Hey everyone. It’s been a busy six months (has it been six months already?!) since my last blog, but it’s been a good six months. We’ve had a few theme-based trainings, a couple more Post-PSOs, and most recently Mid-Year Training. We felt like it was a good training, but it was also a good reminder that you can’t please everyone; especially in a group this diverse and at such differing stages in life. I hope everyone got something out of training that they can take with them in life after VISTA though.
About a month ago, Shalyn and I sent out encouragement packages to our respective VISTAs. Each package contained a mini Zen garden and a handwritten note encouraging the VISTAs to rake the sand and reflect on where they’ve been this year and where they’re going after it. Now that things have slowed down a little bit, I find that it’s my turn to do some reflecting. I see VISTAs now that, six months ago, were a little bewildered and overwhelmed. We’ve had some attrition, but those who have persisted have impressed me beyond any expectations I may have had for the year. I cannot praise them enough, and even those who struggle go beyond expectation in their willingness to adapt and improve their performance. By virtue of being a VISTA one is already an upstanding citizen, but this group is truly a remarkable bunch of individuals.
I’ve also gained a much greater appreciation for the “big picture”. There is a quote in the Rig Veda which translates roughly to “truth is one, the wise call it by many names”. This is no different for us. The truth is that we’re helping strengthen Michigan communities large and small, but we might call our truth college access or student engagement or financial literacy or employability services. Each piece of each of those areas is as important as any other and is a part of the greater web we weave.
But I’ve also gained many skills over the last half-year. Six months ago I could say I was proficient at project management or event organization, but having really delved into those areas recently I definitely am proficient at those things now. I have a whole resume full of skills I’ve gained since my first day as a VISTA (grant writing and review, advising, volunteer coordination, strategic planning, social media marketing, data synthesis and analysis, etc.), but the biggest skill I’ve gained is knowing myself. People who knew me before VISTA, even those very close, always tell me “I’m surprised you’re doing that sort of thing.” That, to me, is a compliment. That means I’ve grown and found something that has led me in a direction I want to go. It may not ever involve national service again, but I’ll never be able to look at the world through a different lens than the one I polished these past couple of years.
The next few months will be full of recruitment, making sure current VISTAs have everything they need before ending service, and making sure the incoming VISTAs are set to start the cycle anew and build on the success of this year’s cohort. It will also see the winding down of my own service and, I suppose, finding a job. I have been incredibly lucky to be a part of this program and I thank everyone past and present for making it such an amazing experience.
Each blog post was written by one of our VISTAs!