Summer jobs reward students

Morgan Schaeffer

Jobs may be hard to find, but some Washburn students were able to find summer jobs that paid, served the community and got them closer to graduation.

Volunteers in Service to America is a national government-funded AmeriCorps program that places volunteers in positions to fight poverty. The Learning in the Community department at Washburn runs the local VISTA program.

VISTA has a summer associates program geared toward college students. This summer 35 associates participated in the 10 week program, including 23 Washburn students.

VISTA coordinator Judy Nickelson said people don’t become VISTA participants for economic reasons. Volunteers make barely more than poverty-level income, but receive an education award at the end of their service.

“The summer associates program was amazing,” Nickelson said. “It didn’t give them so much money, but it gave them experience working with kids that was very transformational. People learned a lot about themselves.”

The summer associate program focuses on youth development, and the volunteers do direct service in summer youth programs. This year the associates worked in six programs in Topeka.

Junior education major Linda Lang volunteered for Freedom School as a servant leader intern. The program required a week-long trip to Tennessee for training and approximately 45 hours of volunteering each week.

Lang worked with another Washburn student and taught a class of 20 scholars in kindergarten through second grade. The volunteers worked with the children to read books about cultures and diversity each day.

“The most rewarding part of the program was when we had a finale and the scholars showed us what they had learned,” Lang said. “One parent even came up to me and told me I had really made a difference in their child’s life.”

Thirty children attended Peace Camp. Senior education major Kylie Gilstrap volunteered as the Assistant Director of Peace Camp. She spent the majority of her time organizing the week-long camp but also taught for 40 hours. Gilstrap taught eight middle school student, focusing on a curriculum that emphasized being respectful, particularly to the environment and other people.

“I can see that what we’re teaching is actually being utilized by the students,” Gilstrap said. Her students displayed some of the tactics they learned in the classroom when talking to each other.

The VISTA summer associate program counted for Gilstrap’s community service Washburn Transformational Experience. Washburn University requires every student to complete a WTE in community service, leadership, scholarly or creative or study abroad.