VISTA Guest Posts: From College to Career Ready
The last ten months have been an eye-opening, humbling and rewarding experience. My year of service has taught me more about my surroundings and how vital people are to the bettering of our own communities than I believe I would have ever learned anywhere else. I’ve learned the ups and downs of moving hundreds of miles away from family and friends and I am an even more financially responsible than before. Lastly, I am now aware of how my Mass Communications degree and course work can be applied to pretty much any sector.
Throughout my four years of undergrad I was supported by a non-profit organization that provided me with a grant for tuition and employment during the breaks. It was here that I learned what an AmeriCorps VISTA did. The VISTAs that I encountered first –hand spearheaded various programs and were overseers over many initiatives at the non-profit. This sparked my interest in finding out what AmeriCorps was all about.
Fast forward to now; I am an AmeriCorps VISTA serving as the Partner Engagement Specialist at In Reach Inc., a non-profit organization in Prince George’s County. Prince George’s County is unique in its geographical location. It is too far from Baltimore to receive many benefits offered to non-profits servicing Baltimore City School students and not inside the limits of the District of
Columbia therefore excluded from benefits available to DC Public School students. While most non-profits have a specific group of students who they cater their services to, In Reach touches the lives of children from kindergarten to high school. These factors make In Reach distinctive and sometimes a challenge in cultivating the right partnerships.
As the Partner Engagement Specialist, I work to further connect In Reach to the community and vice versa. While the description is vague, the title holds many responsibilities. In my role I have done special event planning, media relations, community relations, donor soliciting, and data recording. Because of my work here, In Reach now has partnerships with local community
centers, libraries and civic leaders. We’ve held events to celebrate Teen Read Week, Lights on Afterschool, Teen Tech Week, National Poverty Month, and Child Mental Health Awareness Week. Acknowledging and engaging the community in these events helps the Prince George’s County community be more aware and allows In Reach to connect to beyond the normal after school activities.
It is a rare that I am working with the students that In Reach’s programs serve but when I do it is a joy. When you see an event like the Lights on Afterschool Celebration at Kentland Community Center come to fruition after all the planning, phone calls, emails and meetings the feeling of accomplishment is overwhelming. The enjoyment in our students’ faces makes the tedious process all worth it.