North Shore section, Thursday, April 2, 2009
by TEVAH PLATT
GRYMES HILL — Katie Mishler isn't from Staten Island and doesn't plan to stay here — but over the course of one, maybe two years, she will help it become prettier, safer, and stronger.
To fill the void between college and beyond Ms. Mishler joined the AmeriCorps VISTA program and ended up the civic engagement coordinator at Wagner College.
"I think I want to go on to graduate school, but I also felt I wanted to give back to the American community," said Ms. Mishler last week at her Grymes Hill office. "A college degree felt like a really big privilege."
So the 25-year-old graduate of Georgia State University ended up this September on the North Shore of Staten Island with the task of linking Wagner students with volunteer opportunities in the community.
Ms. Mishler works with students enrolled in the civic engagement certificate program in which they are committed to performing 270 hours of voluntary service over four years.
"These are students who usually have grown up doing some kind of community service, who are concerned with social issues, politically active, compassionate, driven, and interested in making an impact," she said.
Depending on each student's skills and interests, Ms. Mishler might send them to work at Project Hospitality, Community Health Action, Port Richmond High School, United Activities Unlimited, or a dozen other Staten Island institutions, mostly on the North Shore.
Ms. Mishler also led 12 students on a five-day "alternative spring break" trip to Boston last month, where each day brought another service project: planting flowers; stowing winter clothing donations for children; visiting assisted-living residents; feeding the homebound, and cleaning classrooms.
On April 25, Ms. Mishler is organizing another flurry of service activities on Staten Island with the inaugural Julia M. Barchitta Memorial Day of Service. The event was named for the late nurse and dean of Wagner's Center for ExperIential Learning, who was devoted to engaging students at the school with civic life.
The public and the entire Wagner campus are invited to take part in teams, with activities to be scheduled all over the borough.
The day will likely include a North Shore clean-up; gardening at Wagner's Lyle Guttu Memorial Garden; clothing and food drive activities; a "Trash Busters" event at Clay Pit Ponds State Park, Charleston; a health screening with nursing students at Olivet Presbyterian Church, West Brighton, and, possibly, a food pantry at Faith United Methodist Church, Port Richmond. Details are still being finalized.
"The VISTA program gave me the opportunity to have a leadership role, to develop professional skills, and to be a role model. … But the most enjoyable part is working with students, helping them help people, and seeing how meaningful it is to both Wagner students and the people they serve," said Ms. Mishler. "Seeing the direct result of their using their talents to benefit society makes me really optimistic and hopeful for the future."
To get involved with the Julia M. Barchitta Memorial Day of Service, contact Ms. Mishler at 718-390-3143 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
AmeriCorps volunteer serves as civic engagement coordinatorApril 2, 2009