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AmeriCorps*VISTA at MIAD

americorps vistaMIAD is leading art colleges across the nation in a new trend of campus/community partnerships, service learning and civic engagement. Service learning is an educational tool combining academic objectives with service to the community. As the only art and design college in the country with a service learning graduation requirement, MIAD’s commitment to service learning is rare. Through a program combining rigorous academic work with a required 50 hours of community service, MIAD’s college students volunteer at a wide range of nonprofit organizations, such as women’s shelters, enviromental groups and afterschool toutoring programs.

The AmeriCorps*VISTA volunteer at MIAD, Bernadette Witzack, assisted with several service-learning projects and Outreach Department programs this year. One program, entitled Creative Futures: Colleges and Careers, introduced forty students in grades 6-12 at various Milwaukee Public Schools to higher education and the arts through tours of MIAD by college student docents and mentors, and workshops about MIAD’s majors.

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This new outreach program aims to bring awareness to pre-college scholarships offered by the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) and introduce high-achieving, low-income students to higher education. The DPI pre-college scholarship allows students who qualify for free or reduced lunch and have a minimum grade point average of 2.0 to take three pre-college classes free of tuition each year.

Creative Futures included an introduction to pre-college courses, college writing workshop and presentations in which MIAD student mentors discussed their challenges and successes as college students and intended future career path.

creative futures2The Creative Futures participants were excited about the day they spent at MIAD, and almost 50% took advantage of the DPI scholarship and enrolled in pre-college courses. In a program evaluation, many students mentioned their hopes to attend college. One student wrote, “This program really did help me out because it made me want to go to college, because at first I wasn’t sure.”

Other civic engagement projects include a new partnership in which MIAD service-learners assisted with and edited high-school students’ college entrance essays, a silent art auction to benefit Hurricane Katrina survivors, a collaborative art exhibit with 4th grade students from a local elementary school, and an event entitled Big Drawings by Little Sisters and Little Brothers in which MIAD hosted a free collaborative drawing event for matches from Big Brothers Big Sisters.

creative futures3

MIAD remains committed to strengthening campus/community partnerships as the college continues to be a nation-wide leader in civic-engagement opportunities that help students become active, engaged members of society who understand the importance of grass-roots social change. As one MIAD student service-learner said after helping a student with her college-entrance essay, “This was a good experience, a feeling of service. I am actually feeling very hopeful for (the student) and will be keeping in touch with her to see if she achieves her goals.”

In July 2005, Bernadette Witzack joined the staff of MIAD’s Outreach Department as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member. Bernadette graduated from Beloit College in 2002 with a degree in Studio Art. Bernadette has experience with community service and arts programming and is very excited to have the opportunity to combine her interest in the visual arts with her passion for social change working through MIAD’s programs.

AmeriCorps*VISTA provides organizations with full-time volunteers who are charged with the elimination of poverty in the areas of education, professional training, and grassroots development. Bernadette is part of the Wisconsin Campus Compact (WiCC) K-16 AmeriCorps*VISTA Service-Learning Project. To learn more about Wisconsin Campus Compact and the Wisconsin k-16 AmeriCorps*VISTA Service-Learning Project, please follow this link.