Want to serve the community of Wyandotte County and improve community health?
Seeking: Motivated, flexible and passionate individuals who are willing to dedicate a year helping us to engage, empower and improve our community.
Three years ago, we partnered with the Corporation for National and Community Service to create an AmeriCorps VISTA program that could support the work our city government is doing to create positive change in Wyandotte County, Kansas. That partnership has grown, and we now have 9 full-time, year-long VISTA positions serving different departments at the city. By their nature, governments exist to serve the public. And when we’re doing it right, we are entrusting our staff to get out from behind their computers and go listen to people, build coalitions and find creative ways to bring services to those in need.
Our VISTA members don’t sit at the kids’ table. You’ll have ground level access and be asked to take on a lot of responsibility. If you’re up for the work, you’ll likely be surprised at what you’re able to accomplish. To date our VISTAs have: built websites, developed full-fledged messaging campaigns, successfully written grants, visited prisons to help inmates sign up for health insurance, lobbied Commissioners for the right to keep backyard hens, helped implement water tap programs for urban farmers, drafted communications plans, led county-wide listening tours, organized bicycle donations for kids in need and worked with the Bloomberg Foundation to come up with innovative ways to reduce neighborhood blight.
Reach out if you have questions, and find out more about our positions below. If you’re interested, email your resume and cover letter to firstname.lastname@example.org. We look forward to meeting you!
Wyandotte County has a remarkable and diverse history. Of approximately 162,000 residents, we are one of only two counties in the country with both African American and Hispanic communities that comprise over 25% of the population. We are a community on the rise. And while we’ve seen a lot of growth, development and positive change in the last couple of decades, we still face a challenging economic climate, where 23% of residents live below the poverty level.
AmeriCorps VISTA is a national anti-poverty service program. There is no traditional pay, but participants receive a living allowance and limited benefits, like health care and payment toward your student loans. Does that make you nervous? We get it. Not everyone is in a position in their life to serve for a year for not much money. But if you care about improving communities, if you’re looking for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop your professional skills AND make a difference, we’ll make it worth your while.
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A healthy community is also a safe community. The VISTA member working with the Safe Communities Project will be intimately involved in a Health Department based effort to increase intentional violence & injury prevention, reduce traffic safety injuries & fatalities, as well as supporting programs for kids who walk & bike to school. These efforts employ strategies which use the 5 E's (education, enforcement, engineering, emergency response, and evaluation) that assure empowerment and equity among those served.
Working alongside the Chief Knowledge Officer, this VISTA will build capacity within the Unified Government to use data to support improved planning and decision making around health outcomes and economic opportunity. The Knowledge Department provides technology, mapping, project management, and data analysis support to all Unified Government departments. This VISTA will support data analysis for the Community Health Improvement Plan, the Health Department's lead reduction activities, and the judicial system's opioid tracking efforts.
Wyandotte County has a housing crisis. White - and economic - flight in the 1960s left housing stock to deteriorate. Now, Wyandotte County's urban core is mainly low-income families with few resources to maintain older properties in poor condition. Two VISTA members assigned to our new SOAR Program will work with a cross-departmental team that has resolved to aggressively attack both the causes and symptoms that lead to blight and vacancy.
Community Health Improvement (5 positions)
In 2017, the Wyandotte County Health Department completed a Community Health Assessment that surfaced community
priorities around health. Four key areas were chosen: violence, access to health services, access to safe and affordable housing, and access to jobs and education. The Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) is a community-wide effort to improve health outcomes by addressing the four areas identified through the assessment. A VISTA member will support the four areas of the CHIP with implementing evidence-based strategies. This position is a one-year commitment through the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
The Unified Government VISTA program aims to improve the health and well-being of Wyandotte County residents
through efforts focusing on the social determinants of health. The VISTA Leader will build the capacity of this multidimensional program by streamlining reporting across the program, developing and implementing marketing and
recruitment materials, and providing support for the VISTA members serving in subsites across Wyandotte County.
VISTA Leaders are required to have served at least one year as a standard VISTA member.
The goal of the From Our Neighborhoods Up (Neighborhoods Up) initiative is to invest in Wyandotte County neighborhoods in order to increase quality of life for existing residents and to attract new ones. The initiative aims to improve the quality of neighborhood-based services, build infrastructure on vacant lots, and use incremental steps to clean up neighborhoods to unlock the potential of neighborhoods in our community and build a great community from the neighborhoods up. This VISTA will build capacity within the Mayor’s Office Neighborhoods Up initiative. They will engage stakeholders and lead efforts to promote the initiative, provide administrative report, and work alongside related Unified Government departments to implement neighborhood development strategies.
Wyandotte County is a high poverty community (21.9% poverty compared to KS average of 13.6%) that holds 5.6% of
the population of Kansas but 9.2% of its uninsured. The infant mortality rate in Wyandotte County is 7.7 per 1,000 live
births, higher than the Kansas state average of 6.1. Additionally, a significant disparity exists with black and Hispanic babies more than twice as likely to die before their first birthday as white babies. A VISTA member will support the Fetal Infant Mortality Review team with recruitment of stakeholders and community members, creating action plans and interventions to reduce infant mortality, and generating resources to implement evidence-based strategies. This
position is a one-year commitment through the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
Wyandotte County has one of the highest food insecurity rates (17%) in both Kansas and the Kansas City Metropolitan Area. This means that 1 in 6 of our community residents might not know where their next meal is coming from. Many of our neighborhoods also have limited access to a full service grocery store, and many residents shop at convenience or dollar stores, which rarely have anything other than highly processed options. This means that many people in our community have poor health outcomes like diabetes, malnourishment, and even certain types of cancers. The Healthy Food Access Advocate will assist HCW’s Food Systems Action Team as it works to strengthen the food system in Wyandotte County. VISTA activities with the Food Systems Action Team include administering various food systems projects, meeting with city staff and community members to analyze and improve local ordinances and policies, and grant seeking to support these efforts.
Learn more about VISTA !
Meredith Keith, 2015 VISTA alumna
VISTA prepared me for the next step in my journey, hopefully as a clinician. I found motivation for obtaining a medical degree in the hopes of serving those who cannot easily access health care. It is my belief that everyone deserves health and I will fight to provide what I can for these individuals. I am extremely grateful to all of those who helped me this year and am forever indebted to VISTA for sending this challenge my way. There is no doubt in my mind I am a better person as a result of this experience and I would recommend this opportunity for growth to everyone. It’s my belief that life is about challenging ourselves and learning from our experiences whether we fall or stay standing. I fell a few times this year, but I learned from my falls and in the future I will be equipped with the tools to know how to stay standing through similar perils. Thank you VISTA, thank you Wyandotte County, and thank you everyone I met this year who helped support me in my growth.
Lucas Behrens, 2016 VISTA alumnus
Serving in Mayor Holland's office as an Americorps VISTA was an amazing opportunity. Working alongside many community partners, I was able to learn about the governmental processes in KCK specifically, and also about how local government works more generally, all in a setting that encourages growth. I greatly enjoyed my time in the VISTA program, and I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to better understand and work in local government.
Sarah Hartwig, current VISTA
VISTA has been an incredible experience so far. Being a healthy food access advocate has helped solidify my desire to find a career in the food system and has expanded my horizons. I never would have had the opportunity to work on so many different projects or meet such amazing people if I had not taken this position. This experience has taught me how to work with many diverse community partners and help build coalitions, as well as to better understand the inner workings of local and state government. It has been a year of great personal growth and learning, and I wouldn't trade it for anything.