The position was filled by Kourtney Yonge, who has been instrumental in launching the service-learning component of the college’s First Year Seminar course.
Susan Webb-Curtis, director of Cooperative Education and Service-Learning, said, “We are fortunate to have been selected by the Tennessee Campus Compact to receive an AmeriCorps VISTA position this year. This position has made it possible to put over 250 student volunteers out in the community to assist agencies who address the serious business of poverty and homelessness in the Bradley County area. We hit the jackpot with Kourtney Yonge. She is such an amazing, compassionate professional.”
Liz Moseley, assistant professor of psychology and FYS coordinator, recognized Kourtney’s contribution to the program, “Kourtney kept track of over 200 students’ service-learning hours which was quite a large task. We couldn’t have done it without her!”
The FYS service-learning component currently focuses on alleviation of poverty and homelessness across our communities. During 2013, FYS faculty and the service-learning team prepared students for volunteer opportunities with the Cleveland Emergency Shelter, Family Promise of Bradley County, Habitat for Humanity of Cleveland, Habitat for Humanity of McMinn County, The Caring Place and United Way of Bradley County.
Students volunteered with the agency of their choice and learned about that agency’s mission, vision and role in the community. Volunteer opportunities centered on actual client needs, giving students real hands-on opportunities to positively impact the lives of others. CSCC students invested 1,600 volunteer hours in support of partnering agencies.
Yonge stated, “Having students leave that class with a better understanding of what service-learning is and what the poverty and homeless situation is in our community and some agencies that address that — makes it all worthwhile.”
In addition to FYS Service-Learning, Kourtney’s VISTA responsibilities include working with partnering agencies on capacity-building initiatives. She is also serving on the Mayor’s Coalition Housing Council to help facilitate planning and completion of a 2014 Housing Census, focused on understanding the magnitude of homelessness in Bradley County.
“I have really enjoyed getting to work in so many areas,” stated Yonge. “My responsibilities have included helping students get placed with the agencies we are working with, but I have also been able to learn so much about how service-learning works. I have also enjoyed getting to see and be a part of some of the work these agencies are doing.”
Sherry Holloway, service-learning coordinator, said, “It is such a joy to work with Kourtney. Her dedicated support of our communities, our partnering non-profit agencies, and Cleveland State students, faculty and staff has been phenomenal.”
Yonge stated, “I am so thankful and blessed to be working in this position with people like Sherry (Holloway), Susan (Webb-Curtis), and Liz (Moseley). They have been great— so understanding, and to have their support and encouragement along the way has been amazing.”
Yonge received her bachelor of science degree from Middle Tennessee State University in Child Development and Family Studies and just received her master’s degree in holistic child development from Lee University. She plans to pursue a career as a child life specialist.
For more information on Cleveland State’s service-learning program or the AmeriCorps VISTA, contact Webb-Curtis at (423) 472-7141, ext. 718.
In 1963, President John F. Kennedy envisioned a national service corps “to help provide urgently needed services in urban and rural poverty areas.” Two years later, President Lyndon B. Johnson made Kennedy’s dream a reality and VISTA was founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 as a national service program designed specifically to fight poverty in America. Today, AmeriCorps VISTA offers 6,500 members who serve at 1,200 projects across the country.