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University receives $575,000 grant to maintain VISTA

BY EDWIN SMITH

The University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts is leading the fight against poverty through education, thanks in part to a federally-funded volunteer program.

The North Mississippi Volunteers in Service to America project entered its fifth year of funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service. Directed by Stephen Monroe, assistant dean of the college, VISTA brings more than $575,000 annually into the region.

“In the last four years, VISTA has partnered with university departments, local nonprofits and schools in rural areas to build and strengthen programs that fight poverty through education,” Monroe said. “Our VISTAs serve with passion and energy. They are selfless people who work behind the scenes to improve lives in Mississippi.”

Examples of VISTA projects include a back-to-school fair in Tupelo that benefited thousands of low-income students, a community mentoring program to help children in the DeSoto County Youth Court system, tutoring and fundraising collaborations between UM’s LuckyDay Academic Success Program and Crenshaw Elementary School in Panola County, and the Horizons Summer Learning Program on the Ole Miss campus.

Most VISTAs have been recent graduates from UM programs, such as the Croft Institute for International Studies and the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. Doug Odom, a 2013 graduate with bachelor’s degrees in classics and English, spent last year building academic support programs for low-income college students and raising funds and recruiting volunteers for youth programs. He is attending graduate school at Vanderbilt University this fall.

For more information on VISTA service opportunities, contact Susan Nicholas at or 662-915-1905.