Orange, Seminole counties hiring volunteers to help local homeless students
Published: Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Updated: Thursday, May 17, 2012 11:05
For the first time, Orange and Seminole counties will launch their own Volunteers in Service to America program geared toward helping homeless and in-transit students and families. Their plan is to hire and train 17 college graduates to work as volunteers in the program by August.
“Seventeen [roles are] open to anyone in the country, but we’d love to see UCF grads being able to take on these roles,” said Karen Guin, director of communications for the UCF College of Health and Public Affairs.
UCF’s Center for Public and Nonprofit Management is also working to make sure recent UCF grads know about the VISTA program and the job application.
“This is a good opportunity, a terrific opportunity, for students and recent graduates to build their résumés and affect the lives of those in need,” CPNM Program Director Thomas Bryer said. “It’s our hope that many, if not most, will be graduates from UCF. But we will review the applications and select those that are best suited.”
The hired volunteers will receive a living allowance, child care and health insurance. Once they have completed one year of service, they will receive either a $1,500 stipend or an educational reward of up to $5,500, the maximum stipend given by the Federal Pell Grant, to repay loans or continue their education.
“We want folks who have: one, a passion. First and foremost, this is a volunteer opportunity," Bryer said. "They will serve nearly a 40-hour work week for very little pay. So we need folks who have passion.”
Bryer said that he was always impressed by UCF students’ real passion for community service.
The program was first founded in 1965 as part of the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act during President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty."
The program started helping people in California migrant worker camps and poverty-stricken neighborhoods in Hartford, Conn.
In 1993, the program was incorporated into AmeriCorps — a network of local and state programs that helps meet needs in education, public safety, health and the environment.
According to the AmeriCorps website, 1,400 children in Seminole County public schools are homeless. That number is more than tripled in Orange County, which has 4,800 homeless children in its public schools.
In order to lower these numbers, VISTA will work with Seminole County Public Schools’ Families in Transition Program, which was highlighted in a 60 Minutes episode about homelessness. They will also work with the Orange County Public Schools’ Homeless Education Program.
“VISTA will be doing slightly different things in each location," Bryer said. "But ultimately, the goal is that the organization will enhance their ability to serve homeless students … [who] will be given the resources they need to succeed in schools.”
Bryer will continue accepting and reviewing applications for the volunteer opportunity until June 6.