  of  poverty.  They  are  developing  new  programs,  raising  funds,  helping  manage  projects,  and  otherwise  building  the  capacity  of  nonprofit  organizations  to  become  sustainable  and  helping  families  to  break  the  cycle  of  poverty.   Ohio  Campus  Compact,  or  OCC,  is  a  statewide  non-­‐profit  coalition  of  47  college  and  university  presidents  and  their  campuses  working  to  promote  and  develop  the  civic  purposes  of  higher  education.     OCC  believes  Ohio  colleges  and  universities  to  be  centers  of  civic  engagement  and  renewal  where  all  learning,  teaching,  and  scholarship  advance  the  public  good  and  prepare  students  for  active  citizenship  and  democratic  participation.     OCC  Strives  to  provide  statewide  leadership  in  mobilizing  resources,  services,  and  partnerships  that  strengthen  Ohio  colleges  and  universities’  capacity  
  • to  educate  students  for  civic  and  social  responsibility  and  to  improve  community  life.     The  Center  for  Community  Engagement,  or  CCE,  strives  to  connect  campus  and  the  community  through  service.  The  CCE  makes  an  impact  by  empowering  students  to  create  positive  change  in  their  community  now,  and  develop  a  sense  of  civic  duty  that  will  last  a  lifetime.       As  a  VISTA,  I  am  charged  with  alleviating  poverty.       As  an  agent  of  the  CCE,  my  work  has  focused  on  three  specific  social  and  cultural  dynamics  that  directly  affect  the  lives  of  those  in  poverty:  Education,  College  Access,  Homelessness   The  work  I  am  able  to  do  is  magnified  only  through  strong  partnerships  with  community  advocates  like  yourselves,  and  local  non-­‐profit  collaborators.  Coming  into  the  CCE,  I  was  blessed  with  established  partnerships  and  collaborations,  so  my  goal  was  not  only  to  sustain  those  partner  relationships,  but  the  strengthen  them.   As  I  mentioned  earlier,  before  I  began  as  a  VISTA  I  spent  a  year  working  in  a  poor,  marginalized  community  in  a  neighborhood  school  in  Columbus.  I  was  always  aware  that  poverty  existed  in  our  local  communities  but  I  didn’t  have  any  idea  what  it  looked  like.   Drawing  from  my  own  experience,  I  am  convinced  that  if  a  volunteer  who  does  not  have  a  first  hand  experience  of  our  neighbors  living  in  poverty  is  exposed  to  the  state  of  education,  and  the  social  and  cultural  dynamics  surrounding  young  people  living  in  poverty—they  will  be  intensely  impacted.   That  is  why  one  of  the  keys  to  my  approach  of  fighting  poverty  is  exposing  young  people,  at  a  critical  stage  in  their  own  development,  to  the  realities  of  poverty  that  surround  them.  My  goal  is  that  this  exposure  inspires  volunteers  to  further  action,  and  a  lifetime  of  fighting  poverty.  This  is  not  to  say  I  think  every  student  that  volunteers  through  the  CCE  should  become  a  social  worker,  or  give  up  their  career  path  to  fight  poverty  (although  I  do  think  they  should  all  be  a  a  VISTA  for  a  year!),  but  I  believe  that  their  first  hand  knowledge  of  poverty  will  inspire  them,  no  matter  what  field  they  are  in,  to  do  their  part  to  create  change.   The  capacity  of  the  CCE  is  something  you’ll  hear  me  mention  throughout  my  report.  The  CCE  is  a  small,  but  mighty.  While  we  leverage  collaboration  and  partnership  to  make  the  most  of  our  resources,  the  reality  is  that  there  are  two  staff  people  charged  with  Community  Engagement  for  this  entire  University.  This  is  a  monumental  task,  and  as  a  VISTA  I  am  proud  to  lend  a  hand  and  increase  the  number  of  students  the  CCE  can  serve.  The  ultimate  goal  of  collaboration,  exposure,  
