• Alumni story
    Carol Dunton 1986 Chicago

    I was trained in Chicago, Illinois in 1986. When I started volunteering, I was assigned to start volunteer tutor programs in three different school districts. I took many trainings on how to teach adults to read. I became a coordinator, setting up, scheduling, and training adult tutors.

    VISTA gave me a new confidence in myself and a sense of worth. I became more organized and better able to speak in front of people. I was eventually hired by Davison Scholls as their Adult Tutoring Coordinator. VISTA has improved my life over the years and I continue to use what I learned as a VISTA volunteer even today. Thank you so much for the experience. 

  • Alumni story
    Carolyn Drummond-Sweeting 1981 Portsmouth

    In 1981, I joined the service of VISTA. My program was to start a grassroots program aimed at decreasing teen pregnancy, venereal diseases, and pregnancy. The program started with 5 teens and their mother which later grew to 41, including my 5 children. 

    The impact it had on my children was twofold. It did not stop the teen pregnancy, however, it provided an arena for neighborhood children and my own to look up to me as a positive force in the lives of children and their families. After that, my home was the place where all teenagers and pre-teens could come for wholesome activities and counsel. The youth would come to me when they could not go to their parents and I was their intermediary. I would go to their parents with their permission on their behalf; when they were depressed or angry, or wanted to or attempted to commit suicide. 
    VISTA paved the way to my getting a GED (General Equivalency Diploma), a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology in 1988 (It took 15 years), and finally a Master of Social Work Degree in 2003. I was 55 years of age at that time. VISTA taught me to NEVER GIVE UP and that is why I survive. It all began with VISTA.

  • Alumni story
    Frank DePinto 1980 1982 Albuquerque

    After I graduated from University of Oregon with my BA in Landscape Architecture, I heard about VISTA and applied. I ended up at the University Architecture Design Center in Albuquerque. My boss was named Ed and he was a really nice fellow. I also worked with several other architect students from around the nation.

    I worked on many community design projects from playgrounds to planning design for the Sandia Indian Reservation. It was a great start for my design and real world experience and resume. Everything was well organized so we could work and help the community around us. 
    My experience with VISTA was great. It changed my geographical direction and interest. After VISTA, I headed further south and east to Houston, Texas then to Atlanta, Georgia. I earned my Masters in Geosciences from Georgia State in environmental and regional planning. I now live in Chattanooga, Tennessee and am working to get a Ph.D. in astrophysics. 

  • Alumni story
    Jan Dahl 1981 McClean County

    In 1981 I became a VISTA volunteer serving with McClean County Womens Outreach -(MCWO) - a domestic violence program in rural McClean County, ND approximately 40 miles from Bismarck, ND. McClean County borders a Native American reservation, which meant that me and my co-workers would occasionally have clients from the reservation who needed a safe place to stay for a short time. 

    In fact, my co-worker and I sat through a murder trial for a woman who had been abused for many years and then, in an alcoholic blackout, killed her abuser (husband). We acted as advocates for her. 
    My regular duties were to write grants for financial assistance, serve clients (victims) and their children by helping them to acquire orders of protection against the perpetrator, find resources to assist victims and their children to find safe housing, jobs, a support network and build new lives without the abuser. I wrote a request to use office space in the basement of a local clinic (and received permission to use the entire basement). I set up a food and clothing shelter in part of the basement and solicited volunteers in the community to work in the food and clothing shelter, accountant part-time services with the finances and outreach volunteers throughout the large county we served as well as on the edge of the reservation. I wrote grants for funds to pay several part-time volunteers mileage and time expenses. MCWO received the first individual, grass-roots grant from the MS Foundation for Women and Children, which I used to support an outreach worker near the reservation. I also used my own home as a short-term safe shelter for victims and their children and I maintained a hot line phone in my home for after-hours crisis phone calls. 
    After my VISTA service ended, I became a full-time volunteer director for MCWO for a couple of years. Then I resigned to work on my bachelor's degree and moved back to Minnesota with my husband.

  • Alumni story
    Manuel Contreras 1983 1985 Tucson

    The El Rio Neighborhood Center in Tucson, Arizona introduced me to the VISTA Volunteer program while I was a sophomore at Pima Community College studying Public Administration in Social Economics. I became a VISTA volunteer and worked from 1983-1985 at The El Rio Neighborhood Center. 

