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Posts Tagged ‘americorps’

Imagine my surprise when I looked at the date and realized that while I had started a few drafts, I hadn’t posted a single post this month!  That just will not do.  Especially as a result of #10.

What a lot of surprises this summer has brought with it.  I’ve (finally) purchased a car.  I’ve moved (again) into a new apartment.  I’ll have 2 new roommates, one whom I’ve never met in person, and school starts so soon! This whole renting and car ownership thing is complicated lol.  It probably doesn’t help that I am trying to coordinate bill paying across 2 states and 3 people. I think things will settle down once we are all in the same place.  Also, our property manager not returning phone calls or emails isn’t super helpful 😉  But enough about her.

Lots of beginnings and again, an end.  My extended VISTA term will be over on Friday.  I’ll truly miss my friends and colleagues.  I’ve had some amazing opportunities during my time as a VISTA and met wonderful people.  I honestly think I will be a little lost at first.  When people ask me what I do, I know my first reflex will be to say “I’m an AmeriCorps*VISTA.”  I never thought it would be such a cool time for me.  I have a feeling that once you are a VISTA, you are a VISTA forever.  I think it’s just one of those things.  You (hopefully) never forget the lessons you learned.

The only thing constant is change.

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Today would have been my last official day as an AmeriCorps*VISTA member. I have extended my term until the end of next month so I’m not done yet! I just can’t believe how fast the year went by.

It has been an amazing year. Full of new people, places, and experiences I never could have dreamed of. My term of service has had it’s ups and it’s downs but I wouldn’t trade it.  I’ve gained so much real-world experience, confidence, and life-long friends.

I’ve had the opportunity to present at and attend numerous conferences and workshops, visit friends in Hawaii, and find a school to persue my future.

I’m just so grateful for the chances I’ve been presented with.  I’m hoping that my last few weeks will be just as good as all the others!

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blank-journalI find myself once again having not blogged in weeks and with nothing to say.  A blank mind. I suppose I can talk about the fun things coming up for me in the next few weeks.

I am heading to the CiTE conference next week in Denver with my coworkers.  I am excited to visit Denver as I have never been.  I will be presenting with a coworker of mine.  I am both excited and nervous.  I have never presented at a conference before!  I am really bummed out though because it sounds like there won’t be wifi access available.  I was hoping to live tweet and pull some social media into my presentation as interactive pieces.  That will be difficult to do without wifi for the audience.  I will be in serious withdrawal!  I’ll come back to my hotel room and devour the online news I have missed during the day.

The weekend after, the friend I visited in Hawaii will be back on the mainland!  I am looking forward to seeing him.  I always enjoy his conversation and company.  I don’t get to enjoy either of them very often anymore.

I’m contemplating extending my AmeriCorps*VISTA term of service another month. It will give me another month of guaranteed income and will let me keep my apartment until my PA classes start.  My supervisor will be leaving at the beginning of July for maternity leave.  This will help allow me to help ease the transition of my duties to the new person while my supervisor is gone.  I’m curious to see how it will be working without her.  It will be even stranger leaving.  I am truly blessed with my coworkers and my job.  We have a close group and we work very well together.  Everyone is very supportive of one another.  I will miss the family feeling when I leave.  Luckily I will be close enough to keep in touch!

Well this turned rather introspective and may be boring you so I’ll finish this up now :-p  I promise to come up with something useful in the next few weeks!  Hopefully the conference will inspire me, hehehe.

Photo credit: retro traveler

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* I will be out of town until the 15th.  Look for a post with Hawaii pictures after that!!

In the comments for my last post, Paddy Shaughnessy asked me some very pointed questions.  He asked me:

“I’m interested in your decisions leading up to become a VISTA, it must have been such a huge crossroads in your life. How did you learn about it, was there any hesitation about becoming one and what sacrifices have you had to endure because of your participation?

In other words… how do you go from regular college kid to a servant to social issues given the sacrifices you’d have to make to do it?”

I didn’t feel as though I could answer his questions in the comments so I’m hoping this post can serve as a response.  I’ve talked a bit before about what being a VISTA entails and what it means to me but this will hopefully be a bit more in depth. Let me set the stage…

It was early early in the morning on my birthday at the end of 2007.  I was entering my senior year of college with no clear career goals in mind.  My boyfriend of almost 6 years and I had just broken up.  Quite honestly, my life was a bit of a mess.  A friend of mine had been looking into Teach for America and AmeriCorps and I was inspired.  I had no plans and was starting to freak out about my future.  I decided I had nothing to lose.  I went ahead and applied for AmeriCorps*VISTA and the Jesuit Volunteer Corps.  I didn’t really think much of it.  I never thought I would end up where I am today.

