About AOSN

My Experience

I am from Lake Village, AR where I attended school at Lakeside High School. I graduated from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with a degree in biology. While at Lakeside I was a part of a summer program in which they provided students a safe environment to grow and learn while school was out for the summer. My ultimate goal is to secure to my MD/PhD in Biomedical Sciences but I would also like to establish a program to help youth and adults become successful in their lives and in their community. I am proud to be serving as a Arkansas Afterschool Program Sustainability VISTA with the Arkansas Out of School Network (AOSN) because this opportunity is providing me with a foundation of helping young people thrive. As a VISTA I am responsible for sustaining 21st CCLC-funded afterschool programs beyond their initial grant. I will help programs establish a community support system which includes strong participation from school, community organizations, businesses, local residents, families and others.
My experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Arkansas Out of School Network (AOSN) has been a great educational experience so far. I have experienced and learned so much about the afterschool sector in my home state. During my first week as a VISTA I attended a policy café sponsored by Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families with my supervisor. I did not know what to expect but I quickly discovered that the individuals participating in the afterschool discussion were deeply concerned about improving education in their schools. I realized that Out-of-School Time (OST) programs are valued and needed. I realized that we need more access to OST programs across the state.  After policy café, I became even more committed to my project because there are 190,000 children and youth in Arkansas (grades K-12) who do not have access to an afterschool program in their community and that is a big issue for working parents in Arkansas. Through my project, I hope to make a positive difference by helping OST program leaders identify ways to sustain their afterschool programs.
I have been fortunate to have already had site visits with a couple of great afterschool programs. The leaders of these two programs have several things in common. They both are passionate about the children and about making an impact on youth. Most of all, they are both want to make a positive difference in their community by starting with the youth in their programs.
I made my first site visit on a beautiful fall day in late September. The 21st Century Community Learning Center program in Augusta, AR was a great program to kick-off my VISTA service journey. Mrs. Margie Mosby is the leader of this program and we discussed many ways that her program has been successful and things that she would like to improve. Before the children arrived I got a chance to tour the facility; which was very nice and as a child I would have loved to be there every day!  All of the classrooms were filled with a SMART board and a SMART table which is used to teach interactive lessons with the youth. The kindergarteners and first graders have an interactive program on the computers, which helps them learn their spelling words and other lessons. On this particular day, a local bank representative had visited the day before so the children were working on balancing a checking book and getting the real world experience of learning about money. I really enjoyed seeing this because they were preparing the students for real life and the children will be able to use these valuable skills for the rest of their lives. I also got to see the program’s garden which will be one of the projects that we will to find funding for. The children were growing mums and poinsettias to sell to the community during their Lights On!  Afterschool event.
My visit to the Life Skills for Youth (LSY) program just happened to coincide with their planning for their Lights On! Afterschool event scheduled for October 22nd. Mr. Larry Clark, Sr. started the LSY program to give youth a positive place so youth could build life skills to help them become successful adults. Located in a church in southwest Little Rock, the program serves the surrounding neighborhoods and works with the surrounding schools. There is always a waiting list. The program provides meals for all of the students and provides tutoring and enrichment activities that are all led by the amazing staff at LSY. I had the pleasure of meeting a parent of a child that attends the LSY program. The parent is also an educator and she said the program has had a good impact on her son who happens to be a straight “A” student at a local elementary school.  
There is much work to be done and as I start my project I am excited about the journey and about helping the OST programs around the state.