High Point University’s AmeriCorps VISTAs will spend thousands of hours working with a nonprofit in the city to build sustainable programs addressing either food insecurity or education. Pictured from left to right are Itamar Zmora, Zakiya Payne, Hari Iyer, Dihandra Williams, Martin Enriquez, Lovelle McMichael, assistant director of HPU’s Center for Community Engagement; Tosin Opawumi, Sarah Barlow, Alec Garfield and Iyanna Salters.
HIGH POINT, N.C., Aug. 11, 2022 – High Point University is welcoming nine recent college graduates as AmeriCorps VISTAs to dedicate a year of service in the city of High Point. For the 10th year, HPU is hosting AmeriCorps VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) to provide thousands of hours of service to local organizations.
Each VISTA works with a nonprofit in the city to build sustainable programs to address either food insecurity or education. The VISTAs will serve as a vital part of HPU’s new Center for Community Engagement, connecting students and faculty to service opportunities in the city.
HPU invests nearly $200,000 annually to provide housing, meals, office space and access to student volunteers to carry out projects with their partner agencies. The Greater High Point Food Alliance, World Relief of the Triad, Growing High Point, Macedonia Family Resource Center, City of High Point Neighborhood and Community Development Division, and the Qubein Children’s Museum are a few of the organizations the VISTAs will work with.
Lovelle McMichael begins his first year of working with the VISTAs as the assistant director of HPU’s Center for Community Engagement. He brings more than 15 years of experience working in higher education at universities.
“I am excited about the opportunity to serve the incoming VISTAs as they commit to serving the greater High Point community,” says McMichael. “Their commitment to serve demonstrates not only their willingness to give back to the community but shows their dedication to professional development. High Point is growing and thriving, and our VISTAs are helping to build capacity and support sustainability for growing organizations to meet the needs of our citizens.”
This year’s VISTAs are:
Sarah Barlow, a Class of 2022 international studies graduate from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, will work as the Food Systems VISTA at the City of High Point Community and Neighborhood Development Division. Her goals include global health and provision of humanitarian aid.
Earlier this year, she was a health and wellness intern for World Relief Triad to help resettled refugee clients navigate the United States health care system, provide integrated case management support and assist with art therapy activities for refugee children. She says she chose to spend her year working the AmeriCorps VISTAs because she wanted to give back to the Piedmont Triad community.
“I was drawn to HPU’s VISTA program due to the Healthy Futures program and its focus on health and wellness, but also due to the community of VISTAs that this program builds,” says Barlow. “I look forward to serving alongside like-minded people who strive to improve their communities.”
Martin Enriquez, a Greensboro, North Carolina native, graduated from HPU in May with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He will work this year as the Mentorship VISTA at the Carl Chavis Memorial YMCA.
With the VISTAs, he hopes to build his professional and leadership skills and to help the local community that he has been a part of for the last four years. Last year, he learned more about the AmeriCorps VISTA program and wanted to be a part of it following graduation.
“I became an HPU AmeriCorps VISTA because it felt like a natural step toward the future,” says Enriquez. “I always wanted to help others in need, and this opportunity allows me to gain real-world experience by helping the communities in need.”
Enriquez says he hopes to continue working with the local Triad community following his time with the VISTAs.
Alec Garfield, from Los Osos, California, graduated from HPU in May with a degree in biology and a minor in photography. He will serve this year as the Food Entrepreneurship VISTA at Growing High Point. Garfield has worked on service initiatives throughout his youth, including working at a senior center and more.
As an undergraduate, Garfield participated in several community outreach initiatives impacting people in and near the HPU community. Through these programs he realized his passion for impacting peoples’ lives in a beneficial way, he says.
“After graduating, life took some unexpected turns and I wanted to do something important with my time, all while discovering more about what I am passionate for in life,” says Garfield. “Someone had recommended that I do the HPU AmeriCorps VISTA program, and I am so happy they did. I am excited to be able to utilize my skills gained from being an on-campus leader and through some of my courses to benefit food security within this upcoming year.”
