Chantel believes the most important aspect about anything that’s sustainable is the foundation. Therefore Kent State University (KSU) Stark’s Connect2Complete (C2C) team’s plan was to dedicate this first pilot year of C2C to making sure they built a good program foundation. Chantel’s goal was to create paperwork that could continue to be used year after year, with very minimal updates needed. All documentation and electronic paperwork and presentations can be used in any subsequent year after simply changing the dates. The team also planned to promote one of the peer advocates (PA) to senior peer after they complete at least one semester as a PA. The senior PA will receive additional leadership training to assist with the onboarding of new PAs and be a resource for them. Chantel knows that investing time in those who truly believe in C2C is crucial to the program’s sustainability.
Earlier this year Chantel concluded that building support on the KSU Stark campus for C2C is the most essential piece of building the program’s foundation. Chantel connected with every group, department, person or event that complements C2C. So far the C2C team has collaborated with a wide variety of campus constituents from tutors and student life to financial aid and KSU Stark’s multicultural office. She has worked tirelessly this year to ensure C2C is visible to the entire campus. She scheduled PAs and/or C2C students to be involved in many events on campus hoping that people would be curious as to who these familiar faces are, and upon becoming acquainted with C2C maybe getting more involved. Chantel is confident that the C2C team she has assembled will strategically grow the program once her VISTA service is complete. She identified the people on campus she knew would be strong key players in building the program based on their belief in student success through C2C and recruited them for the C2C team. This team is comprised of students, directors, department heads, faculty, and KSU Stark’s external affairs office. These team members are committed to the sustainability of the program.
The team is excited for the second program year. The focus will be growing the program externally in the North Canton community. With much of the pilot year focused on gaining visibility and familiarity for C2C on the KSU Stark campus they did not place much emphasis on community building with the exception of two great projects. The campus’ September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance project had C2C students make whisper phones to donate to a local alternative school, Garfield Academy. Chantel researched and chose this particular school based on the challenging demographics of the student body, low reading tests scores, and from talking with the principal. Whisper phones are used to enhance reading and pronunciation skills in children, and C2C donated 150 phones to Garfield’s Kindergarten-3rd grade classes. The principal, teachers and students were very appreciative and excited that someone noticed their need and wanted to address it. For KSU Stark’s MLK Day of Service project C2C held a toiletries collection drive on campus, to make “swag bags” and donate them to a local organization called The Crisis Center which also has a recovery rehabilitation unit. The unit is typically at full capacity and clients come empty-handed, as they’re not allowed to bring in toiletries because of the fear of smuggling in drugs. To address this need C2C filled the swag bags with soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothbrushes, toothpaste, lotion, and other necessities. They donated 55 full bags, 29 half bags and 2 totes of extra toiletries.
The 9/11 and MLK service projects were major victories for the C2C program’s community relationship building and getting C2C students involved in addressing local issues. Chantel will build upon these relationships in year 2 of C2C and plans to create some new community partnerships as well.
Chantel is “thankful for the way this program is pushing me and teaching me so much about myself as a person and a young professional. It’s testing me and taking me out of my comfort zone. The people around me who want nothing more than to see me succeed and be the best me I can possibly be. I see the changes after my first year as a VISTA, I’m excited to see what the second year will do for me.”
Written by Chantel Parker