As my service year with Americorps VISTA winds to a close, I find myself reflecting on all of the incredible experiences that this year has brought.
When I arrived in Durham, North Carolina, I knew no one. It was scary, but traveling to places I’ve never been all on my own is something I’ve perfected over the past few years.
The first step to settling into a new place is people. And wow, have I met some awesome people in my time here. I’ve made life long friends of my co-workers, who have supported me both in my work and in personal life. When I was nervous about public speaking, my supervisor was there to talk me through it, and when I needed advice about Durham, my co-VISTA and program director were quick to show me all the best food and hangout spots.
I’ve also met incredible people through the work that STEM RTP does. The Triangle is rich with people who are dedicated to uplifting North Carolina’s historically underserved, and I’ve learned a lot about the innovation going on in non-profit work through these individuals.
That’s an excellent segway to the next key aspect of settling into a new place: work. I’ve always been drawn to service work, and STEM RTP has not only given me hands-on opportunities to bring STEM awareness to local students and educators, but also incredible work experience that I could not have gotten anywhere straight out of college. I’ve been able to coordinate events with students and STEM professionals, build trainings, and brainstorm and create new programs. Each one of these has been such a growth experience! And, just as important, there are all the programs I’ve learned how to use and the improvements in my writing and design skills.
The final piece of settling into a new environment is purpose.
What drew me to STEM RTP from the very first interview was their passion for their mission and their understanding of their purpose. I was only peripherally aware of STEM education outreach when I applied at STEM RTP, but it did not take long until I was buried in the ethos of the work. Dr. Sarah Windsor and Reshockie Furnace care deeply about what they do, that sense of purpose made this VISTA year fly by. Each challenge was exciting and each student we were able to impact was a personal victory.
It’s unfortunate that my time at STEM RTP had to end during such a complex and difficult time in our country. But, I can honestly say that I am hopeful about the future because I am stronger, smarter and a better person for having had this experience. As far as VISTA service years go, I think I’ve had one of the best.
As I head back home to Tennessee, I look forward to the future and what it holds!