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A Great AmeriCorps Journey

My service as an AmeriCorps VISTA was both challenging and rewarding. I was exposed to a brand new language and new ways of getting things done. It was no longer hands on and I could no longer get my uniform dirty. I started my service as a VISTA with the intention of not comparing it to my previous State AmeriCorps service, from Pima College Adult Education, and I must say it helped coming in without expectations because it got me ready to work.

I was given the title of Community Resource Developer and I did my service at the Mayor’s Office for the Tucson Community Schools Initiative. I never had an office and never did I had in my vocabulary, words such as, funding, grant proposals, sustainability, capacity building, data entry, and so on. As a VISTA, not only did I had an office but it was also on the tenth floor in the City Hall of Tucson with an amazing view that made me fall in love with the city even more and my vocabulary not only expanded but it evolved to a higher and smarter level, one that I could not think of reaching as an English Second Language learner. During our AmeriCorps Civic Leadership Trainings, I got the opportunity to connect with other AmeriCorps members and I realized that I was part of something big and great named Arizona Serve and that my fellow teammates ranged greatly in age and experience which gave me the opportunity to learn so much from them. During my service, I did not hesitate to ask questions and I valued every professional development opportunity my team leaders provided because it was in these trainings and meetings where I got to see myself grow and become more useful for the Initiative.

I must say that AmeriCorps has been a great learning opportunity from the beginning. It got me out of unemployment, poverty and put me right into higher education. AmeriCorps also provided the opportunity for me to meet passionate and intelligent people whose goals are to improve the community. Without AmeriCorps VISTA, I would have never met my supervisor Karla Avalos the Community Organization & Development Director, a strong and hardworking woman who I highly admire, or Meg Riley, the Program Manager Community Schools Initiative, who is very knowledgeable and provided me that sense of belonging the instant she became part of our Tucson Community Schools Initiative Team. Also, Maryann Phininzy, Program Coordinator for the AmeriCorps Program in PCC Adult Education, a woman who became more than a mentor but a guidance in life and a reminder of my strengths when I am in most doubt. Last but not least...AmeriCorps VISTA gave me the opportunity to meet and work with coolest guy in Tucson, Mayor Jonathan Rothschild whose agenda includes the welfare of the people and his generosity cannot be measure with a few words but perhaps an entire book that describes his constant hard work to keep this city afloat. Serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA and Resource Developer for the Tucson Community Schools Initiative, allowed me to grow professionally and got me prepared even more so to get things done.

Catalina Llamas, Sylvia Baiza and Xail Hernandez in a beautification project in 2012 (person taking the picture is Maryann Phininzy)

Catalina Llamas, Sylvia Baiza and Xail Hernandez in a beautification project in 2012 (person taking the picture is Maryann Phininzy)

Published on March 11, 2017 by Molly Sheehy.

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