Everyone has a story to tell. What matters the most, is how that story is being told. AmeriCorps offers the chance for people to live out their story and tell it through service to others. I’ve been so lucky to meet people from all over the country who are passionate about serving others and making a difference. During my year of service, I’ve met VISTA’s serving in Ohio, Florida, California, Alaska, Texas, Hawaii and of course my home state of Oregon. I want to tell the story of an awesome team of VISTA members who are making a huge difference at their various sites throughout Oregon and are working on issues ranging from literacy to sustainable mentorship programs to making education more accessible so people can break the cycle of poverty.
I am a member of the Oregon Campus Compact AmeriCorps VISTA team. We have 23 members throughout the state serving in cities from Portland to Eugene to Newport where I am currently serving. One thing that I have noticed about our team is how we all come from different places but we all share the common thread of service in our stories. We have members who are from St. Louis, San Diego, San Antonio, Portland, Hawaii, Ohio and Wisconsin.
All of us have our different reasons for serving. I chose to serve because it was a natural fit since I was involved with the service learning team in college and it's a great way to pay for my future grad school. Other members of the team serve for other reasons. One of our members, Denzel, joined AmeriCorps because he served a lot in the mid-west where he's from but wanted to explore and serve in a new place. Regardless of why they chose to serve, every member of the Oregon Campus Compact VISTA team has decided to dedicate a year of their life to serving those who face poverty on a daily basis.
Not only have all the Oregon Campus Compact members chosen to dedicate a year to service but they are making a difference and building capacity at each of their sites to break the cycle of poverty. One of the members of the team, Alicia, is serving to develop and implement a College and Career Center at an alternative high school for youth who have struggled to succeed in conventional public schools. There's also Suzy who is motivating and building a sustainable volunteer program with college students from the University of Oregon to serve at local agencies and improve the civic vitality of Eugene. There's Jake from the Shadow Project who is serving with Portland Public Schools and their special education program to improve childhood literacy. I could go on and on about every member on this team and the impact they are having at their sites. It just so inspiring and encouraging to interact with all of these individuals and to hear stories of what they are accomplishing at their various sites.
This team has had an overwhelming year. There have been great times, and times where things have been a little hectic. We have stuck together through it all and learned what it means to lean on and support each other. I'm reminded of the South African phrase of Ubuntu. Ubuntu means my wellbeing is tied to the wellbeing of others. I can't think of better way to describe this amazing team of VISTA's I am a part of. This isn't true for just the team of Oregon Campus Compact VISTA's but for every AmeriCorps member and the populations they are serving all over the country. We are all tied together through this story of service being written; from the snow covered mountains in Alaska to the sandy shores of the Gulf, from the Redwoods of California to the offices of Washington D.C., from the Cities of Ohio to the Stormy Oregon Coast. Together we can add chapters to the story that is AmeriCorps and one day truly make poverty history.