Sarah R. Cheney | VISTA Lead | March 7, 2019
The week of March 11th – 15th marks the annual celebration of AmeriCorps week – a time to celebrate all things AmeriCorps. Over the last three years, Opportunity Santa Fe has received backbone support from 16 AmeriCorps VISTAs and 21 Summer Associates. Joining in the celebration, a few of our current and past VISTAs took a moment to reflect on their favorite memories and learned experiences from their service year(s).
Prior to being a VISTA, I worked as a respite provider for Las Cumbres Community Services. It was a hard adjustment leaving a field where I had a direct impact on a child’s life to “sitting at a desk”. It’s been almost two years since I made the transition and through my work with ¡Santa Fe Convive! I have been able to extend my reach of one family at a time, to fifteen families at a time. Being a part of a collective impact imitative, such as this, has really broadened my view of what I can do. – Sarah Cheney, 2017 – Present
As a retired professional who’s worked solely with privileged adults for 45 years, I am grateful for my #MadeInAmeriCorps experience because it has opened my eyes and broadened my perspective. I better understand the significant barriers facing children and youth in Santa Fe who don’t have enough food, don’t have the benefit of well-trained teachers, and don’t have access to the resources that privileged populations take for granted. And I experience firsthand the tremendous efforts of committed, passionate people who refuse to accept the status quo and work tirelessly to make systemic changes. – Penny Holcomb, 2018 – Present
I’ve had lots of peak experiences in my seven months of AmereiCorps VISTA experience, including helping dedicated community members to get the money they need to do important work, facilitating important meetings and helping people to work together to solve common problems. But I’m most proud of the fact that I serve shoulder to shoulder with other VISTA volunteers, an elite corps of front-line community organizers who work for nothing more than the satisfaction we get in helping others. I will always carry that pride of membership with me – Ralph Holcomb, 2018 – Present
One of my favorite memories from serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA was spending time with a group from the Sweeney After School program in the Santa Fe Botanical Gardens. The students were so excited to be digging around in the dirt for potatoes and tasting vegetables that were new to their palate. It felt satisfying to know that my work had facilitated this opportunity for kids to gain a greater connection with their food source and begin to grow a love of working in the soil. – Dana Greenblatt, 2018 – 2019
My favorite memory from AmeriCorps was bringing together the city government, nonprofits, public schools, and employers to create a Teen Job Fair. Our collaboration provided a service to young job seekers that had not been available before. My time in AmeriCorps shaped my desire to connect community resources which is a great asset to my career as a social worker. #MadeInAmeriCorps. – Ellie Hoffman, 2017 – 2018
In 2019 the City of Santa Fe held their second annual Teen hiring fair, utilizing the groundwork laid by Ellie’s support in 2018. This project is a great example of how VISTA support leads to sustainability.
My year AmeriCorps VISTA informed me of the many possibilities of nonprofit organizations. Previously my understanding of the world was that if you are lucky enough to go to school, to study what you find most beautiful of the world, that someday you will get paid a lot of money to exploit it. This sounds horribly ill-informed, but I didn’t know there were other options beyond degrees that were structured towards the fields that produce the most opportunities and the most income. I am glad to have learned of the many ways to be involved, and of the projects working to correct systemic issues around the country and its territories. Moreover, I feel secure in knowing that the organizations I worked with were led by people whose intent was to honestly bring positive change to their community and who always kept to best practices. The voice of the community being served was always at the front line. In summary, AmeriCorps has brought positive things into my focus that I previously thought were impossible and has inspired me to continue to make change in those things which I find most critical. – Emily McRae, 2017 – 2018