TONASKET – The VISTA program, a companion program to AmeriCorps, has five positions open in the Tonasket School District this summer, according to VISTA coordinator Bob Ashmore.
The positions available include one that will begin to develop a Young Women in STEM Program (helping to position girls to succeed in science, technology, engineering and math careers); one that will coordinate summer events to continue the development of the Tonasket school garden; and three that will facilitate summer reading comprehension camps aimed at improving those skills among low-income students ranging from grades 3-9.
The summer VISTA positions offer a living allowance for time serviced as well as a pro-rated AmeriCorps Education Award, which is an approximately $125/month cash stipend.
Unlike regular VISTA positions, the summer slots do not offer health care, life insurance, child care allowances or relocation allowances.
Eligibility requirements include being at least 18 years of age; serving on a full-time basis during the project period; not taking on outside employment during that time; and not being listed on the National Sex Offenders Public Registry.
“This is an exciting opportunity for people in our community of any age,” Ashmore said. “But we’re certainly interested in college students coming home looking for a summer job. The process is to go to the CMS website. They have to register through the Americorps/VISTA website, and once they do that they can navigate to these positions. If they apply, I will get an email and call them back.
“Everyone in the U.S. can apply for these jobs. But while there are many talented people who could fill these, I would like to see local community members and students apply for these positions.”
Women in STEM
This position is actually a three-year position that extends beyond this summer. The others are 8-10 weeks in length.
“We’re very, very excited about that,” Ashmore said. “We know at the federal and state level we’re not producing enough young people every year to go into what we describe as the STEM pipeline. That’s for both post-secondary opportunities as well as careers.
“Within that deficit, a bigger concern is women. We have currently within those fields a disproportionate number of women represented.”
Ashmore said the person in this position would set up a system that would connect female students with women in STEM fields that could provide more than just a one-time visit.
“We’re kind of on our own with this,” he said. “I think we need to connect them more often in more meaningful ways with women STEM professionals, more than just a visit to the classroom, but relationships between professionals and our young female students. So we want someone who can develop a system, where that’s their sole intent and purpose, that will launch us in that direction to address this.”
School Garden committee
The primary responsibility of the school garden postiion is to develop four or five summer community volunteer events for the garden, with the specific purpose of taking some steps to getting the garden accessible and functional.
“One of the biggest things is needing two strong pathways to the garden that address special needs,” Ashmore said. “We have four or five priority steps we would like to see accomplished this summer, and this person would organize these events.”
He said those responsibilities would include everything from marketing to actually organizing the events.
“When people show up to work, we don’t want them just milling around and talking and losing an hour of their time time,” Ashmore said. “‘Intentionality’ is a big word for me, and we want to be very intentional with what we’re doing.”
Three positions will involve helping to facilitate summer reading comprehension camps, which will be overseen by a certificated teacher, in various locations.
“What we’re looking at district-wide is, ‘What are the challenges the students are facing and how can we allocate resources to help them?'” Ashmore said.
The summer satellite reading camps, he hopes, will address the needs of students who may have comprehension issues but can’t get into town during the summer for classes.
“So we’re going to offer three camps – one here, one at Ellisforde, and one at Loomis – and they’ll be two weeks each in length,” he said. “It’s going to use a peer-to-peer model.”
The VISTA position’s role will be to help older students in the peer-to-peer teaching model to instruct the younger students – providing support rather than direct instruction.