Rebecca’s AmeriCorps VISTA Year of Service [Part 1/2]
Today’s post is part of a two-part series on AmeriCorps. Rebecca is currently working at the Center for Investigative Reporting as the Business Marketing Coordinator. She found out about GYG through a fellow Model United Nations member, Harrison Gill. You can contact her HERE.
After I graduated college and realized getting a permanent job was next to impossible (2010 was not a good year to be searching for a job), I signed up for AmeriCorps VISTA.
When I applied for AmeriCorps I had no idea what to expect. I checked out the project descriptions and the recruiting organizations and chose to apply to projects that both peeked my interest and were outside of my current knowledge base. I also kept location in mind; it can end up being a really important factor in your decision. Anyways, the AmeriCorps VISTA program, unlike other AmeriCorps programs, is designed to help nonprofits get started, to focus on sustainability and program development.
There were quite a few organizations that were looking for someone to help their programs expand their financial services. That sounded interesting, I thought, ‘don’t know too much about financial services!’ I ended up applying to three programs in my state that all were looking into fortifying and growing their VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) programs and focusing on partnering with fellow nonprofits to help clients get access to many different financial services. These concepts really interested me.
When I first heard about AmeriCorps I thought it was all about mentoring and tutoring children, which is great. But, I was looking for a stepping-stone to a career and I wasn’t looking to become a teacher. Realizing that AmeriCorps offered other projects that I wanted to learn more about and would help expand my knowledge in a specific area such as economic development was great! I knew I had found something I could commit to for the next year.
I accepted a position north of San Francisco 8 hours away from my family in a place I was a stranger to, ready to start something new. SparkPoint Marin’s mission was to help people take control of their own finances. Turns out to help other people, you need to be well versed in these areas yourself. Thus, I was trained in financial coaching and learned how to budget, to save, and to file taxes. Now I volunteer every year during tax season to help people file their taxes and file my own for free as well.
Here are some other resources I learned about that could be useful to you too:
- 211 – Call it and they will help you find what you need.
- Health and Human Services
- Food Banks
- Women’s Initiative
- Get Money Smart
- Consumer Credit Counseling Service
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
In fact, all this immersion in finance lead me to start my own finance blog.
I finished my year empowered and ready to take on more challenges. I came away with marketing skills, organizational skills, enhanced customer service skills, confidence in voicing my opinions and sharing ideas, and lastly, the ability to analyze programs, find the inefficiencies, come up with solutions and implement them.
I definitely recommend it to anyone and everyone.