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Lifting People Out of Poverty Since 1965
AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members bring their passion and perseverance where the need is greatest: to organizations that help eradicate poverty. The most pressing challenges we face as a nation require the most courageous and creative people to address them. An AmeriCorps VISTA member serves as a catalyst for change, living and working alongside community members to advance local solutions.
In the Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico, AmeriCorps VISTA member Valerie Fernando has joined the effort to revitalize the threatened Laguna Keres language as part of her year-long service. Through a partnership with the Laguna Community Foundation, Valerie is working to support efforts to create language materials at the Laguna Public Library, engage tribal members to develop the Laguna collection, and expand collaborative relationships with community organizations. This is directly tied to improving educational outcomes for the youth of the Pueblo, not only through the language, but also its values, traditions, and identity.
The ability of local organizations to build and scale activities in rural areas of poverty like the Laguna Pueblo is a challenge. Valerie’s contributions to the important work in this small community is made possible through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Recognizing the continued need in her community, Valerie signed up for a second year of AmeriCorps VISTA service and continues to support her Pueblo.
I was an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Maryland Out-of-School Time Network, at Family League of Baltimore. I was a Food Access VISTA member. My work involved confronting food insecurity in Baltimore City by enabling schools, religious institutions, and other venues to serve meals through the At-Risk Afterschool Meals Program and the Summer Food Service Program.
Social justice has always been a passion of mine. Although it may be cliché, my desire is to be an agent of social change in our world. Being an AmeriCorps VISTA member seemed to be the perfect opportunity to become immersed in my local community and establish lasting cycles of transformation.
I am proud of being a catalyst in establishing relationships that will exist well beyond my AmeriCorps VISTA term of service and contribute to the long-term eradication of hunger among school-aged youth in Baltimore City.
Sara spent her AmeriCorps VISTA year providing outreach support for Habitat for Humanity in the San Francisco Bay Area to help veterans. See her amazing story:
As a mid-life AmeriCorps VISTA member, this year of service is a natural transition from a more formal “career” into a life of more meaningful, impactful work.
I’m from Traverse City, Michigan and I work at Peacehaven Community Farm. We’re an organization that provides housing and creates community for adults with disabilities. We invite neighbors and others to help with our gardens. These volunteers help with the physical work on the farm as well as provide a social outlet for our core members (the adults with disabilities that live at PCF). Our goal over the next few years is to build a community center to provide day programming for our residents and others, and then to build additional housing facilities.
I’m spending this year focusing on coordination of our traditional farm volunteers. My focus is to spread our volunteer base wider and encompass greater diversity.
I was inspired to serve by my daughter, and chose AmeriCorps VISTA to both serve my country and transition to more meaningful work.
I’ve enjoyed finding ways to create capacity within existing resources such as; creating an electronic volunteer application, electronic waiver, etc.
My advice to those considering AmeriCorps VISTA is to DO IT! Jump out of the self-imposed comfort zone and discover yourself as you serve others.
AmeriCorps VISTA Alum, The New York Legal Assistance Group
"If you have the desire to help your neighbor and serve your country, then look no further."
Andrew Hoan is an AmeriCorps VISTA alum who was recently named the President & CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, continuing his commitment to serving others. Andrew spent his year of service with The New York Legal Assistance Group in 2004.
Q&A with Andrew:
Q: Tell us a highlight of serving with AmeriCorps VISTA.
A: Being able to serve Brooklyn and New York, the greatest city on the planet, and make an impact on everyday peoples’ lives.
Q: How did your AmeriCorps VISTA experience impact your life and career?
A: I not only learned professional acumen and the soft skills that every employer needs, I was given a first-hand introduction to the needs of my community and subsequently the tools to help. Additionally, the culture of service to others is a translatable skill that everyone should learn regardless of their chosen career path. AmeriCorps VISTA allows its volunteers to satisfy their own eagerness to better the world while simultaneously training them to understand the fundamentals of what makes organizations function at their best.
Q: What advice do you have for currently serving members?
A: Enjoy every minute of it while you learn the nuts and bolts of how organizations work. If you can have an understanding of how to administer, then the world will open up to you.
Q: What advice do you have for individuals considering service?
A: There are many paths to serve this great country, none more impactful to the communities right here in the United States than AmeriCorps VISTA. If you have the desire to help your neighbor and serve your country, then look no further.
George R.R. Martin
Many are familiar with the HBO television series and award-winning novels, Game of Thrones, written by George R.R. Martin. But what many don’t know is that George R. R. Martin served as a VISTA volunteer in his early career.
In the 1970’s, after graduating with a Master’s Degree from Northwestern University, George began his VISTA service at Legal Assistance Foundation’s (LAF) downtown office in Chicago. At the time LAF was still known as the Cook County Legal Assistance Foundation and had neighborhood offices throughout Chicago and Cook County. George spent two years at the foundation as the Director of Communications and Education, and his job duties were writing press releases and editing newsletters.
Now George is an award-winning American novelist and short story writer who resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is currently in the process of writing The Winds of Winter, the sixth book of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, and working as a co-executive producer of Game of Thrones.
George even joined AmeriCorps VISTA in its 50th Anniversary Celebration in Santa Fe, New Mexico! We’re proud to call George one of our own!
“They don’t realize it, but they’re learning about coordinates, they’re learning about negative and positive impacts of doing things. I think the biggest thing [STEM] teaches the kids is perseverance, because there’s 50 different ways to achieve one goal in computer science.”
Morgan Staton began service with AmeriCorps VISTA in June 2016 with the Boys & Girls Clubs Code Corps. She has a degree in Industrial Engineering. She has created partnerships with 4 the World, Girls Engineering Change, the Beauty and Joy of Coding, and Black Girls Code in the Wake County, North Carolina area.
During her service with the Google Code Corps program, she attended a White House Summit on Computer Science (CS) for All. The White House’s CS for All Summit aimed to empower a generation of American students with the computer science skills they need to thrive in a digital economy. CS for All builds on efforts already being led by parents, teachers, school districts, states, and private sector leaders from across the country.
My name is Jordan Thomas and I am from Chapel Hill, NC. I chose to spend my AmeriCorps VISTA service with United Way of Forsyth County, a charitable organization that convenes resources and skills to support community led initiatives in Forsyth County, NC. As a VISTA member, I am responsible for developing new ways to compile and communicate data collected from the community.
I chose to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA member so that I could contribute to the health of my home state. After living outside of NC for some time, I realized that my home state is in the middle of an incredible period of change and that, as a North Carolinian, I had a special opportunity to play a role in that change.
Through this experience, I have learned that I need to further develop my technical skills in order to make significant contributions to the economy.
My advice to those considering AmeriCorps VISTA or those currently serving is to not be afraid to challenge your coworkers. If you see an opportunity for growth in your host organization, don’t be afraid to bring it up. As a young professional and an outsider, you bring with you a valuable set of perspectives and expertise to the organization.
Michele is an AmeriCorps VISTA Alum turning coal miners into coders. Hear her story:
"We're able to provide almost instant impact in the community. They're smiling more, they're not fighting anymore."
See Eskender's incredible story about his decision to serve his own community of St. Paul, MN.