Name: Leann Heath
Host Site: College Unbound
Where’d you go to school? College Unbound at Roger Williams University
What do you want to be when you grow up? A community developing artist educator. If you hear of any openings, let me know!
If you could have any super power, what would it be? To fold time.
Story of Service
I was a single mother who never got a chance to finish college. At the age of 30, I decided it was finally time and enrolled at Roger Williams University. There, I discovered a program called College Unbound, an individualized project-based approach for adult learners. Without that program, it would have taken me years to finish my degree one class at a time. Because of everything College Unbound had done to help me to the finish line, it was important to me that I give back in some way. So, I applied for the VISTA position. As a VISTA, I am working in two different areas to build capacity in College Unbound’s final year as a pilot program. Everything I do there is important, but one of my biggest jobs is student recruitment.
Over the last four years, College Unbound has been a pilot program trying to find its niche. Recruitment has been based on recommendations and word-of-mouth. The program has never had more than 50 students. My job, along with one other staff member, is to take our current 32 students to 225 students. At one of our team meetings, I was asked how I would run recruitment if money wasn’t an issue. I said we needed our name out there, and should be running an ad campaign. I was put in charge of creating a plan.
I’ve worked close to marketing in the past, but I haven’t had the experience of creating a marketing plan. It’s been exciting. I’ve had to learn to read rate cards, and understand media buys. I’m putting together suggestions, and budgets, and calendars, and press releases. I’m learning a skill set through my VISTA work that I didn’t get in college, and might not have been able to get through a traditional career track. I’m also preparing College Unbound to put itself out there, and grow in a way it can’t without public attention.
I’m out in the community talking to people every day. I meet new people. I spread the word about College Unbound. We hold an Open House each month so that potential new students can come meet the staff, current students, and get all of their questions about the program answered.
At our first Open House this year, a woman asked to speak to me privately. She told me how she’d had to drop out of high school, and became a single mom. After fighting to get her GED, she never thought she would have a chance to go to college. She was at the Open House as moral support for a friend. I’d changed her mind, and she was asking how she could become a student at College Unbound.
If I only managed to help this one woman, I’d say my time as a VISTA was entirely successful. I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to the rest of my service year.