By Kara Blomquist
Serve America while still staying at Baylor: AmeriCorps VISTA members placed on Baylor’s campus have the opportunity to do just that.
AmeriCorps VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America, is a national program created to fight poverty. VISTA members serve for one year at either a nonprofit organization or a government agency. There are two available VISTA positions at Baylor, and only college graduates are eligible for the program. Benefits of the position include a modest living allowance and health care.
The AmeriCorps VISTA members placed at Baylor will work with the Office of Community Engagement and Service. The contract for both jobs is from July 2013-July 2014. Current VISTA members say their time at Baylor serving the university and the Waco community through AmeriCorps VISTA has taught them a lot.
Poverty education AmeriCorps VISTA member Chloe Toohey graduated from Centre College, a small liberal arts university in Kentucky, in May 2012 and said she wasn’t sure what her next step should be.
“I was like, ‘Hmm, what am I doing with my life?’” she said. “I wanted to take a year off before going back to school, and I wanted to have a meaningful experience during that year.”
Toohey said she was attracted to the VISTA position at Baylor because it incorporated many of her interests.
“I really like how it melded the passions I had for not only poverty and homelessness, but also my passion for student affairs and pursuing that professionalism,” she said. “This was an invaluable experience to have under my belt.”
AmeriCorps VISTA member for community development Randall Fowler, a Baylor alumnus, said the fact that the job was at Baylor is what initially attracted him to the position.
“Really what appealed to me was the fact that I could serve at Baylor and really make an impact on the community that I had grown fond of through four years at Baylor,” he said. “I learned to love Waco and really liked this place. So it was really a way for me to get plugged in here.”
Fowler said his work with both the community and student organizations on campus has helped him expand his worldview.
“It’s been really cool to be able to get the bigger picture, for me, and be able to learn more about Baylor and learn more about service and help connect student groups together,” he said.
Fowler will be taking his widened worldview to Amman, Jordan, where he will teach English as a part of the Fulbright program. He applied to the program last year but was put on the alternate list.
“So I decided to do this and then reapplied this year and got in,” he said. “I joke that AmeriCorps made all the difference.”
Graduates who aren’t sure of their future plans should consider applying for an AmeriCorps position, Fowler said.
One of the open positions at Baylor involves working with the re-entry of ex-offenders into society and working with the Parent Resource Centers in Waco ISD, said Mary Katherine Leslie-Van Hook, project coordinator and office manager for the Office of Community Engagement and Service.
The other VISTA member will work with the Heart of Texas Urban Gardening Coalition, she said. This person will also help with the Campus Kitchens Project at Baylor.
Leslie-Van Hook said applicants should apply as soon as possible. The deadline is May 10.
“We are already looking at applicants right now,” she said.
Students can find more information at: https://my.americorps.gov/mp/listing/search.do.