Chandler Little Eagle and Ayana Curran-Howes are forces to be reckoned with when it comes to battling honeysuckle at Municipal Farm.
My position with Heartland Conservation Alliance as AmeriCorps VISTA Outdoor Education Coordinator has come to an end. AmeriCorps VISTA members build capacity in nonprofit organizations and public agencies to help them more effectively generate the commitment of private sector resources, encourage volunteer service at the local level, and empower individuals and communities. Jill Erickson, Executive director of HCA agrees “This is an outstanding federal program that has helped us grow and serve more of the community.” AmeriCorps VISTA members serve full time for one-year terms. This experience has been a period of growth and personal as well as professional development. I had the ability to learn some valuable skills including marketing, writing, grant writing, planning and coordinating events, conducting research and communication skills.
I highly recommend the AmeriCorps VISTA position with HCA. I learned so much during my year of service. For example I learned that the Kansas City Public Library offers a wealth of information specifically geared for non-profit organizations and individuals conducting research on fundraising. Library resources include access a librarian experienced with the many useful research and foundation databases and will walk you through them and all services are completely free of charge.
The individuals that had the greatest impact on my year of service were my supervisor Jill Erickson and former AmeriCorps VISTA Ayana Curran-Howes. It is always helpful to learn about your job from someone who knows the ropes and Ayana went out of her way to set me up for success. One of the exciting opportunities I had during my year of service was traveling to several conferences for professional development. I had a chance to present and speak about my work at the Children & Nature Network International Conference in California. I was part of a panel discussing environmental justice issues. I learned about diversity and leadership at the Fresh Tracks Training Program in Indiana. I accompanied Jill to Washington D.C. to take part in the EPA National Workshop for Urban Waters. It was exciting to connect with other ambassadors working across the United Stated to revitalize communities and connect them to their rivers.
If I could give any advice for coordinating outdoor events it would be successfully working with community volunteers. Volunteers are a great asset, many people are happy to help, the key in my opinion is knowing the best places to reach out and following up with volunteers to make them appreciated and expressing the work they are doing is valued and important to you.
Moving forward, I plan to continue to Law School and this experience has also inspired me to continue working with non-profit organizations. I would like to continue my commitments to my community and project with HCA by volunteering as much time as I can to events and workdays.
Overall, AmeriCorps VISTA has challenged me to grow and offered me valuable work experience that makes it difficult to compete against a summer internship program alone. Like most young adults fresh out of college, we are faced with a competitive work environment looking for both education and years of work experience, I believe VISTA is a great opportunity to gain this experience and get your foot in the door. AmeriCorps VISTA and HCA in particular value professional development opportunities. During my year of service I travelled out of town for AmeriCorps training several times, and was funded by HCA to attend the Children & Nature Network Conference where I spoke on a youth panel.