On Thursday, October 5th we were finally able to reunite the 17-18 Cohort of PACC*VISTAs at our yearly Fall Workshop, the one time of the year when all Supervisors, VISTAs and PACC Staff get the opportunity to all be in the same room together all day long. The workshop was held from 8:30-3:30 at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg, PA, a pretty central location to our project sites throughout Pennsylvania.
We were able to start our day with a Program Overview, where everyone was able to hear from PACC’s program manager, Breanna Datesman about what our year together will look like. We were able to see visuals of the project map, site map, and focus areas within our organization this year, as well as, the impact we hope to make.
Our primary session was a “True Colors: Exploring Personal& Leadership Styles” with the large group. Everyone was given the opportunity to take the True Colors Personality Quiz, where they were able to indicate which “color” they are and were prompted the the area of the room to converse with all other same colors as them. They were able to relate on similarities and discover their strengths and weaknesses in the workplace and provide the rest of the room with insight into how to work well with their personality style. VISTAs and Supervisors were able to analyze the leadership style of each other and gain understanding how to work even better together. This was a really positive activity that made us all realize importance aspects of working together and even brought out some personal reflections. We concluded this activity with a meaningful discussion on the realization that diversity in the workplace actually balances us and makes us better employees.
One of the most important sessions of the day came next when VISTAs and Supervisors were able to work directly together and with other VISTA, Supervisor pairs to really dig deep into their VISTA Assignment Descriptions or VADs and assess what is working, not working within their VADs, things they can add, remove or change and how they can make the VAD more effective for the VISTA, site and project as a whole. This session even ran into our networking lunch for some VISTA, Supervisor pairs.
After lunch, our cohort was able to participate in breakout groups, both Supervisors and VISTAs. Supervisors were able to hear from PACC’s Executive Director, Char Gray, where they were able to interact in strong discussions about best supervisory practices by looking to scenarios and brainstorming possible ways to problem-solve different things that may come up in supervising VISTAs. Concurrent to this session, VISTAs were able to come together with the VISTA Leader to connect on project related successes and challenges and better collaborate together through open space with various VISTA-related themes.
The day concluded with round table discussions of VISTA, Supervisor and some Community Partners within three different categories: Focus Area, Location and Year of Project, so everyone was able to find connections and possible collaborations to build up their projects at the current stages they are in.
Overall, the day was successful, re-energizing and inspiring by providing a space for so many passionate, service- driven individuals were able to come together and share, collaborate and brainstorm how we can come together and truly make a collective impact to overall, fight poverty throughout Pennsylvania.
Hello and welcome to PACC*VISTA’s new blog for the 2017-2018 cohort. We are so excited for what a whirlwind of a year it has been so far and cannot believe the first of week of October has so quickly approached! It’s even harder to believe it’s fall when the weather average for last week was reaching nineties! Over here at PACC, Fall for us means eagerly preparing to finally reunite with our cohort since the last time we were together for PACC*PSO at the end of July.
This year, we followed CNCS*PSO with our PACC*PSO at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA on July 18th-July 22nd. PSO gave us the chance to come together for the first time as a cohort and get to know project focus areas, PACC Policies and connect as VISTAs.
Our VISTAs left energized, motivated, and maybe a little information overloaded ready to take on their year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA. The first day on site for our PACC*VISTAs was July 24th. This year we have 27 PACC VISTAs, including 1 VISTA Leader. Our VISTAs are serving at colleges throughout Pennsylvania in the focus areas of Education, Economic Opportunity and Healthy Futures. Colleges/Universities our VISTAs are serving include:
Albright, Alvernia, Northampton, Franklin and Marshall, Millersville, University of Penn, Wilson, Shippensburg, Lock Haven, King’s, Susquehanna, University of Pittsburgh, Drexel, Community College of Allegheny County, DeSales, West Chester University, Cedar Crest, Penn State Berks, Messiah, and Washington and Jefferson.
