VISTA Spotlights

Posted on July 3, 2018

In this issue of our PHENND K-16, newsletter we are profiling three of our VISTAs who are finishing up their year of service. AmeriCorps VISTA is a national service program designed to alleviate poverty. VISTA members are full-time, federally-funded volunteers.

Joseph A. Daye is a graduate of West Chester University (WCU), with a major in English and minor in Business and Technical Writing. Joseph is serving at Chester County Futures (CCF), a nonprofit in Exton, PA that supports low-income Chester County students through academic enrichment, mentoring, and post-secondary scholarships. They have programs for middle school as well as high school to help students successfully reach higher education

Where are you from? Do you have a fun fact about your hometown?

I am from Pottstown, PA. It is the last borough on the northwest side of Montgomery County, about 40 miles from Philadelphia. A fun fact is Pottstown used to be the iron and steel mecca in the tristate area, being the focal point with various connections of railroads transporting material through to the southeast. When you think of the Golden Gate Bridge (in San Francisco), think of Pottstown.

How did you hear about PHENND and why did you apply?

It is funny you ask this question. When I graduated from WCU last year, I had to take a summer class, Spanish 202. While taking this class, and looking for a teacher’s-aide position, I went back to caddying at the Philadelphia Country Club in Gladwyne, PA. Through one of my regular clients, I met John Panizza. I was literally on the first hole and he was explaining that he was a mentor for an after school program called Chester County Futures. He told me I should pursue work in the non-profit world while going back to school to get certified. This connected me to CCF and the VISTA position there.

Where are you working? What do you do?

At Chester County Futures, I am the College Transition Coordinator helping implement post-secondary supports. I oversee about 160 students who are in a four-year, two-year or a technical and trade institution. I also produce most of the content for our closed Facebook group “Chester County Futures Steps 4 Success,” giving CCF alumni resources and motivation throughout the week as well as updates on scholarship disbursements. While in this role, I established an intervention system to monitor student GPA trends.

What is your office and daily schedule like?

Throughout my day-to-day tasks, I oversee and maintain our closed Facebook page to respond to alumni needs, update scholarship information, as well as produce motivational posts. I have implemented an intervention system and a document that tracks GPA trends for our 156 students in post-secondary schooling. I oversee the scholarship cycle during the fall and spring that CCF provides to their eligible students. Not only do I ensure scholars abide by program rules, but I also help them with submitting documents. I report to my Executive Director as well as Director of Student programs on a weekly basis and attend after-school programs. I have had the pleasure of talking to students about my college experience on many occasions.

What is your favorite memory so far during your VISTA term?

My favorite memory so far throughout my VISTA term would be talking to the students. Usually, I do a lot of data work, but when my Director of Student Programs invites me to the site visits for our middle school and high school after school programs, I get to see the magic happen.

Talk about a challenge and a success you have had at your position.

One challenge I had with this position is working with Excel. While working on my undergraduate degree in English, I worked with Microsoft Office rather than spreadsheets. At CCF, I had to learn how to create formulas and organize the data on post-secondary supports. Some of the data was already in Word documents, but it took me the first half of the fall semester to transition this data to Excel spreadsheets.

What have you gotten out of this year?

I believe I have gained a clearer understanding and appreciation of how a non-profit works. I have built a great appreciation for the coordinators, my staff, the board, as well as the students within the program. To hear their dreams of reaching higher education brings me back to when I was a teen in high school and being a part of the Upward Bound program. Looking from this new vantage point, I see programs like this are needed everywhere, especially for first generation students like myself because apply to college is a daunting task!

Joseph Day (picture up, right) works with students at a college event hosted by CCF.

Natalie Agoos is a graduate of Boston University with a degree in Communications. Natalie is serving at Warren G. Harding Middle School, a public school serving sixth through eighth grade students from the Frankford section of Philadelphia.

Where are you from? Do you have a fun fact about your hometown?

I am from Montgomery County. This county is directly outside of Philadelphia, and also close to the “country-side” of PA.  Best of both worlds!

How did you hear about PHENND and why did you apply?

I stumbled upon PHENND during my intensive job search after graduation.  I was looking for work in community outreach, in Philadelphia.  I love Philadelphia, and would like to dedicate my professional work to improving and developing the city into what it deserves to be.  PHENND seemed like the perfect match for this.

What is your office and daily schedule like?

I work at Warren G. Harding Middle School as the Community Partnerships Coordinator.  I work in the main office, along with the secretary and various other co-workers. When I arrive to school I consider all my tasks (I have a to-do list), answer any emails, assist with any specific tasks assigned to me, plan events/meetings, do what I can to become a part of the community, and seek out new opportunities and resources for the school.

What is your favorite memory so far during your VISTA term?

Any event that I had a role in facilitating, where I saw genuinely happy/excited faces from students, family, and community members.

Talk about a challenges and a success you have had at your position.

When I started my VISTA term is was a challenge to adapt to the fast-paced school environment, but over time I think I adapted pretty well and consider this a success from this year.

What have you gotten out of this year?

In terms of planning events and coordinating partnerships at the school, I’ve learned it is important to hash out the details, consider all perspectives, and know you can never over-plan. These are a few of things I’ll take with me from this experience.

Christina Boateng attended Mercy College and majored in Biology. Christina is serving at the U School, a School District of Philadelphia high school that focuses on youth development, personalized learning, competency-based education, and designed-based learning.

Where are you from? Do you have a fun fact about your hometown?

I am from Brooklyn, New York. Fun fact, on May 17, 1884, P.T. Barnum marched 21 elephants across the Brooklyn Bridge on foot to a circus showground at Tompkins and Fulton Avenues.

How did you hear about PHENND and why did you apply?

Through the AmeriCorps website. I believe that it is important to bring a community together to help out in a school, especially if the community offers the resources that the school needs.

What is your office and daily schedule like?

On a typical school day I am meeting with teachers and finding out what is needed to support students and their learning. I also host events with community partners at the school.

What is your favorite memory so far during your VISTA term?

Some of my favorite memories from this year were planning the Fall Dance and the Black Panther viewing trip. This is the first year that the U School has a senior class, so I also enjoyed assisting with the first U School Career and College Fair and other senior activities.

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