USFSM volunteer Amanda Vasquez, in the gray sweater, was among three dozen Americorps Vista volunteers for in-service training this week at USFSM.

Bulls Notebook: USFSM hosts AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers

By: Rich Shopes

Posted: July 28, 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. (July 28, 2017) – Dozens of AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers from around Florida gathered at USF Sarasota-Manatee for three days this week.

The meeting, involving both students and recent college graduates, was sponsored by the Florida Campus Compact, a consortium of college presidents. The volunteers talked about community engagement and how to encourage more young people to choose higher education. Also high on the agenda: reassuring and inspiring one another.

Among the volunteers was Amanda Vasquez, who works in community outreach at USF Sarasota-Manatee. Like other AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, Vasquez committed herself to live at a poverty wage as she works with youth groups and others to urge them to pursue college.

“It’s been really helpful,” she said of the in-service training. “It really expands your perception about what a year of service can be, and how you can develop your site and make the most of your service experience.”

The 35 volunteers arrived Wednesday afternoon and stayed through Friday. Their training included lending a hand at local charities, including All Faiths Food Bank, the Cat Depot, Sarasota Early Learning Coalition, the Turning Points homeless-assistance program and Goodwill Manasota.

Many of the volunteers also shared stories about why they chose to become AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers.

Vasquez, who plans to attend graduate school for social work next year, graduated from USF St. Petersburg last year. A couple years ago, as part of her internship, she volunteered at a social service agency helping homeless and distressed families find housing.

The experience, especially working with families, touched her and encouraged her to continue to give back, which is one reason she decided after graduation to join the Florida Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA Initiative program, which aims to fight poverty by combining the resources of higher education and local non-profit organizations.

But the sessions weren’t all about training. They also provided an opportunity for camaraderie and encouragement.

“They give you a pick-me-up and show you what’s possible,” she said. “Everyone here is really supportive.”

USFSM welcomes teens to summer science program at Mote

Teens from the Sarasota YMCA Achievers program stopped by the USFSM Teaching Labs at Mote Marine for a fun workshop on Friday.

The three-hour teaching session, the third since the summer program was founded in 2015 by Dr. Edie Banner and USFSM alum Priscilla Sosa, had the children engaging in research involving water samples from Sarasota Bay and chemistry experiments, such as how to make “elephant toothpaste.”

Another session is scheduled Friday, Aug. 4, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Mote labs.

In addition to peering through microscopes at water samples, trying to identify crustaceans, plankton and other marine life, the youngsters tried their hand at chemistry. One experiment had them making “elephant toothpaste,” a concoction that sends a thick chemical mixture streaming out of a tube like toothpaste.

Dr. Banner, who was helped by Sosa and USFSM student Victoria Ramirez, said the sessions expose children to science and scientific equipment, possibly for the first time. Afterward, they visited the Mote aquarium.

It’s never too early to introduce children to science, she explained. How they perform in high school will determine whether they’re accepted into honors programs and, eventually, college. Some at the sessions might be inspired to pursue science-based careers.

“It helps them to start thinking about the possibilities and about what they can do in their careers,” Dr. Banner said. “The sooner they can see something that interests them, the sooner they can figure out what they want to do in life.”

USFSM alumni chapter takes national honors

Kudos to the Manatee-Sarasota chapter of the USF Alumni Association.

The chapter recently won the Most Improved Group Award from the national association, beating dozens of other USF alumni chapters nationwide.

The award is based on school spirit, chapter events and member participation.

Among the events the chapter organized this past year was Bulls, Bands and BBQ, a massive party at the USFSM campus that brought out families for a picnic-style event with live country music. The group also held park cleanups, football watch parties and anticipates a summer beach party and winter gathering.

“The Manatee-Sarasota chapter leaders are a group of proud USF alumni who have committed themselves to making an impact and supporting USF and USFSM,” said Jay Riley, director of alumni relations at USFSM. “They are engaged alumni who make a difference in this community, where they live and work. We are proud and appreciative of their hard work and dedication and I know they are honored to receive this well-deserved recognition.”

USFSM alum earns certification

USF Sarasota-Manatee is pleased to congratulate Michael Keim on completion of his certification from the NAFA Fleet Maintenance Association.

Keim, a USFSM alum and director of fleet maintenance at Sarasota, is now a Certified Automotive Fleet Manager.

Keim graduated with a business management degree last year. He worked full time as he studied and took night classes to earn his bachelor’s degree and CAFM certification.

“USFSM and the business degree earned there helped me move up the career ladder at the city,” he said. “I started as a mid-level automotive technician, progressed to a crew leader and now manage the vehicle repair operations.

“From start to finish, it took nine years of working full time and going to classes in the evenings to earn my degree and get the CAFM certification,” he said.

Good job Mike! Go Bulls!

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