Q: What was your favorite part about being a member of the Campus Compact of NY & PA?
A: This is a tough one. It is two-fold for me. It gave me the opportunity to be in an environment with people (VISTA’s) where I could be “out” comfortably. It also allowed me to tap into an undiscovered passion for education equity.
Q: How has serving as a VISTA impacted your life/current position?
A: As the first in my family to graduate from college, all I wanted to do was escape the poverty, abuse, and shame I grew up with. Serving as a VISTA was like a step back in time to my childhood. Getting SNAP again, working with 1st gen students, reliving all the things I was ashamed of and tried to hide. My time as a VISTA gave me the opportunity to confront the societal shame that is attributed to being poor by developing a program and creating a space where students could come as they are. It also guides every decision I make professionally by influencing the decisions I make regarding student engagement, admissions. It's a constant reminder to me to create pathways wherever I can.
Q: What would you say are the most important skills you gained during your Year of Service?
A: The most important skill I learned was leadership. Growing up, I had to hide my identity, my voice, and lacked confidence. MY VISTA year helped me develop the confidence to be a leader and To embrace my identity. 5 years later, I just wrapped up my time on the board of the Human Rights Campaign of Greater Philadelphia where I advocated and created space for LGBTQIA+ people like myself socially, economically, and culturally.
Hello everyone! My name is Julie Cruickshank (she/her/hers), and I am the Program Coordinator of the Mav Market, Mercy College’s food and resource pantry. As a third-year VISTA, the goal of my project is to continue to reduce food insecurity across our three campuses by providing students with access to nutritious food, snacks, and toiletry items. I maintain the operations of our campus pantries in the Bronx and Dobbs Ferry, as well as provide one-on-one basic needs support to students.
Share a few things about yourself, why did you decide to serve? What are you passionate about?
Jumping into year three of this project during a pandemic was challenging, but it was ultimately the uncertain state of the world that drove me to serve in the first place. Looking back on this year of service, I am happy that I was able to serve within this community during such an unpredictable time, with the support of a wonderful supervisor whose own passions for this project helped continue to drive our mission forward all year long. I also have the privilege of being surrounded by food most days, which really fuels my passion for cooking (and eating).
How would you describe project sustainability? Why is it important to you & your host site organization?
As a third year VISTA, the focus of your project shifts to how the needs of your community will continue to be met after your departure. I think of successful project sustainability as the ability to strengthen multiple pillars of your project’s framework, including program, human, and financial capacity. VISTA projects may build frameworks from the ground-up, but they are temporary assignments. Starting conversations about sustainability with your host site early on is important to get the ball rolling for a successful post-VISTA plan. The goal is to continue the momentum that has built up within the first three years and transfer the project into capable hands, whether they belong to staff, organization, or community members. Much like taking the training wheels off your kid’s bike (I would imagine), knowing that they have the capacity to succeed without your direct support.
What are some actions you’re taking to ensure your project can be sustained after VISTA?
The details of sustainability look different to different projects! At Mercy College, we have recently transitioned our campus pantry forms onto a new platform, which will centralize the documents and allow multiple individuals within the institution to access them. This will be beneficial if someone new must step in and oversee pantry operations in the future, and provides an opportunity to further integrate our food security resources with other Mercy College support teams -- a productive step towards creating a multifaceted support system for student basic needs insecurities!
It has also been helpful to involve organizational leaders into the conversation and present relevant data or host training sessions to inform a wider audience of our project’s purpose. Presenting data that we’ve gathered on basic needs insecurities has helped demonstrate the importance of our project’s long-term sustainability to those outside of our department. We’ve also been offering training courses to any staff or faculty member who would like to learn more about basic needs resources. Spreading our project knowledge campus-wide helps ensure that as an institution, we can all collectively continue to touch as many lives as possible, even after the VISTA service term has ended.
