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Memoirs of a VISTA

April 20, 2015

HEADSHOTToday’s guest post comes from Rachelle Duroseau who graduated summa cum laude from Nazareth College, in Rochester, NY, with a Bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a minor in Community Based Youth Development. Rachelle will soon begin her second term as an AmeriCorps VISTA with Children’s Home Society of Florida’s community outreach and engagement initiative. She was recently awarded Volunteer Florida’s Champion of Service award for her VISTA work.

Growing up, it didn’t take long for me to learn that I felt most fulfilled when giving my time to others. Between high school and college, I took full advantage of as many volunteer opportunities as time allowed. I was never serving out of obligation, but always because I felt a genuine desire to volunteer.

I first learned the true meaning of empathy and saw my life in a greater context in high school. I took an elective course in hospice (The Harley Hospice Corps) that taught me how to take care of people at the peak of their vulnerability right before death. I remember one patient in particular that I bonded with. In only a few short weeks, I watched her physically and emotionally deteriorate beyond recognition. It was such a surreal experience for me. It was also a brutal lesson: life’s miseries don’t discriminate. None of us are safe from it, and all we can do is deeply cherish and respect one another while we can.

This newfound sense of civic responsibility was heightened when I studied sociology in college. I focused on exploring the areas of poverty and social inequality. During school, I volunteered with several organizations including The House of Mercy, a homeless shelter in my hometown of Rochester, NY. I became so enthralled with that community and felt so much joy building relationships with its residents and staff. But, volunteering there also made me sad. I witnessed so many people living with debilitating physical and mental restraints that had been blatantly abandoned by society. I also saw people at the absolute depths of their despair. The most painful to see were those newly seeking refuge in the shelter as they had run out of options, yet were inconsolable that this was what their lives had resorted to. It was hard not to feel the powerlessness and desolation that they experienced. It hurt to know I could not provide the support they needed. It also taught me devastating things about the pervasive, insidious, and complex realities and consequences of poverty.

By the time I graduated college, I was frustrated. I didn’t feel like my direct service work did more than put a Band-Aid over a festering wound. I was eager to start applying my skills to help create effective change, but I wasn’t ready to jump into a career. I needed to find an opportunity that would let me build off of what I knew while simultaneously giving me the confidence to safely test my personal boundaries to see what I was capable of. Read more…

Tutoring with City Year and Cutting Out Snowflakes with Leslie Knope

April 10, 2015

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Todays guest blog comes to us from AmeriCorps alum Kristen Vann. Kristen is currently a high school educator at Madison High School, a small rural school near her hometown in Western North Carolina. She did a year of national service with City Year Chicago in 2012-2013. Kristen was a School and Community Engagement Coordinator at Collins Academy High School in the North Lawndale community.

When I have conversations about my year of service as a City Year Corps member in Chicago, I usually talk about how rewarding the work was. I am very grateful for the opportunities I had to tutor, mentor, and advocate for some really incredible ninth graders. Working closely with these students taught me so much about myself. It taught me how to cross barriers and form relationships with young people in a way that has deeply influenced my teaching career.

I could speak volumes on how AmeriCorps has had an impact on my professional life. This intense ten-month experience not only gave me valuable experiences in community engagement and school enrichment, it also taught me to work hard and work smart. There is absolutely no doubt that my service gave me a deeply seeded sense of satisfaction, as well as many professional skills. That’s why I very rarely speak about the events that caused this work to be physically, emotionally and mentally draining at times.

Read more…

A Mission for Life

April 8, 2015

Florence HeadshotToday’s guest blog comes to us from Returned Peace Corps Volunteer and AmeriCorps VISTA alum, Florence Phillips. Florence began volunteering at 55 when she joined the Peace Corps. She served in three different foreign countries. When she came home, Florence served as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer for five years in a Service Learning Program. She now works as the Executive Director for the ESL In-Home Program of Northern Nevada.

I am 84 years of age and have been a proud volunteer for thirty years. My service in Peace Corps and AmeriCorps transformed my life and greatly impacted the work I do today.

