My name is Ariel Thomas-Urlik and I served as a VISTA from 2014-2015 at the Yavapai Food Council working as a SNAP Outreach Coordinator assisting Yavapai County, AZ residents through the application process that would allow them to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, benefits.
I am currently a Masters of Public Health candidate at the University of Texas Houston Health Center as well as a Program Management Intern with Hunger Free Texans. My year as a VISTA member exposed me to the devastating effects of rural food insecurity and taught me how it can be alleviated, which encouraged me to continue doing work that seeks to resolve the issue. My VISTA year has inspired and allowed me to continue my education to further my knowledge as a best practice public health professional.
I continue to remain in close contact with friends and colleagues I met during my VISTA year. In fact, I am going to be able to see my former VISTA site supervisor and mentor, Amy Aossey, again since she is scheduled to be a plenary speaker at the Hunger Free Texans 2016 Keeping Our Communities Healthy Conference (May 18-20, Houston, TX), which I am assisting in planning and promoting. Being a VISTA changed my life, allowed me to grow both personally and professionally, and has continuously opened doors to further my career that otherwise would not have been possible.