  • and  capacity  building  is  to  change  outcomes.  To  change  outcomes  for  the  UC  students  involved  in  community  engagement:  to  instill  a  sense  of  civic  duty  in  them,  and  open  their  eyes  to  the  value  of  volunteer  service.  To  change  the  outcomes  for  community  members  living  in  poverty:  to  lift  them  up,  and  empower  them  to  lift  those  around  them  up  as  well.  Major  Projects:   1. Community  Service  Fair,   2. Alternative  Spring  Break,   3. Zoo-­‐Mates,   4. Bearcat  Buddies.   1.  The  Community  Service  Fair  was  my  first  major  project  as  a  VISTA,  and  it  was  quite  an  undertaking.  I  started  my  term  of  service  on  August  1st,  and  immediately  got  to  work  on  the  community  service  fair,  which  took  place  September  20.     The  Community  Service  Fair  is  just  what  you  might  expect:  it’s  a  chance  for  non-­‐profit  partners  to  set  up  a  table,  and  recruit  interested  students  to  volunteer  for  their  cause.  It  was  held  in  Tangemen  University  Center  (TUC)  on  the  3rd  and  4th  floors.   The  Community  Service  Fair  is  a  welcome  week  event  open  to  all  students,  but  targeted  at  incoming  students  with  a  Cincinnatus  scholarship.  The  Cincinnatus  scholarship  is  an  innovative  and  distinguished  award,  that  among  other  other  things,  requires  a  scholar  to  complete  30  hours  of  community  service  throughout  the  course  of  an  academic  year  in  order  to  renew  their  scholarship  for  the  following  year.   While  the  Community  Service  Fair  is  a  stand  alone  event  open  to  all,  it  is  built  in  to  the  larger  “Cincinnatus  Kick-­‐Off”  during  which  Cincinnatus  scholars  had  the  option  of  attending  one  of  two  morning  “kick  off”  sessions  where  they  learned  about  the  requirements  of  maintaining  their  scholarship,  most  importantly  the  service  component.     During  the  kick  off  these  outstanding  students  were  addressed  by  the  Director  of  the  CCE,  Kathy  Dick,  about  the  resources  and  opportunities  available  to  them  through  the  CCE.  The  Cincinnatus  students  at  the  kick  off  also  heard  from  past  members  of  the  Zoo-­‐Mates  mentoring  program,  and  many  of  the  students,  many  more  than  the  program  can  accommodate  rushed  over  during  the  service  fair  to  sign  up—illustrating  another  capacity  issue.   Over  1,100  students  benefitted  from  the  opportunity  to  meet  and  network  with  local  non-­‐profits,  and  consider  the  vast  range  of  different  ways  they  could  give  back  to  their  community.  See  the  graph  at  the  end  of  this  report.  In  addition  to  the  Community  Partners  and  student  groups  listed  above,  the  CCE  was  well  represented  
  • at  the  fair  itself—hosting  3  tables,  one  to  introduce  the  CCE,  and  one  each  for  Zoo-­‐Mates  and  Bearcat  Buddies.    2.     Alternative  Spring  Breaks  are  a  way  for  service  minded  students  to  make  the  most  of  their  time  out  of  class,  and  give  back  to  those  in  need.  I  hadn’t  anticipated  participating  in  an  Alternative  Spring  Break  trip  this  year,  but  I’m  so  glad  I  did.  I  as  asked  by  Jessica  King  from  the  University  Honors  program  to  help  facilitate  an  alternative  spring  break  trip,  and  I  was  immediately  on  board.  I  wanted  to  highlight  the  Alternative  Spring  Break  I  took  part  in,  because  it  is  a  clear  cut  case  of  capacity  building.   There  was  more  demand  from  students  to  serve  than  Jessica  could  accommodate  alone,  and  I  was  fortunate  enough  to  have  the  opportunity  to  make  sure  that  more  of  the  students  who  wanted  to  spend  their  spring  break  serving  those  in  need  had  that  chance.  The  reality  is  that  the  Honors  program  had  over  20  students  signed  up  to  participate  in  the  Alternative  Spring  Break,  and  even  more  who  were  interested.  But  they  needed  another  person  to  facilitate  the  trip.   We  worked  doing  housing  rehabilitation  and  construction.  Our  home  base,  simple  cabins  in  the  woods  constructed  by  previous  volunteers  was  located  in  Flat  Gap,  Eastern  Kentucky.  The  service  sites  were  scattered  across  the  surrounding  region  of  rural  Appalachian  Kentucky.   