HIGH POINT, N.C., Aug. 10, 2017 – Nine recent High Point University graduates will work to improve education and food security in the city of High Point this year as AmeriCorps VISTAs.
For the fifth consecutive year, HPU is hosting VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members, who are placed with nonprofit organizations to build sustainable programs in an area of focus. Having hosted three VISTAs each year in the past, the university increased its commitment to nine this year, tripling the number of VISTAs in service to the community.
HPU invests more than $200,000 annually to provide each VISTA with housing, meals, office space and access to student volunteers to carry out projects with their partner agencies. The VISTAs are mentored by Dr. Joe Blosser, Culp Director of Service Learning. HPU has grown its VISTA program to become one of the largest, single-site projects in the country, which also represents a federal investment of more than $150,000 in High Point.
“The VISTA program is one of the most powerful ways High Point University gives back to our city,” says Blosser. “Since they serve as full-time employees, the university is able to invest more than 18,000 hours each year toward developing solutions to some of our city’s most complex problems. The VISTAs grow professionally through the program and establish relationships within the community that last for years to come.”
This year’s VISTAs will be recognized for their commitment to serving the city during the High Point City Council meeting on Aug. 21. They are as follows:
Jenna Rosenbloom — Rosenbloom, originally from Pittsburgh, is returning to HPU’s VISTA program for a second year and will be serving as the VISTA leader. She is working with the individual VISTA members and their community partners to provide support, encouragement and ensure progress is being made toward their goals. Through working with the entire cohort, she will develop the professional skills of the other VISTAs and ensure that the program is working to alleviate poverty and build the capacity of the local community.
“I wanted to continue serving in High Point for a second year because I have developed relationships with many amazing people in the community who are constantly working to help those in need, and I want to stay involved with those efforts,” says Rosenbloom. “Within the programs I worked with last year, I saw the huge difference they are making in the lives of those receiving assistance. Seeing this motivated me to continue my work and my passion of helping others.”
Lilly Wingate — Wingate, a native of Bainbridge Island, Washington, graduated in May with a degree in nonprofit leadership and management and Spanish. Her work will focus on community gardens in High Point and the Food Recovery Network at HPU. This includes working with the Hayden-Harman Foundation and the Greater High Point Food Alliance to coordinate community teams to maintain the gardens and provide educational opportunities for people to learn more about gardening. She also will help connect the community teams with opportunities to sell their produce at local farmers markets. As an HPU student, she served as president of the Food Recovery Network and is looking forward to continuing her work with that organization.
“I am very passionate about the hunger crisis in High Point, and I feel that it is my duty as an alumna of High Point University to give back to this community,” says Wingate. “In my time as a VISTA, I want to be part of this city’s flourishing. We need to work hard toward this vision as a team with care and compassion.”
Caitlin Maressa — Maressa, of Voorhees, New Jersey, graduated from HPU in May with a degree in communication and a concentration in journalism. With a focus on healthy futures, she is working through the Hayden-Harman Foundation and Greater High Point Food Alliance to develop farmers markets and other entrepreneurial food initiatives throughout the city. Part of this is supporting the expansion of the High Point Market hosted at the High Point Library and mobile markets, as well as efforts to offer fresh produce in corner stores. Maressa has served the city in many capacities as a member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity and is looking forward to continuing her involvement.
“My goal is to increase the amount of surplus food we are donating from HPU and to expand the sites receiving the food from our campus,” Maressa says. “I also want to expand the availability of local healthy food options through the corner stores in the pilot neighborhoods of the Greater High Point Food Alliance. I’m hoping to make a difference and help as many people as I can while in my position.”
Madison Nelin — Nelin, of Long Island, New York, graduated in May with a degree in communication and a concentration in electronic media. Her focus will be education, specifically working with HPU and High Point Central High School to create a mentoring program to promote access to higher education and help students plan for college. Beyond her service as a VISTA, Nelin will continue her involvement with Big Brothers Big Sisters for the fifth year.
“Serving is a passion of mine, and this is a great opportunity to serve a community that’s been my home for the past four years,” says Nelin. “My specific area of focus on education is very rewarding. I look forward to meeting the students and creating bonds with them while watching them succeed.”
Amanda Goodwin — Goodwin, a native of Columbus, Ohio, graduated from HPU in May with degrees in Spanish and biology. She will be working with the Greater Higher Point Food Alliance to promote food security through research. She will generate a community scorecard that allows community leaders to quantify and measure the level of food insecurity in the area and track improvements over time. As a student at HPU, she volunteered in a variety of projects related to food security and community gardens as a member of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. By working on the scorecard, she is looking forward to creating something that will be used locally but also could benefit other communities.
“I decided to serve as a VISTA because I want to continue my involvement in the community that I have been fortunate enough to call my own these past four years,” says Goodwin. “Service has always been a large part of my life, and now I have an entire year to devote to giving back.”
Meredith Green — Green is a native of Roanoke, Virginia, who graduated from HPU in May with a degree in English literature. Her community focus will be educational support, and she will be working with the Community Writing Center and at PNAC, a recreational enrichment program for children in the Washington Street area. She is excited to develop relationships with the children and community members she will be working alongside this year.
“I am passionate about providing accessible and affordable tutoring for children who need additional support and resources to succeed, an interest I can pursue as an AmeriCorps VISTA in High Point,” says Green. “I am eager to apply the skills I have cultivated over the last four years and to earn the knowledge that only experience can provide.”
Ebony Gillette — Gillette of Laurel, Maryland, graduated from HPU in May with a degree in business administration. With a focus on generating new food resources in the city, she will work in the West End neighborhood to develop a food co-op for increased options of fresh and local food. Gillette worked with West End Ministries for the past three years as a Bonner Leader at HPU, so she is looking forward to staying involved in the neighborhood in a new capacity.
“I’ve had a lot of great volunteering experiences in my time at HPU and with West End Ministries, and I am excited for the opportunity to have another year to serve this community more fully,” she says. “One of my biggest goals is to get the farms and community gardens of this area more connected and excited about the idea of a co-op that would allow them to sell their products and hopefully generate more revenue and jobs for the community overall.”
Erin Flynn — Flynn is a native of Novato, California, who graduated from HPU in May with a degree in psychology. Focusing on education in High Point, she will collaborate with Fairview Elementary to create community and parent engagement in the school. She also will work to promote an interest in college education among students. As an HPU student, she served in various capacities throughout the city as a member of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity. Flynn is interested in pursuing graduate study in school psychology or sociology of education.
“I wanted to serve as a VISTA in order to get involved in the community that helped shape me over the past four years,” she says.
James Austin Porzenski — Porzenski, a native of Charlotte, graduated in May with a degree in music and a concentration in vocal performance. He is working on community engagement with Northwood Elementary, including working with parents and alumni to strengthen neighborhood support and improve the marketing of the school. During his time at HPU, Porzenski was involved with the Board of Stewards and the Food Recovery Network. He looks forward to helping foster stronger relationships between HPU and organizations throughout the city.
“I want to bring the feeling of hospitality, comfort, friendliness and a sense of home and community to everyone in High Point,” Porzenski says. “I feel that if I can help make a difference in someone’s life, whether it’s buying them food, helping them out with a project or just keeping in touch, I want to continue the tradition of reaching out and making a difference in my community.”