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A Year of Learning and Re-Learning

Hello, my name is Krystle Preston. I am an AmeriCorps VISTA member at Compass Affordable Housing in Tucson, Arizona. When I first started my year of service, I thought it would be just a year of gaining work experience and nothing else, boy was I wrong. I am at the end of my year of service and I cannot express everything that I have learned or re-learned. One of my favorite quotes, “Develop a passion for learning. If you do you will never cease to grow.” Anthony J. D’Angelo. My year as a VISTA has allowed me to grow as a person. Before this year I would always be pushing for the next moment, never enjoying or even noticing the current moment in time. Now I live my life day to day fully emerged in each moment. I also have expanded my friends to include people of all walks of life. 

I was born and raised in rural Michigan. I received my graduate degree from Michigan State University in Social Work in the summer of 2015. Life was full of interesting moments that taught me to be open and accepting of other walks of life. This openness was one of the reasons that I chose to come to Tucson, Arizona. Tucson is a sprawling city full of diversity and acceptance. I came here with an open mind and a willingness to learn as much as I could about this city and about the population that I would be serving. After graduation, I had spent months applying for jobs with no luck and no job offers. After every rejection I asked for constructive feedback and they all said that I needed more experience. A friend told me about the AmeriCorps program and I figured it would be a great way to gain experience and it also offered me the chance to travel.

Compass Affordable Housing goals and values include improving the quality of family and community life by developing, producing, and managing high quality, service-enriched affordable housing.  I was mainly focused in our sober living apartment complex offering supportive servicesWe serve individuals from all different religious, political and ethnic backgrounds. However, the two main similarities between all tenants is that at least one tenant in each household is living in recovery from drugs or alcohol and that they are low income.

I learned throughout my year that many of my early perceptions of this population were not true.  I worked hard to get to know the tenants and their own, unique stories. I learned that these people were a testament to perseverance and masters of adversity. For instance, many of the tenants during their time of addiction burned multiple social connections. When they became clean they were left to struggle to build a healthy lifestyle on their own. Many cannot and do not succeed without social supports. Yet, the people here at Glenstone Village have succeeded at living in recovery and a lot of that is due to the support system that Compass Affordable Housing offers.   In my time at Compass Affordable Housing, I developed a great respect for the tenants. By knowing the tenants on a personal level it helped me to foster the motivation to develop programs and events for the tenants that would best serve them.

My project for the year had four main aims: develop volunteer opportunities and opportunities to network with outside businesses and nonprofits for tenants, update company policies and procedures, and finally help build better models for tracking data. Throughout my year, I successfully address these aims. I recruited and managed a core group of volunteers for tabling and presentation activities, updated the company policies and procedures with the thoughts of tenants, interns and volunteers in mind, and built excel spreadsheets and organized binders for better tracking systems.

I came in thinking that this year would just be about learning work skills. I didn’t know that instead I would learn what it meant to change one’s life 360 degrees. I learned what it meant to ask for help. I learned what it meant to be truly open minded. I learned that people are human, we all make mistakes and sometimes we just need someone to listen and offer a hand back up. I learned of true understanding. My VISTA year has helped me to re-learn and rewire to take life day by day and to appreciate everyone and everything in my life.

 

By Krystle Preston

A tenant at the end of one of our art therapy sessions.

A tenant at the end of one of our art therapy sessions.

A picture of a tenant and I after one of our physical health walking club events

A picture of a tenant and I after one of our physical health walking club events

Published on March 05, 2017 by Molly Sheehy.

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