Inspired by my experience as an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer, I became mindful of the great need for services in my adopted hometown of Carson City, NV. A major issue I found was the lack of respect that immigrants were getting because they did not speak English. I became mindful of the many challenges faced by people trying to learn the local language while simultaneously trying to survive in a new country. Being fluent in Spanish, I began teaching English to a local woman from Mexico who couldn’t afford the ESL classes offered at the local college. Read more…

When the Road You Need Isn’t Found on a Map…

March 31, 2015

headshot mandyToday’s guest blog comes from Mandy Zoelzer who served with AmeriCorps VISTA in 2014 at the Mission: St. Louis and is now on staff as their Communications Coordinator. Mandy is also the Chapter Leader of the AmeriCorps Alums St. Louis Chapter. Alums can connect with the chapter on Facebook or by emailing Mandy.

Lost on the road, there’s an app for that. About to graduate from school with no clue where to head next? That app’s still in development.

I had just come back to the states after living in Australia for a year and had one wish – grow up and have a boring career job. I loved school, but I was graduating soon without a clue where to head next. My brother suggested AmeriCorps, a program I’d never heard of.

Late one night, I scoured the AmeriCorps position listings and applied for two. Both contacted me, and soon I was signing a contract for a Communications Coordinator position. I’d be planning events, fundraising and managing donor relations. Things I had never imagined doing. Read more…

A Star is Born: AmeriCorps in Hollywood!

March 26, 2015

What was the best release out of Hollywood this week? We’ll give you two clues. It involves AmeriCorps and ninjas.

AmeriCorps Alums Co-Executive Director Mary Bruce was in Hollywood on Monday for the ground-breaking Serve A Year campaign launch with ServiceNation, Jimmy Kimmel, and Chelsea Clinton. A long-term effort to inspire millions of young Americans to serve a year in programs like AmeriCorps, Serve a Year aims to make a service year after high school or college the expectation, not the exception.

National Ninja Warrior Squad YouTube snip

Read more…

You’ve Changed the World, and the World has Changed You. Now What?

March 24, 2015

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Today’s blog is sponsored by Antioch University Seattle and is written by Lauren Mehl, the executive assistant to Antioch’s president. Lauren served with AmeriCorps from 2007-2008 in Seattle. Antioch University recognizes the important contributions alumni made through AmeriCorps service and offers two service-specific scholarships. The University honors that dedication to service by offering a Master’s degree in Management and Leadership designed to integrate the rich experiences and insights  gained in AmeriCorps with new practical skills and knowledge designed to help AmeriCorps alums advance to their next career level.

lauren1When I enrolled to serve with the Notre Dame AmeriCorps Seattle team at a tutoring center in a housing authority neighborhood, I really had no idea what I was getting into. In my service placement, I problem-solved, made mistakes, developed relationships and meaningful connections, and grew as a person and leader.

The years I spent serving in AmeriCorps improved my self- confidence and set the course of my professional life. Since my time with AmeriCorps, I’ve been a director for an AmeriCorps team, spent two years as a housing manager for a nonprofit, and I currently work as the Executive Assistant to the President at Antioch University Seattle, a non-profit and fully accredited institution with a long history of being at the forefront of educational innovation and social justice.

Here at AUS, my service experience has led to my involvement in launching a new Master’s program in Management and Leadership, designed specifically for those who have served in AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, the U.S. armed forces, and other service organizations. As someone who has been profoundly changed by the community I served during AmeriCorps, I’m proud to be a part of an education program that values my service experience, utilizes the skills and knowledge I gained, and leverages them to propel me on my career path. I have never been so ready to finally take the leap to earn my master’s degree, especially with a program that has benefiting others and the world at its heart. Read more…

Why Persistence Beats Enthusiasm

March 19, 2015

HeadshotToday’s guest blog is by Amanda Salapong. Amanda recently graduated from the University of California, Merced, and decided to spend her time before graduate school actively developing as a global citizen. She moved from Los Angeles to Miami to start serving with City Year Miami, where she has been serving for the past eight months. Amanda hopes to continue with another year of service and a career in the nonprofit sector. 

I started my service with City Year full of excitement and motivation. I was ready to change the world in just 10 months. When I got to the midpoint of my service, however, I realized I had been sprinting to the finish line of a marathon. By mile thirteen, I was ready for a new pair of shoes and a Powerbar. Read more…

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