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We'd love to hear about your experience as a VISTA.

Please feel free to use this forum for telling us what you learned, what you accomplished, where you served, how your service has affected your career choices, your most memorable experience, etc.

Your story can be as long or short as you like.

Thanks for serving and sharing!

Liz Matthews
VISTA Alumni Outreach and Support Specialist
The Corporation for National and Community Service
ematthews@cns.gov

I served (2008) in South Carolina (primarily on a university campus) and still believe that AmeriCorps is a wonderful way to serve our fellow Americans! True, this is "VISTA Campus" - however, I am in endorsement of AmeriCorps as a whole (not merely VISTA), for different tasks call for different talents and personalities! I am sincerely looking to serve in AmeriCorps again in the near future (Fall, 2010?), and in closing, I love AmeriCorps and America! Brian F. Gorman, Ph.D.

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Thanks, Brian!
Absolutely - we hope Americans simply want to serve whether it's through AmeriCorps State/National, NCCC, Learn & Serve, Senior Corps or VISTA. It's all good.

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Hello Liz I've waited a long time thank Americorp for saving my life. My story tells of a young man with an illness, a father,and single parent,and unemployed me. Those are some hats to wear i tell you. I became a number in the system. So I decide to get my GED; I had to in order to recieve my TANF and i was introduced to Americorp by a lady name Jolyn Mentzel she thought i made a good VISTA cause i was already volunteering at the neighborhood bus stop. So i was excepted and I seen my life taking a turn for the better. I help people to better themselves and kids to better themselfs also.This life I;m living now i owe it all to being a VISTA in my lifetime. I have continued to help and work with kids to improve their way of living.I was a community volunteer and still is. I recently work at the boys and girls. I'm a active MENTOR of two great boys in which we recently won The David and molly Boren Mentoring Award 2010 that was a true experience. Ive done several things for my community, with my community. and outside my community I Thank You from the bottom of my heart.

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I decided that one of the ways I could finish my college education would be to serve my community thru Americorps. Although at the time I was approaching 50, I still felt I wanted to make a difference and complete a goal.
I coordinated a program called Start Making a Reader Today (SMART) in my Albany, Oregon. This program served children K-2 who were at risk and needed support to build on their reading foundation. The program paired adults with children and twice a week the child would meet with their mentor. Each month the child would get to take home a book supplied by Scholastic, Inc. Many of these children had never had book and often times they would choose a book for sibling at home. It was one of the most rewarding opportunities for me. It was also my gateway to completing my Bachelors and going on to complete my Masters. Although, I now live in Sequim, WA I hope this program exists today. Reading is the foundation for a child's future and for the future of all of us.

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My first job after law school/passing the bar exam, had a great year in Colorado, learning and teaching about immigration law at the time, and providing the info around the State to offices of Colorado Rural Legal Services.

I moved from Chicago to do this, so it was a terrific 'cultural' experience, too. 1975-76, we easterners had a lot to learn about 'Tex/Mex' food, and EVERYTHING to learn about migrants, immigrants, and 'illegals.'

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I recently stopped someone from choking to death on his own vomit in Penn Station through the use of Prone CPR, and have successfully administered First Aid & CPR to many other people.  However, I need to pay off my educational debt before I attend medical school, and my serve to America as an AmeriCorps VISTA is a smart way for me to pay off my educational debt.

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I recently stopped someone from choking to death on his own vomit in Penn Station through the use of Prone CPR, and have successfully administered First Aid & CPR to many other people.  However, I need to pay off my educational debt before I attend medical school, and my serve to America as an AmeriCorps VISTA is a smart way for me to pay off my educational debt. -Elizabeth Terry, BS,  AmeriCorps VISTA

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After leaving AmeriCorps VISTA PSO training I had a firm belief that I would be able to make a great impact with the Houston Urban Debate League (HUDL) which is a non-profit organization that helps student in low-income area obtain the tools need to excel in debate. I felt comfortable because debate was a place in which I would be very familiar with the task, and understood the students that would depended on our team.  I was a product of this activity. So I told myself that I would do whatever it took to make sure I served HUDL to the best of my abilities.

