I have now officially been serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA for two months and 22 days. Maybe it’s time for a blog post covering what I’m doing here. AmeriCorps VISTA began in January 1965 after JFK and Johnson both envisioned an organization that would provide services to the poorest parts of the nation. Today VISTA volunteers work to build capacity for programs that assist the poor and empower the communities in which they serve. They serve in organizations that focus on illiteracy, health care, housing opportunities, college access, and so many other places. The overarching goal of VISTA is to fight poverty. Unlike most volunteers, VISTAs do not perform direct services, such as tutoring, feeding, or cleaning. VISTAs focus on program development, resource development, volunteer management, and partnership building. VISTAs raise funds, build programs, and develop resources that can be used long after the VISTA has finished her year of service. Since its start, over 192,000 people have served with VISTA all with the purpose of fighting poverty from a variety of angles.
VISTAs live at the poverty level in order to better understand the population they are serving. They commit to a year of service in which they are asked to serve 40+ hours each week in partnership with a community organization. It is a government ran and funded organization through the Corporation for National and Community Service, but it focuses on individual communities.
My service site is at Berea College in the Center for Excellence in Learning Through Service. Officially my title is Training Resource Specialist, and I have been tasked with the goal of improving the effectiveness of the tutoring program. While the tutoring program is not specifically structured to serve impoverished children, many of the children we serve come from homes that are at or close to the poverty level. The hope is that if these children can gain the skills to do better in school, whether those are academic or interpersonal skills, they will either grow up to have a better life or they’ll grow up to be inspired to make a difference in the life of someone else.
Most of my work looks like typical office work, and maybe most of it is. I develop resources for the tutoring program and I’m working to re-vamp the program. So far I have re-imagined the referral process and developed a system for the tutors to assess the students. I am now working on monitoring those practices and looking into changing the program’s structure.
My heart and mind itch to be able to teach and talk about English, but for now I know that I am providing materials for a program that is teaching and bettering the lives of children. I am learning so much about how people learn and about leadership. Hopefully all of these experiences are preparing me to be a better teacher in the future. I am grateful for this opportunity to be back in an organization that has given me so much and on a campus where I feel welcomed.
For more information about AmeriCorps: http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps
For more information about CELTS: https://www.berea.edu/celts/
*Disclaimer: This is my personal blog, so other posts you may find on this blog may not line up with AmeriCorps or VISTA ideology.*