This  Alternative  Spring  Break  was  made  possible  by  a  partnership  with  the  Christian  Appalachian  Project,  which  hosts  an  annual  event  known  as  “WorkFest.”  WorkFest  is  a  three  week  long  volunteer  surge  that  spans  most  college  and  university  spring  breaks.  We  helped  during  the  third  week  of  work  fest,  and  while  UC  was  well  represented,  there  were  6  other  colleges  and  Universities  lending  a  hand  as  well.   This  was  an  eye  opening  experience  for  many  students  who  never  would  have  imagined  the  types  of  third  world  conditions  which  exist  in  our  own  country  and  region.  It  was  a  great  experience,  and  I  learned  a  number  of  construction  techniques  I  hadn’t  known  before.  Housing  rehab  is  great  because  it’s  extremely  rewarding  to  have  a  physical  manifestation  of  your  service.   While  my  service  was  fun  and  meaningful,  the  important  outcome  for  me  is  that  by  driving  a  15  passenger  van  full  of  UC  students,  I  was  effectively  able  to  double  the  number  of  students  involved  in  the  Alternative  Spring  break,  who  chose  to  spend  their  time  in  service  to  those  in  need.  3.     Zoo-­‐Mates  was  en  established  program  years  before  I  ever  arrived  at  the  CCE.  My  challenge  was  to  uphold  the  level  of  success  for  which  the  program  is  known.  So  what  is  Zoo-­‐Mates?  Zoo-­‐Mates  is  an  innovative  mentoring  program  that  pairs  30  UC  students  with  30  children  experiencing  homelessness  for  a  year  mentoring  and  fun.  The  catalyst  for  its  creation  was  the  mere  idea  that  the  CCE  wanted  to  tap  into  one  of  Cincinnati’s  gems—the  Cincinnati  Zoo  and  Botanical  Garden.  As  a  result,  the  CCE  reached  out  to  the  Zoo,  somewhat  unsure  of  what  a  
  • meaningful  partnership  might  look  like,  and  what  it  might  entail.  After  many  meetings,  brainstorms,  and  discussion:  The  Zoo-­‐Mates  Mentoring  program  was  born.     It  was  almost  out  of  thin  air,  a  little  serendipitous,  and  an  organic  realization  of  a  missing  link  between  the  UC  and  its  neighbor,  the  Zoo.  The  initial  Zoo-­‐Mates  partnership  was  created  by  the  CCE  in  partnership  with  the  Cincinnati  Zoo  and  soon  after  a  non-­‐profit  embedded  in  the  Cincinnati  Public  Schools,  Project  Connect  stepped  in.  Project  Connect  serves  families  experiencing  homelessness  in  the  Cincinnati  Public  School  District,  and  they  are  the  key  to  the  sustained  success  of  the  program.     Initially  the  program  involved  monthly  mentoring  activities  with  UC  mentors  and  children  experiencing  homelessness.  UC  volunteer-­‐student-­‐mentors  demanded  more  contact  with  their  students,  and  Zoo-­‐Mates  evolved  to  include  mentoring  outings  every  other  week.  This  still  wasn’t  enough  for  the  passionate  UC  mentors,  and  the  demanded  more.  Finally  the  program  took  the  form  it  is  in  now  as  a  weekly  engagement  between  mentors  and  mentees.     Generally  speaking,  we  visit  the  Zoo,  UC,  and  the  children’s  school  an  a  rotating  basis.  The  great  thing  about  Zoo-­‐Mates  is  the  partnership,  it  couldn’t  happen  with  all  three  partners  working  together  effectively  and  efficiently.    So  how  does  Zoo-­‐Mates  work?   The  Zoo  plans  wonderful  events  whenever  we  use  their  space.  Project  connect  coordinates  the  mentee  side  of  thing:  they  secure  transportation  for  the  students  to  the  Zoo,  UC  or  other  sites,  and  they  are  charged  with  the  daunting  task  of  dealing  with  parents,  getting  waivers  signed,  providing  snacks,  etc…UC  coordinates  the  mentor  side  of  things:  as  the  VISTA,  I  personally  recruited,  interviewed,  selected  and  trained  30  UC  mentors.  On  a  weekly  basis,  I  coordinated  the  UC  volunteers,  arranging  carpools,  disseminating  information,  and  making  sure  mentors  are  present  and  on  time.  When  events  are  held  at  UC,  the  CCE  is  responsible  for  planning  the  programming.  So  what’s  the  impact?   