Like many college students, Jessica Grove assumed her post-graduation path would be straightforward, heading immediately to graduate school and continuing her education. But she couldn’t shake the voice in her head that led her in a different, unexpected direction.
“I could not stand by while everywhere I looked I saw those who needed help. So I decided to join AmeriCorps. The very first day, the only thought in my head was, ‘What did I get myself into?’ I had moved completely out of my comfort zone. It was a new city, new people, and my world was shifting…
“The truth is, I got into one of the best, most perception shifting jobs of my life. I learned kids are strong, independent, and able to rise above their circumstances. I learned that they have big dreams and are capable of effecting real change in their communities. I learned that building a better world starts at the most basic level: the heart of a child.”
Jessica’s thoughtful insights, as well as her dedication and conviction, are shared by her fellow VISTA volunteers as they devote a year of their lives to serving young people in need of a mentor.
Founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs in 1993. VISTA has been on the front lines in the fight against poverty in America for more than 50 years. Unlike a standard AmeriCorps position involving direct service, VISTAs are placed in agencies and sites around the country to build capacity and sustainability, ultimately aiding their communities in addressing issues of poverty.
Virginia Mentoring Partnership’s VISTA cohort aims to build the capacity of mentoring programs and youth development organizations in Virginia. With the support of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), VMP is proud to offer this program to the mentoring community. With a focus on the organizational systems that directly impact the quality of youth mentoring relationships, the VISTA program infuses human capital resources into select start-up or existing host mentoring programs to develop organizational capacity, resiliency, and to drive improved outcomes.
“In the past four years, our VISTA members have created more than 1500 new mentoring matches in Virginia. With their help, mentoring programs are able to expand their services and develop new mentoring opportunities in areas where kids need mentors most. VMP gives VISTAs the tools and support to ensure the development of quality mentoring relationships,” shared Vanessa Reyes, who has served as a VISTA at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Richmond and Tri-Cities, and is currently VMP’s VISTA Supervisor.
As Virginia Mentoring Partnership welcomed its fifth cohort of AmeriCorps VISTAs this fall, their enthusiasm and passion for service filled our offices with an inspiring energy. The spirit of volunteerism is strong and the charge is clear: work to overcome poverty, build organizational capacity, and create a sustainable future for young people in our communities.