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.
My day doesn’t truly begin until around 8:30 AM. That’s when I’m out the door and on my bike, headed to work in Center City at the Municipal Services Building where I serve as the Healthy Futures Coordinator VISTA in Health and Human Services. A twenty-minute ride in the morning cold ensures I’m fully awake by the time I lock my bike and head to my desk on the sixth floor.
Today, like most days, I begin by answering any pressing emails that came in after I left yesterday. Then I start on the day’s task. Today, I’m wrapping up a project with the Department of Human Services that the VISTA before me began and I took over when I started four months ago: an evaluation of the child welfare system. The system transitioned to a community based model known as Improving Outcomes for Children (IOC). We released the final IOC evaluation in October, a full year after it began. Today I have one simple task left: mail hard copies to stakeholders. I’ve come to know this 149 page behemoth well since I started in August and I’m proud of the report produced. One of the first tasks when I started was to read through the draft report and define every child welfare related term that a layperson (which I definitely was and am) would not know. That task not only produced a glossary included in the final report but it gave me the background I needed for the project. After that, I was responsible for drafting meeting agendas, coordinating public feedback sessions, general project management duties, and a host of other vital tasks as the project’s needs evolved. I also supported the creation of a summary of the IOC evaluation that briefly outlines findings.
After I finish the mailings, I do some prep work for a meeting today with the School District of Philadelphia and Community Behavioral Health. We meet weekly to discuss a variety of initiatives, including a pilot project to hire 22 social workers for Philly schools. Like my work with DHS, I perform various project management tasks keep us moving towards providing the staff members Philadelphia’s schools need and Philadelphia children deserve. This project epitomizes a VISTA’s role as “capacity building”. When these social workers are in schools they’ll not only provide critical services to students but will also allow counselors and teachers to better perform their respective jobs. Currently, they often need to provide stopgap coverage of what will now be social worker responsibilities.
After that meeting, the day finishes with some work on the City’s children health agenda: A Running Start – Health. This is the city’s plan to improve health of children ages 0-5 through targeted interventions identified for their critical role in improving childhood health and reducing the risk of disease later in life. The challenge of this project is that there is, unfortunately, no new money associated with it. Instead, we are working to coordinate efforts across public and private stakeholders to more effectively utilize resources to better serve Philadelphia’s children.
My role here is constantly changing to fit the needs of the project. I’ve supported the development of a communication strategy for new partner recruitment, designed palm cards for outreach, updated our website, and general project management duties. Today, I’m following up with a new commitment to the plan to provide them with the plan’s resources and offer my support in any capacity.
This brief overview of Wednesday, November 24th leaves out a critical part of my VISTA day to day experience (besides eating lunch). The most valuable part of my day is being surrounded by dedicated public servants working tirelessly to better Philadelphia in appropriate, evidenced based, and ultimately, impactful ways. A day in my life involves constantly learning from these people and becoming just a little better at my work for the next day.
Stephen Perrotti is the Healthy Futures Coordinator for the Office of Health and Human Services.
Are you interested in being a part of next year's SERVE Philadelphia VISTA Corps? Fill out an interest form today!