One last action I’ve taken to prepare my host site for my departure is making sure that our legacy documents are up to date. Simple “how to” guides uploaded to a shared drive can act as quick training materials for future employees, and will help remotely transfer any knowledge, materials, and institutional relationships. While the exact future of the project may remain uncertain, I’ve found that the key seems to be keeping an open mind and brainstorming multiple pathways towards the desired end result. While it is uncertain whether a new full-time staff member will be funded by the institutional budget, a generous community donor, or replaced by a robust team of student staff and volunteers, it’s all about initiating the conversations early on and maintaining both creativity and persistence.
What would you hope to see happen to your project in 5 years time?
In five years, I would love to see our Mav Markets continuing to thrive on all three campuses, as well as a strong foundation in place to provide a complete support package to students experiencing basic needs insecurities. The creation of a new role altogether, such as a Basic Needs Coordinator, would provide specialized and multi-faceted support to the entire student population of Mercy College. Having a basic needs expert present to act as the liaison between other departments, such as the counseling and mentor teams, would open the door to a fully integrated and deeply connected network of student support. I would also love to see the overall rates of basic needs insecurities continue to decrease campus-wide!
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone in a first or second year project?
There will be successes, but there will also be setbacks! Roll with punches and try to find just as much value in the tasks that fall flat as you do in your achievements. Serving as a VISTA during this pandemic has taught me that some level of uncertainty in the future of your project is inevitable, and adaptability is more important than knowing exactly how something will turn out before you start. Stay flexible, optimistic, and open to learning -- both through the ups and the downs. You’ve got this!
Cody Miller (he/him) acts as the Director of Service Initiatives at York College of Pennsylvania and is the supervisor of the current AmeriCorps VISTA, Dylan Warner. Read on to learn more about what being a VISTA Supervisor means to Cody!
Tell us a little about the organizations and partners that help make this project a reality.
The Center for Community Engagement (CCE) at York College facilitates partnerships between the academic resources and service initiatives of the College and the greater York community. The AmeriCorps VISTA at York College supports Generations of Hope (GOH), a mentorship and leadership development program that connects York College student mentors with local York City middle school students.
How has having a VISTA impacted your organization?
The AmeriCorps VISTA for Generations of Hope has advanced the mission of GOH in significant ways through his capacity-building work. Over the past year, he has developed training modules for student leaders, worked collaboratively to deepen and strengthen the program's curriculum, streamlined program assessment initiatives, and supported efforts to expand the GOH program to a second middle school in the district. Perhaps most importantly, his thoughtful approach to leadership development has empowered the GOH student leader team to carry the vision and work of GOH forward.
What were some tactics you used to effectively supervise your VISTA?
I've tried to center three principles when supervising the VISTA for GOH: communication, empowerment, and celebration.
What would you consider the biggest success of your VISTA?
Within his first few weeks, the VISTA for GOH began to establish infrastructure to support an entirely virtual model for the program, which had been traditionally on-site and in-person. This early capacity-building work was essential to the success of the virtual model for GOH this year, and provided a meaningful platform for us to continue some of the virtual elements of the program in the future as we transition back to a largely in-person mentorship program.
How has supervising a VISTA differed from other supervisory roles you may have had at the institution or elsewhere?
In a day-to-day capacity, supervising the VISTA for GOH has been very similar to my experience in other supervisory roles. One difference is that the VISTA for GOH also has responsibilities for reporting directly to Campus Compact and AmeriCorps.
What is a piece of advice you can give to organizations interested in recruiting a VISTA?
It's a great opportunity for an organization and for the VISTA! It can be really meaningful for a VISTA when an organization can invest in ongoing professional development opportunities that support the VISTA's current role as well as the career they hope to pursue after AmeriCorps.
I have been assisting the campus-wide basic needs committee with educating faculty and staff about basic needs resources available on-campus and in the Pittsburgh region. I have also been able to provide recommendations to senior administration to promote the holistic well-being of the student population based on identified gaps and barriers between areas of need and current resource availability.