The first week that I began with HUDL it was not what I was prepared for. The Executive Director told me that one of my main tasks was to try and find 90-110 volunteer judges for our first competitive debate tournament of the year. When HUDL discussed the importance of our volunteer judges and how it affected students in the past. HUDL had many tournaments where they did not have enough judges which caused for the debates to run behind, students to not have panel judging in final rounds, and over use of judges who were at the tournament. I immediately started making calls and sending emails. To me this did not seem very hard to do. I was sure that there would be plenty of people willing to serve their community, and that people would see the good they would be doing and leap at the chance to be a part of something like HUDL. Unfortunately, I was wrong. I had to open up myself to understand that with this position I would receive a lot of “No’s”. I couldn’t understand it at first. How could a community of people that says it understands the importance of our organization’s mission of helping kids out of poverty  turn right around and say no when it was their time to serve. At a certain point, I began not only to feel like I would not be able to fulfill my duties, but that I would let down a group of student who depended on me to do my part for them.

 At the beginning of me second week, I still had no luck finding the judges that I needed and really began to lose faith in myself. Later, during that week, I received an email from a professor in the Houston area that simply said “Thank you for your effort to help an activity that changes the lives of those who encounter it.” Attach to the email was a list of 30 students who pledged to volunteer judge out first debate tournament. It was at this moment that I knew no matter how many “No’s” that I received it would be someone out there who believed in the same cause as me. This email gave me the will to continue on. I also realized that I was part of a team and everyone, not just me was responsible for helping HUDL finding judges.

Now I know that this job will not be easy. I know that I will need to be willing to step back from it all, and look at the bigger picture. It has also shown me that I can never forget my main mission as a VISTA which is to serve a community that is in need, but more importantly sometimes I need to look to the community for answers. 

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I served in Georgetown, South Carolina (2012-2013) & my experience was not at all what I expected or wanted it to be. Nonetheless, my bad experience does not let that detour my outlook on the whole program because I encourage other young people to get involved if they have a passion for serving. My experience was a great life lesson and a wonderful learning experience. I learned so much more of what not to do from my supervisor that it mentally prepared me for my next career steps. Before beginning AmeriCorps, I began taking courses at a local college through their not for profit management program and those courses were a tremendous help as I began working with my nonprofit. Once I completed AmeriCorps I moved back to NC, I began working with Habitat for Humanity as the Volunteer Coordinator but recently I accepted a position at Central Regional Hospital as the Volunteer Coordinator. I appreciate having the opportunity to serve because now I am able to share my experience with others, embrace the negative and move forward to my career goal.

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I joined Vista in 1970, was went to Atlanta for training - stories in that by itself - then to North Carolina to work with civil rights and commnity development.  So many stories of the events that happened there. Stories of great danger, of brave people, of anger and ignorance building hatred and violence, chances to meet great unsung heros who lead the community before we ever got there. A chance for me to learn more than I could ever teach.  To begin to understand something about inequality, about poverty, about personal strength, about communities so strong that even the most hateful KKK members could not breat their spirit.

   We were in a community where a large billboard with riding Klan members inhoods, and torches announced your arrivel into "Sampson County, you are in Klan country".  A community where sidewalks were only for the white, let alone drinking fountains. We came from colleges feeling superior, thinking we would change things, but it was the college kids that needed to learn and the community that was to be the real teacher.  Many vista Volunteers had had violent experiences with white towns people, I was shot at and had the gun held to my forehead.  I foolishly went to the police, and was encouraged by the sherrif to come down at midnight to the swamp where "them boys hang out, and you point them out to me, and We will round them up and bring them in." I was ready to show up when a much wiser man, one I was to be teaching, spoke quietly to me and taught me how things worked.  He saved my life.

  I remember showing Malcom X and Elisa Mohammad movies on the side of my bard late at night - with cars pulling up quietly with lights out, people who wanted to see and learn but feared for their lives, By then I had come to understand someting of the world and spoke to no one, when the film ended, the cars left as quietly as they had come.

   so much more to tll, but I must go now.

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Hello I'm Melinda, I am currently serving as a VISTA in Akron OH,I have already finished 1 year of being VISTA.The program I have been working on is an ''ENCOURAGER''and what that will look like is GED students will go in to more then one classroom to study with other students and help them gain higher education.I have loved being Americorp ''VISTA'' it has helped me teach others how to give without excpecting something in return other then a smile of appreciation.I choose to volunteer for Americorp ''VISTA'' because I had never heard of it so I love trying new things.The organization I'm volunteering for has been a home for me for awhile I was a GED student here and now I'm behind the scenes.I'm seeing what all it takes to set the students in the right environment  to be successful in higher education. Thank you Americorp ''VISTA''!!

