College Access Corps Leader 2017-18
"My journey as a professional began at Campus Compact of Oregon as the College Access Corps Team Leader. In my service I grew to learn more about my passion for justice and how to apply concepts of equity in any workplace. While I was honored to prepare and lead trainings for the College Access Corps members that I worked with (as well as the other general Campus Compact members), the most impactful part of my service were the relationships I made through it. Often times the Campus Compact office (and training spaces) were places of healing through solidarity, learning through intentionality, and making progress through collaboration. Before my service ended, I was sad to think about never having a work space like that again, but I have learned that a part of Campus Compact has stayed with me since then.
Now I work two jobs (because capitalism and student loans) - one as an Administrative Assistant in the Special Education Department at a Corvallis middle school, and the other as a Sales Professional at Fred Meyer Jewelers (because shiny things) as I try to figure out what the rest of my life and equity journey will look like. I am leaning towards a career in school or clinical counseling and intend to apply to a program at OSU (Go Beavs!).
Recently I've been organizing a drive for my island home of Tinian, in the Mariana Islands, since it was hit by Super Typhoon Yutu just last week. The island has intermittent cellular service, water, and utilities was wiped out. My father believes the island would have full power up and running within 8 to 12 months! I am in the process of getting shipments of supplies to the island and funds raised in collaboration with Team Koka, an on-island charitable organization. If you would like to contribute please do so here or Venmo (team-koka)! For more information feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Si yu'us ma'ase
VISTA at Southern Oregon University 2013-14 and University of Oregon 2014-15
"I served two terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA - first at Southern Oregon University, then at the University of Oregon. I spent a few more years in Eugene after my service wrapped up, working for a telecommunications provider and a labor union. In May 2017, I accepted the AmeriCorps Program Manager position at Utah Campus Compact in Salt Lake City, Utah. In July 2018, we consolidated programs in our office and rebranded ourselves as the Utah Higher Education AmeriCorps Network (UHEAN). At the same time, I moved into the director role.
My job is huge! We enroll 850 part-time AmeriCorps members, who are spread out at seven colleges and universities up and down the I-15 corridor. Nearly all of our members are full-time college students who combine their service with their academic major.
An unsung benefit of VISTA service is that members learn how to quickly develop relationships at their service site and with community partners. UHEAN places members at 150 sites around the state, many of which have joined our program within the past two years. It's my job to on-board them and set them up for success. Having served at two universities, I also learned how to navigate higher education bureaucracies, a skill that comes in handy when managing such a large program.
Outside of work, I have maintained my commitment to serving my community. I mentor high school students in a writing program, serve on a city committee that seeks to increase educational attainment for its residents, and provide support for a service scholarship competition."
College Access Corps at Mt. Hood Community College, 2015-16
"My service year with Campus Compact of Oregon was from 2015-2016 where I served as a College Access Coordinator. Upon completing my service year, I gained employment within Evergreen School District to support English Language Learners within the classroom and enrolled in Concordia University’s Master of Arts in Community Psychology program, which I completed this past August. I became passionate about conducting research while in graduate school and completed a thesis entitled,Minority Students in College: Finding Sense of Community. I hoped to understand if ethnic and racial minority students in college reported a lower sense of community within predominately White college campuses, compared to their majority peers.
In addition to my personal research, I was able to take part in other valuable and exciting research throughout my time in graduate school. I provided consultations for an international, non-governmental organization focused on the mental health of Syrian refugees and Jordanian nationals in the Kingdom of Jordan, as well as for a local non-profit organization focused on improving the number of Native American caregivers. Currently, I am conducting research on transfer student recruitment in college. I am also a member of the Public Policy Committee within the Society for Community Research and Action (Division 27, American Psychological Association), which focuses on enhancing the relationship between community psychologists and policy makers to inform policy decisions. My time since AmeriCorps has been wonderful as I have been able to use my knowledge and skills to support organizations doing valuable work."
