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VISTA Alumni Lani talks about how National Service gave her the skills to succeed.

My name is Lani Gholston and during my VISTA term I served as the Yavapai Reentry Project Program Coordinator. In this position I helped develop a social media strategy and implement it, developed media kits and put in place systems and partners to increase the program’s recognition in the community, implemented an annual giving campaign and annual signature event, formalized our speakers bureau, trained the trainers, and did some statewide outreach by speaking in Federal Prisons and at statewide conferences on applied behavioral health and health systems.  The goal of these efforts was to ensure the program was tapped into a community that could provide a coordinated continuum of care for former offenders released into Yavapai County.

I am now working for CNCS as a Program Officer in the Louisiana State Office. I am so happy to have this job. Upon graduating from law school I was fairly certain I wanted to do compliance and policy development and that’s exactly what I do!

It’s amazing because more often than not, the work I am doing is contributing to others having the VISTA or Senior Corps experience and working to build better communities. My time as a VISTA had a dual impact. First, it gave me an appreciation for the VISTA experience which improves empathy when working with members on issues. It also gave me significant exposure to the intermediary model vs direct placement models which have helped as I now manage a large intermediary in Louisiana as well as direct placement sites. I think we can agree that virtually all VISTAs are experts in multi-tasking and that skill has definitely carried over into this job. My morning task list hasn’t included fewer than five items in quite some time, but I can’t think of many days I’ve left work unhappy. Tired, yes. Unhappy, no.

Looking back I think there were two highlights from my year as a VISTA. First I received a “we miss you” text from my fellow VISTA’s and my predecessor Becca Fealk at our Mardi Gras event. I was out of town on personal business and missed my own event but it was great to see that it was a success and I felt loved and appreciated, which was nice because I had the chance to work with some amazing people and had some pretty big shoes to fill. The second was having a participant graduate from the program and make a point to stop in, thank me for my efforts and share her wedding pictures with me. It’s funny because we never really know how much of an impact we have on people, but I was really touched that day.  

Published on March 12, 2015 by Lloyd Weathers.

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