Vista Academy is a small, extremely tight-knit community of passionate students and dedicated staff who are working to create a school with a culture emphasizing scholarship, high expectations, and personal accountability. Given that Vista is only in its second academic year, there have been nearly endless opportunities for AmeriCorps members to help shape the school’s culture, and explore new ways to reach and inspire students.
Among these efforts, Will and Jerry, the AmeriCorps members placed at Vista, have enjoyed terrific success with the establishment of a new lunchtime enrichment program at the school called the Daily Interactive Gathering, or “DIG” for short. The name was selected in no small part because Vista’s mascot is the Miner. Jerry and Will think they’re very clever. But beyond the staggering cleverness, the name also captures the spirit of the program; DIG is meant to be something that 1) enriches the daily routine at the school, 2) encourages reflective participation and learning from students and staff, and 3) fosters stronger, positive bonds among the school community.
After taking input from students on what activities to include, and recruiting staff to support the various activities, Will and Jerry have created a rotating schedule of programs that continue to draw bigger and more enthusiastic crowds of students and staff. So far the most popular of these activities has been Wednesday Trivia, which consistently draws nearly 20 students and the school’s most competitive teachers. On Game Day Mondays the students have come to expect heated sessions of Scrabble and Boggle. During Tuesday’s Mix-It-Up program, Jerry and Will take a step back to encourage students to make new friends through structured dialogues about identity. Thursday is Movie Day. Finally, in the New Year, Jerry and Will look forward to finally starting Open Mic sessions on Fridays, to encourage students and staff to showcase their talents in a supportive venue.
To the members, putting DIG together has been one of the most rewarding experiences of the placement at Vista thus far. The ultimate hope is that the program continues long after Will and Jerry’s term of service at Vista, and that it continues to provide an enriching experience for the students for years to come.