Seven students from the University of Southern Indiana attended the National Conference for Volunteering and Service conference in Chicago, Illinois. The summer trip was sponsored by the USI AmeriCorps program (ACT).
As part of the conference, social work majors Daniel “Danny” Boyles, Kim Eastham, Lindsey Ours, JoAnna Phillips, Sabrina Smith, and Danielle Williams; and education major Zachary Watson, constructed a sign and improved the landscaping at Theophilus Schmid Elementary School in downtown Chicago.
Phillips, a Crossville, Illinois, native and USI graduate student, received a 2012 Daily Point of Light Award. The award was established by President George H. W. Bush to encourage individuals, families, businesses, and groups to solve community problems through service. Phillips is serving her third year as an AmeriCorps member and is in the Master of Social Work program. She submitted her experiences with AmeriCorps to Points of Light, an international non-profit organization that connects people by providing access to tools, resources and opportunities to help volunteers meet the critical needs of communities. She was chosen from dozens of other submissions from across the nation to receive the award.
Phillips was able to make new connections during the conference, and was grateful for the opportunity to serve the community. “It felt great to step back and see how much more welcoming the elementary school looked for students who go there,” said Phillips.
Danny Boyles, of Evansville, Indiana, plans to use his experience at the conference in future projects. “The conference gave me some great ideas to recruit volunteers and make a bigger difference that way,” Boyles said.
Marcey Head-Vanpell, AmeriCorps program director for the Center for Social Justice Education, hopes this year’s trip will set a precedent for future years.
“The service learning aspect was very beneficial,” Head-Vanpell said. “Next year we are planning another trip, and I’m hoping that the students will participate in an extended service trip even if that means going above and beyond like they did this year.”
Students in the AmeriCorps program commit to fulfill a designated number of hours (300-900 hours) and complete service from September 1 to August 31 each year. Most of the students who attended the conference have completed over 1,000 hours of service since the AmeriCorps program began in 2011.
Funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) has provided the University of Southern Indiana and community partners the opportunity to host the GED assistant program on campus and in the surrounding area. The trip to Chicago was funded by student travel grants through USI’s Student Government Association and USI’s AmeriCorps program, which is funded by the Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives and CNCS.
Kim Eastham, Sabrina Smith, Zachary Watson, and Danny Boyles painted signs at Theophilus Schmid Elementary School in downtown Chicago.