Tuesday, May 12, 2015

VISTA 50th Celebration

It is officially warm out and I couldn't be happier about it! I have several fun things to report since my last post. I thought I would start with a picture of some of our very own PACC*VISTAs who represented us at the 50th Anniversary of VISTA event in Philadelphia on April 24th. 

I sat on the planning committee for this along with Evalyn Gleason and Riccardo Purita. I'd like to give them a big shout out here for all of the time and energy they put into what was an incredibly successful event!

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend because of a destination wedding that I was attending in the Dominican Republic. So, while I was very sad to miss the event, I was really happy to be staring at sunsets like this one for a few days.

Thankfully Evalyn stepped up to the task of documenting the event! Please find a great synopsis of the 50th Celebration from her, along with some fun pictures below!

VISTA 50th Celebration:
VISTA turned 50 and PACC VISTA turned out to celebrate the accomplishments that have been made in the fight against poverty. Last Friday, Philadelphia hosted a national solutions summit to celebrate the work that VISTAs have done in the Philadelphia region throughout the history of the organization. Speakers ranged from talking about their work in Urban Gardens and fights food deserts while others discussed the importance of raising college bound children. Over all, it was a wildly successful event that saw a good turn out and a wonderful “meeting of the minds.”

A couple of members from PACC VISTA had a hand in planning the event since October. They worked hard to secure speakers, write articles and fundraise. The Philadelphia Social Innovations journal was a co-sponsor of the event and we had a number of PACC VISTAs featured in the journal with pieces they wrote about their projects.

The reception that followed the summit was a huge hit! It was complete with wine, beer and an extensive cheese platter (always appropriate when Sarah G is involved with an event). Andrew Jackson School in South Philly has a small rock band (think School of Rock) that played at the reception. They did an awesome job and it was adorable to see small middle school-ers playing guitars bigger than them. President Obama taped a piece that thanked AmeriCorp VISTA members for their hard work throughout the years and highlighted the achievements that we were making in the fight against poverty.

It was great to have such great PACC representation both through their work and their presence at the event. It further proves that we are supportive of one another and work to highlight each other’s achievements and that we are all working extremely hard to ensure that our projects are successful.

Happy 50th VISTA!

PACC*VISTAs Getting Published:
Now for a bit of a bragging moment. There are only 21 PACC*VISTAs in our 14-15 cohort but they are a mighty crew. Six of them were just published in the Social Innovations Journal. One-third or 6 of the 18 featured Social Innovations Articles for the Spring 2015 Issue of the Social Innovations Journal were written by PACC*VISTAs!! 

Read all of their extraordinary articles here:
Atlantic Region National Service Conference:
Last week I attended the Atlantic Region National Service Training in Hartford, CT. It was an interesting three days spent with other Program Directors of National/State AmeriCorps programs, SeniorCorps programs, and VISTA programs, along with State Commission and CNCS staff. Many big names appeared at this conference including Wendy Spencer, the CEO for the Corporation for National and Community Service. Wendy came with a couple of big announcements. One of which was that as of  May 3, 2015, the ban on VISTAs holding outside employment had been lifted. I know this is a really big deal for many of our current and future VISTAs and host site institutions and we were excited to find out collectively at this event. I was able to snap a picture of Wendy getting ready to announce the new policy and then the slide with the big news on it. To find out more about this new policy, click this link: New VISTA Outside Employment Policies and Procedures
The girl that happened to be in this picture does not seem to understand the level of excitement that comes with this announcement.
Wilkes' Veterans Career and Education Boot Camp:
Here's a piece from Emily McGaha about what sounds like an incredibly successful event she helped to make a reality:

The Boot Camp went well. I had 20 business/community agencies and 6 local colleges/universities in attendance yesterday. I was able to reach out to veterans, employers, and spouses and inform them of benefits and services that are available to them. One veteran was very excited to attend. They learned a lot from the agencies that were in attendance and was willing to relocate for any hiring position. Overall I feel all who were in attendance to yesterday's Boot Camp walked away with new information and networking connections. I met with an individual from a local college and we plan on meeting over the summer to discuss what I have done for INVEST. She feels that after further discussion she can take some of my ideas and find ways to apply them to fit her schools needs.  

The Veterans Career and Education Boot Camp was a wonderful opportunity for veterans, community, colleges/universities and local agencies to come together. Everyone in attendance learned a variety of topics to assist the veteran population. I had the opportunity to discuss with everyone their thoughts and how I could approve the Boot Camp for next year. Overall I'm glad for everyone who attended and walked away with new ideas and connections on how we can assist our veterans. I would like to thank Kelly L for helping out with the Boot Camp and the support throughout the planning process. Ashley and Lauren too for their wonderful encouraging support at the Boot Camp. The support was greatly appreciated. Here's to next years Boot Camp. Cheers!

Interesting Articles and Videos to Consider:
Finally for this post, I have included some relevant articles and videos that I've been reading/watching and thinking about a lot over the past few weeks. Find the article, videos, and radio segments below!

West Virginia Public Radio (WV), April 18, 2015
In honor of National Service Week and the 50th Anniversary of VISTA, this week we're looking back to the stories
of some of the first VISTA volunteers who came to West Virginia. And we’ll catch a sneak peek from a new documentary about former U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, who was himself a young volunteer who came to work in West Virginia during the 1960s. “And I kept a diary every day which I didn’t read for 50 years, it was sort of like a sacred document to me. In reading that, I realized how much I grew, how I changed, how much they did, the people of Emmons, to make me who I believe I am.”

Ted Talk: How We're Priming Some Kids for College --and Others for Prison
In the United States, two institutions guide teenagers on the journey to adulthood: college and prison. Sociologist Alice Goffman spent six years in a troubled Philadelphia neighborhood and saw first-hand how teenagers of African-American and Latino backgrounds are funneled down the path to prison — sometimes starting with relatively minor infractions. In an impassioned talk she asks, “Why are we offering only handcuffs and jail time?”

The Best Commencement Speeches, Ever:
NPR hand-picked over 300 addresses going back to 1774. Find all of them here: 300 Best Commencement Speeches

Philly Breakdancing Family Perform on SEPTAA family of breakdancers in Philadelphia that find hope in performing. The father explains that “If you see your child doing something positive...and they love doing it, inspire them to do better.”

Hope you enjoy the rest of your week! 

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