In my six months as a MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA at Brandeis University, I have had countless students inquire about the VISTA experience, wondering if it’s a post-graduation option that they want to pursue. They email, call, pull me aside after student leadership meetings, and set up coffee chats. They explain their interests, their experiences, their goals, and their personal values, all hoping to learn more about how these ideals could fit with a VISTA position. They share a passion for continuing their community work following their time at a university, and they actively seek guidance about how to do so.
I share this fact as a prelude to two points: the first regarding my own path of how I ended up here, and the second regarding the type of students with whom I work.
To be asked for advice on this subject is an interesting position for me to be in and I will admit that it feels a bit odd. This was me, not even a year ago. I was the one anxious to settle on a path for my future, hoping that I could morph my community engagement into something sustainable. I was the one seeking advice from anyone that I could get to meet with me. I was the one requesting a coffee date with the Campus Compact AmeriCorps*VISTA at my university. So now that the advisee has become the advisor, I can’t help but reflect on the changes that have taken place in a year.
I arrived at this position via a less direct path than most others, but am grateful that everything seemed to fall into place in order for that to happen. In the spring semester of my senior year at UNC Chapel Hill, I was still struggling to decide what I wanted to do once I graduated. All I knew was that I loved doing what I was doing at UNC, which was building a service-learning mentoring program to pair college students with local middle-schoolers. I loved connecting the campus with the community in that way and felt strongly about how our structure could benefit everyone, both mentors and mentees. I didn’t know how exactly I could translate that into a career, but I knew that if I could figure that out it would be my dream job. Nearing the end of my time in college, I took a few days off to travel to Boston, knowing that was where I wanted to settle after graduation. In those 3 days I packed in as many meetings as I could with professionals doing what I hoped to be doing, and one of those meetings was with the Director of Community Service at Brandeis University, who would eventually become my supervisor (see picture; it’s worth noting that we don’t intentionally coordinate our outfits). I don’t know how I got so lucky as to have scheduled a meeting with the right person at the right time, but things quickly fell into place for me to eventually join the MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA team. And now, six months later, I’m giving advice to students about that very process.
This brings me to my second point regarding the AmeriCorps inquiries. The fact that these students are so eager to learn about AmeriCorps demonstrates the prevailing values of this campus, which has made it a particularly educational placement for a year in service with Massachusetts Campus Compact. The students are unique, thoughtful, and very obviously dedicated to community engagement. I have learned a lot by collaborating with these students on community initiatives, and I can confidently say that I will conclude my MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA term with a year’s worth of extremely valuable experience.
In partnership with the Waltham Chillzone