VISTA Member at Portland Community College, 2016-17
"At twenty-two years old, fresh out of college, and having never lived outside of Wyoming, I moved to Portland, Oregon to serve a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Portland Community College with Campus Compact of Oregon. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but those eventful 365 days taught me more than I could have ever imagined. Not only did I gain a vast amount of new, valuable career skills, but I also grew immensely as a person, fostering a continued sense of compassion, empathy, and vulnerability.
After finishing my service term, I moved all the way across the country to Washington, D.C., where I explored my previous passion for childhood education, securing a job as a Lead Infant Teacher at a daycare. While my new position was wonderful and fulfilling in so many ways, I soon realized that I had a strong desire to return to higher education and work on a college campus.
Without a doubt, I can attribute my desire to work in higher education to the year I spent working as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Portland Community College. And now, one year later, I am beginning a new position at the George Washington University in Washington, D.C. – something I never would have imagined before my time with Campus Compact of Oregon."
by Kaycie López Jones, Educational Equity Program Manager
Dear Colleagues, Friends and Family,
I am sure many of you are already aware about yet another police shooting of a Black child that occurred recently in Balch Springs, Texas. As I reflect, so many thoughts wander through my head, and two seemingly contradictory thoughts stand out. 1) More of a feeling really, the surreal feeling that this reality is not somewhere else, it is not in the Jim Crow past or the dystopian future, I am not outside of it, it is here, in the present, where all things collide. I am living in it, this is what it feels like to be under siege in the modern era. Programs that focus on connecting people and creating equitable and just solutions are criticized and defunded, white youth are praised as heroes and heroines even as as they are the highly impacted by their own heroin epidemic, yet still talks of doubling down on the war on drugs in Black neighborhoods circulate; a few token youth of color are held up as the good ones, few out of many; while other Black and Brown youth feel no sense of value or belonging within a society that degrades their intelligences and televises their genocide. This is what it feels like, it's not there, or over there, it's here. How much need be internalized before it becomes poison, before the glow in our eyes fades to grey? We need to cry together, laugh together, fly together. 2) Nothing is new but the same old same old. This is what it has been feeling like for many, maybe not me, sheltered from the struggles of my own people for so long, perhaps I was at first not aware of the impact, but it was there, hiding behind the veil, puppeteering my experience without my knowledge. Now the strings have been cut and the veil lifted, there's The Man's face, plain as day with eyes dark as night, smiling a bright, menacing smile as he takes the veil and blows his nose with it and throws it away. "My deed here is done." He says, "Have fun." I look beyond and then it's clear yet still so surreal. Wait! This is nothing new, this has been true. This is nothing new. This has been true. This is why I'm driven to do what I do.
And so I ask you all to please reflect for a moment. Take a moment to reflect. Jordan Edwards is your brother, is your friend, is your uncle, is your nephew, is your child, is you. Just another unique human being on earth, enjoying their life, figuring out life, figuring out relationships, figuring out this mind, figuring out this body, figuring out this spirit; I can only pray that wherever his spirit is now, it is at peace. Thank you, Jordan Edwards, for your bravery during this incarnation, for sacrificing your life for our lessons, albeit unwillingly and undeservedly, may you receive the light of the universe and be free.
As many of you may have heard the Office of Management and Budget at the federal level is recommending eliminating funding for the Corporation for National & Community Service which funds AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps VISTA. This news is concerning and I am sure many of you may be worried about our national service positions, programs, and the powerful service supported by CNCS resources.
A few things to share with everyone:
We value the work all of our service members are doing to improve the education system in Oregon so students can thrive, graduate, and become economically self sufficient. Please help us sustain these important programs!
From all of us at Campus Compact of Oregon, thank you!
Ari Alberg is the newest member of the ORCC team, joining our staff as the AmeriCorps Program Manager. In this role, he will be managing the AmeriCorps Connect2Complete Program and the Summer VISTA Program. He brings passion for the work combined with great professional experience.
