This year, High Point University (HPU) is sponsoring 16 recent college graduates as AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America – also known as VISTAs.

They will dedicate a year to doing good works for community organizations in High Point.

 This is the largest group of volunteers sponsored by the university in 11 years of hosting VISTAs. In the previous year, there were nine VISTAs. Since the program began at HPU, a total of 49 VISTAs have served.

Every VISTA participant works with a nonprofit in the city “to build sustainable programs to address needs such as food insecurity or education.”

 The VISTAs play an important role in the HPU Center for Community Engagement, which is there to connect students and faculty to service opportunities in High Point.

Each year the university pays $400,000 to cover the housing, meals, office space and other needs of the volunteers.  That allows them the time to carry out projects with their partner organizations, which, among others, include World Relief of the Triad, the Food Alliance of Greater High Point, Growing High Point, Macedonia Family Resource Center, the City of High Point Neighborhood and Community Development Division and the Nido and Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum.

Lovelle McMichael, the assistant director of the university’s Center for Community Engagement, is now in his second year of working with VISTA participants, and he has some very nice things to say about them.

“The VISTAs are committed young professionals who are supporting local nonprofits with capacity building,” McMichael stated. “I am honored to work for a program that has a mission to complete impactful service daily. Our VISTAs are helping our city fulfill its mission.”

One participant this year – Dihandra Williams from Newburgh, New York – earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism and her master’s in communication and business leadership from HPU.

 She completed her first year as a VISTA working as a museum volunteer coordinator at the Nido and Mariana Qubein Children’s Museum.

This year she’ll return as an AmeriCorps VISTA leader.

“Serving as a VISTA member last year only increased my desire to give back,” she stated, “which is why I’m excited to now be serving as one of the two leaders of the program. My previous year of service allowed me to grow on both a personal and professional level, and I look forward to providing this cohort with opportunities that will allow them to do the same. With a full cohort, my hope for this term is that we can continue to create sustainable programs addressing food security and education in ways that this city has never seen before.”

Williams said her long-term goal is to pursue a career that promotes social justice and human rights initiatives.