Alumni Shane Barton Receives Award at VISTA 50th Celebration

July 6, 2015

On June 29 OSMRE/VISTA Alumni Shane Barton received the “Community Solutions Spotlight Award” in recognition of his service as an AmeriCorps VISTA and his continued service to the 54 Appalachian counties of eastern Kentucky. Barton currently serves as the Assistant Director of the University of Kentucky Appalachian Center which is an interdisciplinary center that emphasizes community – university partnerships and facilitates stronger connections between students, faculty and communities across the 54 Appalachian counties of Kentucky.  The award was presented by AmeriCorps VISTA Director Paul Monteiro - current VISTAs, Alumni, representatives from CNCS, and sponsoring organizations were in attendance in Berea Kentucky to celebrate 50 years of AmeriCorps VISTA.
Barton served as an OSMRE/VISTA with the Upper Tennessee River Roundtable on the Appalachian Coal Country Watershed Team from 2005-07. As a VISTA, Barton worked with a variety of partners including local watershed organizations, government agencies, non-profits and municipalities including Cedar Bluff, VA to address water quality issues, ecological diversity, local economic development, and education.  He wrote grants for ecological restoration using low impact development and interpretative historical trails to increase access to the outdoors, health, wellness and local history in the rural Appalachian community he served.
Barton said of his VISTA service, “The philosophy and the approach I learned from being a VISTA, the philosophy of valuing the people that you are working with, and respecting the inherent assets of the places and people we serve, is something that I have carried with me.”
Along with project development and management duties, and creating community partnerships to develop practicum experiences for students, Shane directs an extensive internship program including the UK Tomorrow Corps, a long term tutoring and mentoring program in partnership with local libraries and family resource and youth service centers that provides opportunities for University of Kentucky students to serve Appalachian communities. There are approximately 30 students in the field this summer working on a variety of projects including community and economic development, local museum support, farm to school programs, and the tutoring and mentoring programs.   The capacity building elements of VISTA service such as partnership development, fundraising, and program development can be seen in Barton’s current work.
When asked if he has any advice for current VISTAs, Barton said that he learned an important lesson from a community volunteer during his first month of VISTA service:  “In our relationships with communities it is incredibly important that we under-commit, and over-perform because by doing the opposite we create detrimental impacts for our partners and our projects.”