AmeriCorps VISTA offers opportunities for job experience and volunteerism in the U.P.

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WJMN) – AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) offers a variety of types of service programs to interested people who are looking for experience working in nonprofit and public sector jobs.

The program was established in 1965 with the main goal of alleviating effects of poverty across the United States. One VISTA member in Marquette is sponsored by OPEN (Opioid Prevention and Education Network) MSU. Amanda Bonesteel works with Community Action Alger Marquette on projects that focus on opoiod prevention and education.

“I’m working with the home visiting network so we’re trying to get new moms and pregnant women into the home visiting system,” said Bonesteel. “Which is just really beneficial because the home visiting system network can answer lots of different questions for these new parents like breastfeeding, postpartum depression, substance use disorders, mental health, childcare, early childhood education, all these different things.”

Watch the video above to learn about some of the benefits of being a VISTA member

Bonesteel is studying sociology at NMU and minoring in Human Behavior, she says the work she is doing as a VISTA ties in well with what she is learning in school.

“My degree in sociology ties in really well because sociology is like the big picture issues and how society and our culture affects what we do day-to-day and how it affects different aspects of institutions like the medical field or healthcare and poverty and all that sort of stuff,” said Bonesteel.

Hear more about Bonesteel’s plans for the future after graduation.

Bonesteel says things like mental health and substance use often ties in with things like trauma, abuse and poverty.

“I’ve learned so much about mental health and substance use disorders and how it impacts the community and just in general how it’s affecting the Upper Peninsula and how we can help people that have these disorders,” said Bonesteel. “And it’s a lot, I think it’s one in four Americans will suffer a mental health disorder in their lifetime or some sort of mental health crisis, substance use, I want to say it’s like one in 12 in the previous year that have admitted to abusing substances so it’s a lot more common than we think it is.”

Community Action Alger Marquette is a host site for a VISTA member sponsored by OPEN MSU. Corey Holcomb, early childhood education director at Community Action Alger Marquette, works with Bonesteel on the projects she is doing.

“We are working with Michigan State University on a program that is focused on substance use disorder and the opioid epidemic,” said Holcomb. “And so through that program we had the ability to work with a VISTA, AmeriCorps VISTA, for one year, and they are focused particularly in our program on helping us build the capacity of our home visitors who work with families and young children who have been impacted by substance use disorders and the opioid epidemic.”

Watch above to hear about some of the projects that Bonesteel has taken on with CAAM.

Holcomb said they chose the program because they had been concerned about the growing rate of babies born with neonatal abstinance syndrome.

“It’s something that we’re seeing in the families we work with and we know that it’s impacting our community,” said Holcomb. “So we really felt like this was a way that we could be making a difference.”

This is the first time that CAAM has worked with OPEN MSU to have a VISTA member.

“I think the AmeriCorps program and the VISTA workers is a great opportunity for individuals in our community,” said Holcomb. “I would really encourage people to consider to apply, it gets you great work experience, I feel like its a win-win for both the VISTA worker and the agency that they’re sponsored by, you know they build their resume skills and their job skills and then the agency benefits by having a talented indivdual work with them.”

Holcomb says they would consider applying to host another VISTA member in the future depending on their needs.

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