Unknown Decade

  • Alumni story
    Penelope Wright Jones County

    The education I pursued and subsequent jobs I've held reflect the idealistic person I was as a VISTA volunteer. I may not be so idealistic now, but the line of work remains the same. 

    I became an Art Therapist and have worked at a day center for people with severe and persistent mental illness, a community mental health center, a state mental hospital and, currently, for a non-profit organization serving abused, abandoned and neglected children. I have also been a Hospice volunteer, a volunteer probation officer and taught art to a wide variety of populations. 

    It's interesting to look back and see the thread of service running through my life that started from my VISTA experience.


  • Alumni story
    Diane Wilt Santa Clara

    I served in a small village in Southern New Mexico with a 98% Mexican population. It was a copper mining area and the people we worked with had been on strike for a long time. Our work was community organizing and teaching English. 

    After nine months, we were chosen for special government program and were transferred to Grand Junction CO to work with migrants. The time in VISTA was life altering, as it gave me a respect for the people we worked with and a connection with people who were born with a lot less material goods than I was used to. We were received with kindness and had our eyes opened by the resilience of many of the people we worked with. 

    I still visit the area where I was in New Mexico and it will forever be part of who I am. Since that experience I have always been and will continue to be a volunteer in many ways.


  • Alumni story
    Tom Williamson Wadesboro

    I worked in the paraprofessional program at the Frank Porter Graham Center at Wadesboro, North Carolina. The objective of the program was to help families and individuals to learn to become more self-reliant and productive by producing agricultural products in light of the reduction of family farms. 

    Now, more than 25 years later, I see each day around me the practices and methods unfolding. In our communities, we can now buy local farm raised organic beef and pork, vegetables, flowers, and fruits. The public awareness has escalated about becoming more self-sufficient, and it is exciting to see people garden and preserve, many for the first time.  The information, networking skills, and community awareness I learned in VISTA have helped me to understand the importance of being in service to our community. There is much work to be done.  

  • Alumni story
    Gayann White Bethel

    I was in the first VISTA volunteer group to Alaska. I trained in Fairbanks at the U of AK for 6 weeks and was then placed in Bethel, AK working in Community Development, Education and Youth Activities. My time spent in Bethel really opened my eyes to the Yupik culture and all of the problems that indigenous Alaskans faced at that particular time. 

    In addition to working as a community development specialist, I also had the pleasure of teaching for a while in the public school system in Bethel and for instituting the first HeadStart Program in the Kuskokwim River area. These projects taught me how to teach children who come from diverse ethnic and language backgrounds and how to cooperate with their parents who usually had only basic educational training. 

    VISTA service also influenced my decision to join the Peace Corps and to go to Bolivia where I also worked in community development and agronomy. Without VISTA as a foundation, I would have found Bolivia to be an extremely difficult assignment. Today, I teach at both the community college and university levels where I focus on English as a Second Language as well as Health and Wellness for students, faculty and staff. I find it very satisfying to interact with people I come into contact with every day because of my VISTA training and experience. 

    I believe that VISTA was the most valuable work/educational experience that I have ever had. Furthermore, after Bolivia, I moved back to Fairbanks and made my home there for many years. Many of my VISTA friends did the same. Although I now live in Sacramento, I still visit Alaska regularly because I learned to love the land and ecosystems there and because my daughter and grandchildren live in Anchorage. I would love to work in Alaska again as a VISTA Supervisor since I understand the people and environment so well. In conclusion, VISTA is an unforgettable experience and, if taken seriously, will change lives.


  • Alumni story
    Pierre Wagner Miami

    My service inspired me to becoming a teacher.

  • Alumni story
    Maria-Cristina Villamrin Aguas Buenas

    I served long time ago. I had just graduated from college when I enrolled. I wanted to serve in the Peace Corps but was referred to VISTA because I was not a citizen at that time. I was assigned to public education to teach ESL but it was not the best choice giving my skills. I had just finished my Master degree in Industrial Arts/Special Ed and was eager to use my training and experience on more needed roles, in town. After much ado, I was finally given authorization to choose a project, or more.

    I became a self-appointed itinerant teacher who brought Art, Music, and PE into the local elementary schools. On the days when I had a pickup truck I brought our scant PE equipment and the kids enjoyed some games and outdoor exercise, which they rarely had the opportunity to do. On the days that I didn't have the truck, either someone gave me a ride, or I had to walk about four miles, in the sun, in the meandering hilly road. This meant that the classes offered were Art or music class with very little materials and equipment. No matter! Just seeing the happy little faces and a chorus of voices yelling ‘La tichel, la tichel’ made it worth the effort. There were not enough schools in town for all the children, they had split sessions AM and PM, which meant half of the kids were roaming around for half of the day. Something needed to be done to keep them occupied, out of mischief, and also they needed help and supervision with their homework. 

    My two roommates and I started tutoring them and providing recreational activities. It was the birth of 4H Club, run by Judy, Sports group. Den and I started a Rec Center which provided multiple activities for the children, during the day, and for adults during the evening. During the summer we ran an overnight camp, with the help of other volunteers from other towns. There were many more activities to choose from, and so I did.

    So little time, so little money, but I not only had the satisfaction of serving with love and pride, but also the memories and learning from this experience. In conclusion, this experience gave me ‘the best job of my life.’ As I approach retirement I have realized that for me to do a better job, and feel fulfilled and happy, money and perks were not the drive. It has been the satisfaction of doing it with love, independently, and being the receiver of the immense appreciation from those whomever I have touched their lives.


  • Alumni story
    Debra Thompson Chicago

    By making me more involved in my community, I now understand that change comes one person at a time. Because of my AmeriCorps experience, I’ve gotten my family involved in volunteering. My daughter volunteers at her college, which has given her more compassion for her peers and understanding of others. 

    I now work at a job that is community-based and helps improve the quality of life for all humanity. Thanks VISTA for the chance to be the best me that I could be. 


  • Alumni story
    Tara Stein Huntsville

    I had a very positive experience - it was my first year out of undergrad school and I had just gotten a degree in Social Work. I wanted some experience working with children and this was the perfect opportunity - I was at Big Brothers/ Big Sisters of North Alabama running a pilot in-school mentoring program.

    I learned so much that year - the program was brand new and I basically had to start from scratch and do everything to get it up and running. I also had a very positive experience with the staff at Big Brothers/ Big Sisters. The Executive Director at the time really took me under her wing and showed me how a non-profit works. I can say nothing but good things about my experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA.


  • Alumni story
    Antionette Sharp Chester

    I served as a VISTA volunteer while attending Widener University. The program was called ‘University Year for Action.’ It was for college students who attended colleges or universities in a low-income city.

    I worked in a domestic abuse agency in the city of Chester, PA. I also worked in a program for physically handicapped adults. I loved both field placements.


  • Alumni story
    Diane Seib Alexandria

    I received excellent training and continuing education credits while working at FCAP.  

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