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AmeriCorps VISTA Worker to Help Connect UI Students and Community

College students' lives are largely defined by academic work, a world of theory and abstraction. To help them move beyond the academic bubble, volunteers with an organization dedicated to fighting poverty will work this coming year to educate students about the issues facing the greater Iowa City community and enlist them in finding solutions.

AmeriCorps VISTA members commit to serve full-time for a year at a nonprofit organization or local government agency, working to fight illiteracy, improve health services, create businesses, and strengthen community groups with the goal of creating or expanding programs designed to bring individuals and communities out of poverty. Funded by AmeriCorps, VISTA members provide their community service at no cost to the organization or agency that hires them.

VISTA worker Erin Gorman, 22, will work with the UI's Civic Engagement Program to strengthen students' commitment to citizenship.

Gorman, a native of Appleton, Wis., and graduate of Luther College in Decorah, came to the University through a partnership between the UI Civic Engagement Program and University Housing. She has been working with the Civic Engagement Program to strengthen students' lifelong commitment to citizenship, has been collaborating with the UI Office of Residence Life to develop programs for students in residence halls, and will work with the newly formed "Saturdays in Service," a committee that is planning seven Saturdays of service work for students during the school year.

The UI Civic Engagement Program is part of the Pomerantz Career Center and incorporates volunteerism into the career development progress of UI students. The program provides students with learning opportunities by linking the University's teaching, research, and service mission to community needs through service.

Gorman said she hopes to expand community literacy programs, increase the understanding and practice of service-learning courses available at the University, and develop a more sustainable volunteer network for the Iowa City community.

"I find service work so important," Gorman said. "Especially working with first-year students, I want to help make students aware of what is going on outside the college community."

In addition to being an AmeriCorps VISTA worker, Gorman's work is being supported with a grant from Iowa Campus Compact, a national coalition of more than 950 colleges and universities committed to fulfilling the civic purposes of higher education.

Gorman said she always wanted to pursue nonprofit work after graduation from college and that one of her many goals is heightening Iowans' awareness of poverty.

Founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 and incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993, AmeriCorps VISTA has been on the front lines in the fight against poverty in America for more than 40 years. More information is available at

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