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October 6, 2008

Media Contact: Hannah Buchanan
Public Affairs Specialist
News and Information
The University of Texas at Tyler

UT Tyler VISTA Legacy: The First Two Years

Editor’s Note: The University of Texas at Tyler News and Information Office recently talked with the 2006-07 and 2007-08 AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, Whitney Patterson of Tyler and Garnesha Beck of Shreveport, La., respectively.

VISTA stands for Volunteers in Service to America, which is a subset of the AmeriCorps program. The national service program is designed to fight poverty in the United States. It was founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 and later incorporated into the AmeriCorps network in 1993. VISTA members commit to a one year term, serving at a non-profit or government agency. Texas Campus Compact places VISTAs on college campuses.

What attracted you to the VISTA program?

Patterson: I first heard about the VISTA program while I was still a student at UT Tyler. I had heard of AmeriCorps before, but not the VISTA program specifically. It interested me because I knew I was highly interested in pursuing a career in the nonprofit sector, but I wasn't quite sure exactly what I wanted to do. I saw VISTA as a great opportunity to learn and serve my community simultaneously.


Beck: I learned about AmeriCorps through my church. Several members participated. I was attracted to the position at UT Tyler because it would allow me to work in a university setting as well as work in the community.

Most memorable experiences while UT Tyler’s VISTA:


Patterson: One of the most memorable things I was a part of was implementing the President’s Volunteer Service Award at UT Tyler. We advertised the volunteer tracking system campuswide and linked the tracking to the school Web site, and then at the end of the year (spring 2007), we presented service awards to several individual students as well as student organizations who had logged a significant amount of hours into the tracking system. This was a really great experience for me because I got to see the new program implemented. I was a part of the advertising, and then I helped present the awards. I feel like it was also great for the award recipients because they were rewarded for their hard work. The other part of my time as a VISTA that sticks out in my memory would be the Community Service Advisory Committee and the volunteer fairs that were held on campus. I also remember organizing the volunteer fairs, because I got to actually see students signing up for volunteer events, which was really great.

Beck: For National Hunger Week, Students in Free Enterprise hosted a campuswide food drive, and students volunteered at the East Texas Food Bank. In December 2007, one of the student learning communities collected items from the wish list of a family through Tyler’s People Attempting to Help.

What are you up to now?

Patterson: My husband Tony and I recently moved to the Fort Worth area for his career. I was recently hired as the volunteer coordinator for Meals on Wheels of Johnson County. I also am planning on taking some continuing education classes in the spring and considering starting on my master’s degree.


Beck: I am currently the interim coordinator of career services at UT Tyler.

What do you hope UT Tyler will gain from VISTA?

Patterson: I hope that the things implemented by both myself and Garnesha will be continued, and that many more community involvement initiatives will be started. I think UT Tyler could make such a huge impact on the community that surrounds it through the students and faculty.


Beck: A continued commitment and involvement with assisting to solve the needs of the community. I truly believe that to whom much is given, much is required. Our students are provided with an excellent education and resources here at UT Tyler that should be shared with our community.

For more information about the program, contact Carol Killingley, community relations and parent resources administrative services officer, ckillingley@uttyler.edu, or visit www.texascampuscompact.org.

One of the 15 campuses of the UT System, UT Tyler offers excellence in teaching, research, artistic performance and community service. Nearly 90 undergraduate and graduate degrees are available at UT Tyler, which has an enrollment of more than 6,000 high-ability students at its campuses in Tyler, Longview and Palestine.


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