It would be an understatement to say that I was ecstatic as I drove down the one lane entrance to Gretna Glen Camp and Retreat Center on that cool, crisp fall afternoon, on the first day of November. The heavily wooded forest was cloaked with the most vibrantly colorful leaves, that made you feel as though you had entered another world. Upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by Erin and Breanna, our fearless VISTA leader and fearless supervisor. As members of our cohort filtered in, one by one, I could hardly contain my excitement for this retreat. Spending time in the beautiful outdoors has always been refreshing for my soul. I was extremely excited and so looking forward to being in this wooded wonderland for the next three days. What I had not anticipated, or realized prior to the retreat, was how much the support and encouragement from my leaders and fellow cohort members would also refresh my soul. This retreat proved to be an extremely valuable experience in my VISTA journey. Not only was it educational, but it was restorative, and provided renewed strength to continue serving on.
I am a bit of a conference nerd, as I thoroughly enjoy attending workshops and learning new, and relevant things. There we so many wonderful, applicable presentations and discussions at the PACC fall retreat. Watching the documentary, Poverty Inc., challenged me to think about the service I do and to critically think about the implications and unintended consequences of some charitable work. I was excited to have VISTA, Caitlyn Bordon, speak about community asset mapping, as she was the year two VISTA at my institution. I have found spending time with her and talking about our service project to be extremely valuable. I appreciated Char’s presentation on service learning in higher education, as the office I work with does service projects on campus, and I also work with faculty to provide volunteer or “service” opportunities for students in certain classes. Former VISTA, Lisa Weaver, did a nice job discussing the process of managing up and how to effectively work our supervisors, which is something I think we all benefited from. Lastly, one of the most intriguing presentations was by Linda Arra, on developing our career story by exploring our character strengths, passions, and skills. I really enjoyed being able to talk about character strengths with fellow VISTA members and appreciated the insight this provided.
Not only did we have fantastic educational components to the fall retreat, but we also had so many valuable opportunities to work as a team, learn more about each other, and just have fun. The team scavenger hunt was one of my absolute favorite activities from the retreat. The project show and tell was another great opportunity to learn more about each other’s projects and to showcase the great work we all are doing. Aside from the many wonderful team building activities, we were able to talk, play games, go for walks, have a campfire, enjoy coffee on the deck, watch Wonder Woman (always a highlight), and keep deepening our ever growing bond with each other.
I have kept in contact with a few VISTAs from PSO and words cannot begin to describe how grateful I am for PACC, the support they provide, and our amazing cohort of VISTAs. Devoting a year to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA is no small feat, and having PACC and our cohort makes the great times unforgettable and the challenging times overcomable.
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