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How OneStar VISTAs are helping schools & nonprofits adapt to an extraordinary year

Two VISTA members sorting through boxes of children's books.

Launching a new school year in the midst of global pandemic requires extraordinary flexibility and creativity. When schools and nonprofits need additional support, AmeriCorps members offer adaptability, enthusiasm, and commitment to get things done!

OneStar’s AmeriCorps VISTA members are dedicated to alleviating poverty, and ensuring quality educational opportunities is a key driver in that mission. Here are a few ways that our VISTA members have been able to help educational institutions pivot during this exceptional school year.

Developing virtual platforms

Remote instruction has become an essential facet the new school year, and VISTA members have utilized their technical skills to build a successful foundation for online learning. Volunteer & Corporation Engagement VISTA Dulce Montoya is designing systems and materials for Communities in Schools of Central Texas that support their virtual Reading Buddy, Tutor and Mentor services, which ensure students can continue to benefit from extra academic support from volunteers. At Beacon Hill Preparatory Institute, Development & Outreach VISTA Matthew Estrada has built an online reading and math learning platform that has rolled out to thousands of students in the Dallas area this school year.

Connecting families with basic needs

The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many families struggling to meet basic needs, which in turn can interfere with students’ ability to focus on academics. Donor & Outreach VISTA Ellen Throneberry at Communities in Schools of North Texas has coordinated with local school districts to distribute nearly 1,000 food bags to local households and stays in touch with the needs of local students and families through check-ins and follow-up phone calls. Communities in Schools of Central Texas has engaged Basic Needs Department VISTA Jessica Enriquez to develop and pilot new resource tools, communication materials, and documentation for this brand new department focused on providing critical needs for families.

Fostering collaborations

With everyone scrambling to adapt to this new reality, it is important to work together to ensure an effective and efficient educational experience for students. In addition to leveraging VISTA members to adapt program delivery, the Girl Scouts of Northeast Texas have relied on their VISTA advisory board to build a cohort of nonprofit organizations that is exploring collaboration efforts.

Planning ahead

Plans to eventually return to the classroom are on the horizon, and VISTA members are ensuring students are ready for the transition. VISTA members serving with Barbara Bush Houston Literacy Foundation are working on modifications to the My Home Library program, which will equip students enrolled in economically disadvantaged schools with six new books.

If you have the skills and commitment to help during this time, we invite you to join us and apply to serve with VISTA!

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