Returning to Portland after living abroad for several years, Ari is grateful to have landed at Oregon Campus Compact. ORCC ‘s mission to activate higher education for a more just and equitable society is deeply meaningful and important work that Ari is thrilled to be a part of.
Ari is passionate about working with national service programs because a national service program changed his own life. In 2003 Teach For America placed Ari in New Orleans to teach 5th grade language arts and social studies in an underperforming school in one of the poorest school districts in the country.
These were the early days of No Child Left Behind, so schools lived or died by high stakes testing and his school was no different. He was required to teach for the test, drilling the students with endless stacks of handouts and pushing them through textbooks filled with content that had little relevance to their lives.
It was a formative experience that exposed him to the challenges of generational poverty and institutional racism as well the shortcomings of classroom based standardized textbook-driven education.
As a result of his experiences in TFA, Ari next sought out alternative education programs that were more student-focused and experience based, and he has spent the last 10 years working for such programs. During this time he was fortunate to work for great organizations such as Open Meadow Schools, Carpe Diem Education and the Pangaea Project.
Whether helping students to form their postsecondary plans, present their views to the city mayor, or participate in service-learning projects at home or abroad, Ari has thoroughly enjoyed his experiences advocating for youth and looks forward to continuing that work at ORCC.
“Oregon is pretty special”, according to Wendy Spencer, CEO of the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS). Oregon Campus Compact was honored to receive a visit from Mrs. Spencer on August 19, 2014 and to share with her many of the reasons we think Oregon is special too.
Oregon Campus Compact has a long-standing relationship with the Corporation for National & Community Service. Since 2009, ORCC has hosted 98 VISTA members, 227 VISTA Summer Associates, 15 minimum time state AmeriCorps Members, and 13 College Access Corps AmeriCorps members. Those AmeriCorps members have mobilized over 16,760 volunteers (serving 8,576 academic priority youth).
The CNCS - funded MLK Mini-grants program funds 13 projects across the Western Region of CNCS to promote the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Several of ORCC’s current AmeriCorps members and community partners came to meet Wendy Spencer and share with her their experiences as National Service members.
Current VISTA members Andriana Alexis, Heidi Whitehouse and Allisha Tull spoke about the programs they worked with this past year and how important service-learning has been in their lives. Courtney Nolta and Sean Hagen, two ORCC Summer VISTAs currently serving in Central Oregon joined the meeting via video call. Kara Carmosino, Community Engagement Coordinator at All Hands Raised described how the partnership between ORCC and 9th Grade Counts has contributed to the ongoing success of the program.
Spencer was excited to share a new grant opportunity soon to be offered by CNSC. Operation AmeriCorps would have CNCS “partner with governments of U.S. cities, counties, or towns; federally-recognized Tribes; Territories, and school boards to engage AmeriCorps members as the transformative catalyst to address a pressing problem. Leaders (a tribal leader, mayor, county executive, or other chief executive of a locality) will propose a transformational project that uses a national service solution to ensure that every high school senior has a career or educational opportunity upon high school graduation. The goal is for every graduating high school senior to pursue one of the following five options following high school graduation:
1. Higher education, including two or four-year institutions of higher education
2. Military service
3. National service in AmeriCorps
5. A paid internship, registered apprenticeship, or job training program.”
So what are Wendy Spencer’s goals for CNCS and what is her opinion on the future of national service?
According to Spencer, national service is an integral part of addressing injustice and inequity in this country. “We should be asking community leaders and elected officials to consider putting civic engagement into the mix when looking at solutions [to the issues that most deeply impact their communities].”
One thing she views as a struggle for AmeriCorps members and and leaders across the country is limited understanding of the scope of the program. “Elected officials aren’t connecting Campus Compact, Boys & Girls Club, Teach for America, Habitat for Humanity, etc with AmeriCorps.” They certainly recognize the names and impacts of their local non-profits, schools, and government institutions, but they usually don’t realize the extent to which those agencies are deeply involved with AmeriCorps.