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In 1997-98 I was a VISTA volunteer in Texas, along the border with Mexico. As a lawyer, I helped mostly families of immigrants who spoke only Spanish. I learned Spanish. I saw that those even poorer that those I was helping were the undocumented who had no immigration status.

After my service ended, I worked as an immigration lawyer at a Dallas nonprofit, helping with deportation defense, immigration court cases, family visas, and political asylum claims for those from El Salvador and Honduras.

I opened my practice in Dallas and stayed with immigration law as a career, helping the same type of immigrants and helping them obtain their residency visas. I chose the career because of the direction provided by VISTA.

Now I am part of a great group of immigration lawyers defending immigrants. Look me up if you are in Dallas or need an immigration lawyer.

Roy Petty

http://roypetty.com/en/attorneys/roy-petty

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Hello Fellow VISTA Alums:

My name is Zeldra and I am about one month into my second term.  I was brought in last year to build capacity as a VISTA staff member with Big Brothers Big Sisters (Alabama).  Overall, the experience has been rewarding and the ability to apply classroom studies to real world situations has been invaluable.  I have enjoyed working with the children and families that utilize our programs and look forward to continuing this work for an additional service year. Although everyday has not been sunshine and life has thrown some very interesting curve balls along the way, knowing that I am making a difference singularly and collectively as a VISTA has made my service time memorable and priceless.   

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Hello, 

I currently serve as a VISTA at the Hill Country Science Mill in Texas. I'm reaching out to see who else served in a museum. Thanks

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My name's Isaac, and I'm a recent alumni (I finished my first year of service in 2015). I had a great year of service, which ended up changing my career by... bringing me back to VISTA a few months after leaving. I never would have expected it at the beginning, but I'm now a VISTA Leader and so happy to be able to continue with National Service.

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I have the honor of receiving the Presidential Award for my service. I have completed 3 terms and each project completely different. My first Term with State and National AmeriCorps Developing a literacy program for grades 2-5. Myself and another member were placed in an elementary school. My co-worker had served previously so i relied on her experience to be pur guide. She did not complete her term, left me having to complete the project the best that i could. Was not fully aware of the importance of the manual we were to develop. Regardless to the shortcomings of that term I was able to impress the school, My supervisors and very high officials in AmerCorps. My story was published in the AmeriCorps Annual Review. My second Term I served with VISTA as Volunteer Coordinator with a women's transition home for woman and children. I developed and managed a Volunteer program. My first days were interesting. The director had only been there for two months before me. However, my lifes experiences assisted her in creating the program for the clients. My original stack of 20 possible volunteers I then created a database, recruited 150 devoted volunteers, developed partnerships with other non- profits in the community and fostered a relationship with another organization which awarded my agency with a day of service. The publicized event brought 160 volunteers , each serving approx. 8 hrs of service, food donations, in-kind donations, built a playground, landscaped the facility, built a fence, painted, and so much more. The day of service brought in over 60, 000 dollars.
My third term I relocated, took a learder position where I managed 7 other VISTAs that were at organizations throughout the state. The project in a whole was very successful each VISTA focused on different projects. Some doing literacy, developing food rooms, or other projects combating crisis.

EACH AND EVERY PROJECT DIFFERENT. NO TWO PROGRAMS ARE THE SAME. AS a Volunteer you constantly hear that you need to learn to be flexible that is so true in every aspect of CNCS organization. Not everyone is successful. My leadership role was difficult for me as I worked with my Supervisors being Cooperate individuals, bankers, etc. The director of my agency was not easy to work with at times. My agency ran on 3 staff members and myself, I didn't go to leadership trading until 2 months into my role. When I came back one of the 3 staff members had been terminated and her position was not filled for months. It through everything in the office off, inj had some personal issues arise , my supervised was so gracious, but I founds out at the end of my term it truly affected my final report.
When I started it had been 8 hrs since I had worked. I have gained so many amazing employable skills, developed a vast network of connections in the communities I have worked, I have shared my personal lifes experiences to enspire so many people. I have included my children in my service when serving at various organizations, the have gained more service hours then most adults I know. I have instilled in them the desire to give back to others for the service we have received. I have taught them the value that service can have regarding their education. My youngest wants to grow up to be just like me (An AmeriCorps Volunteer)! Each term had its struggles and it's accomplishments. Each term very rewarding. I am always fascinated with the fact once someone hears you have served, it becomes an instant connection and conversation piece. I LOVE IT! Currently looking to serve another.

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