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AmeriCorps Alumni Profile – LaNette Diaz

April 19, 2012

Today’s special post originally appeared on Serve Montana on April 18, 2012.

LaNette Diaz

LaNette Diaz
AmeriCorps VISTA, 2000-2002
Served in Billings and Helena, MT
Currently resides in Missoula, MT

LaNette Diaz grew up in Montana and graduated from the University of Montana in 2000 with a degree in social work, with an emphasis on community organizing. She was specifically interested in the AmeriCorps VISTA program because of the valuable experience she could gain right out of college, which would in turn make her a more competitive applicant in her field.

She served two years as a VISTA with the Prevention Resource Center (PRC), a division of the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. In 2000, she worked on neighborhood revitalization efforts in lower income neighborhoods with the City of Billings. In 2001, she became a VISTA leader with the PRC in Helena. LaNette’s AmeriCorps experience gave her the job skills she now uses as Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Missoula. She believes that without her AmeriCorps experience she would have floundered a lot more to find her niche in Montana.

LaNette’s undergraduate major and graduate degree was social work with a focus on community organizing, but it was her experience with AmeriCorps that allowed her to gain a number of the ‘real life’ skills she needed to work in the field.

“The experience was beyond what I expected. As a VISTA you’re handed a job that you would not qualify for in the job market, and you get to show people in the field that you can do the job!”

LaNette believes the greatest impact she had during her service with the City of Billings was creating connections that taught neighborhood leadership how to access services and what the City could do to improve neighborhoods. Her efforts have had a lasting impact on the quality of life in those neighborhoods and provided city officials with a better understanding of which resources make the most direct impact for their community.

During her service with the PRC in Helena she cites developing strong VISTA training as her most significant accomplishment. That training was in place for ten years after she completed her AmeriCorps service year. Unfortunately, the funding for the training is no longer available, but the model is in place if the funding is restored.

After her service with AmeriCorps, LaNette used her experience in her work as a Neighborhood Liaison for the City of Missoula. In the spring of 2009, she was hired as the Executive Director of CASA of Missoula. CASA is a nationwide association of volunteers appointed by judges to watch over and advocate for abused and neglected children, to make sure they don’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system. As the Executive Director for CASA of Missoula, LaNette continues to be an asset to Montana by managing and recruiting volunteers for an organization that is doing critically important work to ensure at risk children become contributing members of our communities instead of slipping through the cracks.

LaNette was recently honored as CASA Director of the Year by the Department of Health and Human Services at the annual Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect Conference in Helena. During her three years at CASA of Missoula, volunteer numbers increased from 27 to 70 active volunteers and she hired an outside consultant to complete an organizational assessment of CASA on how to improve and began a fundraiser called Mad Mudder that raised around $13,000 last year.

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