AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer to Organize Community Service Programs at RSU

Stefanie Metzger is no stranger to volunteer work. Even as a single mother of two children and a full-time student, she has logged hundreds of volunteer hours, serving organizations such as the American Red Cross and March of Dimes.

Now Metzger is taking her volunteer work to a new level by serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for one year at Rogers State University.

In that role, she will work to facilitate the concept of service learning and establish a volunteer center at RSU.

Service learning in higher education is generally defined as students participating in community service projects as part of their college experience, either through their course work or through volunteer projects organized by student groups.

Several academic programs at RSU already have a community service component in place, but Metzger will work with faculty members to enhance those components where they exist, and to introduce them to curricular areas that might benefit from the concept of service learning.

In addition, she will establish a volunteer center on the RSU campus to assist student organizations in developing community service projects, thereby implementing the concept of learning through community service even further on campus.

“My family and friends in Rogers County have been very supportive of me,” Metzger says. “I see this as a way to give back to my community.”

As an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer, Metzger’s role is to identify the needs of low-income residents and develop programs to help alleviate poverty in the community – a tall order for one person. AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers recruit and organize student and civic groups to develop and carry out the programs in their communities.

“Without volunteers, many organizations would not survive,” she says.

One of the rules of the AmeriCorps VISTA program is that its volunteers must live and work with the low-income people they are serving. As a result, Metzger must live on a small living allowance during her year of service. At the end of that year, she will receive an educational award allowing her to pursue a master’s degree.

Currently, Metzger is working toward a bachelor’s degree in social science at RSU. That degree is one of the academic programs at RSU that has service learning, or field placement, as a requirement for graduation. She also is enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserves.

Metzger completed a four-day AmeriCorp VISTA (which stands for Volunteers In Service To America) pre-service orientation in Tulsa along with people from five other states to become a certified volunteer. Then she took a federal oath to uphold the doctrines of the program.

According to the AmeriCorps VISTA, the goal of the program is to “strengthen and support efforts that eliminate and alleviate poverty in the U.S.” AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers “empower and enable people to volunteer to build stronger and healthier communities.”

Recently, on her first day on the job, Metzger had already designated several organizations in Rogers County that might benefit from community service assistance from RSU students, including Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), Positive Adult Leadership (PAL), Adult Day Care, the Claremore Public Schools Reading Improvement Initiative, and Project Aspire at RSU.

Metzger is no stranger to the volunteer needs of Claremore. Previously, she served as the assistant volunteer coordinator for more than three years at the Oklahoma Veterans Center.

In the past, she has volunteered for a variety of organizations, including the American Red Cross, Boy Scouts of America, the March of Dimes, and others. She also has served as an ombudsman for the U.S. Navy.

“Most people don’t recognize the low-income population in our community, but it exists,” she says.

Metzger will work with Kelly Knaack in RSU’s Department of Career Services to develop the university’s service learning program and to establish a volunteer center.

Currently, several part-time AmeriCorps positions are available on the RSU campus through the “Smart Start” program. Through this program, participants volunteer their time to tutor and mentor students in kindergarten through college in math, science, English, and other subjects. Participants will receive an educational award at the end of their service through the AmeriCorps program.

For more information about RSU community service opportunities, or to inquire about becoming a service learning site, call the RSU Department of Career Services at (918) 343-7573.