My name is Becca Fealk and I was a VISTA with the Yavapai Reentry Project. I was lucky to be the first VISTA to work on this project and get it off the ground. It was an amazing experience to work on something new that I am so passionate about. In my two VISTA terms, I focused on building the framework for the project, putting together collaborations with the state and public agencies, grant writing, volunteer recruitment/training, notifying incarcerated individuals of this new resources, and case management for reentering persons.
I am currently working at the KARE Family Center (a part of Arizona's Children Association) running the Children of Incarcerated Parents program. We run this program out of Tucson and Phoenix, and support people who are raising children who have a parent in prison. We do everything from legal support for guardianship, help for accessing benefits, navigate the criminal justice system, and provide emotional support. I am also almost done (so close!) with my Masters in Public Administration focusing in criminal policy from the University of Arizona.
My time with VISTA allowed to build skills that a normal 24 year old would have difficulty getting access to. I was given a huge amount of responsibility and trust by the Steering Committee to make this idea a reality, and I gained so much from the tough times and long hours. To be able to say I helped create a new program that has such an amazing impact on people's lives is amazing. As I am completing my degree and looking to expand into the policy reform sector, I know my experiences with YRP and VISTA will be essential in my work.
I was fortunate to serve with two amazing teams of individuals. It is hard to pick a moment out of those two years, but I'd have to say choreographing the AmeriCorps Week Flash Mob with Yanina Rivera was a top one!
Aside from all the amazing people I met, skills I built, and the positive impact this had on individuals exiting prison and the Yavapai County community, I was able to get over $25,000 to help with my graduate school tuition and student loans because of my AmeriCorps experience! The University of Arizona provided me with matching funds to my education award from my two years served.