I think the most challenging thing COVID-19 brought to my VISTA terms is the lack of face-to-face interaction. I was ready to be in different rooms around campus meeting new people. I was ready to highlight the work that myself and others on campus are doing to meet our students’ basic needs. I was excited for VISTA retreats and being able to get to know the cohort more. I have taken advantage of several virtual events and conferences that have been held at Pitt and other institutions where I am able to chat with people. I have been able to join several groups like CCNYPAs Community of Practice where I get to listen, learn, and speak with other higher ed professionals. The VISTA Power UPP events have been great for getting to know the cohort better and learning more about their work. I think I have done my best making do with the opportunities I have been presented due to COVID-19.
Aside from the obvious transition to remote work I have taken a real leadership role as the “Student Affairs Basic Needs Expert”. It is a title my supervisors have told me to own, though I would not call myself an expert. Being known as the “expert” or basic needs info guy has helped build my confidence from year one to year two of VISTA. It has led me to many different opportunities to advocate and educate our community on the importance of meeting our students’ basic needs. I have seen myself take a positive step in owning the knowledge that I have with confidence, and not needing to second guess myself.
Ask for help whenever you need it and come prepared to listen and learn from all of those around you.
Hi everyone - my name is Mikaileigh (Mik) Baker (she/her[s]) and I am currently an AmeriCorps SerVermont VISTA in Vermont serving with Willing Hands as their second year Program Development VISTA. Willing Hands is a non-profit, charitable organization in the Upper Valley Region of Vermont and New Hampshire. Willing Hands works with 82 recipient organizations, many local farmers, and hundreds of volunteers to recover, donate, distribute, and deliver healthy, wholesome foods and collaborates with organizations to provide nutritional education.
In my time as a CCNYPA VISTA, I was a third year serving at Alvernia University working with the Berks County Department of Agriculture and B.A.R.N. as a Healthy Futures VISTA in 2018-19. My primary work was creating legacy documents for the organization that archived new and old processes for events, program logistics, and helpful information. I developed a county wide food resource guide that involved months of survey creation, performed data collection and analysis, and guided design creation that will eventually lead to an online version. Working on this project led to major internal growth and adaptability - there were several moving parts that, throughout the year, I needed to have a pulse on and be mindful of on behalf of the University, Department, and B.A.R.N., as well as, all the other entities I was in contact with.
My favorite part about serving in CCNYPA were the in-person retreats (sorry everyone.. I miss them too..) and being able to connect with VISTAs that I was not able to interact with otherwise. Shoutout to the ‘18-’19 cohort of beautiful humans now spread out doing amazing work! I greatly appreciated the amazing support systems I found in the organizations I served with and CCNYPA.
During my VISTA year I was multitasking throughout most of my time (shh!) as I was applying to the Peace Corps in my first half of the year and then preparing to leave (medical and criminal clearances) in September for Senegal. My time in Senegal was cut short due to COVID-19, but I communicate with the closest connections I made weekly, even through my deteriorating language skills and the agricultural, cultural, and social knowledge gained has been invaluable. While Senegal is culturally male dominated, I had wonderful females to lean on - my two amazing CIFs (cultural and integration facilitators), Adji and Awa, who helped me acclimate in my permanent site of Koussanar, Tambacounda and my patient work counterpart, Fatoumata. I cannot stress enough that the ability to be adaptable and self-advocating in any environment is crucial. I had to do this everyday while living in Senegal while still learning the language to effectively communicate.
In my fourth year post grad, it is only now that I am starting to clarify what interests me and the path I would like to take. I did my CCNYPA year because I knew I would gain more knowledge and skills and strengthen the ones I already had (I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but that is beside the point), which turned out to be a solid choice when applying for the Peace Corps - a resume boost with alum everywhere. Network, network, network. It will be surprising who you meet and how they will play a role in your next endeavor.
