John Harvey enjoyed last year’s AmeriCorps Summer VISTA Associate Program so much that he didn’t want to pass up an opportunity to do it again this summer.
“As I got into the program last year, I realized, ‘Hey, this is a lot of fun’,” said the 22-year-old North Augusta resident. “I enjoy working with the kids and being a role model for them.”
Harvey is one of 21 Summer VISTA Associates assigned to United Way of the CSRA and its agencies this summer. Harvey is working with the Boys & Girls Club of Augusta’s W.T. Johnson unit.
VISTA, which stands for Volunteers in Service to America, helps service organizations in much the same way volunteers serve the Peace Corps, said Joan Stoddard, the United Way of the CSRA’s community building coordinator.
“We’re bringing home college students who want to get experience in their field and give back to their community, she said. “We’re placing them to work in education programs in the community. The purpose is to keep kids engaged in the summer and prevent loss of learning by having the VISTA associates do fun activities with them and tutor and mentor them.”
Summer VISTA associates were also assigned to the Boys & Girls Club of Augusta's administrative office and Jamestown and Dogwood Terrace units; MACH Academy; Hope House; Family Y Child Development Center; Family Y at Murphy Middle School; CSRA Economic Opportunity Authority; Salvation Army’s volunteer and auto auction programs; American Red Cross; Family Promise of Augusta; Augusta Partnership for Children; and Mercy Ministries.
This is the fifth year the United Way has participated in the Summer VISTA Associate program. Each year, there are several volunteers such as Harvey who return for the program, she said.
Harvey, who is a history major at South Carolina State University, and fellow summer VISTA associate Ashley Thompson, have been creating lesson plans for the W.T. Johnson club members and sharing their own experiences with them while promoting education.
“I try to give them pointers on things such as reading is important,” said Thompson, 21, a resident of Hephzibah and a first-year summer VISTA associate. “We let them know that reading is going to be a big factor in whatever they do in life.”
Thompson, who is an elementary education major at Voorhees College, said that the experience is beneficial in preparing for her career in the classroom.
They have also enjoyed interacting with the staff, added Harvey.
“They are great at what they do, and I’ve learned a lot from these professionals,” he said.
The Summer VISTA Associate Program continues until Aug. 3. Those interested in participating in the program next summer can start applying around March, Stoddard said.
“The VISTA program is an excellent program to help students receive experience in their field,” she said. “It’s also a good way for the United Way to reach out in other areas to help the community.”
For Harvey, helping others is a great way to spend the summer. “If you’re looking for something to do next summer, this is a great program to be a part of,” he said.
“You learn a lot and you get to help others. And, if you like working with kids, this is definitely a place for you.”