When I started getting calls from sites interested in having me as their VISTA I was flattered.  Who wouldn’t be right?  The more I talked with people about VISTA the more I realized it might not be such a bad idea.  It would give me the chance to get a year of experience without having to pay my loans and a chance to see parts of the country I had never seen before.  Part of the reason I ultimately decided to do VISTA was to create a new beginning for myself.  I had just gotten out of the longest relationship I had ever had.  I wanted to redefine myself.  Becoming a VISTA was something I never would have done while in that relationship.  It was a leap of faith, something out of character.  The idea of a fresh start in a new place with new people appealed to me.

I ended up in Nebraska, a long way from home for an East Coast girl.  It’s been an interesting year so far.  I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences that I never would have had otherwise.  I’ve gotten to see most of the state of Nebraska, visited a uranium mine, a horse ranch, 2 Husker games, and multitudes of other fun things.  I’ve also met so many amazing people.  I’ve made life long friends here in a short amount of time.  It hasn’t been without it’s challenges.

Living at poverty level hasn’t been easy.  It’s difficult to make the money work and even more difficult trying to survive on public transportation and charity rides to get around.  I look forward to having a car again.  The hardest part for me has been leaving the people I love.  Family and friends mean so much to me and it’s been hard to be away for such long periods of time.  I am lucky to get home twice a year.  It’s hard to make friends when you only really go to work and home again due to lack of rides.  That has been a difficult adjustment as well but I’m dealing with it.  Thankfully I have amazing coworkers to help make up for it.

The switch from college life to AmeriCorps was a big one for me.  However I’m not sure if it would have been any different if I entered the working world instead.  I have no real basis for comparison.  Our training helped get me in the mindset I needed to empathize with people experiencing poverty.  As long, and sometimes boring (hehe), as it sometimes was, it was worth it.

All in all the experience has been worth it.  It’s had its rough patches but I’ve tried to learn from them the best that I can.  I’ve been lucky enough to be accepted into a Physician Assistant Master’s program for the fall and I am sure my experiences here helped me get there.  I hope I can continue to take these lessons with me and grow.  Well this turned out to be much “sappier”, for lack of a better word, than I anticipated!  Thanks for reading everyone and let me know if you have any more questions!

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That’s the choice I was presented with a year ago.  I accepted the challenge.  I’m an AmeriCorps*VISTA member.  VISTA stands for Volunteers In Service To America. VISTA’s mission is to eradicate poverty by helping nonprofits and educational institutions establish sustainability.  Being a VISTA entails signing a one year contract to serve.  We have the option of receiving a modest cash benefit or a more substantial education award at the end of our term of service.  We live at poverty level to help us better understand the daily struggles of those we are trying to serve.

VISTA’s can fill many roles in the community but never direct service.  For instance, a VISTA member might help a community organization set up an after school tutoring program for kids but would not be the ones doing the actual tutoring.  I have worked in 2 educational institutions helping them to establish and sustain service-learning programs.  Our students go out and fill needs in the community as a part of their coursework. For example, a student in a mental health class might go work at a long-term care facility for people with mental illnesses.  The residents benefit from increased social interactions and the students benefit by getting the chance to more fully understand what they are learning in class by getting to experience mental illness in real life.

VISTA can really be anything you make of it.  For me, VISTA has taken me out of my comfort zone and given me countless learning opportunities.  I’ve met fascinating people and had the chance to grow as a person outside of the familiar influences of friends and family.  While it’s not without its challenges, I have truly enjoyed my term of service thus far.  I have a few months left and I hope I can make the most of it!

I hope that if you (or anyone in your life) are considering national service, you give it some serious thought.  It’s a unique opportunity to learn and gain experience in any field you choose!VISTAs

Photo by Jon Person on flikr.com

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Lots of New Things!

Hello and welcome to my new blog site! I decided it was time to switch host sites. I was looking for a bit more flexibility. My name is Katie. I am a currently serving Americorps*VISTA. I am using this blog as a space to write about my life and whatever social media and/or service-learning things I have going on at the moment.

I hope you will take the time to check out the posts from my old blog. I’ve included the link at the bottom of this post. I have been posting about once a week since September. There’s a few in there I am pretty proud of so I had to include them 😉 I hope to keep growing as a blogger here! Please leave a comment to say or leave any thoughts! I look forward to meeting you!

Feed for my old blog

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