Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Welcomes VISTA Members


BENNINGTON — Two recent college graduates are now bringing the vitality of a federal volunteer program designed to address poverty to Southwestern Vermont Medical Center (SVMC). The duo, Veronica Ariel from Millville, Mass., and Nicole Rau from North Clarendon, Vt., are the first members of the Americorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) program to serve at SVMC. For the next year, they will work on a variety of projects in the health system’s Community Health Improvement Department. The overall goal of the VISTA program is to address poverty by improving public health, housing, and education.  

“Health care is changing rapidly,” explained Kiah Morris, community health improvement specialist at SVMC. “Improving the basic health of our community is key to reducing the cost of health care because it lowers the need for health care. Poverty and poor community health have similar root causes. We are delighted that the Americorps program selected SVMC as a VISTA site. Having two VISTA volunteers at SVMC expands our ability to work with the community to find solutions to some of our most pressing problems.”

In addition to data collection and analysis on a variety of health-related topics, The VISTA volunteers also will be working directly in the community. For example they already have begun working on a project called Photovoice with the Alliance for Community Transformations and area students. Photovoice is a documentary project that uses video and pictures collected by students to show how healthy community design looks from the perspective of the community itself.  The volunteers also will be building youth ambassador programs in local high schools to help engage and focus area students on making healthier choices.

Ariel is a recent graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a bachelor’s degree in health policy and administration. Rau graduated from The College of the Holy Cross with degrees in psychology and sociology. They both bring experience in health care policy, community service, and peer health education. Ariel served an internship in operations at The Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I. Rau actively promoted health choices to Holy Cross students as part of her work with a student organization. Their enthusiasm for serving a community led them to pursue the opportunities VISTA provides.

“This is an amazing chance to combine my two passions — health care and service,” Ariel explained. “I hope that Nicole and I can create the foundation for long-term change. I also hope that the community sees us as a resource.”

“As a Vermonter, and former member of the Bennington Bandits softball team, I am very excited to be a part of this new VISTA program at SVMC,” added Rau. “I think of Bennington as my second home, and I’m looking forward to serving my fellow Vermonters.”

Americorps VISTA is a federal program funded by the Corporation for National and Community Service. VISTA started in 1964. It became a part of Americorps in 1993. VISTA members’ mission is to end poverty by working to enhance nutrition, public health, housing options, and education. Each member lives in the community he or she serves and is paired with a non-profit organization.

Southwestern Vermont Medical Center is part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC), a non-profit integrated health system that serves communities in Vermont, New York, and Massachusetts. SVHC also includes the VNA and Hospice of SVHC, the Centers for Living & Rehabilitation, the SVMC Northshire and Deerfield Valley Campuses, and Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center. Southwestern Vermont Medical Center is Vermont’s first Magnet hospital for nursing excellence and home to the region's only breast care program fully accredited by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.

Media Contact: Eileen Druckenmiller 802-447-5558