As for PACC, our staff works out of the state capital, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania which works out because it falls right in the middle of almost all of our projects and serves as a great central location for almost all of our sites. (Sorry, Pittsburgh!) This is why we will be holding our Fall Workshop for the year at the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg on October 5th. We are so excited for the workshop because this is the one time during the service year that VISTAs and Supervisors are able to sit together in the same room and come together for active discussions, presentations, breaking down the VISTA Assignment Description and interactive activities with other projects similar to their own.
This workshop is run by the PACC Staff which includes:
The PACC Staff has been dedicated to the 17-18 Cohort of PACC*VISTAs as they transitioned to their new position at each site. We are extremely devoted in providing all the support necessary to gives the VISTAs the tools and resources they need to be a success. So far, we have been able to provide:
Our Program Manager scheduled check-in calls with each PACC*VISTA in the first weeks of service to ensure the transition was going well and that each VISTA felt comfortable, supported and knowledgebale in their new role.
PACC*VISTA Needs Assessment
At the start of the service year, PACC facilitated a comprehensive needs assessment to measure the individual and cohort needs and expectations for the service year.
Performance Measure Tutorial and Tracking Template
In order to track their project goals and targets throughout the year, we were able to provide a tutorial and tracking device to keep track of project outcomes and results to support quarterly, and semi-annual reporting.
PACC*VISTA Monthly Webinar Series
In September, we launched a monthly webinar series using Zoom as a meeting platform. This series will be required for all VISTAs and will be a resource for project and professional development opportunities as well as time for the cohort to meet virtually. Each webinar will have a specific topic and guest speaker. We are also partnering with Linda Arra, Career Counselor and Job Search Coach, for the year to help the cohort with professional paths after VISTA for three of the webinars.
VISTA Leader Virtual Office Hours
The VISTA Leader will be holding Virtual Office Hours for PACC*VISTAs to utilize if they have questions, concerns, frustrations, challenges or ideas they want to talk through. Keep in mind the PACC*VISTAs are welcome to contact the VISTA Leader at anytime outside of these hours as well.
PACC*VISTA Regional Meet-ups
The VISTA Leader will be facilitating two-hour PACC*VISTA Regional Meet-ups throughout the year, one in October, December and February/March. The first regional meet-up will be held the week of October 16-19. All VISTAs are required to attend the meeting in their designated region. The locations have been coordinated based on region and the date will be selected by electronic poll the month prior. These meet-ups will provide a chance for the VISTAs to connect to others serving close-by and share project resources, ideas, and problem-solve.
In addition to our new cohort for this year, we also look to next year as we just launched our Project Application for the 2018-2019 Year. PACC released the PACC*VISTA 18-19 application on Monday, September 25th, 2017. There is availability of up to 30 AmeriCorps*VISTA awards to PACC member institutions for the 2018-2019 academic year. This year, there are two different application deadlines depending on whether you are a new project (Year 1) or renewing your project (Year 2 and 3). The Application Deadline will be:
– Thursday, November 9th, 2017 by 12 noon (Year 1 Projects)
– Friday, November 17th, 2017 by 12 noon (Year 2 & Year 3 Projects)
** For Year 1 Projects: PACC requires all potential new projects to participate in an individual “Intent to Apply Call.” Please schedule a call with Breanna Datesman (firstname.lastname@example.org ) by contacting her directly by Friday, October 20th, 2017 (and prior to submitting your application).
Finally, we look back on last year and all the accomplishments of our 16-17 cohort of PACC VISTAs who did so much for their communities. Check out this infographic highlighting the accomplishments of last year’s PACC*VISTA’s and their ability to make such as lasting impact.
We are grateful for all the past, present and future PACC happenings. We look forward to sharing stories through this blog of our VISTA’s, our cohort, and all the inspiring people, projects and programs making a difference in the elimination of poverty in our country today!