Counting down!

So great news from the office today!

We just got an operations grant that will expand  our project from 16 to 20 VISTAs, and potentially up to 25 in the future. This is a huge deal because our project will receive money directly from CNCS and distribute it to VISTA members directly, and will have more money for trainings and other events.  It’s sad that I’m not going to get to experience the impact of that (I got to struggle through the nonexistent budget for trainings and events this year), but this is great for the project moving forward.  VISTAs have really helped students throughout New Haven achieve this year, and more VISTAs will only help to improve education access in the city.  I’m so proud of my work this year, and I’m so proud that we got this grant to continue the work we’ve been doing for years to come.

In any case, we got word today that Representative Rosa DeLauro will be able to attend our announcement event next week! Rosa DeLauro has been our district representative to Congress for over 20 years, and her family is big in New Haven. Press like that is big for our project’s publicity. We’ll be at New Haven Reads, one of our amazing host sites, and Mary Strasser, the national VISTA director, may also be there.  In short, pretty great.

Plus, I think Rosa DeLauro is awesome. She beats to the sound of her own drum and tenaciously fights for her constituency. I saw her (and Nancy Pelosi) speak about women’s success last week, and I was really blown away by her passion for improving women’s salary, access to sick days, and access to childcare. She rocks. And so does her wardrobe.

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new year!

  • Spent New Year in New Haven with some of my favorites. 
  • Finished February recruiting unscathed at work, and currently counting down the minutes until summer recruitment begins in a few weeks
  • Got the flu even though I actually got the flu shot this year
  • Wrote a guide to filling out the AmeriCorps online application that our State Program Director liked!
  • Found the speaker for our Public Speaking statewide training next month!
  • May have also gotten reduced priced lunches for that event!
  • Filling out grad apps. One down (Brandeis), one to go (UConn)
  • RA Dickey traded to the Blue Jays. At least he can wear his Jose Reyes shirt again without it being too weird (this also means I’m rooting for the Jays to win the AL East this year)

Catching up

Well, the last few weeks went by really quickly. Welp. I kept meaning to blog…but also kept putting it off.

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In the middle of July I finished work at OPP and transferred to the New Haven Education project. The folks at OPP sent Jacqui and me off right. They even framed our end of service certificates and letters from President Obama for us in really classy frames. I definitely miss all of my OPP coworkers, especially the ones I shared an office with. I don’t think I went a day with out laughing. My year of service with OPP had its ups and downs, and leaving early was definitely bittersweet, but now I can look back with my first AmeriCorps year with pride.

When I transferred to New Haven Education, I hadn’t yet finished a full year of service. To be a VISTA Leader, you need to have successfully completed a full service year. As a result, I worked as a Leader Apprentice of sorts, working on planning out my Leader year. In addition to my Leader duties, I’m handling some of the communications duties for the project.

I also got to visit all of our sites and meet the group of VISTAs. We definitely have a great group for this next year!

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Then came my birthday.  Unfortunately, I had to work, but my coworkers bought me a plant for my desk and threw me a little birthday bash.

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My supervisor also brought me flowers! My friends also treated me right with a surprise birthday, featuring more flowers, cake, and copious amounts of alcohol. Basically, I’m stocked for the next year.

My good friend Carrie also came home from England!  I was so excited to see her after 8 long months.  I hadn’t seen her since New Year’s! Carrie will also be serving as an Episcopalian Service Corps member in New Haven! I love just knowing that Carrie is back in Connecticut. Basically, seeing Carrie was my favorite birthday present!

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I spent the last couple weeks watching the Olympics nonstop (I am in love with Nathan Adrian and Ryan Lochte. And also obsessed with the McKayla Maroney is not impressed meme, but I digress). I also officially started my second term of service as a VISTA Leader last Monday.  I ran my first on site orientation for three incoming VISTAs and I think it went pretty well!

I have also developed a falafel addiction. If you’re ever in New Haven, stop by Mamoun’s on Howe Street. The falafel is to die for. It’s also really cheap. And open to 3:00am. You seriously will not regret it.

TL:DR Life is good and I’m so excited for this next year of service!