Students,  especially  those  in  underperforming  schools  with  high  rates  of  homelessness  (like  the  schools  Zoo-­‐Mates  serves)  need  positive  role  models.  They  often  don’t  find  them  in  their  everyday  lives,  so  having  someone  to  be  a  positive  influence  on  them  is  intrinsically  a  good  thing.     In  practical  terms,  one  goal  of  the  Zoo-­‐Mates  program  is  to  ensure  students  and  families  know  they  have  the  right  to  remain  at  ONE  school  for  an  entire  academic  year.  As  mentioned,  on  average  children  experiencing  homelessness  change  schools  7-­‐8  times  PER  YEAR.  In  the  past,  Zoo-­‐Mates  have  begged  their  parents  to  stay  at  their  school  because  if  they  went  to  another  school,  they  wouldn’t  be  able  to  participate  in  Zoo-­‐Mates.  Realistically,  Zoo-­‐Mates  is  a  vehicle  through  
  • which  Project  Connect  can  better  serve  homeless  families  in  the  Cincinnati  Public  School  District.   The  mentors,  UC  volunteers,  see  a  reality  that  many  of  them  never  knew  existed.  They  use  their  experience  to  inform  the  rest  of  their  lives—no  matter  what  their  career  path  may  be,  they  will  graduate  with  a  unique  perspective  of  homelessness.  They  see  first  hand  some  of  the  symptoms  of  the  cycle  of  poverty,  and  having  a  special  relationship  with  someone  whose  circumstances  are  impoverished  can  inspire  them  to  take  action,  and  seek  institutional  change  in  their  community.  Sometimes,  the  mentors  will  choose  to  continue  their  mentoring  relationship  with  the  students,  which  can  be  really  powerful  and  turn  into  a  long-­‐term,  transformative  relationship.   While  the  key  to  the  Success  of  Zoo-­‐Mates  are  the  three  major  partner,  UC,  the  Zoo  and  Project  Connect,  the  program  is  always  evolving  and  adding  new  layers  of  partnerships.  This  year  we  were  blessed  with  new  partnerships,  including  Prairie  Inc.,  Starfire  U.,  and  Fidelity  Investments  to  name  a  few.  Additionally,  over  $2,700  was  raised  for  Zoo-­‐Mates  by  the  Proudly  Pennies  campaign.  Zoo-­‐Mates  served  1643  hours,  and  participated  in  events  from  October  2010  to  May  2011.  4.     In  the  spring  of  2010,  students  from  the  College  of  Allied  Health  Sciences  helped  get  the  Bearcat  Buddies  tutoring    program  off  the  ground.  A  year  later  Bearcat  Buddies  is  a  signature  program  of  the  UC  Center  for  Community  Engagement,  and  includes  students  from  all  areas  of  study;  from  Graphic  Design  to  Biomedical  Engineering.  In  less  than  a  year,  the  program  has  grown  exponentially  thanks  to  students  who  are  passionate  about  giving  back  to  their  community  as  academic  mentors  and  role  models.     Bearcat  Buddies  works  because  we  make  it  easy  to  serve.  Through  my  work  as  a  VISTA,  in  collaboration  with  Project  GRAD  I  was  able  to  remove  the  barriers  that  typically  stand  in  the  way  of  volunteers  enriching  the  lives  of  Cincinnati  Public  School  students.     This  means  providing  transportation:  I  can’t  tell  you  how  many  hours  I’ve  logged  driving  a  12  passenger  van  to  and  from  campus,  full  of  tutors,  ready  to  serve.  We  bring  training  to  campus,  and  give  practical  training  on-­‐site  to  all  the  volunteers,  so  they  are  prepare  to  make  a  difference.  We  handle  necessary  background  checks,  and  provide  ongoing  support  to  our  tutors.  By  ongoing  support  I  don’t  mean  checking  in  once  a  quarter,  I  mean  being  there  for  and  with  the  tutors  to  make  sure  they  are  able  to  make  the  most  of  their  limited  time  with  the  students.   The  success  of  Bearcat  Buddies  is  largely  due  to  a  collaboration  with  Project  GRAD.  Project  GRAD  is  a  non-­‐profit  agency  whose  mission  is  to  see  that  all  students  graduate  from  high  school  and  are  prepared  to  succeed  in  college  and  career.  While  I  coordinated  the  UC  tutors,  Project  GRAD  is  there  to  provide  support  in  the  schools.    
