What is your background that led you to serve as a VISTA member?
I was born, raised and went to undergrad and grad school in Worcester, Massachusetts. Although I love it there I was ready for something new once I graduated with my Master’s in Community Development and Planning. I knew some people that did a year of VISTA and it seemed like a good post-college transition and opportunity to test out my skills. For some reason-- although I knew no one here, Montana popped into my head. So I looked for positions here. I’ve worked with youth in various capacities—from teaching middle school girls to working at a residential youth home for teens with various mental health challenges, so knew I’d want to work within that realm. I liked that VISTA wasn’t direct service and I liked that the organization I ended up working for—Sparrow’s Nest of NW MT, was a startup at the grassroots level.
My day typically runs 9:00-5:00 but there are the occasional community presentations at varying times: e.g. a 6:45 am Rotary meeting or a 7:00pm Women’s group potluck. My office is on the second floor of a local church’s parish house so when I’m not there (which again, really varies) I’m often at a meeting or presentation or picking up or dropping off donations (both monetary and not).
When I am at the office I answer a lot emails, social media messages and phone calls as I manage those three contact portals. I’m also always trying to stay up to date on federal and state policy surrounding youth homelessness as well as best practices. There’s also the occasional grant-writing, agenda writing, newsletter making, planning and just general organizing.
How have you incorporated your campus partner into your work efforts?
Our campus partner liaison, Wendy, at FVCC has a seemingly endless supply of knowledge regarding volunteer recruitment, creative donation drives and cool fundraising ideas. She has also helped supply us with some great college student volunteers. There are so many more ways we can partner with FVCC and we plan on doing so in the very near future: mainly our upcoming April awareness campaign of which I will not currently divulge.
What are your motivating factors that justify this type of work?
With great power comes great responsibility. No, but seriously. I was privileged enough to go to university and work at some amazing places and don’t want to “waste” my education or experiences. Also, there’s a lot of injustice in this world and I can’t possibly sit idly by. There are so many innovative and great ways to solve issues and I just love seeing communities using their unique strengths to aid their current needs. The possibilities are endless and just so beautiful.
What are your plans after VISTA?
Travel! Hopefully. Move farther West or abroad. Work for a place that I believe in. Do a lot of activities outdoors, build something, continue to meet inspirational people… challenge myself towards something that means something for something infinitely larger than myself. Or something.
Keep up with Sparrow's Nest of Northwest Montana and all of the amazing strides they're making on FaceBook. We wish you the best of luck with the conclusion of your service as well as your future endeavors. We know you'll do amazing things wherever you go.