On Friday, Megan shared some of the results from this year’s group of VISTA members. We had a great time celebrating with them last week, as we’ve had great times with them all year. This group of VISTA members has continually inspired and energized me throughout the year. I’ve seen them struggle and come out better for it. I’ve seen them network and share resources like the true professionals they are. I’ve seen them scared and saddened by the proposed elimination of AmeriCorps in federal budget debates earlier this year. I’ve seen them lean on each other and use every ounce of energy available so they could make a positive impact in their communities. It’s been quite a year.
Over the past week, I’ve been reviewing their exit portfolios, the final documentation of each one’s service year. The very first one to arrive was hand-delivered by Lauren Stoler, who served with Project PLASE in Baltimore. Lauren has a quiet strength about her and that was reflected in her portfolio as she talked about what she’s learned this year as she worked with individuals who are homeless.
“As the year progressed,” Lauren wrote, “I began to see homelessness in a new light. I no longer saw it as a problem that only affected ‘those people’ or as a problem that ‘others’ were taking care of. Homelessness affects people, people with aspirations, people who are worthy of more, and people I know.”
Lauren came into her VISTA year with an interest in community organizing, event planning, and working with volunteers. She is leaving with a deep passion for helping the most vulnerable and most misunderstood. I have no doubt that her passion will continue to grow as she continues to serve others.
AmeriCorps calls for all of us to make service part of our everyday life, to continue to serve beyond the AmeriCorps year. With members like Lauren and the 11 other VISTA members completing their AmeriCorps year this Friday, I know that call will be answered. We will serve because no matter our interests when the year began, service itself becomes a passion.
Congratulations to our VISTA members Andrea, Ashley, Elanor, Emily, Heather, Jordan, Kate, Katie, Kelly, Lauren, Lisa, and Warren. Thank you for serving, for giving of yourselves, and for allowing me to be a small part of your year. I can’t wait to see where you go from here!