In early 2008, the Kirtland Community College Service Learning Coordinator proposed to the Kirtland administration to formalize a collaborative partnership with River House Inc. The two organizations had a great informal relationship, with the college supporting River House with fund-raisers and other events. So it seemed natural to create a conscious focused reciprocal relationship that would benefit everyone. Joint RHI/KCC meetings throughout the remainder of 2008 developed this collaboration. This initiative would have River House staff supplement and enhance the college education and experience for Kirtland students, while Kirtland’s Service Learning program would be the focus for support efforts for RHI.
The key to the success was applying for an Americorps*VISTA volunteer. Marey Jurkovich and Nicholas Holton co-wrote the grant application for a VISTA from Michigan Campus Compact. This was the first VISTA Campus Compact approved with so much input and support from a community partner. The VISTA started in the academic year 2009-2010 and the partnership formally launched activities and events in the following academic areas: Nursing, Criminal Justice, Cosmetology, Mathematics, Humanities and Global Studies. River House started the following events on campus to raise awareness and funds for their mission: Balloon Launch, Empty Bowls, and Take Back The Night.
The subsequent years have seen recognition and awards for the collaboration. The Community College National Center for Civic Engagement presented the partnership with its national collaboration award in 2011. In 2012, Michigan Campus Compact recognized the collaboration with the Campus-Community Partnership Award. This came with a $10,000 award to be split between the two organizations. The collaborationcontinues to move forward and evolve as the needs of the two organizations grow and change. It has seen a number of changes in the team members, but its importance to the organizations remains strong.
List of AmeriCorps*VISTA:
2009-2010 Monica Martinez
2010-2011 Sophie Tullier
2011-2012 Mandy Charping
2012-2013 Sarah Johnson
2013-2014 Elle Abeles- Allison