Montana Superintendent Denise Juneau recently asked 19 Montana Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members to raise their right hand and take the oath of service on the Capitol steps in Helena.
Over the next year, these MTCC VISTAs will work with campus partners to further community-driven anti-poverty efforts in the areas of education, veterans/military family support, economic opportunity and healthy futures.
The projects MTCC VISTAs will work on over the next year include building community and school gardens, developing programming for safe after-school activities for kids, leveraging volunteers and funding for local nonprofits, and creating a training program for low-income individuals to gain job skills.
“MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA members commit a year of their lives to leveraging resources of higher education, in the form of student volunteers, to meet critical community needs,” said Brian Christianson, MTCC VISTA program manager. “When this works, mutually beneficial, long-term partnerships develop between community organizations and higher education institutions, providing college students exciting civic-engagement opportunities, while addressing the most pressing issues facing their communities.”
VISTA members come to Montana from all over the country to serve a one-year term to forge campus-community partnerships around the state of Montana. In addition to working with low-income populations, VISTAs take a vow of poverty and are prohibited from holding outside employment. At the end of their term of service, they receive an education award that can be used to pay off student loans or further their education.
VISTA members make a big impact on the communities they serve. In the past year, MTCC VISTAs generated $286,166 in cash and in-kind donations for projects addressing poverty problems in Montana. Additionally, MTCC VISTAs recruited more than 2,000 volunteers who contributed more than 18,000 hours of service.
The following members comprise the incoming class of MTCC VISTA members:
- Adrianna Ely, serving with Missoula County Public Schools in Missoula
- Stevie John, serving with the Missoula Food Bank in Missoula
- Jordan Backstrom, serving with the National Affordable Housing Network in Butte
- Rich Collins, serving with Hopa Mountain in Bozeman
- Elizabeth Higgins, serving with Great Falls College- MSU
- Michael McConnell, serving with Sunburst Unlimited in Great Falls
- Kimbra Buerschaper, serving with Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell
- Liz Cleek, serving with Gallatin Valley YMCA in Bozeman
- Hannah Jensen, serving with HRDC Home Stay Program in Bozeman
- Shay Farmer, serving with Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center in Ronan
- Gladys Walter, serving with Helena Public Schools in Helena
- Michael Stone, serving with Opportunity Link in Havre
- Donna Bulatowicz, serving with the Garfield Literacy Project in Billings
- Alison Ross, serving with the University of Montana Campus Community Garden in Dillon
- Hannah Kooistra, serving with Home Resource in Missoula
- Zoe Carlberg, serving with National Center for Appropriate Technology in Butte
- Robin McClanahan, serving with Habitat for Humanity of the Flathead Valley in Kalispell
- Kelsey Nix, serving with Girl Scouts of Montana and Wyoming in Billings
This year’s class also includes two members who re-enrolled for a second year of VISTA:
- Robyn Hegland, serving with WORD Inc. in Missoula
- Ellen Missert, serving with Smile MT! in Bozeman
The Montana Campus Compact, headquartered in Missoula at The University of Montana, is Montana’s largest higher education network.
MTCC member campuses include: Aaniiih Nakoda College, Blackfeet Community College, Carroll College, Dawson Community College, Flathead Valley Community College, Fort Peck Community College, Little Big Horn College, Miles Community College, Montana State University-Billings, Montana State University-Bozeman, Montana State University-Great Falls, Montana State University-Northern, Montana Tech of The University of Montana, Rocky Mountain College, Salish Kootenai College, Stone Child College, The University of Montana-Missoula, The University of Montana-Helena, The University of Montana Western and University of Great Falls. MTCC also works with campuses in neighboring regional states.