Hari Iyer, a Chapel Hill, North Carolina, native graduated from HPU in May with a degree in sports media. During his time as an undergraduate, he volunteered throughout campus and the local community. With the AmeriCorps VISTA, he’ll serve as an Enrichment VISTA with D-UP, a local nonprofit and afterschool program aimed at teaching children how to live healthy lifestyles, and Mega Missions Ministries Community Writing Center, where he will provide tutoring and writing assistance.
Iyer has a heart for serving others and working with a group or team toward a good cause.
“The reason I signed on to be an HPU AmeriCorps VISTA member is because I want others to succeed like I did no matter what their struggles are,” says Iyer. “I hope to do this by working hard in a place that I love and a community that I care about. I will be joining other VISTAs and serve in two after-school enrichment programs on Washington Street in High Point.”
Tosin Opawumi is continuing his education at HPU in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program, which he expects to complete in 2024. He earned his bachelor’s degree in anthropology and pre-physical therapy in the greater Philadelphia area in 2021. He’ll work with the Greater High Point Food Alliance as a Food Justice VISTA.
“I decided to become an HPU AmeriCorps VISTA in order to make an impact and create lasting change in the High Point area,” says Opawumi. “With hopes of alleviating hunger in the community and increasing access to healthier foods, my service will be with the Greater High Point Food Alliance starting this month.”
Zakiya Payne graduated in May with her Bachelor of Science in multimedia journalism and is from High Point, North Carolina. She has experience volunteering throughout her community and the Triad. She will work at HPU this year as a Student Engagement VISTA.
She’s looking forward to exploring more in the city, specifically the new building additions and having an impact in her home community.
“I became an HPU AmeriCorps Vista because I want to help the families of High Point,” says Payne. “I want them to know that they are valued and cared for. I am most excited about networking and making lifelong connections.”
Iyanna Salters, from Wellford, South Carolina, graduated in May with a degree in human services and a minor in legal studies. She has previous experience volunteering with community organizations, including the YMCA of Greater Charlotte. Salters will work at the Macedonia Family Resource Center as a Neighborhood Engagement VISTA.
She chose to join the HPU VISTAs due to the variety of service opportunities. Salters says working at the Macedonia Family Resource Center aligns with what she hopes to do as a future career. In her role, she will be helping with day-to-day programming.
“During my undergraduate years, I spent a great deal of time working in my community helping with programming for areas of need,” says Salters. “I knew that after graduation, I wanted to continue the same work while also gaining more professional experience. When I learned about this program, I knew this would be the perfect way for me to do so.”
Salters’ long-term goal is to work with local nonprofits providing legal assistance to people who cannot afford it, and she’s excited to have this experience with the VISTAs.
Dihandra Williams, from Newburgh, New York, graduated from HPU in May with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. During her time at HPU, she volunteered throughout campus with different school organizations, but she says she wants to expand her service to the surrounding city.
Over the next year, she will work as a Museum Volunteer Coordinator VISTA at the newly opened Nido and Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum. She will assist with the growing number of volunteers at the 75,000-square-foot museum and encouraging more people from the community to be a part of it. The museum features more than a dozen hands-on exhibits, including the Furniture Design studio, the GiNormous Exhibit, the STEAM Lab and more.
“Some of my proudest undergrad moments came through serving High Point University’s Black Student Union and providing a safe space for underrepresented students like myself,” says Williams. “Throughout my time as a VISTA, I look forward to utilizing the leadership skills I’ve gained through BSU to tackle social justice issues in the High Point community. I’m excited to fully immerse myself into the community I’ve lived around for the past four years and look forward to growing on both a personal and professional level.”
Williams plans to join the Peace Corps following her year of service with the AmeriCorps VISTAs.
Itamar Zmora comes to the city of High Point from Cincinnati, Ohio. He recently graduated in May with a degree in medical sciences and a minor in anthropology. He will be working this year at World Relief Triad as an Immigrant and Refugee Youth VISTA.
Zmora says he wanted to take a growth year in service to a local community before seeking his post-graduate degree in medical sciences.
“I became interested in HPU’s VISTA program because it addressed issues that are prevalent where I grew up,” says Zmora. “I was raised in the Cincinnati area, where the west side and surrounding suburbs are both the poorest parts of the city and a food desert. I have done volunteer work in that area multiple times, and the duality of that area with the area where I live has become very prominent. This is why I decided to apply to the HPU VISTA programs after signing up to AmeriCorps.”