The Youngest, Poorest Person in the Office of Community Partnership

Life as a VISTA is actually pretty close to what I was expecting! I got thrown into the universe of urban school district administration and the world of living on my own on a tiny stipend all at once, and it’s been exhausting, fascinating and transformative. I honestly feel like the work I’m doing really is important, that it will have some impact on how students go through education in this city. Even better, I feel like I have the skills and resources to get it done. One of the things that I really like about the VISTA program is that I do have a relatively large amount of freedom to determine how to go about my project. I’m the kind of person who thinks things through before I take a lot of action, so it’s nice to be able to lay everything out (as far who the stakeholders are, their motivations and goals, and the tools that I have) so that in the end, almost everything will be covered. I’ve been at Central Office for about a month, and I am doing a ton of research and learning a lot!
I’m also learning a lot outside of work…corny-sounding but true. I’m not from an urban area originally, and being dependent on public transportation, food stamps/the discretion of the Department of Human Services, and thrift stores (for work clothes) is rough. On the other hand, everyone that I’ve interacted with on the buses has been really nice—especially when I first started out and had to ask a lot of questions about routes and times. Most people are friendly, which was a nice surprise, given that when I’m all dressed for work I look very much like an outsider, depending on the time of day. And now I can answer people’s questions, which is cool. The process of going to the office on St. Paul to be interviewed for food stamps was another eye-opener; I spent a total of 6 hours or so in line on two separate days, but that was the only way I was going to eat for the first two weeks of September. At one point I spotted a sign on one of the columns in the waiting room that listed ombudsman-type resources for people who thought they’d been treated unfairly by the process of applying for food stamps or assistance, and I just thought about how it would feel to be reaching the end of your money and your resources like that.
So far, so good, though. I’m really enjoying my work.


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