Rashika Smith is serving with the Epilepsy Foundation Texas as the Community Outreach VISTA. Education outreach for epilepsy is what Rashika primarily markets to potential funders and supporters. As part of her professional development, Rashika attended the Epilepsy Foundation’s seizure first aid training. As with any training like CPR and first aid you hope you never have to use it, but when 1 in 26 people develop epilepsy in their lifetime this type of education is important. The Epilepsy Foundation offers seizure first aid training so those in the community are aware and know what to do and not do when coming into contact with an individual experiencing a seizure. Rashika never imagined the training she attended and now assists with would ever be used. However, one Thursday afternoon, the sound of a loud scream prompted her into action when a co-worker was in the throngs of an active seizure. Rashika jumped into action, administered seizure first aid and stabilized her coworker until paramedics arrived. According to her supervisor, Rashika remained calm and administered the first aid flawlessly, even remembering to time the seizure. When paramedics arrived, they asked her how she knew to time the seizure. She was very proud to explain to them what Epilepsy Foundation does and the services offered.
VISTA leader, Marcela Solia, connected with Keep Denton Beautiful to organize a 9/11 day of service project. This was a chance for the VISTAs to contribute to our community in a more direct way. They spent their morning at Lake Forest Park in Denton collecting trash and recyclables that had been left behind. Several bags of trash were collected, including an entire pile of recyclable cans left by the lake. Being able to salvage as many recyclable items as possible is important so that resources aren’t wasted and can be reused in the future. We emphasized to the VISTAs that it is important to keep our parks clean not only so that those who attend the park are safe from sharp and dangerous objects left behind but also because a clean environment is essential to our health. Trash may lead to pollution or damage plants that provide nutrition to humans. In return for contributing to their project, Keep Denton Beautiful posted our picture on their website. This gives the VISTA North Texas project more visibility and allows us to reach those who may not know about us or the role we have in our society.
VISTA leader, Marcela Solia, spent the month of July focusing on recruitment for the November VISTA positions. She worked to market for the open positions by posting openings on college sites and social media and preparing for tabling events coming up in August. Many applications have already come in and Marcela has taken the time to screen the applicants. She also spent a week at leadership training along with several VISTA Leaders throughout the nation. During the conference, she learned techniques for communication and conflict resolution allowing her to be a better support system for her VISTAs.
VISTA leader, Marcela Solia, spent the month of June putting her artistic skills to use by creating marketing materials for recruitment events. She developed flyers and social media graphics that will be used to market each of the 8 VISTA positions that are currently open. Templates of the flyers and graphics were saved for future recruitment events. Marcela also created a pop up banner for the North Texas Project. Thorough research was done to find the best strategies for creating an aesthetic banner that also grabs the viewers’ attention. This banner will be taken to tabling events in the hopes of attracting even more potential VISTAs and partnering agencies. The more our project grows, the bigger the impact can be made on our community.
As VISTA Leader Chanell Rose’s service term comes to an end, she has been firing on all jets to leave the North Texas Project with more than it had when she came in! In the month of March, Chanell welcomed in the last new group of VISTAs during her service term, taking them through On-Site Orientation & Training (OSOT). As the PowerPoint for OSOT had yet to be finalized, Chanell worked on getting a final draft of the OSOT PowerPoint approved by the Project Director. Along with the presentation, Chanell also began work on a VISTA checklist that will lay out the recruitment process in an easy to follow format. This will help to stabilize the project once the VISTA Leader’s service term has ended. Chanell has truly enjoyed her year of service as a VISTA Leader with the VISTA North Texas Project. She’s learned so much from working with Project Director Christina Penland, and plans to take everything she’s learned on with her in future endeavors.
In February 2017, AmeriCorps VISTA Melanie Kuriger was able to write and submit a grant application for $20,000 from the Andrea-Mennen Family Foundation. The grant money, if received, will be used to strengthen North Texas Performing Arts’ Therapeutic Drama program for children and adults with special needs. In the preceding weeks, she created an outline and wrote several drafts of the application. She also generated statistics based on information she was able to obtain from archived 2016 documents. Upon approval from her supervisor, she submitted the application in mid-February.
Tierra has taken on CCA’s grants Spring Cycle in full force this month. So far, she has completed and submitted a total of six grants for a potential of $74,000 to support CCA’s comprehensive services and programs to assist low-income individuals across North Texas. Tierra has already secured $15,000 in funding from CoServ Charitable Foundation to assist CCA’s CoServ clients with utility assistance, as well as $5,000 in funding from Direct Energy’s Neighbor-to-Neighbor program to assist Direct Energy clients with utility assistance as well. But it doesn’t stop there! Tierra is already working on six other grants for CCA, including an application to the Texas Emergency Shelter Grant Program with a Denton County Collaborative, including Giving HOPE Inc., Denton County Friends of the Family, Salvation Army of Denton and Interfaith Ministries to reduce and prevent homelessness across the County.
Steven Tillman, an AmeriCorps VISTA currently servicing the city of Lewisville in Denton County through the nonprofit Christian Community Action (CCA), has completed his initial cycle of the Life Skills & Job Readiness Course pilot, which is designed to help course participants secure gainful employment. Steven recently completed analysis of the surveys he administered to participants, and came to some interesting conclusions which changed his view of the level of information the program must provide. He states that the majority of CCA’s potential clients experience a chronic measure of underemployment, and have an increasing need for finding solutions to make their working hours more effective at not only earning an income, but also at reaching their overall goals. Several members of CCA’s Administrative Leadership have taken notice and are eager to see the results of his work. Occupational Psychology and Workforce Development are his forte, and he says that his efforts to secure a team of trainers are beginning to produce results, which may prove to be of tremendous benefit to the citizens of Denton County. He also states that he sees that citizens of Lewisville whom are experiencing struggles with employment can benefit from taking more practical steps toward accomplishing their overall goals, as well as securing employment. Steven says he took great inspiration for the changes he’s making from a former employer, teacher, and mentor of his hometown of Chicago, Illinois.
North Central Texas College (NCTC) officially submitted and was approved for a VISTA project through VISTA North Texas in the month of February. VISTA Leader Chanell Rose first made a connection with Roxanne Del Rio, Associate Dean of Denton County Campuses for NCTC, in the first few months of her service. Throughout her term, Chanell has stayed connected with Ms. Del Rio, and fostered the relationship with NCTC into a blossoming VISTA site. With this new addition, the North Texas Project has been able to diversify its partner agencies with a college site, which could open other recruitment avenues at campuses in Cooke County. We are excited to begin recruiting for this position starting in July!
In February, VISTA Sean Enfield played a part in the opening of North Texas Performing Arts’ new theatre in Fairview. A couple weeks prior to the Ribbon Cutting, he managed a small team helping in the final stages of the build out, and conducted interviews with the major volunteers in the Fairview project. The new theatre opened a few weeks later, and he helped volunteers ready the reception and put on the final touches for that evening’s production of Mary Poppins. In addition to the Fairview project, Sean also worked on the Plano branch’s move to Willow Bend. On that end, he recruited over 40 National Honor Society volunteers to help organize and package up parts of the theatre over Spring Break in March. He also began leading the community service volunteer initiative there and managed his first volunteer on the last Monday of the month.