Last year I faced a decision, what do I do after my term as a MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA is over? To me the answer was clear, I wanted to continue to serve at Western New England University, and so I decided to pursue a second year as a VISTA. Though this was an easy decision for me there were many reasons why someone could decide not to re-enroll, living on a VISTA budget isn’t easy after all. I have also seen many VISTAs continue their education, generally so they may more effectively serve their communities in the future. Some VISTAs may also decide that they want to try something new, and feel that they have outgrown the role provided by the campus they are serving at, and so they might want to work at a different campus or become a VISTA leader and serve the MACC AmeriCorps*VISTA Corps.
While I considered all of these options I felt very strongly that my work at Western New England University was not done yet. The improvements to and expansion of the programs I had worked on in my first year were still in a precarious stage of development and had not yet reached a point where they were sustainable without either the input of a VISTA or a significant amount of work by staff at the University. I felt I couldn’t leave these programs when they were at this stage of development and felt strongly that if I stayed on another year student leaders would be ready to take a lot of responsibility for the tutoring programs I had been working on, making the programs much more sustainable. I also was personally interested in working with these student leaders to develop their leadership, facilitation and program coordination abilities because I had benefited from similar efforts from professional staff at Gettysburg College during my college years and I felt both an obligation to pay this debt forward, and felt being involved in this process would further my own professional development.
This year has brought everything I was expecting and much more. As I work to pass the torch to students and staff at Western New England University we have also been able to further develop existing partnerships and even start some new ones. My first year as a VISTA was in many ways a learning experience, I was new to Springfield and new to the University, so I spent much of my time learning how our community partnerships function in addition to trying to improve them. This year I have been able to much more effectively put that learning into action and I am confident the work that we will have finished by the end of my term will have a lasting impact on the partnerships, on students and on community members served by the partnerships.
Western New England University
In partnership with the Springfield Housing Authority and Springfield School Volunteers.