Ariel Allen, CAC AmeriCorps Staff; Alum 2013-2014
Meredith has had one busy year. Her site, the University of Tennessee- FUTURE Program, is a postsecondary education program for young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities that empower participants to achieve gainful employment in the community and have their own college experience.
During the program, FUTURE provides students with specially designed FUTURE classes, career counseling, the opportunity to audit undergraduate courses, and an internship on or off campus. This program is unfortunately an incredibly rare commodity in the university setting. With only a handful of programs like FUTURE in the country, the service provided by VISTA members becomes paramount to help gain employment and economic independence of one of our most vulnerable communities.
Some of her many accomplishments include creating a brand new website, producing video content for social media platforms as well as making the program’s first podcast, Able Ed, with several downloadable episodes (listen here!). She led trainings to help volunteer mentor’s provide assistance and companionship to their paired FUTURE participant, planned multiple events including a wildly successful End-of- Year banquet celebrating the students and accomplishments of the year, and created webinars for parents seeking better futures for their sons or daughters with disabilities.
During her time onsite, Meredith has worked with 15 students in the program to receive job training, recruited and managed 55 volunteers who contributed 4908 volunteer hours to aid participants in the FUTURE program through their college life. Recently, Meredith created a video montage of the incoming students reading their acceptance letters and celebrating their admittance to the program.
You can hear in their voices, in their families excitement, in their disbelief, nervousness, and joy, that this program means everything to them. For those grumbling about another semester, or another day at work, or another homework assignment, remember that you are fortunate to have these experiences.
Meredith hopes to create more opportunities for students in her next position serving in City Year in beautiful Boulder, Colorado. Thanks Meredith- for everything you’ve done for our community and the future of these supremely grateful students.
This blog post is a collection of personal reflections and expressions. All opinions represented are those of the author and do not represent the official opinion or views of the Knoxville – Knox County Community Action Committee, CAC AmeriCorps or any other party referenced.