A few months ago, I was planning a major transition in my professional life. I had been a sales associate since graduating from college, and I was anxious to find a job in which I could make a real difference in people’s lives. What I didn’t expect was that my search would lead me to VISTA, and in turn that this would lead me back to my own alma mater, the University of Rhode Island. While browsing Craigslist for job opportunities in the human services field, I happened to come across a listing for an AmeriCorps VISTA position, purely by chance. The title caught my eye – “Communications and Development Coordinator.” I had all but given up on finding a job related to my Writing & Rhetoric degree, but here was this job posting that played perfectly to my interests and strengths.
The next thing I knew, after a whirlwind month of interviews and preparation, I was in training at the PSO in November 2013. Shortly after, I began working for the First Star URI Academy, a non-profit that strives to improve access to college for at-risk foster youth. In a modest little office on the URI campus, I began to work closely with my supervisor, Administrative Director Merry Caswell. My job duties include writing and editing letters, creating promotional materials such as brochures and flyers, updating our website, grant writing, event planning, and working with our foster youth as a supervisor. So far, my most rewarding experience was helping to plan a book reading event, at which the students in our program read inspiring passages from a book that they wrote about their personal experiences, entitled Peek Into My Pain: Reveal My Strength. The event was a huge success, but there was no time to rest on my laurels; I needed to plunge right into grant research to find funding for our summer residential program.
This July, I will live on the URI campus with the foster students for a month, supervising the program while they take courses and become immersed in the college experience. But for now, at monthly meetings, I am starting to get to know the students on a personal level as they participate in educational workshops, college tours, and other enrichment opportunities. These events give me an opportunity to witness firsthand the life-altering effects of our program. These kids have been born into extreme disadvantage and many of them have endured abuse and neglect, but with the help of First Star, they have gained a once-in-a-lifetime chance to build a better future. Knowing that my work contributes to this ultimate goal is the best, most fulfilling reward that I could ask for.