My last update was a couple months ago, and much has happened since then. I have a pretty clear understanding of what my job here entails, and what I should accomplish by the end of my VISTA term in July.
I recently designed an Intern Request Packet for FirstLine. For the past few months, I have been posting intern openings on various websites, going to service fairs, etc. So far, I’ve only filled two positions, but the others are all in the interview phase. Until now, however, FirstLine had no real internship program. Individual staff/faculty member could seek out interns independently, but rarely had the means or time to do so.
By the time I leave, I hope to have a system in place for any employee of FLS to request and intern using a standard form, and asking HR to seek and screen candidates.
Three of four schools I work with regularly produce newsletter. I design the one at LHA, and the other two schools handle it themselves. I also design and produce our network newsletter, the Parent Resource Central.
There has been some skepticism as to how many parents actually read these newsletters, so I’ve set up an experiment. For the next round of publications, I’ll place a small ad in the three school newsletters. There will be an email address and phone number, and parents can enter to win a gift card. This will accomplish three things: answer to how many parents read it, answer to how parents prefer to response, and also if we ask a question it doubles as a survey. Not to mention, of course, the cumulative promotional effect.
By the end of my service year, my main priorities are to make sure every school and the network are set up to continue productions of the newsletters. I would like to to see more parents getting involved, and my goal will be to hand off to them as much as possible.
Every Friday I meet with the FLS Enrollment Team to assist with the student enrollment push for next school year. I produced a spreadsheet with all the local daycares centers, then split it up by geographic location and sent it to the respectively closest schools. I’m also seeking an intern or two to help with data entry and outreach needed to support enrollment efforts. When needed, I visit the schools to check in and offer assistance, share out information, or pick up and drop off more OneApp forms.
Over the past few months, I’ve helped promote a number of events. These included Community Days and Food Days at various schools, plus getting the word out about parents meetings and other events. I used both the newsletters and SchoolReach as a communication tool.
In December, I helped set up for the Outreach Winter Showcase at Green Charter School. I worked with Tulane Center for Public service to use that event as an opportunity to enter the CWAM Super Service Challenge, sponsored by the Drew Brees Foundation. In the end, Outreach won $2000.
My VISTA counterpart over at Clark Prep High School is organizing a 5K + Health Fair, and she asked me to assist a little with that. I built our event website over at Eventbrite.com, designed the sponsor letter, and helped make some connections with the FirstLine K-8 schools.
I’ve been attending most of the monthly parent organization meetings at each school. This leads me to The Parent Question, a sort of step-back-and-look that I’ve been asked to think about. The question is, “Why do we care about parents?” I’ve also expanded it to ask why do they care about us, if they do.
The first thing I realized was that the lack of parent engagement in our school does not seem to be related to logistics. You can tweak the date and time, you can expand the number of communication methods, you can bring lots of food; none of this guarantees that parents will come to your school event or meeting.
I think what our parents care about most is Legacy. If we give them more power and responsibility in their school and fold them into the story of FirstLine’s rise to success, I believe they will be more enthusiastic and involved. The newsletters could be a great way to start this process.
I take on various random tasks as they come up. My supervisor recently asked me to start organization an athletics award ceremony, so I’ll be looking into that soon. I went to the MLK Service Day at Arthur Ashe and help remove sod from a new garden bed.
I continue to write the occasional blog post, all of which can be viewed here: http://firstlineschools.blogspot.com/
My work at FirstLine so far has been extremely rewarding. I’ve been busy and productive, and I’ve had a great time getting to know the people here. My hope is to really get everything I started done by the end of the year, and to make sure the systems and projects I initiated this year have a way to thrive once I’m gone.
-Jason Lacoste, Tulane AmeriCorps VISTA, FirstLine Schools