VISTA Guest Posts: Developing Resources and So Much More
As I write this blog post reflecting on my experience as an Americorps VISTA, working to improve Maryland Out-of-School opportunities, I am in the seventh month of my year-long term, although I can scarcely believe it. My term has been nothing short of transformational for me, and my graduation from college feels much more distant than May 2014. When I went to the pre-service orientation in August, I was entering the field of educational nonprofits with no experience, but with a love for Baltimore and a desire to learn and do what I can to address the many educational inequalities, which have only become more and more apparent through my work.
My official title at the Greater Baltimore Urban League is “Resource Developer.” It even says so on my business card (my first business card!). Yet, I find myself explaining what that means to almost everyone I am introduced to. What it means is that I work to build the capacity of the GBUL to serve the community by developing resources- be they capital, in-kind, or human. I write grant applications, direct ask letters, call businesses for in-kind resources, recruit interns and volunteers, maintain the social media campaign, and assist in the GBUL fundraising events.
I feel very lucky to work for the Greater Baltimore Urban League, and help it grow at a time when its staff is still rather limited. As resource developer, I work with the fundraising team– most recently serving as the event chair for the GBUL’s first Business Summit, which attracted over 200 attendants. I have to admit that when Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake waved to me at the Summit, I could only manage a feeble wave back and smile, because I was so surprised and excited. Who would have thought that I could be in such a “fancy job?” Sometimes this work feels far away from the classroom, but I know that fundraisers and corporate meetings in the Transamerica building, and the slow-but-steady process of building relationships with people, companies, and organizations help financially support our educational program.
While my job is mostly behind-the-scenes- and I like it that way- I do have the pleasure of working with youth in our Saturday Leadership Program, a program which serves 100 students, grades 8-12, who come from 40 different schools and 57 different neighborhoods. SLP visits Baltimore colleges and universities, and it has been so very fun to visit with the students. Doing so has allowed a varied work experience for me: I’ve toured college campuses, facilitated a workshop called the “history wall” which explores historical narratives in society and in the community; I’ve called a lot of parents, danced in an improvisational workshop with students, and even driven bus passes to a student’s school so he could come to events. I even got to design and implement my own workshop, on college applications, which the program will be using again next year. It might be a cliché sentiment to say that hugs and thank you emails from students make my day, but it doesn’t make it any less true. I am proud of my work to advance college readiness, however small.