As Iowa students head back to school, members of the AmeriCorps VISTA project start their own year of engagement with students in such communities as Des Moines, Marshalltown, Council Bluffs, Ottumwa and Burlington. Iowa College Aid works closely with AmeriCorps as part of our mission to build a college-going culture throughout Iowa. This week, members at VISTA sites around the state will share their experiences and visions as they explore work with students and communities through the program. Erma Mujic, is Iowa College Aid’s VISTA Coordinator. She shares her thoughts on the importance of AmeriCorps VISTAs for communities and Iowa College Aid.
Increasing college attainment leads to stronger local and state economies, and Iowa’s economic future depends on us producing more college graduates. Iowa College Aid’s College Changes Everything initiative is based on the premise that sustained change is only possible through cross-sector coordination. Relationships based on shared responsibility and trust, development of a common agenda, shared measurement of goals, effective communication and mutual reinforcement of activities among all participants are key to successfully increasing college attainment at the community level.
Building upon the existing initiatives and resources currently available in our communities, College Changes Everything leverages the strengths and long-term plans of each participating organization. An integral part of this initiative is our AmeriCorps VISTA Project which seeks to place VISTA members on community college campuses or in school districts in order to build capacity around college access and success. AmeriCorps VISTA members are passionate and committed to their mission to bring individuals and communities out of poverty.
Members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency. They focus their efforts to build the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development, and otherwise assist low-income communities. Our VISTA members work to improve educational opportunities by training volunteers, creating guides and manuals, organizing workshops, and building partnerships with local organizations that create sustained change and enhance future collaboration efforts between all sectors of economy.