Her solution? Make sure the AmeriCorps logo is everywhere. Have conversations with elected officials and show them how many of their community organizations are invested in AmeriCorps and national service. “When they’re voting on national service legislation, they need to understand just how many individuals and groups are affected by that outcome.”
Spencer is invested in collecting stories that show the impact of national and community service to share with elected officials and community leaders.
Says Spencer: “We know that participating in National Service is a great resume builder and helps people get jobs. The next question to explore is: To what degree is National Service creating jobs? How often do host sites actually create a brand new job description in order to hire an AmeriCorps member after their term of service? How often do members gain enough skills to create their own organizations, departments or programs?”
At ORCC, we can think of several examples right away that we’ve learned from some of our member campuses. Concordia University’s Servant Leadership Department was created by AmeriCorps members. An AmeriCorps VISTA member at Warner Pacific College founded their Service-Learning Program, and the current Warner Pacific President credits that VISTA member with helping to change the perception of Warner Pacific in the community.
We are sure there are many other examples and we want to hear them from you! Do you have stories about how AmeriCorps and national service have created jobs in your community? Share them with us, and we’ll pass them on to Wendy Spencer at CNCS.
On August 17, 2014 thirty-two students from nine Oregon colleges and universities arrived at McKenzie River Mountain Resort for Oregon Campus Compact’s 2014 session of The LeaderShape Institute. The students spent a week developing their leadership skills and learning how to create a “just, caring, and thriving world where all lead with integrity and a healthy disregard for the impossible”.
Students participated in activities, simulations, and discussions that helped them to reflect on their values and their commitment to leading with integrity. One student said, “I learned that sharing things about myself is not the scary, risky experience I imagined it would be, but was freeing, helped boost my confidence, and helped me connect and inspire others." The week culminated in each student creating a big, bold vision for the future and developing an action plan to create change within his or her community.
ORCC AmeriCorps VISTA Matt Jernigan served as a one of the cluster facilitators, working closely with a small group of participants throughout the week. He reflected that, “I had only heard amazing things about LeaderShape, and what I witnessed was truly inspiring. Students made real connections with each other as well as inner connections on how to be empowered leaders motivated by compassion and driven to action.”
ORCC is committed to helping students connect with each other and with their communities around issues of social justice. Save the date for next year’s LeaderShape Institute happening August 16, 2015 – August 21, 2015!
Participating schools included: Lane Community College, Lewis & Clark College, Linfield College, Oregon State University, Pacific University, Portland State University, Reed College, University of Oregon, and Umpqua Community College.
We at Oregon Campus Compact are pleased to welcome Lupita Méndez, our new College Access & Communications Program Manager. Lupita will develop and implement the newly created and still evolving AmeriCorps College Access Corps, as well as working with K-12 partners in the AmeriCorps Connect2Complete program and managing communications for ORCC.
We asked her to share the experiences that brought her to Oregon Campus Compact and her hopes going forward.
I am so thrilled to be joining ORCC this month, coordinating and supporting the College Access Corps and Connect2Complete AmeriCorps programs. As I think about my hopes and goals for these programs, there is a statement that keeps coming to mind that I have heard attributed to Paul Gorski: “Just because a student of color (or first generation student, or LGBTQ student, etc…) scores high on a standardized test or graduates with a 4.0 GPA, does not mean that they experience school as equitable or just."
This always rings true to me on both a professional and personal level. I grew up poor in rural Oregon and was lucky to have adults in my life who inspired and encouraged me to stay excited about education, but it was a difficult journey for me and I watched the educational system fail many of my peers and family members.
I have brought this equity lens into my previous roles, such as coordinating programs at the Portland State University Queer Resource Center and the Portland Community College Multicultural Center. I am excited to bring it into my work with the CAC and C2C members and their programs.
My hope is that these amazing AmeriCorps members will build programming that both gives marginalized students the tools to succeed and also examines underlying systems of inequity and injustice.
