In the past year, the United States has seen a thrust in humanitarian awareness and action unparalleled by times before. While organizations like the Salvation Army and the Peace Corps have always existed, social media has given a new push to non-governmental organizations and their work. One example of passion in action is AmeriCorps, established in the 1990s and Presidents Clinton and Bush Senior’s efforts to marry two long-standing national service programs (Volunteers in Service to America and the National Civilian Community Corps). This year Derrick Chamberlain is the AmeriCorps Vista on campus, the third serving since 2010, and when interviewed he enthusiastically shared his reasons for joining the program and his visions for the future.
“AmeriCorps VISTA has been located here at Pensacola State College to my knowledge in the same capacity since 2010 with me being the third to serve. But there are other VISTA’s in the community, such as at the Chain Reaction Chain Center and at Pathways for Change,” Chamberlain said. “My vision for my office and my position is that it will become the central hub for volunteering at the college.”
With the push for in-country volunteering continuing to grow, Pensacola State College has joined in the efforts to reconnect young people with their community.
“Dr. Meadows had the college join Florida Campus Compact (http://www.floridacompact.org) shortly after he became president. According to their mission statement, Florida Campus Compact advances the civic purposes of colleges and universities by deepening their ability to improve community life and to educate students for civic and social responsibility,” Dr. Debbie Douma, Dean of Institutional Effectiveness & Grants, said. “Through that membership we had the opportunity to apply to have a full-time AmeriCorps VISTA on campus. The college makes a commitment to provide housing and pays ~$3000/year to the organization. The VISTA receives a stipend from the national organization. The purpose of having a VISTA here on campus is to encourage and provide students with additional opportunities to volunteer in the community doing service, and to work with faculty who want to integrate service learning opportunities into their curriculums.
The goal of AmeriCorps VISTA on the PSC campus is to increase the number of active volunteers not only at PSC directly but also through other non-profits in town.
“In a recent study, the state of Florida ranked 49th out of the 50 States when it comes to active volunteerism, which is very disheartening . Students should give back to there community because it benefits the whole community when students and everyone does something to make their community a better place. Also more and more schools are now adding volunteer hours to transcripts and it helps punch up the resume as well,” Chamberlain said when asked why he felt students need to become more involved in their community. “My advice for students who may want to work in the non-profit sector is it may not pay a lot, but it is a much greater reward to see the work you are doing is making a big difference in the community.”
Students who want more information can contact Chamberlain at his email firstname.lastname@example.org or stop by his office located in the Student Activities Building (#5) on the Pensacola Campus in Room 510a.