“So you want to be a VISTA?” by Lee

As I was considering my options for post-grad life, I actually came across the blog for Carson-Newman VISTAs. Reading over their blog posts was my introduction to the previous cohort of VISTAs as well as the service sites. Since there might be some future VISTAs out there perusing the internet as they contemplate applying, here’s what I am doing at SEEED right now and what the next VISTAs will be working on here.

I am the program coordinator at SEEED, and throughout my time at SEEED I have been coordinating the Career Readiness Program. As program coordinator, I recruit and manage volunteers to instruct workshops on life and job skills for the young adults we work serve. I also create and administer evaluations for the students and volunteers involved in the program to make it better. I have created an instructor database and a general volunteer database and updated the volunteer intake procedure. Earlier on in the year, I spent a lot of time on updating the grant database and writing grants, but that has been less of the focus lately. I also worked with John on a major overhaul of the donor database, and we lead fundraising pushes like letters, phone-a-thons, and events. (Events are more John’s area of expertise though.)

Those are all very typical VISTA duties, but I think what makes this position special is being able to see your impact right in front of your eyes. VISTA positions are by nature indirect service, since we build capacity in our organizations, which in turn allows the organizations to better serve those in need. For some VISTAs, this can be frustrating because they know they are doing good but there is no sign in front of them, which makes it harder to stay motivated. SEEED is very small—the executive director is the only full time staff. As a result, John and I are in the building with the students of SEEED every class day.

Because of the tight-knit nature of SEEEED, indirect service often still involves lots of time working one-on-one or in groups with the students, volunteers, and interns of SEEED. For example, John is making promotional videos for SEEED to use in the future, but that involves interviewing and filming the students. I plan the curriculum for life and job skills, but that also involves checking in with the students to see what is working and what skills and support they still need. In this way, I feel like we get the best of both worlds—building capacity while also seeing the work on the ground. Plus, my partner in crime John is here too, so I’m never in it alone!

As far as the next VISTA here as program coordinator, I wish you the best of luck! Also, here’s a picture from last week when we took the students down to the City-County meeting and met with Mayor Rogero. Don’t be jealous—just join VISTA. ☺

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