Coincidentally, today marks two years since I accepted the invitation to serve as the AmeriCorps VISTA with Adelante Hispanic Achievers in Louisville, KY. I applied to AmeriCorps just before graduation, at a transitional stage between college and adulthood, with hopes of building up my resume and gaining valuable knowledge and insight about small nonprofits. It soon came time to move south to Louisville, ship off to Pre-Service Orientation in Atlanta, and return as a sworn volunteer in service to America.
The decision I made on May 12, 2015 was the beginning of a journey to self-discovery, and it has taken longer than anticipated. I began my service in August 2015 and it flew by so fast. I met a majority of our students my first day on the job, helped celebrate Adelante’s 10th anniversary of service to the community in October, planned and executed the annual Money Matters financial literacy event in March, and applauded our 5th cohort of high school graduates as they received their awards in May. Of course, I had many other projects keeping me busy all year, but I wanted more. So, I decided to serve Adelante for a second year.
Anyone who has recently begun their VISTA service may be thinking ‘who would put themselves through this madness for another year?’ The hours are exhausting, the VISTA tasks can be complicated, and the living stipend will certainly not sustain an extravagant lifestyle. Believe it or not, I was not the first AmeriCorps service member to extend service, nor will I be the last. In fact, I know a number of VISTA members right here in Louisville who have done just that. So what is wrong with us? Why sign on for a second year?
In my case, I was immediately captivated by the work Adelante was doing in Louisville and the enthusiasm that drove it forward. Adelante provides tutoring and mentoring services at multiple sites, serving over 130 students weekly and yet the staff and volunteers give each student the individual attention and encouragement needed for success. As I observed more about the needs of our students, I would come up with ideas for programs that required more time to implement. It was frustrating! My supervisor, Mara, would often suggest that I consider a second year with Adelante, but at times that seemed just as overwhelming.
In the end I chose another year of AmeriCorps VISTA service because I had found my niche. I was excited about what another year of my service could do for Adelante and equally intrigued by the potential career growth it might offer me. I chose a second year because I was invested in the work and committed to the students. Now in my final months of service, I am preparing for my third year with Adelante – this time as a full-time staff member! Ultimately, sticking with it for a second year was the right decision for me, and I encourage any AmeriCorps member to consider it for themselves.
Written by Morgan Gerke, an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Adelante Hispanic Achievers