AmeriCorps Week 2018

It’s AmeriCorps Week! In appreciation of Americorps VISTA members, we would like to highlight a few of our many success stories from around the state of Florida.

Melina Pineyro

Melina Pineyro has served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at Adventist University of Health Sciences (ADU) for nearly two years and has renewed for a third and final service year with ADU, beginning in June 2018. Melina is a strong young lady who looks in between the lines, around the corners, and through the numbers to find out critical answers to questions, and details that complete a story. As an analytical person who has experience with data and research, Melina tackled a task that had been complex for the University regarding student service tracking. She worked with our IT team to develop a module within the online student record system that would allow them to log their own hours, thus making access to their service records something they could do at any point in time. This access makes applying for graduate programs, applying for jobs, or developing a resume much easier for our students as they can simply print and attach their service record as needed. She has brought laughter to the Community Engagement Department, and has been instrumental in assisting with the details we rely upon as a University to tell our story. I am thankful for another year with you Melina, and I am proud of your growth.

VISTA recognition by Kendra Presley- Van Houten, Director of Community Engagement

Keaira Kittrell

Keaira Kittrell has served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member at Adventist University of Health Sciences (ADU) for three years.  When she began her service in 2015, she was quiet and a bit timid.  Always inquisitive, her questions came from a place of needing to know the “right” answers.  I have watched her grow and mature into an individual who will be successful at anything in which she sets her mind. Today, her questions come more from a place of wanting to gain approval and feedback to make herself better educated and more knowledgeable in the discipline. Our Community Engagement Department at ADU has been forever changed and enhanced by Keaira’s spirit, her talent, and perseverance.  She spearheaded our first ever Science Camp to benefit members of a local Boys and Girls Club, and it is now a thriving and sustainable annual program for ADU.  The lives she has touched through her efforts in the community are numerous.  I wish I could keep her here for much longer than her November end of service date, but I am confident that she will find the right fit for her life and her passions and will grow into an excellent professional.  We thank you, Keaira, for your years of dedication and service to ADU and the Central Florida Community.

VISTA recognition by Kendra Presley- Van Houten, Director of Community Engagement

Ana Acosta

Ana brings to all her activities strong communication and leadership skills.  She demonstrates a resolve to complete her projects and address challenges.  At the start of her service, she began collecting data for our new initiative focused around Career Pathways. Career Pathways program’s goal is to identify the skills gaps in target sectors of economic growth, assess current educational and training programs to ensure that learning outcomes are aligned with industry need, and provide the information to the public in a usable and accessible way by a wide variety of users, including students, school counselors, parents, educators, job seekers, and industry leaders.  Since this is a new project, Ana needed to navigate the administrative challenges to collect data from university departments.  Her ability to successfully communicate the goals of project allowed for our office to compile comprehensive data on student employment throughout the university.  Ana is truly an asset to our team.  She brings forth innovative ideas and has a remarkable thirst for knowledge.  We appreciate her work ethic and commitment to the university!

VISTA recognition by Marisa Hightower – Associate Director, Office of Civic & Community Engagement, University of Miami

Kaitlyn Speaker

 Kaitlyn is our newest VISTA member for our Inclusive Communities project.  Two weeks into her service, and she has demonstrated enthusiasm for this project.  She is articulate and communicates well with our university partners.  We are excited to have her as part of our team for the next year!

VISTA recognition by Marisa Hightower – Associate Director, Office of Civic & Community Engagement, University of Miami

Carter Gill

 Carter Gill recently ended his service with our office and we wanted to take the opportunity to thank him.  During his service year, Carter displayed a remarkable aptitude to learn new software for our GIS Mapping project.  He would come to the office with idea and often contribute articles for our monthly Affordable Housing Newsletter.  Carter possesses a positive attitude and remarkable communication skills.  In addition, Carter’s wiliness to be present and engaged with our partners at community meetings, presentations and events is testimony to his commitment to the community and university.

VISTA recognition by Marisa Hightower – Associate Director, Office of Civic & Community Engagement, University of Miami

Sarah Robinson

 From Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Center for Civic Engagement

 Since beginning as an AmeriCorps VISTA in FSCJ’s Center for Civic Engagement last November, Sarah Robinson has made a positive impact on educational programming and has become an invaluable member of our team.

Sarah has worked diligently with other Center staff to research, design, and implement a new initiative titled “Service Learning Fridays” with planned service learning activities addressing major socio-economic issues, such as food security and affordable housing, related to our Florida Campus Compact grant. In addition, Sarah has provided exceptionally helpful guidance about enriching our service learning model based on her knowledge of curricular and co-curricular educational programming.  In fact, she recently introduced us to the idea of an Alternative Spring Break, which we are now in the early stages of planning for the 2018-2019 academic year.

With a positive outlook and a strong work ethic, Sarah often volunteers to assist with new initiatives in the department, such as creating a Facebook page, enhancing our current website, and refining our end-of-term surveys. When asked to complete any departmental task, she does so effectively and expediently.  Committed to developing and sustaining service learning as a pedagogical model at our college, she brings innovative ideas to our attention, including suggestions for digitally recording and reporting service learning hours.

Within a relatively brief period, Sarah has made a notably positive impact on our work in FSCJ’s Center for Civic Engagement, and we feel fortunate to have her as a valued team member. Thank you, Sarah, for embodying the principles of service to better both our college community and the greater Jacksonville area. And thank you, colleagues at Florida Campus Compact, for the opportunity to participate in the AmeriCorps VISTA program.

VISTA recognition by Kathleen Ciez-Volz, Ed.D, Associate Provost, Curriculum and Instruction, Florida State College at Jacksonville

Viesha Andrews

 Viesha has been working diligently with PeaceJam interns on setting personal goals and becoming invested in local issues; she has worked with the MDC Institute for Civic Engagement and Democracy coordinator on on-going “topics of the week” for MDC students , where they read relevant material related to social justice and civic engagement, and discuss and connect the topics with their own lives and futures and educational experience at MDC; she has overseen the activities of the PeaceJam club to keep them focused on PeaceJam principles; she has helped organize numerous campus events to raise awareness about poverty and justice, such as the Privilege walk, a Hunger banquet, and an Earth Day Symposium, and a “Power Hour” on the causes and impact of gun violence; she has strengthened ties with the campuses Director of Recruitment Services and has been working collaboratively on engaging high school youth in the PeaceJam program; she has organized a trip for students to travel to Tallahassee for the PeaceJam conference where they will present their service work and interact with a Nobel Peace Laureate; she has worked with faculty to introduce PeaceJam to hundreds of students; and she has worked tirelessly to help build and sustain PeaceJam in Miami-Dade County.

VISTA recognition by Josh Young and Alley Kasney, Miami Dade College