North Mississippi VISTA Project seeks volunteers

Published 11:30 am Tuesday, July 19, 2022

The North Mississippi VISTA Project, based at the Grisham-McLean Institute for Community Engagement at the University of Mississippi, is seeking applicants to help fight poverty in Mississippi through national service.

The North Mississippi VISTA Project has full-time positions for yearlong terms of service beginning Aug. 29. VISTA members join nonprofit organizations and Title I school districts across an 11-county area to support educational attainment, economic opportunity and healthy lifestyles. The application deadline is Monday (July 25).

VISTA members support the anti-poverty mission of their host sites by building capacity through indirect service.

Upon reflection, VISTA members express great satisfaction with their experiences.

“I have worked with the science teachers of Green Hill Elementary, North Panola Middle School and North Panola High School to implement more engineering into the current curriculum,” said Shunderla Wilson, of Sardis, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in secondary education from Ole Miss in 2018 and 2020, respectively.

“The most fulfilling portion of my placement was returning to my community to deliver my acquired scientific knowledge to students to eliminate the fear of having careers in the STEM field.”

Anna Carson-Tyner, of Clarksdale, said VISTA allowed her to return to her hometown after graduating from college and connect to her community in a way she never had before. She met with city officials and community leaders to create projects and seek funding to improve living conditions for residents.

“Through my service with the North Mississippi VISTA Project, I have grown as a steward of my community and as a professional,” she said.

Natural disasters and crises throw the most vulnerable members of society into even more precarious situations. Disparities in income, health status and access to healthy food become more pronounced in crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the prolonged economic disruption that persists as a result.

In such unprecedented times, efforts to alleviate poverty, empower communities and create sustainable solutions are needed more than ever.

VISTA members serving yearlong terms help host site organizations by writing grants, developing programs, conducting outreach, managing volunteers and strengthening partnerships, while gaining networking and professional development skills as they serve alongside passionate changemakers.

VISTA members receive a living allowance of about $1,100 per month and can select either an end-of-service education award of $6,400 or a cash stipend of $1,800. Yearlong members also are eligible for a health benefit, child care benefit and housing stipend, if offered by their host sites.

“The North Mississippi VISTA Project is a key initiative of the Grisham-McLean Institute’s mission to fight poverty through education in Mississippi,” said Emily Echols, the institute’s project manager. “The effects of the pandemic are still being felt by many people in our communities, and it is critical that we support our communities and community organizations that are working to alleviate poverty, hunger and education gaps.

“Our work is needed now more than ever, and serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA provides a meaningful opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of Mississippians.”

For more information about the McLean Institute, visit http://mclean.olemiss.edu/. For more information about the North Mississippi VISTA Project or to apply, visit http://vista.olemiss.edu or email vista@olemiss.edu.