“As you think back to one year ago as you were getting ready for graduation and starting your year of service with Rochester Youth Year and AmeriCorps*VISTA, what expectations did you have? Were these expectations met? Exceeded? Or was everything you thought this year would be completely wrong?”
My first job out of college was as a special education itinerant teacher. It was an eye-opening experience in that I was able to witness firsthand the devastating effects of poverty on children and their families, and it motivated me to want to do something to help. I hoped that Rochester Youth Year would be the perfect opportunity to give back and help children like those I was teaching. I was also looking forward to escaping the emotionally draining work I was doing and working in a more positive environment.
In some ways, my expectations for VISTA were met. I did have the opportunity to work in a fun office environment with great people. I got to take a break from direct service and discovered that I really enjoy indirect service and capacity-building, and I got to explore career options that had never occurred to me before. However in other ways, this year has left me confused about my future and my ability to make an impact on families in poverty.
When I started this year, I somehow thought that VISTA would allow me to become some kind of Superman and “save” people, or eradicate poverty in some mysterious way that I just didn’t know about yet. Now I realize that poverty is a complex issue, and there is not a single approach to understanding or solving it. I’ve also realized that good intentions alone are not always enough to make a difference; and that no matter what I do as an individual, poverty will always exist. Another thing I’ve discovered very recently is that I’d really like to do nonprofit work, but that those jobs are very difficult to come by and it might be better for me to continue the work I was doing before VISTA.
So basically, I am more confused now than ever about what this year has meant to me. Overall, it has been and continues to be a great experience. I’ve learned so much, and I know that no matter where I end up, I will do a better job—and be a better person—because of the things I’ve learned this year.