Views from VISTAs: Updates from February 2020


Views from VISTAs: Updates from February 2020

AmeriCorps’ Volunteers In Service To America (VISTA) work to alleviate poverty by providing indirect service to their communities. Our afterschool VISTAs and the work they do are essential to the expansion of afterschool access for the children who need it most, especially in the fields of STEM, child nutrition, youth mentoring, and program sustainability.

Here’s what a few of our VISTAs involved have been up to in February!

Mapping the afterschool landscape in Kentucky

Stephanie Barker, an Afterschool Sustainability VISTA at the Kentucky Out-of-School Alliance, has been coordinating her site’s efforts in quantifying the current afterschool landscape in Kentucky. To do so, Stephanie designed a survey that will be sent out to program directors affiliated with 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the Kentucky Division of Regulated Child Care, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and Save the Children’s afterschool program sites in the states. Pilot testing will start in March.

“Over the past couple months, and with the help of “key informants,” I have created a list (i.e. sampling frame) that contains the names of all programs/centers that serve school-age children under these various programs, organizations, and agencies, which is populated with relevant contact information for program director(s) affiliated with each program/center on the list,” Stephanie shared.

Supporting communities in emergency preparedness

Colleen Dorfler, an Afterschool and Summer Meals VISTA with OregonASK, shared that her most significant highlight this past month was with the 2 Weeks Ready Emergency Preparedness Campaign, which is designed to raise awareness and support early learning centers in having two weeks’ worth of resources in the event of a natural disaster. Colleen and her site held the second quarterly workgroup meeting on February 14.

“Also with the 2 Weeks Ready Campaign, we are holding community conversations at each Child Care Resource and Referral Agency in the state. The goal with this is to learn what each community’s needs are regarding emergency preparedness; in Oregon we have agencies on the coast, in the desert, in the city, etc. We held a community conversation in Multnomah County, the largest county in Oregon by population. This conversation helped us to learn what childcare providers are already doing for emergency preparedness, as well as what they would like to be doing if they had the capacity to do so. All of this information will help us at the end of our two-year campaign, as we plan to write a report about our findings in hopes of creating emergency preparedness funding opportunities for early learning centers throughout the state,” Colleen described.

Providing expertise on workforce development

Dan Ristau, a STEM Ecosystem VISTA at STEMSTL, started the month off with a successful collaboration. Dan met with the Executive Director of, an artificial intelligence (AI) conference that is designed to prepare St. Louis for changes in the economy and workforce as it relates to AI. As a free workforce development forum will be held on the first day of the conference, Dan collaborated with the Executive Director to provide some additional insights into workforce development. “...I helped refine the agenda, gave a list of relevant contacts, and provided some resources on IT/STEM career pathways.  I was also connected with some of her colleagues who may begin to get involved in our ecosystem workgroups.  Afterwards she was notably grateful for the support and guidance.  The event is set to be very large, about 1000 people,” Dan reflected.

In addition to supporting the conference, Dan successfully launched STEMSTL’s asset mapping survey and recruited a cohort for the 2020 Ecosystem convening in March and organized a strategic planning meeting.

Inspiring efforts to alleviate poverty and expand access to afterschool – and its benefits – are happening every day. Join the mission! Learn more about the AmeriCorps afterschool VISTAs and job openings near you.