If you are thinking about doing a year (or even a second year) of service with CCNYPA, do it. You can’t go wrong with gaining more experience and potentially doing something outside of your comfort zone and you’ll have a safety net along the way - remember to budget your income and use the free resources because they are FREE.
Enjoy your year, it’s yours!
As a first-generation college student, I overcame several hurdles that I thought were impossible to conquer when it came to my education. I had no one to confide in or guide me through my undergraduate years, so I am proud to not just serve as a VISTA but most importantly serve beyond that and inspire youth to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to them. This mindset has really excited youth to not just look forward to high school, but way beyond that-- which has most definitely made my VISTA project more rewarding. With all this being said, it is safe to say that I am passionate about 1. Serving and 2. Being a mentor for youth.
One of the many things I am incredibly proud of is how often I am emailed about my project and what we stand for. We have grown a lot since my 1st year as a VISTA and it seems to me that our commitment and dedication has reached many ears in the community I serve. This small milestone seemed impossible at first because of the lack of communication with the community we were trying to target. At first it seemed that many were simply not interested but with the help of my amazing supervisors and their own dedication to educate, I have been able to thrive in my VISTA project day in and day out.
To all my fellow VISTAs, thank you for your devoted commitment to serve others during these unprecedented times. As a year 2, many things have certainly changed, but without doubt we have all ROCKED it. Much love and appreciation.
My name is Rachel Bowden. I am a Year 2 VISTA working at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I work in healthy futures and food insecurity so I take on a few different roles at the campus. I oversee the 6 campus pantries to ensure they are bringing in healthy options, abundant amounts of food to feed our students, and are offering SNAP information, nutrition information, and additional benefits. My day-to-day job consists of helping recruit volunteers for the pantries, offering cooking classes, creating additional partnerships, and applying for grants.
I received a Bachelor of Science degree in biology from Penn State and am currently working towards my Masters in Public Health so this VISTA position is perfect for my professional and personal interests. I chose to enter the field of public health and serve as a healthy futures VISTA to advocate for the millions of people living in the United States that are uninsured, facing life threatening illnesses, or simply don’t have access to adequate health care/resources. I love spending time with my family, boyfriend, friends, and dog and exploring Pittsburgh. On the weekends you can find me hiking, cooking, or tailgating for a Steelers or Penn State game.
Gift Giving Style
My gift giving style varies depending on who I’m buying for. I tend to splurge a little on my boyfriend and close family but I make sure I do so reasonably. I like to plan ahead for them so that I can look out for sales on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Small Business Saturday as well as having time to save up some money. I also really like to go along with their interests so I know it’s a gift they’ll love and use. My brother loves to run and there are so many small, meaningful things you can buy for runners. My boyfriend loves to grill and have people over on the weekends so I decided to get him a smoker this year. I planned this gift a few months back and was able to find a great sale on Black Friday. As for my friends, they love when I find their favorite local product or when I make something myself. In previous years we’ve even done a secret Santa gift exchange so that we don’t feel obligated to buy for everyone. We make a whole evening out of it with wine and Christmas cookies and it always goes over well! This year I decided to make them little gift baskets with all local products that I know they’ll love! I really recommend exploring your city or town to see what is available, you’ll be surprised! Some of my favorites in Pittsburgh are:
“Simply You,” a homemade candle and soap company (for the friends and family who love self-care)
“Steel City Salt Company,” a flavored salt and seasoning company (for the friends and family who love to cook)
“Steel City Apparel,” a clothing company (for the friends and family who love to rep their team and city)
BONUS “Grounds and Hounds,” a coffee company that donates 20% of their proceeds to local animal shelters (for the friends and family who love coffee and love their pets).
People really love knowing that you found something that coincides with their interests while also supporting local companies!
