Maker AmeriCorps VISTA at the Da Vinci Center in Stockton, CA: Connecting Community Through Making

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Abigail Avila & Thomas Hornyak were sworn in to the VISTA program as part of the Maker Ed Initiative on Nov. 22nd in L.A. The next day they moved to their new community, Stockton, during Thanksgiving week and started work at the Da Vinci Center for Innovative Learning. Since the volunteers had no housing, they stayed with some locals in the community through Couchsurfing.org. These friendly people were Tandy and Micheal Gotschall, a retired librarian and chief operations officer at the Gospel Center Rescue Mission (www.gcrms.org).

Abi and Tom attended a community meeting on Dec. 5th about community gardens where they saw a very passionate and outspoken individual arguing for the community he lives in. Later the volunteers talked to him and found out his name was Dave Cicileo, president of Restore Stockton (www.restorestockton.com) Restore Stockton is a self started community organization dedicated to improving the life around the neighborhood and eliminating poverty. Dave was invited to the Da Vinci Center on Dec. 9th and was so overjoyed that he wanted to start sending 15+ youth to the center next day.

Abi and Tom were also introduced to Nicole Porter and Nora who are afterschool coordinators. They signed the VISTAs up for Teen Truth training on Jan. 6th about working with youth and filmmaking. Nicole and Nora are also connected with 20+ out of school programs in which the volunteers will scout out for potential maker youth programs.

Looking further down the road is The Next center. The Next is a new project headed by the superintendent Mick Founts, it is a 7,200sqft warehouse that will be equipped with brand new tools such as 3d printers and laser cutters. This center has potential to be an ideal learning center for students during the week, space for afterschool clubs, and an active makerspace for the public in the evenings and weekends. The estimated time for the grand opening is April.

 The Da Vinci Center has expressed interest in seeking out potential sponsors for scholarships, grants, and mentorships for the youth. The VISTAs have agreed to hold a “Youth Innovation Showcase” in March which will be a invite-only fair for big companies to gather and learn about the projects that the students have been working on. It will be a fair for the students, by the students hosted by the Da Vinci Center.

Currently Abi and Tom are applying for a Mini Maker Faire for Stockton sometime in July.  This will be Stockton’s first ever faire and would be an excellent way to unify the surrounding makerspaces, showcase The Next center, and inspire not only the students but hundreds in the community as a whole. A perfect way to train future VISTAs about what the maker movement is all about.

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