University welcomes VISTA volunteer Nicole Alonzo
Nicole Alonzo, a 2011 graduate of Stonehill College in Easton, chose to devote the first year of the rest of her life to community service, a commitment that has brought her to Salem State University as a VISTA volunteer.
After graduating from Stonehill College in May with a degree in political science, Alonzo realized that she wanted to do something that would add meaning to her life while providing essential services to those in need. “Engaging in community service is something that has been instilled in me since I was young,” says the New York City native, “but it began to mean something more when, during an alternative spring break in college, I went to Nicaragua on a service learning trip.”
Seeing how much her volunteer help was both needed and appreciated, Alonzo committed upon graduation to serve full-time for one year as a VISTA volunteer. Placed at Salem State, which itself puts a great deal of emphasis on community engagement for its students, faculty and staff, she works as a service learning coordinator through the Massachusetts Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTA program, organizing homework help at Salem’s First Baptist Church for first through fifth graders in the Salem public school system, reaching out to the schools to determine their needs and working with English language learners and their families.
“Salem State,” she says, “believes strongly in building partnerships in the community, and I’m grateful for the part I’ll be able to play in that during my year of volunteer service. Both the university and the city of Salem are in an exciting period of movement and growth,” she continues. “I really want to be a part of the ‘moving and shaking.’ I’m here to make it happen.
“Working with faculty fellow for service learning and associate professor of interdisciplinary studies Elizabeth Duclos-Orsello,” she explains, “and Marc Boots-Ebenfield, director of Salem State’s Center for Teaching Innovation, I’m learning how to build capacity on campus for service learning while effecting positive change in the community.”
Founded as Volunteers in Service to America by President John F. Kennedy in 1965, and incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993, VISTA provides Americans with opportunities to work for nonprofit organizations or local government agencies on projects that fight illiteracy, improve health services, create businesses, and strengthen community groups. Volunteers like Nicole commit to serve full-time for one year.