Friends, I made an exciting decision this week! After weeks of applications and interviews, hours of rumination, and too many pro-and-con lists to count…I have accepted a job offer and solidified a small portion of my life for the next twelve months to come. Hooray!
Starting August 5th, I will be working as an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader at the Minnesota Literacy Council, overseeing a pilot program and partnership with Minneapolis Public Schools. Over the next year, 13 new VISTA members will serve in community organizations and district departments, working to increase the academic achievement of students in the Minneapolis public school system. Their projects will focus on effectively engaging families and communities in helping low-income students succeed, better preparing students for college and careers, and building stronger support networks around youth and families. I am excited to step into a supervisory role, and will be in charge of providing support, planning and facilitating trainings, counseling and recruiting, and writing state and national reports on the impact of these 13 VISTAs and their projects.
I cannot express just how important I think this work is. Minneapolis has one of the nation’s largest achievement gaps–between white students and students of color, affluent students and students living in poverty. This is an injustice I experienced firsthand this year, through my work with ThreeSixty Journalism and our partnership with Roosevelt High School. When I help out once a week in the journalism class at Roosevelt, the students I work with are primarily teens of color, both economically disadvantaged and academically behind. It has been challenging for me to relate my educational experiences to theirs; teachers fight for students to pass basic standards, the school lacks funding for extracurricular activities, and most of the students do not have the support and resources to even consider going to college. Everything in my education and upbringing tells me this is wrong, and I am determined to use my individual privilege, education, skills and experience to be a part of the change that simply needs to happen.
Another reason I committed to this VISTA Leader position was the chance to continue my work with the Minnesota Literacy Council–a statewide nonprofit committed to sharing the power of learning through education, community building, and advocacy. AMAZING, right?! The services that the Minnesota Literacy Council provides range from volunteer tutor training and computer literacy resources to adult literacy, ESOL, and GED classes. I am honored to have the opportunity to engage with such a creative, committed, and socially-engaged community. Obviously, my future coworkers are pretty great, too!
Even with such a fantastic opportunity, the decision to accept this position was a difficult one. In renewing my service with the AmeriCorps VISTA program, I have committed to another year on a tiny, monthly stipend. I’m prohibited from working a second job, and won’t be putting any money into savings (again) this year. But this is the time in my life when I can do it. When I can fully commit to a year of service, and choose a position for ideals over income. As I lay in bed last night, weighing the motivations and consequences of my decision, a favorite quote of mine came to mind. The words of poet Audre Lorde, and a sentiment that moves me, “I want all of my work–to engage, to empower people to speak, to strengthen themselves into who they most want and need to be and then to act, to do what needs being done.” Amen, Audre Lorde, Amen.
It is my hope, wherever this adventure takes me–further service with nonprofits, on to grad school, work in higher education–that this sentiment continues to resonate within me, to shape my relationships, and support my vocation. For now, I am happy that it reaffirms my employment decision and serves as one of the bella piccoli pezzi of my present. Prego!