  • Academic  Mentors  do  more  than  just  tutoring,  the  provide  a  positive  role  model,  are  a  natural  bridge  to  college  access,  and  take  a  genuine  interest  in  the  academic  development  of  a  student..       Most  recently,  in  the  spring  of  2011,  Bearcat  Buddies  were  providing  164  weekly  volunteer  tutoring  sessions  for  UC  students  in  four  of  Cincinnati’s  lowest  performing  public  schools.  Each  tutoring  session  included  interaction  with  multiple  students:  while  most  experiences  matched  one  tutor  with  2  –  4  students  for  an  hour,  many  tutors  worked  with  two  students  individually  for  a  half-­‐hour  each.  One  special  group  of  tutors  provided  whole-­‐class  support  to  and  entire  classroom  for  an  hour  per  week.  During  the  month  of  April,  a  group  of  dedicated  tutors  worked  with  1  –  3  students  from  9:00am  –  12:00pm  each  Saturday  to  prepare  them  for  the  Ohio  Achievement  Assessment  in  May.    Totals:  215  students  were  active  participants  in  Bearcat  Buddies  during  the  2010-­‐2011  academic  year.    4,941  service  hours  were  provided  by  Bearcat  Buddies  to  Ethel  M.  Taylor  Academy,  Hays-­‐Porter  School,  Rees  E.  Price  Academy,  and  Roll  Hill  School  during  the  2010-­‐2011  academic  year.    1,369  hours  of  community  service  were  performed  in  April  alone  by  Bearcat  Buddies.     Bearcat  Buddies  have  impacted  well  over  350  Cincinnati  Public  Schools  students  who  truly  need  the  extra  help.  Bearcat  Buddies  work  with  students  in  3rd  -­‐  8th  grades,  during  the  school  day  and  serve  as  much  needed  academic  mentors  and  role  models  for  young  people  in  our  community.  Bearcat  Buddies  not  only  work  with  their  students  on  reading  and  math  concepts,  but  they  breathe  life  into  the  college  dream  for  many  young  people  in  Cincinnati,  and  inspire  future  Bearcats.  Recent  cuts  within  Cincinnati  Public  Schools  have  resulted  in  reductions  that  include  the  loss  of  158  teaches,  33  central  office  employees,  and  17  additional  school-­‐based  workers.  While  these  reductions  are  needed  to  overcome  more  than  $45  million  in  state  and  federal  funding  cuts  and  a  $20  million  dollar  increase  in  non-­‐discretionary  district  costs,  it  is  the  youth  of  our  community  who  ultimately  suffer.  In  light  of  these  cuts,  UC  students  have  taken  it  upon  themselves  to  fill  the  ever-­‐increasing  need  for  community  support  to  close  the  achievement  gap  for  students  of  our  local  public  schools.     Most  importantly,  the  UC  students  who  participate  in  Bearcat  Buddies  get  a  unique  opportunity  to  experience  first  hand  what  education  in  a  marginalized  community  can  be;  at  its  best  and  at  its  worst.  These  students  use  tutoring  sessions  as  a  window  into  the  community,  and  the  reality  of  modern  urban  education  that  is  overlooked  by  many.  No  matter  what  career  path  they  pursue  after  graduation  Bearcat  Buddies  will  use  their  time  spent  in  struggling  schools  and  communities  to  inform  their  perspective.    
  •  The  Schools:  between  86%  and  96%  of  the  the  students  at  Bearcat  Buddies  schools  live  at  or  below  the  poverty  level,  each  school  is  within  3.5  miles  from  UC   Bearcat  Buddies  illustrates  the  overwhelming  interest  students  have  for  engaging  their  community  through  University  supported  programming.  The  exponential  growth  of  Bearcat  Buddies  is  a  model  that  can  be  used  to  articulate  that  the  CCE’s  capacity  is  the  limiting  factor  in  the  growth  of  programming—not  student  interest.       The  program  grew  from  66  tutors  in  the  Spring  of  2010  to  160  tutors  in  the  Spring  of  2011.