Athens, Ga. – The University of Georgia’s Office of Service-Learning has helped bring four members of AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty, to the Athens-Clarke County community.
Natalie Bouyett, Nathalie Celestin, Lindsay Davis and Debbie Mitchell each began their one-year AmeriCorps VISTA tenure at UGA in February. They will work on Athens-Clarke County community engagement initiatives, including Latino initiatives, UGA’s Campus Kitchen Project, UGArden and the school garden network. Their efforts are due to a grant UGA’s Office of Service-Learning recieved from the Corporation for National and Community Service.
AmeriCorps VISTA members work in communities but focus on building the organizational, administrative and financial capacity of other organizations focused on fighting illiteracy, improving health services and fostering economic development. AmeriCorps VISTA members have worked with other UGA programs such as 4-H, but they are the first to work with the Office of Service-Learning, a public service and outreach unit.
“The work of the VISTAs will benefit the Athens community and strengthen UGA’s commitment to service-learning,” said Paul Matthews, assistant director of the Office of Service-Learning.
Service-learning involves linking and applying what students learn in their coursework to address a community need, issue or problem, and to enhance student learning.
“Our office has established engagement initiatives that focus on specific issues,” said Matthews. “Each AmeriCorps VISTA will focus on a different area of service and will work on increasing capacity for the campus and the community.”
• Bouyett will work to strengthen efforts between UGA and local agencies to identify and meet the needs of the local Latino population relating to education, nutrition, financial literacy and other priority areas. Bouyett holds a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from UGA.
• Celestin will work to strengthen the Office of Service-Learning’s Campus Kitchen Project, a student-run hunger relief effort focused on reducing food waste, combating senior hunger and educating the community through nutrition and food-related programming. Specifically, Celestin will be helping recruit volunteers, set up nutrition and cook curriculum and expand Campus Kitchen related service-learning opportunities. Celestin holds a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and consumer foods from UGA.
• Davis will manage and train volunteers and work to build student leadership and programming at UGArden, a three-acre student-run farm managed by UGA’s department of horticulture that sustainably raises fruits and vegetables and distributes surplus to Campus Kitchen. Davis holds a bachelor’s degree in biology from Indiana University.
• Mitchell will coordinate with UGA and Keep Athens-Clarke County Beautiful to increase participation in local school garden efforts in 20 Clarke County public schools. Mitchell holds a master’s degree in science education from UGA.
AmeriCorps VISTA members receive a living allowance and health benefits and have the option of receiving a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award or post-service stipend after completing their service. About 6,500 VISTAs are placed each year, working on more than 1,200 projects in low-income communities around the country.
UGA Office of Service-Learning
The Office of Service-Learning is jointly supported by the Office of the Vice President for Instruction and the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, which takes the expertise and resources of the university into the state. For more information on the Office of Service-Learning, see http://servicelearning.uga.edu/.