Serving with TRIO by Alex Lee

February 29, 2024
Alex Lee is an AmeriCorps College Coach serving at Fort Peck Community College.

For the last time I wrote a blog post, I talked about making a difference.  I stated that making a difference was done through relentless discipline, doing a little something all the time to make a big change in the future. The work I do on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis was meant to be beneficial for the people in the Native American community. However, making a difference is harder than it seems. There are roadblocks and missteps that have happened which were my fault. The bad actions led to poor or no progress at all. But despite this, I will make large projects that benefit the community in Poplar.

Recently, I switched service sites from Poplar High School to Fort Peck Community College. Luckily for me, the community college is in the same town as the high school; so, I ended up moving right across the street from the original service site. With my service in the college, I again tried to make a positive difference where I was stationed.  This time I am doing it through the TRIO department, which focuses on Student Services. My position allows me to help the students in the community college with whatever they need to help them graduate.

While working with the TRIO department, I am tasked with creating initiatives that focus on student success. So, I started thinking of projects to do just that. However, I was extra motivated because of a one-on-one AmeriCorps meeting with one of my supervisors. She wanted me to start communicating more with my bosses at the Fort Peck Community College about future projects. So, I did. After talking to my supervisors, they suggested that we should do some fundraising for the community. There was a need for items such as blankets and clothing items, like shoes, socks, T-shirts, jackets, and pants.  So, me and my bosses agreed to getting these resources for the children in Poplar. I started by researching retail stores that could give me these essentials, like Nike, Adidas, The Big Blanket Company, etc. I found their contact information. I started making phone calls and writing emails to these companies. I tried to appeal to the consciousness of big industries, asking for resources. I ended up having a lot of companies not emailing me back, even after I explained the situation. As I wrote this blog post, only one company contacted me back. Not to say the other companies will not let me know in the future if I have received the donations. They just have not messaged me back yet.  

After more or less failing to get resources from big name companies, there needed to be a new project to get essentials for the Native American community. I ended up talking again to my site supervisor at the Fort Peck Community College. He told me about an idea called a Chinese Auction, which is supposed to be very popular in Montana especially among Native American communities. The Chinese auction is a combination of a silent auction and raffle. On a side note, it does not involve donations from large companies which makes it easier for me to fundraise for. Instead, the donated prizes will come from my peers at the community college. The Chinese Auction will take these prizes to be won off raffle-style, where people participating will buy tickets to increase their chances of getting one of the prizes presented. The money made from tickets will be used directly to benefit the students at the community college. The fundraising is going to help the school with resources for classes and food for students. However, the main focus of the money has not yet been created, but the money will go directly to the school in a meaningful way. The event is not until April so I have a lot of time to prepare for the auction. Hopefully, the more work I put in, the more money we will raise.

Additionally, I am working on other fairly-large projects as well for the students of FPCC. I am currently creating short monthly videos on historical figures for the Native Students. The videos are meant to have a meaningful message and lesson, through a legendary person, that can be used to benefit these students. For me, I am happy to start making projects for FPCC through AmeriCorps, because the Native American community is very resilient and they have also been through a lot of traumatic experiences. That being said, the focus for the rest of services is to create projects that have a large and positive impact on the Native American community; I will support the Sioux and Assiniboine people more for the rest of my service.

I am determined to help the community, and with assistance from my colleagues I am able to help others.  There were some small roadblocks and some difficulties. However, through communicating with my peers I found a big idea that will stick with the Chinese Auction. I would like to thank my AmeriCorps supervisors for their support and for approving the fundraising project. Now I am making a much larger contribution to the college and its students. Through the success of my latest fundraising event, the historical videos, and many more projects to come, I will be able to improve student success and also make a happier community in the process.

In the next four and a-half months, there is still plenty more work that needs to be done. With the Fort Peck Community College, there will be volunteer options more so in the Spring. I just have to stay here long enough and I will be generously surprised by what I find.  Also, if I keep cooperating with my peers, I can continue to create more events that can improve the community.  Additionally, I need to be creative with my approach when it comes to making projects. If I do a good enough job, I will have a change that will continue after I am done with my service with AmeriCorps.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” -Mahatma Gandhi