I was first introduced to AmeriCorps VISTA through my instructor, who was the CEO of a local nonprofit. She would often share examples of how the VISTA members, Volunteers in Service to America, have strengthened her organization. I really enjoyed her class because of her hands on teaching style and participative facilitation that made the learning more stimulating.Throughout the class, my interest in the administrative side of running a nonprofit began to spark, so one day I decided to attend her office hours. We shared experiences and she informed me all about AmeriCorps VISTA and the services they provide to the community. After that first encouraging conversation, one thing led to another and the next semester I was interning for her nonprofit.
During my internship I was able to observe multiple leadership roles, various services they offer, interact with the VISTAs, and even began doing social media and marketing projects. This was turning out to be one of the best internships I’d ever had. I was using my skills, learning about the nonprofit realm, and realizing the many challenges in my community and how I can become a change-agent. When I heard a new VISTA position was opening, I knew this would be my chance to continue growing and learning with the organization.
So, here I am a few months into my service, exploring all aspects of the AmeriCorps VISTA experience. I’m embracing the newness of both living and now serving in the community that i’m from. VISTA is allowing me to use my skills, talents, and passions to help Think Tank, Inc. build collaborative approaches to addressing poverty. So far my role has been to assist with many of the administrative tasks, event planning, advertising our training opportunities, and brainstorming new ideas for social media and marketing strategies. Throughout my service year I plan to work on new partnership development and bring in new resources and funding, which is perfect since I’m now taking a class through VISTA Campus on resource development and grant writing. As a student studying Organizational Leadership and Marketing, It’s been gratifying to connect my VISTA role to the knowledge I’ve gained in the classroom.
For a long time throughout my undergraduate experience, I’ve thought that after graduation I would just move away. Move away from all of the problems, violence, and lack of opportunities in my community. But what good would that serve my community? VISTA is now challenging that mindset and allowing me to see the beauty in creating and expanding the initiatives that are enabling others to become self-sufficient and transcend out of poverty. I now feel like I’m really living, making decisions to not only better my future, but the future of the environment that has shaped me.
The connections I have made through AmeriCorps VISTA so far, will be great assets for the future; whether they be personal friendships or business relationships. AmeriCorps and its alumni is a great network and support group! Through all of the success stories & passion I’m now connected to, I’m confident that VISTA is leading me towards a world of possibilities and explorations. I’m interested in a career in the Nonprofit world, Higher Education, and Marketing. I hope to continue to serving my community after VISTA and use the skills I’m gaining in whatever career opportunity comes next.
By Ryan Staley, AmeriCorps VISTA serving with Think Tank, Inc.
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