AmeriCorps Member Spotlight: Georgiana Chevry

July 12, 2021

Georgiana Chevry serves as an AmeriCorps member with Campus Compact VISTA at a project hosted by the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education.

Tell us a bit about your project!
Massachusetts is the first state to address homelessness and housing insecurity among college students as a matter of intentional, state-level public policy. Our goal is to create a national model of evidence-informed interventions and best practices to help students move from crisis to opportunity, self-sufficiency, and dignity. The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Basic Needs Security Initiative is the result of various campus housing pilots with a deliberate focus on the homeless and housing insecurity needs of unaccompanied and homeless college students. This initiative’s work is inclusive of the faculty, staff, and administration who are committed to producing graduates who exemplify the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education’s mission “ to ensure that Massachusetts residents have the opportunity to benefit from a higher education that enriches their lives and advances their contributions to the civic life, economic development, and social progress of the Commonwealth.” This initiative’s campus housing pilots launched in 2019 following the release of a 2018 survey of Massachusetts public colleges and universities conducted by the HOPE Lab at the University of Wisconsin (now the Hope Center for College, Community and Justice at Temple University).

As an AmeriCorps VISTA member, I joined the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s (DHE) effort about two years after the launch. Since the beginning of my service in 2020, I have served across all three segments of the Massachusetts public higher education system and DHE’s sister agencies – the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The focus of my work is through collaborative inter-agency dialogues and solution-finding that eliminates siloed planning and establishes an environment that is cross-collaborative in nature. A developing best practice from my work is to align the Basic Needs Security Agenda with DHE’s Equity Agenda and New Undergraduate Experience. Additionally, I have had the opportunity to facilitate partnership growth across Massachusetts’ public college and university campuses, local Youth Services Providers (YSPs), and state agencies, throughout the Commonwealth.

What have you learned from your AmeriCorps VISTA service?
My time as an AmeriCorps VISTA has deeply illustrated the value of an AmeriCorps VISTA to be part of ushering in systemic and sustainable policy change. I work with and as a part of a team of people who are building a solution to make higher education more affordable and accessible for marginalized youth populations, specifically unaccompanied and homeless youth.

What advice would you give to a new AmeriCorps VISTA?
Tell them, tell them that you told them and tell them again. This approach is a cornerstone to relationship building, outreach, and building highly effective partnership teams.

What is your proudest achievement from your time with AmeriCorps VISTA?
My proudest achievement from my time as an AmeriCorps VISTA is the relationships that I have developed, with my supervisor and various pilot project partners. These relationships have afforded me the ability to deeply apply my higher education administration, data, public policy and economic knowledge, education, and experiences throughout my AmeriCorps VISTA work. My work has both developed processes and protocols that are creating new equitable and affordable bridges into public higher education in Massachusetts for unaccompanied and homeless youth – a student population now intentionally included in the conversation of marginalized college-going student populations. Ultimately, all of this work rolls up into creating Massachusetts’ first inter-agency state-level policy response to homelessness and housing insecurity among college students with evidence-informed interventions and best practices.

Georgiana Chevry

Georgiana Chevry

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