Mikayla, Tessa, Hal, Sol, Nicole, and Stephen will serve Fairbanks from August 31, 2020 - August 30, 2021. Year-long VISTAs perform indirect service focusing on capacity building. Stay tuned for updates as their year progresses!
Kelsey wrapped up her service year on June 8, 2020. She served ThrivAlaska well as their Development & Communications coordinator. She wrote successful grants, engaged with the community via social media and created a monthly newsletter. Kelsey's next step will be attending Johns Hopkins University to earn her master's in Public Management.
Kelsey, thank you for your service to our community. Our program appreciates your input, hard work and dedication. We wish you the absolute best in your future and know you will be successful in anything you do!
By Kelsey Snyder, Thrivalaska VISTA '19-20
Serving as the Development Coordinator at Thrivalaska involves a lot of outreach to the community including creating relationships with donors and companies. I recently submitted a grant to Wells Fargo to help my host site complete a re-flooring project at our thread Resource and Referral building. One of the main goals for my year of service is to help my site see visible growth in their ability to reach out to companies and individuals in the community for project and program support.
While the flooring project may not be seen as a dire need project, many families come to our organization looking for resources and we want to ensure they feel welcomed and comfortable while getting the help they need. We have used grants as an opportunity to gain funds for projects in the past such as new internet servers or other building updates in the classrooms. If approved for grant funds, you must use the funds given specifically for the project you had listed in your application.
My time writing the grant involved a lot of collaboration with my administration offices. I had to learn about the demographics our non-profit serves, and generate specific numbers to show the application board why our target population was in need. Writing this grant was a very useful way for me to practice painting a full picture of what my site does and the true difference it makes in our community.
The process began with creating an organization profile, simple information based on location and contact addresses. The large portion of the grant itself is the project proposal. You begin with funding purpose and describe what project you need funding provided. Many grant applications ask if there is a benefit to the company such as mention in a newsletter, daily paper, or on your website. This specific grant asked for information on how many low to moderate income group individuals you serve throughout the organization. Finally, you talk specifically about your organizations goals and accomplishments. This is where you get the opportunity to show the company why your program matters in your community!
After collaborating with my Executive Director and get approval to submit my proposal, we were told to expect our application to be reviewed within 45 days. Around a month and half after submitting our initial proposal to Wells Fargo, we were fortunate to receive an email letting us know that our grant has been approved! The email explained how we could expect a check in the mail within the next 8 weeks. As a non-profit, these application approvals are big victories!
By Ashton Varner, VISTA Team Leader '19-20
The 2019 Community Needs Drive was even bigger than 2018! We owe our success to our team and so many other community members.
Thank you to Love In the Name of Christ of the Tanana Valley for hosting our event, even though you had only recently moved into your location. Thank you to The Salvation Army - Fairbanks Corps for providing hot drinks, bottled water and snacks for our volunteers and donors.
Thank you to everyone who helped me promote this event: Julie Doll who passed out flyers in parts of the community that are hard for me to reach such as military bases and Salcha, Rob Prince of KFBX 970 for having us on morning radio, Cheryl Upshaw for the fantastic piece in the Daily News-Miner and Andrew Hawkins at News 11 for helping us make the 7 o’clock news.
Thank you to the donors who brought bags, boxes and totes full of items.
95% of our requests were filled and some donations came all the way from Nenana!
Thank you to the 10 local non-profit agencies who participated and allowed us to serve them through this event. We appreciate the work you do in our community all year round.
If you are still interested in donating, please see our list of requested items, contact the agencies directly and ask if they still need specific items.
See you next year!
By Ashton Varner, VISTA Team Leader '19-20
Many know Fairbanks for its -40 degree winters. However, the community is much warmer than the weather it is known for. No matter its size, it has a small town vibe. It will not take long to win a 6 Degrees of Separation game. People know one another, neighbors look out for each other and we want each other to succeed.
Kim Green began pursuing her GED in 2012 but did not find success until years down the road. She knew having an education would help her get a better job but it was hard.
Those who guide adults through GED programs understand. Lisa Cogen began tutoring English at the Literacy Council of Alaska in 2017. She says school gets harder as a person is older due to the responsibilities life brings.
In 2017, Kim received a note from her doctor stating that, for a time, she would not be able to work. Her public assistance case worker pushed her to try to get her GED again.
Kim agreed. She didn’t want to waste time while she was out of the workforce. “I couldn’t do nothing,” she said.
That’s when Kim first met Lisa as her English tutor. She said Lisa was a good teacher who took time to break down concepts that tripped up her students. Kim appreciated the one-on-one care Lisa took with her.
Lisa saw potential in Kim. “I remember having good questions from her,” she said.
Unfortunately, Lisa did not get to see Kim through her GED journey. Kim became pregnant with her son and had to put her studies on hold.
As a teacher, not seeing final results can be a hazard of the job. Lisa takes moments of affirmation where she can, loving the moment when she watches students start to care. It helps to be around like-minded people such as her fellow tutors at the Literacy Council.
“They’re excited about it,” she said.
Lisa embraced the rare moment of seeing a finished chapter.
“I was a little, little piece of that,” she said. “It’s cool that she persevered.”
Since earning her GED, Kim has noticed the benefits.
“It opens up a lot of opportunities for me,” she said. “I think it helped me land [the VISTA] job.”
She plans to continue her education with the AmeriCorps VISTA end-of-service education award. Her interests include Certified Nursing Assistant certification and childcare.
Post-VISTA, Lisa has returned to her position with the borough school district as a special education teacher.
The AmeriCorps VISTA of Fairbanks office thanks Lisa and Kim for their summer service and wishes them all the best in their future.