I can’t tell you an exact budget when planning for the holidays because everyone has different expenses and people that they are shopping for. I will tell you that it is crucial to sit down and write out a budget. Whether you do this 3 months in advance or the week before Christmas, I think it is critical to have a plan to avoid going in blind and spending too much money. If you plan ahead, it makes it a lot easier to set a little aside each pay period so that you’re still living comfortable up until the holidays. My brother, sister-in-law, and I also tend to all go in on something for my mom or close family. This is definitely something to consider if you really want to spoil someone but need a little assistance to do so. Last Year vs. This Year
Last year I didn’t create a budget and went in completely blind. This resulted in being in a tight financial position for a few weeks after the holidays and causing some unnecessary stress. I felt obligated to get my family gifts, my friends, my boyfriend’s family, my coworkers, etc and it just wasn’t feasible. Creating a budget and making a list ahead of time was a huge stress relief this year and I’m so glad I decided to take time out of my day to plan it all out. The holiday season is stressful enough without additional financial stress.
Biggest Piece of Advice
My biggest piece of advice to a new VISTA is not to put yourself in a tight financial position just because you feel the need to buy expensive gifts. Your friends and family UNDERSTAND. They respect what you do as a VISTA and no one expects anything. They’d much rather receive something personalized or homemade and hear about how you’re making a difference in your community. Homemade gifts go a LONG WAY because people know you put time into it and it’s personalized. Really play off of your skills. If you can paint, paint an ornament, if you can bake, bake them some cookies or another holiday dessert! At the end of the day, your family and friends care more about seeing you, spending time with you, and knowing you’re healthy and safe (this year more than ever) than they care about receiving a gift. Happy Holidays!
My name is Hannah Berling, and I have been a Student Life Specialist at Mercy College in New York since 2016 after finishing my Masters in Higher Education in Student Affairs from Salem State University. One of the largest parts of my role at Mercy outside of overseeing Student Life activities at our Manhattan Campus, is to oversee our three Mav Market food and resource pantries across our three campuses (Dobbs Ferry, Bronx, & Manhattan). When we opened our first Mav Market location three years ago at our Bronx campus, myself and my supervisor, Felipe Henao, knew that we could not do this work alone. This was especially true as we planned to expand to the other campuses. When we discovered the VISTA program, we applied and put a focus on getting a VISTA with a strong passion for fighting food insecurity. We were able to get our first VISTA, Mary, on with us. Mary came in with a background in food insecurity and food sustainability work and was able to jump right in and help streamline processes and build a foundation for the Mav Market. Mary now serves as the 2020-2021 CCNYPA VISTA Leader, but her passion & hard work for two years with us has carried on to our current VISTA, Julie, who is working hard to pivot the markets where needed in these unique times while also putting her touch and influence into it.Supervising both of these wonderful VISTAs has been such a rewarding experience for me. As a young professional, the chance to work with our VISTAs has given me the opportunity to grow as a leader of professional staff and to help the VISTAs in return see their potential to make change not only on college campuses, but in society as a whole.
We are in a unique position here at Mercy as we have three campuses, but I primarily only work out of the Manhattan Campus. Our VISTAs visit all of the campuses, but live at our Dobbs Ferry location and do a bulk of their work between Dobbs Ferry and the Bronx. This distance between us has allowed me to build my communication styles and problem solving skills as we navigate the challenges and successes of the VISTA project. Scheduled weekly check-ins are accompanied by daily texts, calls, or Zoom meetings in order to make sure our VISTA feels supported and open to asking questions, even if we are not physically together as much. Having VISTAs come in who are change-makers, who want to work in the nonprofit sector, and who are strong relationship-builders makes supervising them a bit easier, as the passion runs deep and translates into everything they do.
My best advice for supervising a VISTA is to establish what your relationship will look like from the beginning. Our project site is on-campus, so we are not working with an outside member agency. I have been able to build a great relationship with both of our VISTAs because we are all working towards the same goal: to improve the lives of our students.
