We are back to share the next installment in our blog series to spotlight our AmeriCorps VISTAs and member organizations who host VISTAs during their year of service. Our host sites are the backbone of our VISTA program. Host site supervisors commit to guiding and mentoring members through their service year and are an instrumental asset for our VISTA’s professional development.
Today, we are spotlighting NC Afterschool Corps VISTA Kieran Layne, affectionately called “Wolfie” by the student Leaders with whom he works. Kieran is currently serving at UNC Asheville (UNCA) and focusing his service on building the capacity of the Marvelous Math Club (MMC), which is a partnership between UNCA, Asheville City Public Schools, and the Asheville Public Housing Authority. Before Kieran’s VISTA service, he participated in MMC as a Math Champion (volunteer tutor) in the program. He was thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working with this organization in a capacity-building role as an NC Afterschool Corps VISTA.
Marvelous Math Club uses a racial equity lens to develop leadership skills through celebrating math. They prioritize asset-based language, social/emotional learning, leadership, and community. Math Champions (volunteer tutors from UNCA and the surrounding community) work with Leaders (Asheville City elementary school students who are living in public housing communities) to complete homework, play math games, and celebrate math! They also focus on building leadership skills, confidence, and friendship. The program takes place in the community in which the students live. By participating in Marvelous Math Club, not only are they building math and leadership skills, but they are building community with their neighbors.
Kieran works with the creators of Marvelous Math Club, Sam Kaplan, Chair and Professor of Mathematics at UNCA, and Marta Alcala-Williams, Parent/Family Engagement Coordinator of Asheville City Schools, who serve as the co-host site supervisors of this VISTA position. You can hear from them in this podcast presented by the Blue Ridge Public Radio, where they even shout out the first VISTA who served with MMC: https://www.bpr.org/post/marvelous-math-club-waters-harvey-show#stream/0
The UNCA Math Department’s partnership with Marvelous Math Club reflects the University’s commitment to collaborative partnerships throughout the community. The partnership also provides an avenue for UNCA students, faculty, and staff to engage in the community with area elementary school students.
Asheville Housing Authority is an integral partner in this collaboration. Not only does the Housing Authority provide space for Marvelous Math Club meetings, but it has encouraged residents of the community to serve as Math Champions with Marvelous Math Club by providing stipends to compensate for their time.
Teachers at Asheville City Schools correspond with MMC weekly to ensure that the program’s materials are complimenting the material that Leaders are learning in schools. Teachers also join the Club to support Leaders and Champions.
Kieran is reaching the end of his service, and we are proud all he has done to increase the capacity of this outstanding organization. During his service with MMC, he has helped transition their programing online and identify ways to keep Champions connected with their Leaders during the pandemic. He has also cultivated connections and strengthened relationships with other community organizations, maintained and upgraded software, and coordinated meeting times with the Champions and Leaders, when safe and possible.
Upon completing his year of service in April, Kieran plans on completing his degrees in Math and Physics.
To learn more about Marvelous Math Club, visit their Instagram at @marvelousmathclub.