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Michigan AmeriCorps Member Receives Sara Ballard Volunteerism Scholarship
Ayla Tulette is passionate about sustainability, climate resiliency, and urban farming and has the desire to get involved in agriculture and community-strengthening efforts.
The AmeriCorps member’s passion and desire was recently recognized as Tulette received the Sara Ballard Volunteerism Scholarship to attend the Points of Light National Conference on Volunteering and Service this year. The scholarship is intended to assist volunteers and/or young professionals in the field of volunteer management from Michigan and Washington.
Tulette also received a letter from Nancy and Jim Ballard–Sara’s parents–that described Sara, her love for the Points of Light Conference, her volunteerism goals, and their hopes for what the scholarship will provide its recipients.
“For me, the scholarship will allow me to have an experience not previously accessible to me, and I anticipate learning so much and connecting with a ton of great people,” said Ayla.
The same values and passions that led to Tulette being awarded this scholarship also landed them their year-long AmeriCorps position with Ingham Country Health Department’s Edgewood Village Network Center. Edgewood Village Nonprofit’s mission is to empower families and individuals by providing access to food security, affordable housing, educational opportunities, and community programming.
“I immediately knew I would be honored to be able to spend my time tending their community garden and educating about healthy lifestyles and gardening to residents,” said Ayla. “It felt like a no-brainer to spend a year being an AmeriCorps member at Edgewood.”
Ayla’s duties at Edgewood include assisting community gardeners and providing them with gardening support, planting, watering, and tending Edgewood’s garden plots that provide residents with fresh produce, and leading volunteer events that include community partners and local residents. Each week, Ayla also assists in making food for residents and when there is access food, it gets donated to food pantries in the Greater Lansing area.
“Having the opportunity to help provide food access to such a large community brings me joy,” Tulette said.” The first time leading a gardening workshop for the kids in Edgewood’s after-school club was incredibly special.”
Ayla taught them the whole process of gardening, from prepping the garden beds, planting the seeds, and watering them to make them grow. The kids learned how to plant carrots, radishes, and sunflowers, and since then, many of them like to return to the garden to see what’s growing and say hi.
“I hope that I have made an impact on them to be confident in their growing abilities and I like to think that maybe a few of them will grow up to have some green thumbs,” said Ayla. “I think growing up around and being a part of a community garden is very important and will start many of the children down the very special path of agriculture, environmental education, and food justice.”
Ayla is also their cohort’s LeaderCorps member. The main goal of the LeaderCorps program is to strengthen the national service movement and promote awareness of AmeriCorps in Michigan through outreach, regional collaboration, and member engagement.
After this service year is over, Ayla plans to return to the Ingham County Health Department and Edgewood for a second year.
“The pandemic has made a lot of things much more difficult, especially during the beginning of my service year, and I feel everything that has happened in the past year has prepared me to excel in my second service year,” said Ayla.
Ayla then plans to either go back to school or remain in the nonprofit farming field. Either way, serving is extremely important to Ayla because they believe it is something everyone can do to maintain hope for the future.
“When the climate emergency is on the horizon, wages are low and prices are high, and everything feels uncertain, sometimes all there is to do is try to strengthen your community by teaching them to grow their own food and care for one another,” said Ayla. “Through my service, I can pass on sustainability and compassion to those who need it most. Without serving, I wouldn’t get to see the impact you can make by doing something seemingly small, and I think there would be nothing to ground me against all of the huge things in the world that I wish I could change.”