Melissa King, AmeriCorps VISTA at ACEnet

Appalachia Asset Building ProjectMy name is Melissa King and I moved to Athens in 2015 from Cleveland, Ohio where I have lived my whole life. I graduated from Ohio University in December of 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in Social Work. While I was attending Ohio University I became interested in advocating for vulnerable populations and assisting individuals in locating supportive services in the community through the various volunteer experiences that I chose to pursue. While I was attending college I volunteered at organizations like Good Works Incorporated and Havar Incorporated where I gained a wide variety of professional experiences through various volunteer roles. My favorite volunteer experience while I was in college was my senior field practicum at Havar Incorporated who serves adults with developmental disabilities and I spent most of my time at the day rehabilitation center on Columbus road leading group discussions with consumers and collaborating with my supervisor on creating fun new programs or group activities.

When I graduated I became an AmeriCorps VISTA at The Appalachian Center for Eco­nomic Networks (ACEnet) and for most of my service I have been researching how small businesses are expanding and adapting to residing in a rural location. ACEnet is a small business incubator whose purpose is to help everyone who is interested in the Appalachian Ohio region to start and maintain their own small business. I have had the opportunity to interview many local small business owners and analyze the techniques and online tools that they have used to successfully continue to fund their venture.

I was introduced to the Athens Reentry program at the OhioMeansJobs Center at the beginning of my VISTA service and I have been participating in the referral process at ACEnet and the Workstation for individuals who are participants of the program and interested in small business opportunities or resources. So far I have enjoyed learning about the various resources and programs that are available in Athens County to individuals who participate in the reentry program and I am honored to have the chance to connect others with resources that are available in the community if they wish to start their own business and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams.

I plan to pursue a Master’s degree in Social Work at Ohio University and I want to continue learning the various therapeutic roles that I can portray as a social worker with populations who may be disadvantaged and struggling to overcome consequences of substance abuse or incarceration. During the last few months I have chosen to attend meetings in the community that address opiate abuse which are referred to as Athens HOPE and the Opiate Taskforce that consist of various mental health professionals who are usually providing clients with direct services in the surrounding area. These meetings have provided me with insight regarding the real scope of the problem surrounding addiction and recovery in the Athens community and the experience has also demonstrated how mental health professionals are coming together to try to think about how they can improve the lives of others. I think that it is important to keep having the conversation about addiction in the community and how everyone can positively contribute to recovery.