Rachel – My VM Story – St. Franis Neighborhood Center

Today’s VM Story takes us to Rachel, who is serving at St. Francis Neighborhood Center in Baltimore!

“There are several reasons that I am doing this. For one, I think that this year of service will help me reach my professional goals. Specifically, the education award will allow me to pay off some of my loans from undergrad and someday attend graduate school. The Volunteer Maryland networking opportunities and professional development are also enticing.

I’m hoping that my time at St. Francis will give me a more concrete sense of the needs of the communities in Baltimore that are struggling with overcoming generational poverty and hunger. I will have situated myself in a community, lived experience, and perspective that is invaluable to my professional goals, and can ultimately create a model for my urban education program that I will be returning to school to pursue with the insights from the community. I would like to give the St. Francis community the tools to be self-sufficient and managing their resources responsibly and in a manner that minimizes waste. In the same vein, ideally the volunteer program would be more robust and consistent year to year. Finally, I’d like to learn what I need to work on in order to help other communities do so in the future.

My Puerto Rican heritage is very important to me. I do not have preferred gender pronouns and identify as queer and non-binary. I am a fiery Leo! I am an aunt to a beautiful toddler, and a new cat mom! I am originally from Baltimore County, but I attended undergrad in Ohio and lived in South Florida prior to returning to Baltimore earlier this year.

I like to sing, play with animals, garden (or be in nature in general). My love of nature led me to study Geology at Oberlin College, where I obtained a 3.6 GPA while also playing field hockey and acting as the treasurer of two campus organizations, La Alianza Latinx (our Latinx student union) and Oberlin Food Justice, and volunteering at the local George Jones Farm and tutoring at Eastwood Elementary School. I also had the privilege of studying away with my advisor and conduct research on a coral reef in Cane Bay, St. Croix. Ideally, I would return to St. Croix or any island or coastal region and assist in conceptualizing creative solutions to food scarcity and public health crises created by climate change, overfishing, and resource mismanagement.

That said, I am very passionate about resource management, outdoor education, and critical pedagogy as creative solutions to generational poverty, holes in our education system, and food scarcity. My grandmother was a Spanish teacher and channeled her energy into empowering the community; in a similar vein, I want to use my skillset and vast experience with plant life and gardening to empower communities to grow their own food and take their nutrition into their own hands. I also want to empower communities to manage their resources in a responsible fashion, such that food waste is eliminated and unnecessary hunger is a thing of the past. I have 10 years of progressively responsible experience working in garden centers, water gardens, and farms and ranches, and intend to instill and encourage the community of St. Francis to cultivate their green thumbs, too. My parents encouraged me to always be critical and learn as much as possible, and I am excited to do the same with volunteer coordination and in tutoring children at St. Francis.

The summer VISTA associate position at St. Francis that I originally took was for a STEM educator position, which was, more or less, exactly how I saw myself using my Geology degree after undergrad. Along with these responsibilities, my time was spent managing food distribution. My time as a member of Oberlin Food Justice organization motivated me to focus my energies on resource distribution and waste reduction. This translated into me developing close relationships with a bunch of the campers during meal and snack times, and ultimately led to me falling in love with the kids and community of St. Francis. Since I’ve gotten to know them and gotten a sense of their needs and how to mentor them, I felt that taking a position as their Volunteer Coordinator would allow me to further take care of these wonderful children that I care about deeply.”

You can learn more about the volunteer opportunities at St. Francis Neighborhood Center by visiting stfranciscenter.org

If you know an organization that would benefit from having an AmeriCorps Member serve as Volunteer Coordinator at their organization for the 2018-1019 service year please email volunteer.maryland@maryland.gov, call 410-697-9285 or visit volunteer.maryland.gov today!


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