• Alumni story
    Regina Smardon 1996 1997 Richmond

    I served at the East Bay Center for Performing Arts (EBCPA) Community Center in the iron triangle of Richmond CA back in 1996-7. I attended graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania after my VISTA year and I am now an assistant professor of sociology at Methodist University in Fayetteville NC.

  • Alumni story
    Donna Smith 1991 Leesville

    I started my VISTA journey in 1991 with the Vernon Community Action Center. In fact, it was my first real job experience. I had the privilege of working with this company for a year and an half, and then they hired me on as full-time employee. I continued to work for this company and its sister agency, The Vernon Council on Aging, for five years consecutively, then returned in 1997 for two more years. 

    Upon relocating to the east coast, I tried a few jobs, but returned to work for another non-profit agency in Baltimore, Maryland. I have been with them for 9 years. I currently serve as Executive Assistant for the President/CEO.
    I am thankful for VISTA introducing me to the world of serving your community and I'm very proud to be called a VISTA Alumni!

  • Alumni story
    Gerald Taft 1998 Anchorage

    I worked with the Anchorage Literacy Project as a VISTA in 1998 shortly after retiring from my second career with the State of Alaska. Prior to my 12 years of State employment I served for 20 years (1964-84) with the U.S. Air Force. 

    I enjoyed working with numerous highly talented and motivated volunteers involved in literacy training. I attended training in fund raising and became involved in the chamber of commerce and other community leadership groups. 
    The whole VISTA experience was very rewarding.

  • Alumni story
    Ana Lora 1991 Bronx

    I worked as a VISTA in 1991 for the Highbridge Community Life Center. It was like a dream because I love to help people. That was my first job where I got to do that. It was a long time ago, but I am still helping people in my country, the Dominican Republic. 

    My supervisor was Karen Giosia, a wonderful woman. I appreciate everything I learned from her. We did a good job and we got recognition from George H.W. Bush. 

  • Alumni story
    Blake Rackley 1998 1999 Moultrie

    I served as a VISTA in Moultrie, GA recruiting and training volunteers for a reading program for Community In Schools (CIS). I worked with two other VISTAs. We worked with a phenomenal supervisor, Denise Bell, who played an integral part in my decision to continue my education after the program. I personally had an awesome experience as I learned compassion, interpersonal skills, and leadership. I learned valuable lessons that influenced my choice to pursue my education in psychology.

    Because of the people that I served in Moultrie, I pursued a doctorate in clinical psychology and specialized in children and adolescents. I will carry with me the respect for my fellow man and the passion to help those who are less fortunate than myself. My appreciation for the VISTA program has grown over the years as I see what a difference they make in the lives of those who they serve. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve America in the small way that I did!


  • Alumni story
    Harriet Phillips 1993 1994 North Hampton

    I served in VISTA after graduating as an Ada Comstock student at Smith College. I had also just divorced my husband of 40 years. I went to work for Construct, an agency that exists to house the homeless.

    A notion existed then that people in rural areas did not suffer the depth and intensity of social effects as city homeless ones did. The needs and suffering are overwhelming. Indeed, my beginning with Construct and my life today is not untypical of how we are all together in our life. When I started working at Construct, unbeknownst to me, I had Parkinson's Disease complicated by other movement disorders. And today, who else but my former supervisor, wearing her Construct hat and desire to help has put me in touch with someone who, with others, is making it possible for me to remain in my home and not go to a nursing home.

    I have a strong desire to continue living as one who is socially and politically active and VISTA is one of the finest organizations where your help and guidance is humane and uplifting.


  • Alumni story
    Naomi Miles 1992 1994 Taos

    I joined the Taos Library as a Literacy Coordinator to impact family literacy needs in the county. I have no idea how I impacted the community, but I know the experience dramatically changed my life and my perspective. I learned so much about myself, and about the world around me and it made me a more dedicated and confident person in the world of work. I greatly appreciate the opportunity and encourage anyone I can to apply for a grant for a VISTA or to join as a member.


  • Alumni story
    Vincent Joseph 1993 1994 Staten Island

    I can remember being so enthusiastic about meeting new people and learning how we would be serving America. We first met at the Hilton, I think, or some very nice hotel in midtown Manhattan. I, along with others, were ushered to our suite where we were briefed about what VISTA was all about. We went around and shared a little bit about ourselves and our hopes for a better community and why we wanted to serve. I must say, working with others toward a common goal was uplifting. It seemed to come at a time in my life when I had felt a calling to do for others. After the training, I served in an agency that worked with the homeless and needy persons of Staten Island, NY.

    I had experience being homeless years before, and I was impacted by the help I received unconditionally. And I can only remember being told to give back and continue to help those in need. The experience was one of the greatest I’ve had in my life. To be of service to others became a way of life. Thank you VISTA Volunteers of America.


  • Alumni story
    Ramonita Feliciano 1992 1994 Chicago

    I served as VISTA for 3 years. My site was a small neighborhood church. I organized class for ESL, for people who wanted to learn English; I had to find teachers and students. I also had to start a food pantry and an after school program. And in the holidays I gathered gifts for the children in the neighborhood. I had the kids and adults in the neighborhood volunteer with all these projects. Not only was it fun but I learned so much about people’s good hearts; I learned so much about myself, I have never felt so happy in my life to see smiles in people’s faces for helping and getting help for their own community.


    After I finished my time as a VISTA, I worked for 11 years in non-profit agency doing almost the same programs and more. To this day I still help people find programs to serve that can help them. Serving as a VISTA Volunteer was the best job I ever had. I helped my community to grow but I also learn so much and taught my children to help others in need and to grow into good people, and they will teach there children the same.


    I thank VISTA for giving me a chance to give back to my community.


  • Alumni story
    Vincent Contrucci 1997 1998 Eagle Butte

    As I was graduating from college I needed an option, one that would provide me a small sum of money, experience for my resume and the opportunity to repay my student loans. I selected VISTA because it would provide me administrative experience and the opportunity to travel to a region beyond where I grew up. At the outset it was purely a pragmatic choice. After I had begun my term I slowly developed an appreciation for, and deep belief in, what VISTA was and what it accomplished. It was that belief, pride in the work that I was doing and the mission of VISTA that motivated me to become a VISTA Leader.

    During my first term with Okiciyapi Tipi Habitat for Humanity, I was the Family Services and Volunteer Coordinator. I worked with new homeowners on understanding the requirements associated with the purchase of their new home. Additionally, I helped in the recruitment of volunteer groups to work with the affiliate. As part of the recruitment process I developed an educational packet that was sent to groups to educate them about the Lakota Sioux people and arranged for speakers and events while they were serving.

    I was helping to build homes in an area of the country where the majority of people lived in HUD homes and there was a critical housing shortage. Through home ownership families developed security, pride, built capital and allowed for a greater investment in the welfare of the community.

    For my second term, I was in Washington DC. I worked with the National Alliance to End Homelessness as a VISTA Leader. I assisted in the administration of their national VISTA program. I recruited, trained and placed VISTAs with host sites and then monitored their service and developed in-service trainings. In addition to site relations, collecting and responding to monthly reports, VISTA concerns etc., I also worked at maintaining the VISTA payroll and the issuance of post-service stipends and educational awards.

    With the National Alliance to End Homelessness I worked to ensure that VISTAs were properly prepared and supported to do the best job possible with their sponsoring agency to solve the challenges confronting their clients.

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