VISTA Spotlight: Lekisha Pittman

November 22, 2019

VISTA Spotlight

Lekisha Pittman: AmeriCorps VISTA at East Carolina University

If you’ve ever wondered why someone decides to commit to a year of service in North Carolina, you’re in the right place.  Since 2003, NC Campus Compact has sponsored over 200 individuals who have served as AmeriCorps VISTA members across the state.  In this VISTA

Spotlight series, you will meet our newest cohort of NC Afterschool Corps and NC Hunger Corps members, learn what led them to national service, and find out where they are serving and what activities they are engaged in during their year.

It is our pleasure to introduce you to NC Hunger Corps member Lekisha Pittman who started her service year in February 2019.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you were doing before becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA member.

Hello!  I’m Lekisha Pittman, and I was born and raised in High Point, NC. I graduated from East Carolina University in December 2016. Upon transferring from community college to ECU, I had dreams of becoming a nurse because I wanted to heal people. After several conversations with my advisor, I came to the realization, through my experience with the Campus Kitchen at ECU, that I can heal through food. Before becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA member, I worked almost two years at LabCorp as a Healthcare Billing Specialist. During that time, I also served as an Alumni Advisor for the Campus Kitchens Project serving a total of six universities over two years.  As an Alumni Advisor I would check in each month with the Universities and advise the staff and student leaders on their Campus Kitchen projects.

What drew you to national service and ultimately led you to applying to become a VISTA?

I was led to national service by my experience with four AmeriCorps VISTAs that served at East Carolina University in the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement. Two of the VISTAs served for the Campus Kitchen at ECU during my time as a student leader with the program. I applied to different VISTA programs as I was graduating from college, but ultimately had to make the decision to go home for a family situation. After all of that settled, I was able to renew my passion for service and decided to take the leap into serving with AmeriCorps VISTA.

Tell us a little about your host site and the region of North Carolina where you’re serving.

I am serving at East Carolina University in Pitt County.  At ECU, my service position is within the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement with three hunger initiative programs: ECU Purple Pantry, Greenville Community Garden, and the Campus Kitchen at ECU (CKECU). Purple Pantry is ECU’s on-campus student pantry for students experiencing food insecurity. CKECU is a student-led program that recovers food from the campus dining hall to repurpose into a meal for community partners including JOY Soup Kitchen, Little Willie Center, Operation Sunshine, and Ronald McDonald House. CKECU also provides nutrition education lessons to Greenville Community Garden which provides fresh produce to our community partners First Born Community Development Center and JOY Soup Kitchen.

In Pitt County, located in eastern North Carolina, the food insecurity rate is 20.1%. Eastern NC is a rural area and infused with agricultural farmland. Unfortunately, the access to food is a challenge and, moreover, there is not plentiful access to healthy food. Greenville, NC is the retail center for many of the surrounding small towns.  The residents travel to Greenville to shop for groceries as there are several surrounding towns that do not have a grocery. With the efforts of many other community members that are working to make sure that we decrease food insecurity, I do believe that our region is taking the right steps in correcting this issue.

Since VISTAs are considered capacity builders, what capacity building activities are you involved in at your placement?

I am involved in several different types of capacity building activities.  First, I manage volunteer engagement and recruitment across all of the projects I’m serving.  I am also engaged in building and promoting meaningful partnerships among different stakeholders.  For instance, I work closely with the Pitt County Farm and Food council.  I also coordinated a partnership with the College of Engineering and Technology to create a supply chain system for the Purple Pantry.  Finally, I worked with the national Campus Kitchen program to transition the Campus Kitchen at ECU to a stand-alone organization.

I have also been involved in fund and grant raising activities.  During my service year, we have been awarded two $1,000 grants for the Purple Pantry and the Greenville Community Garden.

Lastly, I have worked to plan several Alternative Break Experiences hosted by the Center for Leadership and Civic Engagement for current ECU students.

What have you learned about yourself, so far, through this experience?

So far, I have learned that I do have a voice and can be a spokesperson for humans that may not have that privilege to express their needs. Whether that is to be an advocate for someone that is not being heard or serving as their support. I have learned that I do have a true love for working with college-aged students. They bring me joy each and every day even though I was recently the college student and in a similar spot.

What are your plans when you finish your service year and what are your career aspirations?

My plan for when I finish my service year is to enter graduate school. I am planning to serve a second year as an AmeriCorps VISTA and near the end of my second term, I will enter the Master of Public Administration program at East Carolina University.

Finally, in your experience, what is the very best thing about being an AmeriCorps VISTA?

The best thing about being an AmeriCorps VISTA is to be able to learn about yourself in ways that you may not have imagined before. I love that I get to take the initiative to create and mold new initiatives or parts of an existing program to create lasting change.

 

We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know Lekisha and learning about the good service she is carrying out at East Carolina University.  We are also very excited Lekisha has decided to stay on for a second service year.  We can’t wait to see all she accomplishes in the coming months!

NC Campus Compact VISTA members commit to a year of service through the NC Hunger Corps or the NC Afterschool Corps.  For more information about our VISTA program, please visit https://www.nccampuscompact.org/our-work/americorps-vista/ or contact Erin Odoyo at eodoyo {at} elon(.)edu.