AmeriCorps VISTA members are serving across the U.S. to build organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations helping people overcome poverty. For many VISTA members serving with the United Way Education AmeriCorps VISTA project, partnerships with schools officials have been vital to their success. Here are some tips from our VISTA members on building thriving school partnerships.
- Be present at public events and school board meetings.
Some teachers and district staff may not be aware of how much United Way’s programs can positively impact the students served in schools. Brittany Cannon, an AmeriCorps VISTA Alum with United Way of Suncoast in Tampa, Florida made sure to attend any public forums, community conversations and school board meetings in her community. In doing so, Brittany was able to showcase the work of United Way, promote resources, and build trust with school officials and community members.
- Connect with your local teacher’s union.
Your local teachers union can be a great advocate for creating positive education outcomes. Many teachers unions have partnered with their United Ways by helping distribute books to the community and donating spaces for community meetings.
- Invite the right people to the table.
It is important to engage individuals with access to the information you need to take action. Justin, an AmeriCorps VISTA with Spokane County United Way in Spokane, Washington learned this lesson when attempting to track students’ post-graduation plans. Since high school counselors are limited in what information they can share about their students, he reached out to administrators from various school districts, college deans, and superintendents to gather the necessary data.
- Stay connected during the summer.
Engaging volunteers to renovate classrooms, paint walls, and do landscaping over the summer maintains partnerships and sustains trust. These projects can make a huge difference in the parent, teacher, and student attitudes toward coming back to school.
- Invest time in volunteers.
United Ways have been able to prove their dedication to their school partnerships by investing time in volunteers who will be placed in schools. Phil Ryburn, an AmeriCorps Alum with United Way of Greater Toledo, began the process for United Way to become a Service Enterprise and be certified in best practices for volunteer management. United Way’s volunteers are now attending trainings and are fully prepared to work as partners with teachers and make an impact in schools.
By building school partnerships with United Ways, AmeriCorps VISTA members around the country are strengthening their communities and the United Way network.