Taylor Danner and Rebekah Gaus advocate for students on OHIO’s regional campuses
Whether it be offering students meals for the holidays or working to open a Cat’s Cupboard, AmeriCorps members Taylor Danner and Rebekah Gaus are advocating for students on OHIO’s regional campuses.
AmeriCorps is a nationwide program dedicated to placing volunteers in non-profits and community organizations to help build communities and address the problems facing those communities. As AmeriCorps members, Danner and Gaus are doing just that.
Danner completed her first year with AmeriCorps in Pike County when she was 19. Now, 10 years later, she is participating in the program again and serves as the student resource center coordinator at the Hilltopper Resource Center at Ohio University Chillicothe. Danner said that she saw this as a full-circle opportunity to help others who could be in a situation she has been in. As a single mother with a lower income, she used the clothing closet on campus when she had a professional meeting. She also appreciates the opportunity to earn a living stipend to provide for herself and her family. Danner sees the value in the AmeriCorps program and loves the personal and development opportunities she has had along the way.
“Throughout the program, there are so many different training opportunities, and they really focus on professional development,” Danner said. “This isn't just an opportunity to make money. This is an opportunity to grow in your professional self and help people along the way.”
The Hilltopper Resource Center is relatively new for OHIO Chillicothe and Danner knew that a program needed to be created that spread the word about the center. Last semester, the center offered full Thanksgiving meals to students with support from members of the Chillicothe community and OHIO faculty. In the first 72 hours after posting the registration form, 12 students had emailed the center. Danner says many of the students who received meals also took advantage of the resource center by taking other food, hygiene products, and clothing.
Gaus is also a student resource center coordinator, serving the OHIO Zanesville campus. In her role, Gaus assists students in connecting to resources they may need. She helps students with anything from finding housing to accessing food, finding transportation and medical care, as well as finding resources for substance abuse, counseling and tutoring. Additionally, the center created a survey to gauge the needs of students and help them get the information they need. In her first semester as an AmeriCorps member, Gaus also worked toward establishing a career closet and Cat’s Cupboard on campus to alleviate the stigma surrounding food insecurity for people needing the resource.
“I just like helping my fellow classmates,” she said. “Helping the students with things and providing them with resources that would help them to succeed in school so they can become what they want to become.”
The centers may have started small but they are quickly expanding to provide more resources for students on all OHIO campuses. Gaus and Danner both enjoy the work they do and love making a positive impact in their community and in the lives of others.
“Even though I'm not the one that would be the main provider of these resources, I'm connecting [students] to things that would help them not decline, but ascend up the mountain,” Gaus said.
Danner and Gaus serve as AmeriCorps members through Ohio Campus Compact's Student Resource Center initiative. Stephanie Dodd, the executive director for Ohio Campus Compact said, "Ohio Campus Compact is honored to work with Ohio University and proud of the service Taylor and Rebekah are providing to support OHIO students. We are committed to supporting our campuses and their students to help eliminate barriers to academic success."
For more information about the AmeriCorps program, go to: https://ohiocampuscompact.org/what-we-do-2/initiatives/americorps-student-resource-centers/