Buies Creek, N.C.—Students in Campbell’s Mabel Powell English Club tutor elementary students and read to nursing home residents. The Campbell Religion Club sponsors an after-school outreach providing mentoring and tutoring for underprivileged children in Angier. At any given time, there are literally dozens of service oriented projects going on at Campbell University as part of the university’s service/learning mission. But the Campbell administration and Campus Minister Faithe Beam wanted the University to become even more involved in community service, so they applied for some help from VISTA.
The job of the VISTA member is to act as a liaison between the University and the community to create or expand programs designed to bring individuals and communities out of poverty and strengthen the community itself, Beam explained.
“It’s important to know that service is embedded in the fabric of this university, it’s not something new,” Beam said. “But what we’re trying to do with the VISTA member is to enhance and grow what is already at work on campus.”
Campbell made an application to the AmeriCorps VISTA program through North Carolina Campus Compact, a coalition of colleges and universities that collaborate to increase campus-wide participation in community and public service. AmeriCorps pays a stipend to the member and the university must renew the application annually.
Enter VISTA member and 2010 Campbell Communication Studies graduate Sara McCarthy. Even though McCarthy was selected out of 400 applicants vying for 30 VISTA positions in the state, her road to a service-oriented career wasn’t that straight forward. She had all intentions of becoming a reporter, “another Lois Lane,” she said. But then McCarthy volunteered to cover an event sponsored by the Campbell arm of Operation Inasmuch and her life was forever changed.
“Since high school I’ve wanted to be a reporter,” McCarthy said. “I’ve wanted to give voice to people who couldn’t speak for themselves. But then I realized working with VISTA accomplishes the same goal. It exposes our students and faculty to parts of the county that need our help, that they might not even know exist.”
A Spanish minor, McCarthy is also able to communicate with Harnett County’s growing Hispanic population, a skill that is very much needed in a volunteer, Beam said.
“I’m really excited about the potential this program has for the University and its impact on the community,” McCarthy said. “Right now, it needs a running start, but I do expect it to flourish and become part of Campbell’s character as a university of service.”
As the VISTA volunteer, McCarthy’s immediate plans are to send out letters of inquiry and make phone calls to all of the service organizations and agencies in the county.
“I really think the VISTA program is going to further enhance what is already important to our university and that is service to others and the importance of being engaged in the community in which you live,” said Beam.
Photo Copy: Campbell University graduate Sara McCarthy joins the University as a VISTA member.