VISTA Spotlight – My name is Lauren E. Simpson, and I am the AmeriCorps VISTA for SAU 6 in Claremont, NH. I was most recently a fourth grade public elementary school teacher in the Kearsarge Regional School District and have been teaching for eleven years. I chose to take some time off from teaching so I could serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA for SAU 6. A resident of Claremont for the past 11 years, I live with my husband and my rescued greyhound named Dalton. In my free time I love reading, exploring new places, and running. I look forward to working directly with the school district to broaden learning opportunities for Claremont residents. It’s a new experience for me to work to reach families and kids beyond a classroom setting. I know I will miss working directly with students, but I am eager to reach out to kids, their families, and all Claremont people in new ways. I’ve already had some great encounters with those who work hard to make Claremont a great city, and I look forward to doing my part to make Claremont a wonderful place to everyone to learn and grow. #iamvista #AmeriCorpsworks
My name is Maggie Reilly and I am currently serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Southern New Hampshire University’s Center for Community Engaged Learning. I do all things service from helping with our service learning program, to educating our students on college access programming and messaging. I am originally from Plympton, MA but went to Southern New Hampshire University to get my Bachelors in Communications. While working for my undergrad, I worked at the Center for Community Engaged Learning as a student worker. This is where I fell in love with service and realized I wanted to incorporate service into my career. I went on two Alternative Break trips, and was a service learning coordinator. I decided to graduate a semester early, and I was able to stay with Center as their VISTA. My year is almost over as a VISTA, and I am finally going to have to say goodbye to SNHU and the Center for Community Engaged Learning. I am happy I was able to stay at SNHU another year, and continue promoting service! #iamvista #americorpsworks
VISTA Spotlight! My name is Marcos Diaz and I am serving as an AmeriCorps*VISTA with Campus Compact for New Hampshire at Nashua Community College. I am originally from the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States when I was about twelve years old. I was the first person in my family to go to college, which made my journey a bit more difficult as I had to navigate through everything by myself. In 2014 I completed my A.A. in Liberal Arts from Nashua Community College. During my time at Nashua Community College I became very involved in community service and student government. I was Student Senate President from 2013-2014 at Nashua Community College. I first heard about AmeriCorps*VISTA from a VISTA at Nashua Community College. My passion for service made me think of AmeriCorps as an option and decided to apply and become a VISTA in 2014. This was the best decision I have ever made. During my first term as a VISTA one of the many things I had the opportunity to do was work with the underrepresented population in the Greater Nashua area. I developed a leadership curriculum that was then implemented into the Nashua School District’s ELL Summer Program. I loved the work so much that after going into the private sector, I came back to do a second term as a VISTA. I am currently pursuing a B.S. Criminal Justice from Southern New Hampshire University and hope to obtain an opportunity in federal law enforcement. #iamvista #americorpsworks
My name is Ryan Acuna, and I am an AmeriCorps Vista for NHTI’s ESOL Office! I initially heard about AmeriCorps through my sister. She has many close friends who served for AmeriCorps and thought it would be a rewarding and positive experience for me. I considered the option, and scoured the internet looking for more information. I was excited to learn about the positive impact that AmeriCorps played in alleviating poverty. What intrigued me the most was the multitude of volunteer opportunities available. There were openings in health, education, outreach, and much, much more. I was sold! I applied for many positions, but the position that caught my eye the most was the VISTA position in the Office of Cross Cultural Education in NHTI. After all, my background is in Secondary Education and ESL. I am a 1st generation Asian-American, and I always thought that gave me a unique perspective. Not to mention that my future goal is to become an ESOL teacher. This VISTA opportunity seemed like the perfect fit! I applied for the position and soon after, I was scheduled a phone interview. I practiced vehemently; interviewing myself and asking very difficult questions (some questions didn’t make too much sense). I was very a tough interviewer. When it was time for the actual phone interview, I was able to compose myself and pass with flying colors. All the practice paid off! It was a very exciting a moment. As a Michigander (It’s what we from Michigan call ourselves), I eagerly awaited my experiences in New Hampshire. I was looking forward to using my skills in Education and ESL in a new unfamiliar environment.
After the long dreadful car ride to New Hampshire and after the luxurious three meals a day hotel service that is the Pre-Service Orientation (PSO), I found myself settling in Concord, New Hampshire. It was still summer vacation, and the surroundings were eerily quiet. My responsibilities as a VISTA were unclear, but that soon changed when the fall semester started. The office was bombarded with many ESOL students looking for services and accommodations. It was confusing and a tad bit overwhelming. I watched my supervisor and co-workers assist the students with financial aid; knowing that in the near future, I will have to help the students as well. I was very impressed! Communicating with people of various backgrounds and language ability is no simple task. Additionally, I found myself going from class to class trying to recruit members for the Cross Cultural Club. One of my many responsibilities as a VISTA is to help guide and promote the club. Together, with my fellow club members and advisors, we set out to promote multiculturalism in our campus through a plethora of different events! It was hard work, but very rewarding. Speaking of hard work, one of my more difficult responsibilities as a VISTA is tutoring. In conjunction with everything else, I assisted our ESOL students with diverse subject matter. Even with my background in Education, I found myself concerned. As a tutor to pretty much everything, it was hard to prepare, especially because most students drop in unexpectedly. It was strenuous at first: learning as I taught, managing other responsibilities, and trying to make clear presentable instructions to students whose first language isn’t English. Sometime at the end of the day, I wondered if I was making a positive impact. However, the students are reassuring, and come to me time after time for assistance. So, I must be doing something right!
I have learned a tremendous amount from my position in AmeriCorps. Through success and failure, the programs, and myself as person, can always evolve. Some projects are being revised; the Conversation Partner Program was a nightmare I will not get into. And some projects are being improved; I am currently recruiting tutors to help our ESOL students. I even gave field assessments to students who tutor for our program. Being in my position, some of the most rewarding learning experiences is being able to interact with our students. The office has an eclectic bunch. I remember applying for this position knowing full well that many of our students are newly settled refugees. I thought I knew what that meant, but knowing about a situation is different from being immersed in it. I have met students who struggle with simple things we take for granted such as transportation, access to water and housing, and much more. Many of our students escaped war and oppression. Upon hearing some of their stories, the trials and endeavors they have conquered, I was surprised. I wondered how they can come to our office with a smile, with their happy wonderful personalities, and intense drive to learn, but I am reminded that they are students who are just trying to make the most out of their lives. Truly the American dream is alive and well! These students bring the world into our office, and despite the chaos and overload that dwell in our work, I find myself wanting help them more!
I am grateful for joining AmeriCorps. And I would very much recommend it to everyone! It truly gave me a unique perspective in serving that I don’t think can be replicated in other volunteer experiences. I have a very supportive team and co-workers. Even now, they are helping me with the next phase of my life: giving me connections, advice, letters of recommendation, and more! And as my year is quickly concluding, I am happy to know that even in the future, I will have their support and guidance.