I am a huge believer in the value of community-based learning and I am committed to ensuring that this year of service is also a time of professional development and personal growth for our AmeriCorps members. I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA in southern Oregon as a young adult, and that year of service stands out in my memory as one of the best learning experiences I’ve had.
In fact, it inspired me to pursue a masters degree in community-based social work so I could continue learning about social justice issues and community organizing. I hope that the CAC and C2C members will gain the same rich learning experience that I did and that it will support their development as leaders and social change agents.
As the year of service comes to a close, our AmeriCorps VISTAs set aside time to reflect on the challenges and victories of the past 12 months. For VISTA Gabe Hernandez, the last year has been a whirlwind of activity.
After finishing his undergraduate degree at Oregon State University, Hernandez looked toward joining Oregon Campus Compact to give back to his hometown community of Woodburn, Ore.
Initially he worked on the Woodburn Grow Your Own Teacher program - a partnership between Chemeketa Community College and Pacific University. The program focuses on increasing college access through mentorship.
Eventually the program piloted into French Prairie, Teach, Learn, and Grow mentoring. Hernandez described his role as capacity building – figuring out how to find mentors and promote the program.
Hernandez not only describes the experience as a success but he also sees potential for it to keep serving the community.
“This program has huge potential to serve Woodburn for years," Hernandez said. "Personally, I feel like there is support system behind it that wants to keep moving and improving."
He added that people in the Woodburn community are taking time off their summer breaks to make sure the next VISTA arrives ready to hit the ground running.
For Gabe, the Teach, Learn, and Grow mentoring provided resources for students that were sorely lacking in Woodburn. In addition, the program brought together the largely Hispanic population of students together with mentors who shared their backgrounds.
In addition to sharing stories and understanding, the mentors provided students with a framework to pursue higher education goals.
"It was very empowering, first couple of sessions they would be shy,” Hernandez said. “But toward the end, many of these students wanted to get on a path where they knew where they could get some help."
Hernandez knows the value of having mentors who can set one on the right path. He describes his AmeriCorps VISTA experience as one that gave him the same motivation that he was giving to the students in Woodburn.
He describes a stellar growth from learning professional etiquette to becoming a keynote speaker for the Crystal Apple Awards.
When Hernandez finished his undergrad degree, he knew that he wanted to go on to graduate school, but he was plagued by the feeling that he was not good enough to get his masters.
Hernandez credits his AmeriCorps experience with developing professional and leadership skills.
“[Oregon Campus Compact] gave the necessary skills to be confident to pursue grad school,” he said. Hernandez is returning to OSU to get his masters in the College of Student Affairs Program. He has also received an assistantship in the Center for Leadership Development that will pay for his tuition. His ultimate goal is to work with students of color at four-year universities.
As for the community in Woodburn, Hernandez said it is hard to leave the position. But he feels optimistic the program will continue to grow and give back.
“I see a bright future for the next VISTA coming in,” he said.
In celebration of Neal Naigus: Long-Serving ORCC Board Member transitions.
Neal Naigus, a long-serving member of Oregon Campus Compact’s Board of Directors stepped down from the board in June. PCC will continued to be represented on the board by PCC: Southeast President Jessica Howard.
In addition to being on ORCC’s board, Neal has been deeply involved in the service-learning community. In his role as Assistant to the District President at Portland Community College (PCC), Naigus served as a link between the community and the college by identifying community needs and addressing these needs through college services.
This relationship between higher education and community engagement was further solidified through his work as Director of the Pacific Northwest Public Policy Institute, which trains moderators in the National Issues Forums (NIF) process of public deliberation.
Josh Todd, Executive Director for Oregon Campus Compact said that Neal’s expertise has been appreciated and his input would be missed.
"Neal has been a stalwart force on the Oregon campus compact board. He has served for years promoting service, community engaged learning, and representing Oregon's largest college- Portland Community College,” Todd said. “We will miss his critical lens and we are so thankful for his service."