As a student at Albion College, Alice LaLone, ’16, became excited about the future for the city of Albion as the Economic Development Corporation's first intern working for the community’s Food Hub.
The former biology major and geographic information systems minor who lettered in women’s soccer is continuing to stoke that excitement in Albion as a member of the first class of AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) members who are working with city and college departments to boost economic development, education and health initiatives during the 2016-17 academic year.
“(Biology professor) Sheila Lyons-Sobaski is a mentor of mine, and she encouraged me to apply,” LaLone said. “I was drawn to the opportunity because my minor was in Geographic Information Systems and I get to use that skill a lot to help the city and county this year.
“I have to go to graduate school, anyway, so on the selfish end this is an opportunity to me to build a resume,” she added, thinking a career in environmental science and the conservation of waterways is of interest. “I’m getting the experience I need. I know the people – I’m very comfortable here so this seems like a natural step for me between Albion and going to graduate school.”
LaLone is a member of the economic opportunity team. She will utilize GIS software to create maps as the 10-member VISTA team achieves its goal for the year of analyzing the responses from a community needs assessment.
“The map will help us draw visual conclusions about where needs like transportation are and identify which neighborhoods go to which schools,” LaLone said. “There are a lot of needs in Albon, so there have been a lot of assessments. We want to make a unique survey that has not been done before, but still generates the information we need. We want people to know this is a three-year project. All of the needs will be considered next year. We are at a turning point in Albion – we’re right on the edge of some really good stuff that could happen with what the city of Albion is doing.
“I also get to work with the County Land Bank’s blight removal project,” she added, noting the focus of her work is in the neighborhood around Dalrymple School which closed in 1982.
LaLone’s work varies from day to day. Whether it is taking trips to the college’s science center for work on GIS software, writing grant applications, or going in the field to look at blighted homes, she is happy seeing results.
“The Food Hub was in the incubation stage when I was working with it so I was working with ideas rather than actual things,” LaLone said. “The Land Bank has a budget so we are actually taking down blighted homes.
“I’m working with more people now,” she added. “With the Food Hub, I was generally working with the Economic Development Corporation. Now I’m working with the county, the city, the Department of Code Enforcement and Building Safety – all parts of the city – citizens and volunteers alike.”
In addition to her work with VISTA, LaLone has engaged with the community by volunteering her time to the Briton women’s soccer team and the Boy Scout Troop 158 that meets in Albion.
“I love Boy Scouts,” she said. “I was a Girl Scout and I have a brother who was in Boy Scouts. For me, the program is about giving boys the opportunity to grow, to give them good skills they need. The leaders – Scoutmaster David Huber and former Scoutmaster David Farley – are good role models who are outstanding citizens.
“There are more women involved in scouting and that’s important,” she added. “It’s important for boys who don’t come from the best home life to see a good female role model and a good male role model. I want to help the boys get that.
“And I like teaching, but not in the school setting,” she concluded.