    As a VISTA volunteer my experience was in working within the USDA and Tucson Community Food Bank to coordinate food and resources to low income families in eight ethnically diverse communities. My work experience was challenging, rewarding and successful. It allowed me to value and be influenced by those qualities of life that make us unique. Mostly, it allowed me firsthand experience with hunger and it comforted me knowing that millions of Americans from infants to senior citizens benefited from my work as a VISTA volunteer. 
    As of today I continue to be involved in my community contributing to a wide range of volunteer services. This has been a lifetime rewarding experience. I’m Proud and value, that I had the opportunity to be a VISTA volunteer. 

  • Alumni story
    Hillary Behrman 1986 Seattle

    In 1986, I worked as a VISTA Volunteer at the Fremont Public Association's Broadview Emergency Shelter as a shelter staff counselor and as a grant writer/resource developer. Broadview Shelter served homeless women and children from all over Seattle and the Northwest. While at Broadview I helped to write grants and raise money to start an on-site program for children and a transitional housing program. Both the Child Program and the Transitional Housing Program were attempts to better address issues of chronic homelessness for children and families by providing longer term housing stability and on-going advocacy. 

    Ultimately, I felt that I needed more concrete tools to advocate on behalf of children and families living in poverty and so I went to law school. I have worked for the past 20+ years with indigent defendants, and with youth and families needing civil legal services. I currently help to run a statewide legal services program that works with low-income youth involved in the juvenile justice system. TeamChild provides free civil legal services to help youth involved in the juvenile justice system secure the education, health, housing and other support they need to achieve positive outcomes in their lives. 
    My VISTA volunteer experience was a wonderful and unique opportunity to both provide direct client services and to help develop and implement new programs to address the underlying causes of homelessness. In many ways my legal career since that time has worked on a similar model. I have always been involved in providing direct legal representation to children, families and adults living in poverty. I also continue to work to address the systemic problems that youth involved in or at risk of involvement in the juvenile justice system experience on a day to day basis.

  • Alumni story
    Wendy Allen 1982 1984

    I served with Catholic Social Services' Refugee Resettlement Program as the Volunteer Coordinator. I was able to produce a video called "To Be a Refugee" which shows Americans experiencing an invasion and having to leave the country to stay alive. My VISTA experience influenced my work experience because I went on to work with Ecumenical Ministries to set up their emergency assistance centers. Then I went on to serve as a County Commissioner where the skills I learned as a VISTA volunteer helped me reach into the community to get things done. I am now Executive Director of a non-profit called Smart Coast and we are applying for an AmeriCorps member. So it does go full circle. 


  • Alumni story
    Maryanne Raphael 1982 1982 Brooklyn

    I served at the Center for Family Life in Brooklyn, New York. I taught English as a Second Language and worked in the afterschool program. A co-worker and I wrote a textbook using Puerto Rican Spanish to help the people in our neighborhood. I wrote about it in my book, “What Mother Teresa Taught Me.”

    During my term of service, we had a fashion show. I was the emcee and I spoke in English & Spanish. I got so excited that I would say the same thing in one language twice forgetting to say that specific announcement in the other language. Everyone laughed.

    In the after school program, I worked with some teenagers who had been involved in gangs and lost people they loved.


  • Alumni story
    Sy Vang Mouacheupao 1981 1983 St. Paul

    I am very thankful for the VISTA program. It gave me great working skills. I had very little education in my childhood, but VISTA gave me time to practice working. Today I am supporting myself and my family and others. I always tell people how wonderful VISTA was to me.


  • Alumni story
    Claudia Nagle 1979 1980 Rochester

    I was a VISTA volunteer in the University Year of Action program. My service in the UYA program launched my career. Not only did I gain valuable experience but the networking opportunities were amazing. Many of my colleagues from my original placement became colleagues in my professional life.

    I started working with adolescents placed in Foster Care through New York State Division for Youth and have gone on to become the Executive Director of a growing non-profit on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

    At age 19, I was uncertain what it was I was "going to be when I grew up."  My year with UYA answered that question. After I completed my UYA year in the field I returned to college and became the recruiter for future UYA members. The people and the experience shaped my future. UYA made the difference and serves as the foundation for my career.


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