Service Highlight: Project Planning

Riah Coley is an AmeriCorps VISTA member in the GEP Planner position. In this role, they provide behind-the-scenes support to the other VISTAs in Taskforce Coordinator roles, as well as to GEP as a whole. One aspect of their service that they’re most proud of this year is working on Project Planning with the other VISTAs as they develop and implement projects within the community to help support students in the Grinnell area. They shared a little about this process for AmeriCorps Week.


VISTA members Jill Harris, Ziggy Thétard, and Grace Morrison share their thoughts during a planning session.


Share a little with us about this aspect of your service:

Project Planning is a process where I sit down with the GEP Taskforce Coordinators to walk through several aspects of each of their projects, such as who a project aims to reach, what data and research supports the development of the project, and who they are partnering with in the community. It helps Taskforce Coordinators go through the process with a fine-tooth comb, and the discussion can bring up new potential connections, highlight where they still need support, or just help them better articulate exactly what the plan is.


Why is this aspect of service important to the community? To you?

One way that project plans are important to the community is that they document how a VISTA worked through and accomplished a project – what connections they made, what similar programs they built on, how funding was provided. This is important for continuity and sustainability, as VISTA positions are often only one- to two-year commitments. This way, once an AmeriCorps member completes their service, they leave a blueprint for the next person stepping into their role to sustain the project.


What has been your favorite part of Project Planning?

I really love speaking to the other AmeriCorps members and hearing their plans. I feel lucky to get an inside look, and it’s lovely to hear them speak passionately about their plans and all of the research that has gone into their projects!


What is the best part of being an AmeriCorps member at GEP?

Having just moved to Grinnell in August, being a part of GEP has connected me

to so many amazing people in the community doing wonderful work.

Being an AmeriCorps service member is a dream come true for my younger self – volunteerism and service has always been important to me, and I had recently gotten so involved in my career that I had lost sight of that in some ways. I am happy to be able to give my time to an organization that prioritizes education for all students and works collaboratively to find ways to support those who need it.

Riah volunteering in Nepal, 2009.


Thank you for your service, Riah!