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August 24, 2012

Community

VISTA members energize Fort McCoy’s CYS Services program

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.

PHOTO: Members of the VISTA program discuss upcoming projects. Photo by Rob Schuette
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 as manners.”

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 and OMK.
“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 community.”

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.

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