Serving Special Students in Arizona

Hello, my name is Mark Flanigan. I am a global peace educator, US Army veteran, and public servant who has lived and taught in numerous countries and cultures over the past 18 years. I am very happy to announce that I have been accepted as a 2018 AmeriCorps VISTA member with Arizona Serve. Through service and volunteerism, Arizona Serve connects passionate people to opportunities to make a lasting difference in their community. It's truly humbling for me to have been selected to join them and serve in Arizona in this coming academic year.

Why AmeriCorps? Because I believe that all children, no matter their background or zip code, deserve long-term freedom from poverty and equal access to a quality education. After serving overseas in many different countries, I wanted to help build resilience here at home.

Why VISTA? Founded as “Volunteers in Service to America” in 1965 and incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1994, VISTA has helped lift communities and individuals out of poverty for over five decades. Today, AmeriCorps VISTA engages more than 8,500 individuals every year in sustainable anti-poverty activities in communities throughout the nation.

As someone who has taught in Mexico, Japan, and Bangladesh, I have tried to immerse myself in different cultural environments and learn as much about my students and their backgrounds as possible.
I believe in making the extra effort to meet them in the middle and try to understand their perspectives on life, the world, and everything. In my new assignment as an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Arizona Serve, I will be serving students, families, and alumni full-time in the Imago Dei middle school in Tucson.

Imago Dei Middle School is an independent, tuition-free middle school for children of low-income families from Tucson neighborhoods. 
Imago Dei provides an extended school day, week and year, and a small student-teacher ratio of 10 to 1. They admit children of diverse faiths, races, nationalities, languages, cultures, and cognitive profiles, and never give up on a child. These are the children most in need, and who deserve a better chance for their future. 

“Imago Dei” means “image of God,” and it refers to a belief that every person is made in the image of the divine, and is equally worthy of love, care and respect.

Imago Dei scholars are boys and girls grades 5-8 from diverse Tucson families, all of whom qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program under federal rules. There is no other qualification for admission.

As a new AmeriCorps VISTA member, I will not be receiving a formal salary, but a basic living stipend of $12,300 for one year of service, with limited medical benefits. 
I am therefore responsible for raising funds to support some of my specific start-up and transition costs during my initial orientation and training. I have itemized them below:

Itemized expenses

Initial one-way flight from DC to Tucson

$0 (I will pay with my relocation allowance)

Startup Rent Costs

$768 for the first month

(The average rent for an apartment in Tucson City is $768, a 3% increase compared to the previous year, when the average rent was $745).

Furniture Costs


Professional Clothing Costs


School Supplies Cost


Phone bill for one month (mine and my Mom's on one bill) 




I will be starting my official training and orientation this July 23rd, which will take place in Phoenix and Tucson (the city of Imago Dei middle school). 

As I will not receive my first actual stipend amount until the 1st  week of August, I would really appreciate your investment in my transition to securing housing and serving at Imago Dei in Tucson. Thankfully, I will not need to purchase a car, as I plan to rely on public transportation options there.

This will be an amazing opportunity to join the Imago Dei family as a humble servant and AmeriCorps VISTA member with Arizona Serve. In the coming year, I hope to make many lasting contributions and learn as much as possible about the history, culture, and aspirations of my new students, families, and their extended community.


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Mark Flanigan 
Baltimore, MD