The blog series “Day in the Life” seeks to illustrate what it’s like to be a Serve Philadelphia VISTA. In the posts, current corps members explore what they’re learning from their position, how they’re contributing to their office, and what it means to do a year of service.
VISTA was not the first AmeriCorps program I participated in. Prior to VISTA, I did a year of service working in City Year, back in my hometown of Miami, FL. However, I can say the service year in VISTA is far different from my experience last year. I am used to hands on approaches, but being a VISTA requires using hands off approaches. This means I work behind the scenes, just as my VISTA teammates do. The transition from direct to indirect service can be challenging. I have faced some difficulty when it comes to completing assignments on time, especially when there is a lot to do. I’ve had to adapt to the office setting and reform my work habits. Luckily, I adjust to my service each day. I’ve learned that it’s important to take a breather when I’m overwhelmed to make sure I can keep doing my best work throughout my year of service.
My typical day starts at 7AM, when I wake up and get ready for work. I eat breakfast, brush my teeth, dress up, and walk to my bus stop before 8AM. There have been times I have missed the bus, but thankfully there is always another route I can take to get to work. This kind of commute to work was new for me this year. Back in Miami, I didn’t take public transit to work, as I had my own vehicle. I currently have my vehicle in Philly, but would rather take public transit as it is more cost effective and parking is not easy to come by in the city.
When I get to work, I receive feedback from my fellow VISTA members about their service experience and projects. I use this feedback to support my team professionally, personally, and logistically. Recently, I have been compiling professional development resources that will help each member “dress for success,” and build up their resumes, cover letters, and social media presence. Along with my partner leader, I advocate personal and self-care by checking up on teammates and making sure none of them become overly stressed. Lastly, I ensure that VISTA members complete their monthly and quarterly reports on time, and that they are present in our monthly meetings. I also give them weekly Corps Announcements of upcoming meetings, events, and other information they need to know.
All of this work requires “leading from a distance,” which can sometimes be challenging. A majority of my time is spent in the office compiling data and information, so I am not always aware of what goes on with each of my VISTAs unless I ask them directly (through email or the Slack app or another form of communication). This means that I do not always know what they need individually, so it becomes another challenge to find out and locate the correct resource to help them. I am learning that the best way to overcome this challenge is to increase communication on my end.
One of my recent projects was putting together an event to engage our alumni community and promote anti-hunger awareness. To do this, I worked with a team of VISTAs, our Alumni Committee, and my Program coordinator. I took charge of collaboration with the planners and communication with the Alumni, and delegated tasks to everyone involved. There was a lot to plan and a lot of information to be distributed, but thanks to the support of my team and supervisor, the event came together. Even with all the planning, on the day of the event things were a little hectic. But thanks to my fellow planners’ help with set up and clean up, the event went well. I wish I could do more than say “thank you” to them for all the great work they did.
Though my day is filled with data, information, and planning, it is also filled with teammates and coworkers. I see familiar faces every day, my Program Coordinator, staff members, and the three VISTAs I sit near. They each make my day easier as they provide support to me and to each other. There are times we have conversations that don’t involve work, and it is a great relief to know we each have our own lives and goals we want to pursue. My team is tremendous and they will become great leaders in the field they wish to pursue.
Overall the program has given me skills I had not learned before. I’m gaining experience in time management, budgeting, project management, partnership development, data compilation. I am looking forward to using these skills while continuing to serve my communities in another program, and while pursuing a Master’s degree. My long-term goal is to become an educator, but only after I fulfill my personal goal for my AmeriCorps work of serving every community I touch.
Jay is the 2017-2018 Serve Philadelphia VISTA Leader with the Office of Civic Engagement and Volunteer Service.
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