Park welcomes new AmeriCorps VISTA

Published 1:41 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Ashton Farrell has been named an AmeriCorps AmeriCorps Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) at the Appomattox National Historic Park.

The position is funded through the Department of Interior. Farrell will provide one year of service at the park, according to a press release.

This is the first time the park has hosted a VISTA volunteer. Farrell will work to strengthen and expand community partnerships and to provide programs to support education and engagement opportunities. His work will include researching and submitting for grant opportunities to secure short and long term resources for projects.

The DOI/VISTA Initiative is collaboration between the Department of the Interior (DOI), AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), Conservation Legacy and many local non-profit partners. The objective of the DOI/VISTA Initiative is to support underserved communities in using public lands for employment opportunities, health and education. With the first members placed in February 2014, and funded in large part by the Office of Secretary Sally Jewell, the DOI/VISTA initiative began as a part of the Play, Learn, Serve, Work, component of DOI’s youth engagement strategy.

DOI/VISTA Projects partner DOI resources with community nonprofits to promote economic development, environmental stewardship and healthy futures in underserved or impoverished communities. DOI/VISTA members build capacity for their hosting nonprofit organizations to fight poverty by writing grants, conducting outreach and developing administrative infrastructure.

Working with local youth will be a focus of Farrell’s responsibilities. He will initiate programs for potential student service projects as well as opportunities for youth employment outside the already established internship programs.

The park’s mission is to preserve and protect the historical landscape of Appomattox Court House so future generations can enjoy. Programs are intended to spark curiosity and interest among the local students who may participate in park programs, learn about career opportunities on public lands and serve as stewards of their local park.

Farrell will also be working to enhance existing partnerships. The National Park Service and Carver Price Legacy Museum partnered to present a program for the park’s 150th anniversary that highlighted the story of emancipation as a legacy of the surrender.

The two groups continue to meet and discuss programs and initiatives to highlight the important contributions of African Americans from Civil War to Civil Rights. Farrell will work closely with museum staff to develop programming and seek funding opportunities.

He is also creating programs to support the National Park Service’s Healthy Parks Healthy People Initiative as well as the First Lady’s “Let’s Move Outside” program. These national initiatives provide for the use of park grounds for healthy recreation and reflection as well as raising a generation of healthier children. In coordination with the superintendent, Farrell will seek opportunities to partner with neighboring Virginia State Parks on recreational initiatives. The park is currently hosting nature walks and fun runs for the community to have an opportunity to experience their park in a different way.

Farrell has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science from Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. and a Master’s Degree in Applied History from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania in Shippensburg, Pa.

He has focused on historical interpretation as his career path since graduation. Farrell is no stranger to Appomattox Court House NHP having served two seasons as a park guide in 2014 and 2015.

Farrell is an avid outdoorsman and loves to run, hike and camp. He is looking forward to meeting and working with the local community and to expanding and creating new partnerships to meet community needs.