Counting down

  1. I am beyond excited to start my VISTA Leader position in a couple of weeks! Basically, a VISTA Leader serves as a mentor and coordinator to multiple VISTAs working on a multi-site project.  I’ll be facilitating meetings, helping out with some statewide VISTA training,  recruiting the 2013-2014 VISTA team, and reporting. I also get to do some internet stuff to market the project, which I’m really pumped about.  All in all, I think this will be a great change of pace from my current assignment and will definitely keep me busy. I met up with the project’s current VISTAs and VISTA Leader last night for a happy hour, and I’m beyond ready to begin.  I’ve also connected with next year’s VISTA team on Facebook. I know the job is going to be tough, but after this year, I’m totally up for the challenge. 
  2. The Cape Cod Bear made it all the way up to Provincetown! He also has his own Twitter account. Part of me kind of wishes that I had glimpsed him while I was on the Cape last weekend. Then again I was sleeping in a tent last weekend so a visit from the bear probably wouldn’t have been welcomed. 
  3. I have a mandatory all-staff meeting at Six Flags New England next week. I’m a little excited but I’m also not looking forward to driving up there although my fellow VISTA Jacqui graciously offered to meet me in Hartford and carpool the rest of the way up).
  4. I am craving falafel right now like no other. I tried out Mamoun’s in New Haven for the first time last week and fell immediately in love. The falafel place I go to in West Hartford doesn’t even compare anymore, tastewise or price wise.   I should have picked some up while I was in New Haven last night but I’m sure I’ll have plenty of opportunities to get me some Mamoun’s when I start working there next month.
  5. R. Kelly’s autobiography Soulacoaster is officially coming out soon. I really want to read it, but no way am I paying $20 for it. Even the ebook version is $20! No way am I shelling out $20 bucks for an ebook copy. Kells, I know you need money, but cut a sista some slack. I’m a national service member living off poverty level wages. I can’t spare 20 bucks for your book! Soulacoaster is also the kind of book I’d be embarrassed to borrow from the library. Oh well, at least I can enjoy his new single, Feelin’ Single. (Disclosure: I haven’t actually listened to it yet. I hope it’s as good as the song he yodels in). 

Friday Five: TV Time edition

  1. I hate to say this, but am I the only one that was a little underwhelmed by the How I Met Your Mother season finale?  The big reveal of the bride was no surprise. I also felt like a lot of the jokes fell a little flat (i.e. baby Erikson’s middle name, Victoria’s return, etc.). I think the jokes and gags had the potential to be funny, but something just seemed a little off about the episode to me. Yes, Barney and Robin are endgame. That’s great. I just really want to find out who the damn mother is. I don’t wnat to see another dead-end or rehashed Ted relationship. I’ve stuck with this show a long time, and there was a time when I was really obsessed with it (Disclosure: I started watching the episodes on DVD in 2009, so I know I’m not like one of the early adopter fans, but STILL. That’s a lot of TV to watch).  Maybe I was the only one who just wasn’t feelin’ it. 
  2. And speaking of disappointing TV…I think I’m over the Real Housewives of New Jersey.  The first few seasons were a lot of fun, but season 4 so far has been full of hate. I mean, the first couple episodes were driven by Teresa’s cookbook and a comment Teresa made to her brother OFFSCREEN. Teresa is no angel (see how she treated Danielle in S1-S2), but I just can’t stand all these grown women gang up on someone.  Caroline is a know-it-all, Melissa is fake, Teresa is a fool, Kathy is a pot stirrer, and Jacqueline is wishy washy. The episodes I’ve watched this season are more painful than fun, so I think it’s time to give up on RHONJ. 
  3. On another note,  the agency where I work is having the annual all-staff meeting at 6 Flags New England. While I’m not super excited about driving all the way up there, I am excited to ride some roller coasters. I haven’t been to a theme park in so long. I think the last time I went was when I went to Fright Fest with my friends Lindsey and Michelle freshman year of college.  I’ll only have a few weeks left here before I start my next service year, so this should be a fun way to wrap things up for me. 
  4. David Wright’s flip-out at Terry Collins for pinch-hitting for him. It’s so refreshing to have the Mets actually actively entertaining me rather than depressing me this year. That’s all I have to say about that. 
  5. I broke one of my biggest life rules this week and bought a pink Mets hat. I vowed to myself long ago that I’d never buy girly/pink team accessories.  I was looking through the MLB.com Shop clearance section and saw this little beauty.  If you know me personally, you know that I cannot resist hot pink. It was on clearance, it was cute, and I can totally wear it to the beach! 

So you want to do a year of National Service?

I realize that I really haven’t written too much about what it’s like to be an AmeriCorps VISTA even though this blog is supposed to be focused on my year of service. I really didn’t have too much to say about VISTA and my service year until now.  It still feels like I just started the service term and have plenty of time to write about it. That’s not true–I only have about two more months left at my current site.

I chose to do VISTA for a few different reasons. First of all, I wanted to do some sort of service program after graduation. Second all, I wasn’t sure at all of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, and thought that serving would be a good way to explore a different career path from the ones I’d previously worked in (insurance, food service, retail, customer service) without making too much of a commitment. I also knew that I needed more professional experience if I wanted to land a job.

Here are a couple things I wish I’d known before starting my service term.

