Four PACC*VISTA Projects Announced at Alvernia University


Four projects focusing on K-12 education and nutritious food education and access are now underway at Alvernia University with new PACC*VISTA leadership. The Pennsylvania Campus Compact and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) selected the university’s Holleran Center for Community Engagement as the only school to host more than two VISTA members for the 2016-17 academic year.

Photo: VISTA workers

Expanding the university’s South Reading Youth Initiative at Tyson-Schoener Elementary will be Lauren Lesser, a recent graduate of Juniata College. She will be developing after-school programming for early elementary school students and working to develop new community-school programs, including reviving the parent-teacher association. Additionally, Lauren is developing an in-school program for mentoring and literacy, during lunchtime one-on-one sessions between Alvernia and Tyson-Schoener students.

Last year, Alvernia graduate Madison Kaley '15 was the first Holleran Center Post-Graduate Year of Service worker, for which she led an after school program at Millmont Elementary School. Now as a VISTA worker, she will re-focus the work of the South Reading Youth Initiative at Millmont to develop more in-school support services for students, while working with the parent-teacher association and organizing a community carnival at the school.

Completing a second VISTA term with Alvernia’s Reading Collegiate Scholars Program (RCSP) is Kutztown University graduate Emily Butz. As the final VISTA worker supporting RCSP efforts, Butz will be expanding existing programming to the Citadel, preparing ninth grade students for high school, and helping students create plans to generate and achieve personal goals. Butz will continue college access programming for Reading High School students and will work with Reading High’s student interns at the Reading Hospital.

Also completing a second VISTA term at the university is Alvernia graduate Alex Roche '15, who is working on a Regional Food Systems Project (RFSP). The RFSP brings together many partnering organizations to analyze the current state of the local food system and ensure that residents of the community have access to healthy and affordable food options, including through the Penn Street Farmers’ Market.

VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) was founded in 1965 as a national service program to fight poverty in America. In 1993, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs. The PACC*VISTA grant seeks to develop or enhance campus-community efforts to eradicate poverty; to create, develop, or sustain reciprocal, mutually beneficial partnerships between the campus and community organizations, leaders and members.

Since 2007, Alvernia’s Holleran Center for Community Engagement has hosted 11 VISTAs, working on projects like the South Reading Youth Initiative, AlverniaREADS, the Reading Collegiate Scholars Program, and Food Access and Sustainability.

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