This past week staff and volunteers at my service site began building relationships by sharing our personal stories that explain our journey to the organization. Below is the story I shared about myself.
I come from a low income background, and I am a first generation college student. My mom attended community college, but finances prevented her from completing her degree. Although she didn’t finish college, she set a high academic standard for me early on and instilled in me the belief that I would go to college. I am the oldest among my siblings, and unfortunately this same academic standard was not set from my younger siblings.
In middle school and throughout high school I was tracked for college. A teacher once told my advanced class that my school prepares some students for college while preparing others to enter directly into the workforce. This statement shocked me.
The organization I am serving with is merging with a larger organization. As a result, my time this past week was spent on-boarding, or learning about this larger organization, and how we will work together to become one team.
On-boarding had both positives and negatives. A positive is that I am grateful that is larger organization took the time out to explain their many components to us. From presentations by the finance department, to safety training, to learning about its programs, I was able to gain valuable first-hand experience of not only a non-profit, but the many components of a business. A negative is that I have not yet learned about my specific role. I was told that I will learn about my role during the upcoming weeks. Patience… Continue reading
This past week I attended Pre-Service Orientation in a suburb outside of Denver. Other than that this is a mandatory orientation, I didn’t know what to expect. I wondered what would I do, and who I would meet. It turned out that I wasn’t the only one who felt this way; other VISTAs I met admitted that they didn’t know what to expect either. Looking back on this experience, this lack of clarity was for the best because it helped me be present in the moment.
Although almost everyone I met at orientation was a first time VISTA, they all came from unique backgrounds. Surprisingly, I met many VISTAs who were married and had already established families. It would be difficult to support one person on the living stipend VISTAs receive, let alone an entire family. In addition, many VISTAs were at different places in their professional lives. Some VISTAs would serve as a VISTA while progressing in their undergraduate and graduate programs. Others were returning to VISTA after 30+ years in the workforce. Lastly, our living situations differed. Some VISTAs would relocate to a new city, while others would spend the year living at home with their parents like me. Everyone had a unique background.
The summer after my sophomore year in high school I signed up to be a tutor for a summer school class. I needed to complete 40 hours of tutoring for a program at my high school, and I thought that the summer would be the best time to complete them. Little did I know that my first volunteer experience would be tougher than I expected.
I was placed as a tutor in a class with students who had disabilities. The class consisted of 6 students, all of whom were different ages, developmental levels and disability types. In addition to the students, there were 4 teachers, 1 main teacher, and 3 teaching assistants, and me. Everyone was squeezed into a well-designed, yet tiny classroom.
The focus of AmeriCorps VISTA is to strengthen communities and end poverty by expanding the reach of anti-poverty programs. In order to achieve this goal, it is important that AmeriCorps VISTA members are never seen as taking sides, and are fully committed to their service assignments. As a result, there are certain activities that I, as an AmeriCorps VISTA, can and cannot engage in.