Firstly, start having conversations about the work culture of your institution: find out what your VISTAs leadership style is and what they look for in a leader/supervisor, chat about what modes of communication work best for them, and where they think they may need the most support. We start asking some of these questions in the interview process because we would never want to put someone in the uncomfortable position of rarely being together in person or bouncing between campuses if they are not okay with that. Secondly, establish how often your VISTA wants to meet and how formal or informal those meetings will be. We want our VISTAs to have autonomy and feel like they are leaving their names on the project. In addition to just chatting over tasks at hand, we make it a point to discuss projects that our VISTA wants to pursue within the project, checking in on how things are going personally, and chatting about future endeavors and what can be done in our project to help build applicable skills. Through this style of supervision, our VISTAs have been able to do incredibly successful work. Mary built the foundation for our markets and established effective processes and did amazing work to get us to a place where we could assist members with other basic needs services beyond just food security. Julie has been able to have great success in doing all the pivoting we have needed to continue providing services during a pandemic, and has worked on a great holiday food program to provide extra holiday help during a particularly trying year.
2020 has certainly been an interesting year. We have been lucky at Mercy in that supervising remotely is not uncommon for us because of our set-up. Ultimately, communication is key-- knowing what type of communication works best for you and your VISTA will help drive the mission of your project forward. Wellness checks are also particularly important now as this is a very draining time for professionals and burnout is very possible, it is important when supervising during a pandemic to know that everyone processes this hectic time differently, but if you have the communication in place, your systems and your VISTA can still thrive. I would certainly encourage higher education institutions to design a project and recruit a VISTA, as this is an excellent opportunity for any college or university, and allowed our food & resource pantry to flourish in a way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise!
Written by Carly Auchey, AmeriCorps VISTA at Gettysburg College
Back to my Roots
If anyone told me a year ago that I’d be living in a small rural town (which happens to be close to my hometown) and working on a farm, I would have laughed. That’s just not me. To be fair, I also wouldn’t have believed anything about an unprecedented pandemic, murder hornets, or many other things that have happened so far this year. But here I am, in a year of firsts getting back to my roots.
My name is Carly Auchey (she/her/hers), and I am a Healthy Futures VISTA serving at Gettysburg College in collaboration with Casa de la Cultura. My project involves encouraging participation in current programming and (hopefully) promoting new programming related to nutrition, health, and wellness to the Latinx population here in Adams County. After four years of studying Social Work and Spanish near Philadelphia, including an eye-opening study abroad experience in Mexico, I knew that I wanted my career to involve social justice and the Latinx population. As graduation got closer and the reality of COVID-19 set in, I kept going back to stories I had heard through various internships with AmeriCorps VISTA.
Fast forward to now and I am beyond thrilled to be a part of this project. While many VISTAS (and other professionals alike) are navigating the world of virtual and online engagement, I am thankful for an opportunity to engage with families in person; even if it is with masks and from a distance. This in-person venue is la Granja de la Tortuga Pintada (the Painted Turtle Farm). While my project doesn’t relate to farm management or anything like that, the farm has become one of my favorite places to be.
“La Tortuga” as most of the families call it, is a community garden above anything else. The disappointment over the lack of the community aspect has come up in almost every conversation I’ve had with families about what they like most about the farm and how it is different this year. Let me explain the well-oiled machine that is la Tortuga. When you first walk in, you will see 26 family plots; these are raised beds where families pick culturally appropriate plants that they want to care for and harvest throughout the season. Families care for their “parecelas” (plots) on Monday or Wednesday nights to abide by social distancing. I spend these evenings working with families in their plots, talking about vegetables, favorite recipes, why I was there on the farm, their kids going back to school, what they’d like to see in the community, and honestly anything else that came up.
