Unknown Decade

  • Alumni story
    Andrew Schwartz Point Barrow

    Serving in VISTA was my first job in the law. I had worked at Sotheby’s as a Rare Book Expert and done some graduate work in Anthropology prior to going to Alaska. I was interested in social change and the native people of Alaska had just received land and money as a result of the Land Claims Settlement Act. So I knew there would be quick and significant changes in the culture. At the time, the culture was still largely Eskimo with traditional hunting and fishing for caribou, walrus, seal, and whales. 

    Point Barrow was 350 miles north of the Arctic Circle and had 3,000 residents, most of whom were Eskimos. There was no real cash economy and per capita income was around $80/month. The way of life hadn’t changed much over the years. Villages were scattered mainly along the Arctic Coast. No roads connected the villages. No phones or running water existed. No TV or movies. Wolfman Jack kept me alive. 

    I lived in the Barrow Arms apartment. It was two rooms with a cocktail refrigerator and a “honey bucket” for a toilet. It was a large paint can with a glad bag liner and Pinesol – in the middle of the room. I slept in a sleeping bag on the floor for a month before graduating to a bed. No privacy – people came and went. 

    As I was the only “law” north of the Arctic Circle, I went when I could to each of the Eskimo villages. I traveled by bush plane, hitching rides, and stayed with Eskimo families in remote villages with from 30 to 300 inhabitants. I met the most interesting people in what was really a third world country. There were no showers – you slept in your clothes in a sleeping bag on a wooden platform. Though they had little worldly goods, they were proud to be Americans. Fourth of July was a big celebration with guns blazing in the air. 

    During my time, there were lots of adventures hunting caribou, walrus, and whales in skin boats with harpoons thrown by hand – terrifying! All of the whale was eaten or used for construction of mud and grass igloos. It was truly a life-changing experience. 

    I ended up going to work for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for ten years, first as a lawyer then as an Administrative Judge. Then I went into private practice representing government employees who were victims of discrimination, which I still do today. Its been quite a ride – all beginning with my grand adventure with VISTA. 

     

  • Alumni story
    John Rutt Des Moines

    I was trained to work with at risk Asian youth for drug usage. During the first two weeks of my assignment, the State Coordinator called my agency manager and told him to pull me from my assignment. My supervisor asked why? The State Coordinator said since my appointment was only for a year I couldn't accomplish anything substantive. My supervisor disagreed. He said all our VISTA volunteers accomplished their assignments. The State coordinator said, I'm telling you to pull Rutt!

    Of course, when the Fed's pay your tune you dance to their music! I became a job developer. The Bureau of Refugee Programs where I was assigned had mostly Asian refugees. My caseload was, to say the least, varied! Either it was a Laotian grandmother of 75 years that had no family and spoke no English, or was a Thai mother of 5 kids and spoke no English! I also had a Polish Electrical engineer who helped found Solidarity and had to flee Poland for that reason. I also had a client who was from Romania but did speak English! I'd gone home to get my French-English dictionary, because I'd done some research and found that most Romanians speak some French also.

    I enjoyed the year immensely. Toward the end of my undergrad college I'd spent about 10 years studying the Asian culture. So all my study was able to be applied! Next to being a car salesman in retail, in all my different jobs I enjoyed being a job developer the best!

     

  • Alumni story
    Ivette Rodriguez Toa Alta

    I became a VISTA in a program that opened in a rural part of a Toa Alta, Puerto Rico. There I was as a community outreach worker. Most of the work we did was directed on the prevention of child abuse around the public schools. I volunteered for three years back when VISTA was a five year program. 

    At that time, my marriage went from normal into a domestic violence situation. It escalated to such a point that I needed to flee to the United States. The VISTA program was there all the time helping me all the way. They help me with my transfer and I came here to NY and finished the last two years left of my time, ending with a job in a local College. 

    Thanks to VISTA and its coordinators that helped my transition to be easier and safer. My kids know are grown and have healthy lives. 

     

  • Alumni story
    Larry Powell 2001 2002 Bunnell Flagler County

    I was acting supervisor, permitting houses, purchasing materials, coordinating with volunteers for Flagler County Habitat for Humanity. I had previous experience with selling tools, and in purchasing, but did not have much hands-on experience.

     

    I enjoyed my year with VISTA and had circumstances not changed at the local Habitat for Humanity Affiliate I would probably have applied for another year. As it was I had devoted 50 to 60 hour weeks documenting permitting procedures, computerizing request for quotations and documenting building subcontractors and suppliers.

     

    I felt a sense of completion after the year and hope that the affiliate benefitted from my assistance.

     

  • Alumni story
    Maximiliano Perez San Mateo

    I served as an AmeriCorpsVISTA working with child care providers. It was fun to work for them. I put together a training manual explaining the career path for child care providers, which I heard was going to be adopted statewide. I photographed our events and wrote some stuff.

    After my service, I went back to school at the City College of San Francisco. I am pursuing a degree in cinematography.

     

  • Alumni story
    Marie E. Perez San Juan

    The AmeriCorpsVISTA experience was a turning point in my life. The project gave me the opportunity to discover my skills as a leader and to believe in myself again. The AmeriCorps educational award sent me back to college. Thanks to that opportunity, today I am a professional.

    I teach Spanish and culture at Morris County College in Randolph, New Jersey. I tell my students on the first day of class, “Raise your hands if you are here to learn Spanish.” They all raise their hands. I tell them, “Wrong. You are here to learn life skills 101.” At the end of the semester, they understand what I was talking about.

    Thanks AmeriCorps VISTA for helping me learn what my true skills are and for helping me find my real path in life so that now I can help others do the same.

     

  • Alumni story
    Mary Necaise

    I would need more than 500 words to tell my story. VISTA changed my life and gave me an insight to life that I will never forget. I learned I was a strong person and was capable of handling a lot of different situations.  

  • Alumni story
    Pearl Nation Lame Deer

    I have helped many Native Americans adjust to city living and urban life. I also informed them of the many different resource programs that were available to them at that time. We were able to clean-up old, debilitated buildings so that they can be used for Native programs, such as the Indian Center in Billings. As a VISTA Volunteer, we were able to work with Native and Non-Native people, low-income and all incomes. By being a VISTA member, I was able to travel around the country and meet many people, who were in the same program and elsewhere.

     

  • Alumni story
    Judi Murphy Hartford

    I started the Resettlement Program with Sr. Nancy Audette at the Connecticut Prison Association AKA Community Partners in Action, 110 Bartholomew Street, Hartford, CT. This program assisted female offenders, who were incarcerated at York and Niantic Correctional system, in re-entering the communities of their choice after time served.

    This was one of the most awesome experiences of my life and it has changed my way of thinking and my thought process with everything I set out to achieve in my life. I have spent the last sixteen years educating the general population on what actually goes on in our prison systems for both men and women.

    I was able to get my Associates Degree in Manchester Community College, a Bachelors in Law Enforcement at a private college, and am completing my Masters in Educational Leadership at Central Connecticut State University. I realized while interviewing women in prison that I was very interested in the potential to further their education. That was one of the most exciting things to witness many of them completing their GED's and going on to college. I now mentor everyone and counsel and motivate everyone to get the highest degree in education as they can.

     

  • Alumni story
    Jorge Munoz-Bustamante served Scottsbluff

    I was in Scottsbluff for about two months in 1974. I worked with a local high school at a nearby town, Minatare.  It was a wonderful experience!  

View Alumni Stories by Decade