Now that I am five months into my service at the Center for Youth as an AmeriCorps*VISTA Rochester Youth Year Fellow, this is the perfect time for me to reflect on what I’ve accomplished (and haven’t accomplished) so far, and, more importantly, how I am going to move forward in the last half of my service year.
First off, I can honestly say that being an RYY VISTA has been an eye-opening experience. I’ve had great days, and horrible days, but all in all, I feel like I am truly taking away valuable lessons and making an impact on my host site and the Rochester community. The support of my collegues and new friends at both the Center for Youth and Rochester Youth Year has been so amazing and I have had so much fun. The trainings offered by RYY are really preparing me for the “real world” and I know I will use these skills I have learned for years to come in my professional and personal life.
While the majority of my experience has been positive, I have definitely encountered some struggles in accomplishing my goals. I’ve found that communication is often the biggest hurdle in getting things done. Being a very organized and “type A” kind of person, this often frustrates me beyond belief. After sending an email that needs a response, and not recieving one for days, I find myself getting angry and wondering what makes it so difficult to respond to emails!?! Working in a program with so many employees (the Alternative to Suspension program is currently in 23 schools and getting in contact with this many people in a timely manner is often impossible) makes implimenting ideas that I have extremely difficult without everyone on the same page. And if everyone just read their emails and/or listened to their voicemails, we would all be on the same page! But, as frustrating as this is, it is wonderful preparation for the “real world” when all will not go my way and I will not be able to control the lives of the people I work with, as much as my “type A” personality may wish.
Another major challenge I have faced is simply the fact that I am the third and final RYY VISTA in the ATS program here at the Center for Youth. I often feel that I cannot do much because of my limited time here. I guess the first and second year VISTAs that were here will be happy to hear this, but so much awesome work was done already that I sometimes feel that they left nothing for me to get done! I know this is not the case, and I always have work to do, but the groundwork for an awesome sustainable program has already been laid, and I don’t know what else to do! (So thumbs up, Stephanie and Kaitlin, you ladies have made my job easy! And kinda hard at the same time…). So while I am thrilled to see the program thriving like it is, I almost wish I had come in at an earlier time so I could try to make more of a mark on a program that I see so much potential in.
All in all, I can honestly say that I would not trade this experience for anything. I was so worried that “taking a year off” before going off to graduate school would be detrimental. But it has proven to be the exact opposite. Working in the non-profit world has taught me invaluable lessons that I will use forever, and has solidified my ideas of the kind of work I want to do when I finally have my Master’s degree. I love the fact that I am both gaining valuable experience while giving back to the community of Rochester. When I was in college, I couldn’t WAIT to get out of the western NY area…and now having had these five month of experience working in this awesome community, I am seriously considering sticking around…that is if I can get over the terrible weather that comes along with this wonderful city! I am glad I decided to “take a year ON” and so fortunate to have done it with such a great program and at a great organization.