AmeriCorps VISTAs, hosted by High Point University and serving the city of High Point, from left to right are Katie Tylman, Clarice Sigsworth, Meredith Kreeger, Helen Barker, Natalee Laasch, Olivia Young, Anna Reavis and Neikya Slade.
HIGH POINT, N.C., Aug. 12, 2019 – Nine recent college graduates are dedicating a year of service to the High Point community as AmeriCorps VISTAs. For the seventh year, High Point University is hosting VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America), who will provide thousands of hours of service to local organizations.
Each VISTA will be placed with a nonprofit in the city to build sustainable programs in an area of focus. HPU invests more than $200,000 annually to provide housing, meals, office space and access to student volunteers to carry out projects with their partner agencies. They are mentored by the Rev. Mary Beth Foust, HPU’s assistant director of civic responsibility and social innovation.
“The HPU AmeriCorps VISTA program is a huge asset to the city of High Point,” says Foust. “We work closely with our community partners and receive feedback regularly that our members aid them in building capacity that broadens the scope of the work they can do. The energy they bring to their work is unmatched. It is a privilege to watch each VISTA member grow professionally and personally through the course of their service year. Many of them fall in love with the High Point community and will decide to stay with us in the area. We know that they are making an impact to individuals and they are themselves impacted in return.”
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.
This year’s VISTAs are as follows:
Helen Barker, a West Virginia native, graduated from HPU in 2018 with degrees in biology and English-creative writing. She is working a second year with the Greater High Point Food Alliance, focusing on food education. She will be assisting with a variety of projects, including planning the Food Security Summit in late September. Barker is familiar with serving in the High Point community. As a student at HPU, she worked with Dr. Cara Kozma to co-author a book with the Washington Street community.
“Living in High Point has helped me grow and discover who I am as a person, so, to me, a part of my heart will always reside here and I wasn’t ready to leave,” says Barker. “I’m excited to stay in the High Point community, continuing my work with the incredible people and organizations I began working with last year. I’m hoping to see more opportunity for collaboration with other VISTAS and nonprofits as I enter into my second service year. The people in this community continue to amaze me with their love for their city and dedication to it.”
Erin Murphy, originally from Massachusetts, graduated from HPU in May with a degree in criminal justice and a minor in psychology. She is this year’s VISTA leader and working a second year with Fairview Elementary School to build community involvement and a college-going attitude among students and coordinating college visits for the students. As an HPU student, Murphy participated in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and mentored a Fairview student. She was also a member of the Criminal Justice Honor Society and coordinated supply collections for local women’s shelters.
“I’m excited to be a VISTA for a second year working in the High Point community because I have the opportunity to continue to affect change in the community I called home throughout my undergraduate experience,” says Murphy. “It’s important for HPU students to recognize that High Point is their community, not just the city where they live.”
Clarice Sigsworth, an Ohio native, graduated from HPU in May with a degree in strategic communication and music performance with a concentration in trombone. Sigsworth is working with community partners on Washington Street like D-Up, the Community Writing Center and PNAC, a local afterschool program, to build on existing programs and after school enrichment programs. Her goal is to use her experience in the creative and performing arts to empower kids that participate in the Washington Street programs to express themselves with confidence.
“I am so excited to be a VISTA and help High Point’s community find ways to grow through creative expression,” says Sigsworth. “The Triad and the city of High Point have a long and rich musical and artistic tradition, and I think that’s something to celebrate.”
Natalee Laasch, a Wisconsin native, graduated from HPU in May with a degree in biology and minors in philosophy and women and gender studies. She is working at Northwood Elementary School to increase mentoring and tutoring opportunities and enhance community engagement.
“Being an HPU AmeriCorps VISTA means I get to not only work in and for the city of High Point, but also means I have the support of my alma mater,” says Laasch.
Olivia Young, a Pennsylvania native, graduated from HPU in May with a bachelor’s degree in strategic communication. She is working with the Greater High Point Food Alliance to increase access to food throughout the city of High Point, as well as improving the quality and reach of the backpack programs in area schools.
“I’m most excited to work as a VISTA in High Point because I’ll get to meet and serve alongside people in the community that I have grown to love since moving down here three years ago,” says Young.
Katie Tylman, a Charlotte native, graduated from HPU in May with a degree in business administration and minors in economics and environmental studies. She is working at the Hayden-Harman Foundation and Growing High Point. Her responsibilities include developing and supporting community gardens in the city of High Point and promotes service opportunities.
“As an HPU VISTA, I am most excited for working with people in the High Point community,” says Tylman. “I am looking forward to helping empower them and giving them access to healthy and affordable food.”
Anna Reavis, originally from Yadkinville, graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in May. She has a degree in political science with minors in social and economic justice and biology. She is working with the High Point Schools Partnership which is a new organization within the Guildford Education Alliance. Her responsibilities include working towards building up the new organization to live out its mission to advocate for local schools in the area. She is working with volunteers to create new ways to recognize, recruit and reward great teachers and principals to be in High Point schools. She is also helping to create and manage partnerships between area businesses and local schools.
“As an HPU VISTA, I am excited for the opportunity to follow my passion for social justice and give back to my community by helping the local schools here in High Point,” says Reavis.
Neikya Slade, originally from Greensboro, graduated from North Carolina A&T State University in May with a degree in social work. She is working at Fairview Elementary School. Her responsibilities include engaging parents and the community, as well as advocating for youth to pursue higher education.
“I am only one, but I am one,” says Slade. “I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
Meredith Kreeger, originally from Pfafftown, graduated from North Carolina State University in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in nutrition sciences and a minor in genetics. She also completed the Didactic Program in Dietetics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in 2018. She will be working a second year with the Hayden-Harman Foundation where she will continue to work on projects related to food security, food entrepreneurship and community resilience.
“During my second term of service, I am excited to see these projects progress and be of service to the community,” says Kreeger. “I’ve absolutely fallen in love with High Point over the past year and can’t wait to continue building lasting relationships that contribute to forward growth within the city. I also hope to continue using my background to offer programming to improve health and nutrition to the community, while fostering partnerships between the university and community organizations.”