Do your research when applying to positions. Make sure you understand what the main tasks and skills required of the position are. Some listings on the AmeriCorps website are really vague and don’t give you a clear picture of what you’ll be doing.  If the listing isn’t clear, and you’re still interested, try reaching out to the current VISTA. He or she might be able to give you valuable insight on the day-to-day responsibilities of the position. Also,  Google the hell out of the organization, and make sure it’s the place you want to be before committing.

Understand what VISTA is. VISTA is indirect service aimed at capacity building, or helping organizations grow in order to serve the goal of ending poverty. That means one thing: you won’t be working hands-on with the community. You’ll be fundraising,  coordinating volunteers, community organizing, and more, but you won’t be tutoring, constructing houses, or handing out food at food shelters.  If you’re more interested in direct service, try AmeriCorps State & National programs or NCCC.

Treat the application process like that of a real job. VISTAs don’t get paid much. That’s a fact. However, lots of VISTA positions receive multiple applicants. Not all of these applicants are straight out of college. Some are retired, some are changing their careers. Take the process seriously. It’s a lot more competitive than you think.

Advocate for yourself. There were a lot of times this year when I wasn’t especially busy because I had already completed projects on my Volunteer Assignment Description (or VAD, basically a job description). My VAD was pretty vague in comparison to other VISTAs, so I had to create work for myself. Try talking to your supervisor, and keep communication clear.

Ask to see a copy of the VAD during the interview process. That way, you’ll get a better idea if the job is a good fit for you.  If the VAD isn’t available, ask more specific questions about the day-to-day tasks of the job. If you get a vague answer, run! The supervisors need to have a clear vision of where the project should go and why the project is important to the agency.  You want to make sure that the project will be worth your time (and the agency’s time).

Understand the stresses.  Being a VISTA is not easy.  You make basically no money for working 40 (or in some cases 40+ hours a week): r. I was lucky that I was able to live with my parents during my service term. Some VISTAs aren’t so lucky–they actually relocate and live on the stipend.  All these external stresses can really effect your work.  Learn how to budget your money and make sure you have a safe place to live.

Make sure you’re committed. VISTA is not like any normal job.  You make a one year commitment to serve, and you shouldn’t view this as a stop gap between college and another “real” job. First of all, you won’t get your education award if you leave early.  Leaving early also leaves your project/organization in the lurch: the agency can’t replace you until the end of your term is up).  Basically, make sure you WANT to make the commitment to serve for a year.

All in all, VISTA can be a good experience.  You can make valuable networking connections, gain references, and gain professional experience.  If you get only one takeaway from this, just make sure you understand what you’re committing to before you commit.

 

Friday Five!

  1. I can breathe easy. On Monday, I accepted a position as a VISTA Leader for the New Haven Education VISTA Project!  I am so incredibly excited! I will be coordinating 12 (I think) AmeriCorps VISTA members at 6 different sites. All the VISTA projects are supporting school reform in New Haven by providing different services to students (tutoring, college prep, etc).  I’ll also be coordinating some communications for the project (hopefully and maintaining creating a blog/Twitter/Facebook/etc). I start in July, so I’ll be leaving my current project a month early, but I think it’s for the best. I’ll be trained by the previous VISTA leader for a month before I’m unleashed on my own. Now I don’t have to worry about employment until August 2013!  My commute will be cut in half and I’ll be making (only a little) extra cash, so yay! And props to Holy Cross career services for overhauling my resume!!
  2. Yes! The Friday Night Lights movie is getting closer and closer to reality! I seriously cannot wait for this to happen.  FNL is/was probably my favorite television show of all time!  It’s the only show I own all the seasons of on DVD (No, I don’t even have all the seasons of Supernatural or HIMYM or One Tree Hill). I hope they can get most of the core cast there, but as long as Coach/Mrs. Coach are there, I’ll be happy. And obviously a Tim Riggins cameo. And Matt  and Landry. Basically, I just want FNL to go on forever. Is that so wrong?
  3. I’m really creeped out by that tanning mom.  You know, the one who is under investigation for potentially letting her 5 year old go tanning/get burned? That lady. Well, her face looks AWFUL.  She looks like the Leatherman. And yes, I know, her body, she can do what she wants with it.  But still,  I was a little shocked by her picture. 
  4. I had a great day last Saturday! I met up with my friends Robin and Lindsey in New Haven. We spent most of the time catching up.  I hadn’t seen Robin since graduation, so it was an especially awesome moment for me. Let me just say, it’s so nice to hang out with someone you haven’t seen in awhile and still feel like you click as friends. 
  5. Jenelle from Teen Mom got a boob job and is back with Keiffer. I can’t even with her.