My name is Alyson Ramirez and this is my first year as a VISTA. I work at the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan and my focus is on college access. This has been a very eventful year at the Hispanic Center. We are currently welcoming a new Youth Director and that means a lot of changes. This VISTA year has taught me the importance of change and being able to adapt to a new environment. I know many of us can agree that change is not our favorite thing to deal with, and at times it can be scary. But I am here to tell you that everything works out in the end. The anxiety will pass and you will most likely survive; I did!
The past couple of months have been very hectic at the center, mostly because we have been preparing for the FAFSA. As some of you know, the FAFSA opened a few months early this year. This meant that our schedule needed to be reorganized and we needed to spread the word as quickly as possible. In order to inform not only our students, but their parents about this imperative application date, we held a parent meeting each month. Before this meeting we contacted school counselors, and students through email, phone calls, and social media. To contact the parents, we planned calls one month before the meeting and then a week before the meeting. This was the biggest meeting we have ever had, and there were over 30 students and family members in attendance as well as six financial aid advisors that participated in helping the students and families actually complete their FAFSA.
I know, for sure, that there are not many of us that actually enjoyed filling out the FAFSA. It is like take that gross pink medicine we all avoided when we were younger. But we did it because we knew it would help us in the end. That is exactly how many families felt. Once the FAFSA was complete they felt accomplished and thankful that they had help. And that is what we are here to do as VISTAs. We help.
So, to all the VISTAs out there that may feel a little overwhelmed and extremely stressed: your help MATTERS. We are all making a difference. Yes, it may be a small difference, but that difference can grow one day to make a huge impact on a student and their family.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!