Now into its fourth year, the CAC AmeriCorps VISTA Program has grown from 11 host sites with 12 members to its current 20 host sites and 25 members. Each year, the baton of personalized support and guidance is passed to each successive VISTA Leader, and this transition bids a fond adieu to one and a hardy hello to another.
Gordon Harless – 2019/2020
This previous year serving as VISTA Leader for CAC AmeriCorps has been one of the most rewarding, insightful, joyous, stressful, and challenging years of my life. As all things have been through this year of chaos that is 2020, it has highs and lows, both ends seemingly exaggerated by outside forces. Overall, I have no regrets and feel making the decision for a second year of service was the perfect one for me.
The greatest accomplishment I feel I had over the year wasn’t really mine, but it was seeing the amazing things our VISTA members were able to accomplish, both in general before COVID-19 as well as the amazing response and adaptation to the pandemic the members made. So many of our members were ready and willing to jump into direct service to community members in need, adjusting work spaces to teleservice, and taking steps to keep themselves, their co-workers, and their community healthy and safe.
As I look forward to my next steps, I know I leave the VISTA corps with great current members, great incoming members, and in a place of amazing growth. I am totally confident in Leah’s ability to support this great group of changemakers, and I am sure she will amaze and resolve issues in ways I never would have been capable of.
Leah Fontaine – 2020/2021
Now starting my third week of service and having just finished orientation with this year’s members, I’m reminded of how impactful AmeriCorps is in the local area. It seems every new face I meet has an AmeriCorps story to tell, and they’re always enjoyable to hear. It has become a great comfort as I realized my potential as a small piece to the overarching mechanism coming together to create lasting change in the community. When my piece is combined with all of the other VISTA members, the big picture becomes clearer, and hopefully the community gets a bit brighter. Though I won’t be the boots on the ground this year, I can’t wait to support this class of VISTAs and see what all they can accomplish over the course of a year.
I am also incredibly excited to start an MBA in Non-Profit Leadership at Carson-Newman University in just a few short weeks for the first school year of their partnership with AmeriCorps. This opportunity was only possible through the Segal Education Awards I will receive for my service and the dedication of our program director, Jason Scott, to provide further opportunities for members. Through this 1-year program, I will leave my current service year with valuable experience as well as a master’s degree in a field of work I’ve found my heart in.
Though this year will likely bring twists and turns, my main goal is to provide the VISTA members with the support they need not only to successfully finish their service year but to leave feeling that they have grown for the better through it. When listening to them talk with passion and dedication about their sites, I glimpse what they are capable of and I am eager to bear witness to their accomplishments.
This blog post is a collection of personal reflections and expressions. All opinions represented are those of the author and do not represent the official opinion or views of the Knoxville – Knox County Community Action Committee, CAC AmeriCorps or any other party referenced.