KENNESAW, Ga. | Oct 1, 2020
Kennesaw State students like Caleb Gloster are finding ways to help others by serving the campus community while also gaining hands-on work experience.
Recently, Gloster worked through the Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) program with KSU’s Campus Awareness, Resource and Empowerment (CARE) Services, which helps KSU students in need by providing financial assistance, temporary housing, access to food and support services.
A senior from Alpharetta, Ga., majoring in mechanical engineering, Gloster says that the experience he has gained serving as the manager of the food pantry on KSU’s Marietta Campus has given him a new perspective on homelessness.
“It really made me feel good to be able to help other students, and I know that through this experience I have made a difference in their lives of people my own age,” he said.
Marcy Stidum, director of KSU CARE Services first welcomed the VISTA program to KSU in 2017 and has managed the program ever since. VISTA, which is part of a national program that strives to address community needs that focus on improving academic achievement, mentoring youth and fighting poverty, is part of AmeriCorps, the domestic version of the Peace Corps.
“The VISTA program mission aligns directly with what we do at CARE, and we could not accomplish all that we do without the help of our student workers,” said Stidum.
In the past three years, 26 VISTAs have served the University in year-round or summer-specific roles in several campus nonprofit programs such as the food pantry; the food forest, an initiative that works to address food sustainability; and OwlSwap, which promotes fashion sustainability through campus clothing swaps.
Like Gloster, Hannah Davis, a sophomore majoring in marketing, spent her summer as a VISTA creating workshops for ASCEND, a CARE program that benefits students who were homeless or in foster care during their K-12 education.
“I learned a lot of new things working as a VISTA that I know will be helpful as I continue my education and once I graduate,” Davis said. “But my favorite part was being able to make an impact on new KSU students who were transitioning into college and seeing their development over the course of the summer semester.”
Mackenzie Harris, a junior human services major from Eatonton, Ga., echoed Davis’ sentiment about being able to help others.
Harris said that her experience as a summer VISTA associate preparing for events and activities and managing PantrySoft, a software used by food pantries to track intake and inventory, also has provided her with valuable skills that she will be able to use both in her future career working in a nonprofit organization and as a student at KSU.
“I gained skills such as flexibility and patience especially because we had to communicate and do our job in a different way than normal,” said Harris, citing the changes that had to be put in place due to Covid-19.
Harris also credits the program with giving her the opportunity to build her leadership skills, which she knows will serve her throughout her life.
“I believe good leaders are always able to make themselves better, but through my work with VISTA and CARE, I’ve learned that good leaders also help make others better, too.”
– Josh Milton
Photos by David Caselli
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A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its more than 43,000 students. Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia with 11 academic colleges. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 7 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit kennesaw.edu.