Moving on from the family plots, you will then see the herb boxes. In these seven boxes, we grow cilantro, parsley, tea, dill, pepicha (Mexican herb), oregano, and other herbs for the community to use. Past the herb boxes, you’ll find “the big plot.” It is deemed so because this is the plot that is in constant rotation of planting and harvesting to fill Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) bags. On Wednesdays, we harvest. This is when students and other volunteers harvest and record what plants are ready to fill CSA shares. These CSA shares are what fund the seeds for the family plots for the season. CSA members get these bags from harvest once a week, every other week, or once a month. The bags are typically overflowing with so many naturally grown veggies and herbs depending on the time of year. When I joined the team in July, bags were filled with zucchini, eggplant, tomatoes (of various kinds), basil, kale, Swiss chard, various peppers, and more.
I can’t forget the hoop house! This structure houses too many kinds of tomatoes to count, poblano peppers, habaneros, green peppers, eggplants, and more. The farm is filled with flowers to attract bees and other good insects to help the plants.
What I love about the farm is that it’s not just about growing food; it’s about fostering relationships and a sense of community across lines of difference that often seem insurmountable. Not only am I getting back to my roots, but I’m creating new ones in ways I never would have imagined!
Check out Carly's latest video below that she created for Casa de la Cultura about Healthy Options!
By Mary Sherman, CCNYPA VISTA Leader
Hello! My name is Mary Sherman (she/her) and I am serving as the VISTA Leader at Campus Compact of New York and Pennsylvania. I recently had the opportunity to speak during a National AmeriCorps VISTA webinar focusing on Resiliency and Service Wellness, where I was able to share some of my insight and experiences on serving in the midst of a pandemic. The webinar was hosted by Ginlin Woo, a VISTA alum from 1968 - 1972, as well as a teacher, facilitator, curriculum designer, educational planner, mentor and coach. Daysha Humphrey, VISTA Leader at the Maroon Volunteer Center at Mississippi State, also shared her care strategies and how she was able to navigate being a VISTA in the middle of COVID-19. If you weren't able to catch the live webinar, you can find a recording here or on the VISTA Campus website!
We were asked to consider cultural protective factors that ground us as we navigate life, and immediately I thought of food and cooking. I find great comfort in creating things with my hands; growing up, my family held many traditions surrounding cooking and eating (just ask my lovely partner about the 2-day affair lovingly dubbed “Cookie Day” where my cousins and I spend hours making over 200 dozen cookies for friends and family). Thinking a bit deeper about this, I realized that this love for cooking stems from my love for sharing my passions with those around me. Not being able to share this love in the ways that I was familiar with was very difficult at the onset of the pandemic, especially living in New York City while I had friends across the Northeast. I realized I was missing my friends, my family, and colleagues, so I made the intentional effort to reach out and just set up times to chat. We had virtual happy hours, played phone games against each other, and just set time aside to chat and play with those goofy video chat filters on Facebook. This energy from them was so crucial to me being able to live in the epicenter and get through the apex of the pandemic. It was and continues to be so important for me to reach out and take that initiative to stay connected with my loved ones, and so if you’re sitting here with someone on your mind that you haven’t reached out to in a while, text or call them today. Nothing special, just a simple “hello”, and I promise it will make a world of a difference for both of you. I’ve shared a few photos of some of the best people in my life (certainly not exhaustive, but you can get a taste!)
I also spoke about my service adjustments as a VISTA member serving at Mercy College. Reflecting on the challenges that came out of the pandemic, it made me realize how resilient I am as a human being but more so thankful for the incredible support system I had around me-- both at CCNYPA and at Mercy College. To my fellow VISTAs, past and present, please know that you have done an incredible job, regardless as to whether or not every point on your VAD was checked-off. Continue to bring your passion into everything you do, but care for yourself first. What you have done is the best you could have possibly done given the circumstances, remember to always show yourself kindness and to move forth in wellness. Together through healing can we bring power to ourselves and those around us. Only then may we strive alongside our community towards success and make a positive change.
Welcome to the CCNYPA*VISTA Blog, written for VISTAs, by VISTAs!