Story & photo by Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff
Four VISTA members have brought their enthusiasm to the Fort McCoy
Child, Youth and School (CYS) Services program, which has led to a
summer full of activities for youth participating in the installation’s
summer programs, including Summer Camp.
VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America, which is part of the
AmeriCorps program to provide service to communities. VISTA works with
governmental or non-profit agencies to help improve communities by
working to fight illiteracy, improving health services, creating
businesses, strengthening community groups and helping to end poverty.
Members of the VISTA program discuss upcoming projects. Pictured
clockwise from left are Andrea Turtenwald, Megan Montgomery,
Lisa King, Becky Walley of the Fort McCoy Child, Youth & School
Services program, and Dylan Garrett.
Becky Walley, the CYS Services School Liaison
officer/Outreach Services director, said the application to obtain the
VISTA members was completed and submitted through the Operation Military
Kids (OMK) program. This is the first time VISTA personnel have worked
for CYS Services.
“VISTA has brought new, fresh ideas to the programs,” Walley said.
“Their enthusiasm and energy are enhancing the programs.”
Two of the members are serving for one year, while the other members are
here for the summer. The members receive a small stipend for their work.
Andrea Turtenwald, the first VISTA member to arrive, came to Fort McCoy
in April and will serve in the program at Fort McCoy for one year.
Turtenwald works in the School of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration &
Skills (SKIES) Unlimited, Family programming, and providing a financial
curriculum to the School Age Center. She also works on special events
through the 4-H/Boys and Girls Clubs and OMK. It is her first job after
graduating from college.
“(My experience) will open the door for me to work with children,” she
said. “It’s really positive to see kids pick up what I teach them, such
Megan Montgomery, the other VISTA member who will work for a year at
McCoy started her position July 24. She works with the SKIESUnlimited
program, the 4-H/Boys and Girls Clubs, the CYS Services Outdoor programs
“I’ll gain insight working with military youth,” Montgomery said. “I’m
interested in doing this and seeing how things work out.”
Lisa King, a military Family member, also works as a summer VISTA
member. She is working toward her master’s degree in counseling. She
said working with military Families to overcome the obstacles in their
lives is good experience.
“I work with Families as they go through deployments and how they
interact with civilians,” King said. “I understand their situations
better and can communicate more effectively with them. I enjoy working
with military Families and making connections with communities.”
King and Turtenwald also worked together to coordinate, in cooperation
with OMK, a Military Family Appreciation week Aug. 5-11 at Culvers Inc.,
in Tomah to thank the Families for their service and sacrifices.
Dylan Garrett, a summer VISTA member, works with CYS Services youth who
are assisting the Community Garden program.
“I’ve worked in fast food and done factory work,” Garrett said. “I find
it interesting to directly work with people. This is definitely the
most-favorite job I have ever had.”
“We all hope to leave a legacy behind,” Turtenwald said. “Whether we’re
here for two months or a year we want to have a positive impact in the
Jan Fink, CYS Services coordinator, collaborated with Laura Pettersen to
develop position descriptions for the VISTA members.
Sue Curtis, VISTA Project Coordinator for University of
Wisconsin-Extension, said VISTA has several priorities. One is to
support military Families.
The VISTA program and OMK are part of 4-H. As part of 4-H there are 15
year-long VISTA members and 42 summer VISTA members serving all across
Wisconsin, Curtis said.
The VISTA members who work with the Extension focus on youth and helping
them develop life skills, Curtis said.
“It’s really been nice to have VISTA here,” Fink said. “They bring
enthusiasm and new ideas. I was amazed at the talent of all of the
people who applied for the positions. It’s amazing to see the people who
want to serve.”
Fink said the VISTA members are helping to improve the CYS Services
program by increasing SKIESUnlimited class offerings and help
develop youth by supporting schedules, creating promotional materials
and recruiting SKIESUnlimited instructors, among other duties.
The VISTA members gain experience to include on their future resumes and
an opportunity to learn about military child care.
Fink said VISTA helped offer expanded opportunities in the CYS Services
summer programs that wouldn’t have been available otherwise.
Fink and Walley said the CYS Services staff hopes to get approval to
continue to have the VISTA program at Fort McCoy providing support.