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Minnesota State College Southeast
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Katryn Conlin, Communications Director, Office: 651-385-6364

Graduate returns to Minnesota State College Southeast as Basic Needs Outreach Specialist through AmeriCorps VISTA program

Akilah Childs in food pantryRed Wing, MN (January 27, 2021) - When she was a student at Minnesota State College Southeast, Akilah Childs made a major impact, serving on Student Senate, working as a peer tutor, planning campus-wide events, and helping Student Services with recruiting and admissions. She graduated from the college's Early Childhood Education program in 2016.

"A lot of people at Southeast were very supportive of my success and helping me find my way. I made really strong connections with my teachers, my advisors, and people in student affairs," explained Akilah. "I think I found myself here. It's very fulfilling and it makes me feel good to know that I made an impact."

Now MSC Southeast is excited to welcome Akilah back! In January 2021, Akilah returned to college in a new role -- as a Basic Needs Outreach Specialist through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. She will provide service on both the Red Wing and Winona campuses, developing new relationships within the communities to help college students in need.

AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) member volunteers serve full time in non-profit organizations and public agencies for one-year terms. Through capacity building activities such as fundraising, grant writing, research, and volunteer recruitment AmeriCorps members in the VISTA program serve in an office setting and gain experience and leadership skills. This opportunity prepares members for a life of service in the public, private, or nonprofit sector.

MSC Southeast Academic Success Coordinator Arielle Pompilius, who has served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer herself, was instrumental in applying for the college's participation in the program. "We have been awarded a five-year grant to participate. In the first year, we are in Phase One, which is needs assessment," Arielle said. "Phase Two runs for three years and is focused on building community partnerships. And in the final year of the grant, we will survey the program's efficacy."

This semester Akilah is focused on expanding and organizing the college's food pantries. "We know that food insecurity is an issue that is impacting students not only nationally but also locally. A 2019 survey of Minnesota State 2-year college students reported that one in three ran short on food, and 26% said they went hungry," said Melissa Carrington-Irwin, MSC Southeast Associate Dean of Students & Director of Student Success.

By offering students access to fresh food and non-perishable staples, the college hopes to reduce the stress of wondering where their next meal will come from. "We want to normalize the idea of getting help, remove the stigma," Akilah stated, "Especially in a time like now with COVID-19, everybody could use a little bit of help."

Photo Caption: Akilah Childs, a 2016 graduate of Minnesota State College Southeast, has returned to the college as a Basic Needs Outreach Specialist. 


About Minnesota State College Southeast

Minnesota State College Southeast is a two-year technical and community college that prepares students for a lifetime of learning by providing education for employment, skill enhancement, retraining, and transfer, to meet the needs of students and the community. The Winona campus opened in 1949, merging with the Red Wing campus in 1992 and updating its name to Minnesota State College Southeast in 2016 with the change of mission to offer both technical training and the associate of arts degree. Minnesota State College Southeast is a member of Minnesota State. For more information, visit

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RED WING CAMPUS | 308 Pioneer Road | Red Wing, MN 55066
WINONA CAMPUS | 1250 Homer Road | Winona, MN 55987
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