VERMONT YOUTH TOMORROW
R EFL EC T IN G
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Inside this Issue: Amy Niemczura Youth Horticulture Project……………..2 Ashley Pelletier enVision Montpelier ……………………..3
V Y T A * V IS TA VY TALLS
Jackie LeBlanc enVision Montpelier ……………………..3 Orion Lazo King Street Youth Center ……………..4 Megan Johnston Linking Learning to Life ……………….6 Katy Perry Mobius ……………………………………….6 Cara Butterly VT Youth Conservation Corps ……….8 Peter Luby In-Sight Photography …………………..9 Curtis Moeller Lakes Region Youth Orchestra ……10 Lindsey Lathrop Linking Learning to Life ……………...11 Hannah McIntyre Community Friends Mentoring …...12 Ben Fox Cityscape ………………………………….13 Priscilla Moore Kellogg-Hubbard Library …………….14 Holley Schmidlapp Willowell Foundation ………………….14 Lindsay Arbuckle FoodWorks ………………………………..16 Sarah Schummer River Arts of Morrisville ……………...17 Katherine Buell VT Youth Conservation Corps ……..17 Scott Courcelle Montpelier Parks ……………………….18 Matthew Nicholson VT Youth Conservation Corps ……..19 Welcome new VYT A* VISTA Members …………………………………..20 Amanda White VT Youth Tomorrow ……………………21 Goodbye to outgoing VYT A* VISTA Members ………………………………….22 Accomplishments ……………………..23
VYT A* VISTA Members reflected on their service and said goodbye to 11 members at Silver Lake in Barnard, VT.
REFLECTING ON SERVICE
Amy Niemczura VYT A* VISTA Member Serving at the Youth Horticulture Project In Brattleboro, VT Taking a “Bite” at the Youth Horticulture Project as an Americorps VISTA As I explore the field of agricultural education and outreach at the Youth Horticulture Project, I have learned and tested various strategies to engage youth in the process of growing, preparing, and eating their own food. At a NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) Farm-to-School conference that I attended in March, I was introduced to the concept of a “no-thankyou” bite, in which students are instructed to take at least one bite of a new food before they decide if they like it or not. Since then, I have used it to teach an afterschool gardening class, and it has also become quite catchy with the teens when they are mentoring, trying a new field task, doing a teambuilding activity, and throughout the rest of the program. Upon reflecting on my service, I realize that the “no-thank-you” bite has extended to all aspects of my year so far, especially to parts that initially appeared scary, unfamiliar, or uncomfortable. I have learned that the “no-thank-you” bite may lead to a “yes, please,” a confirmed “no-thank-you,” or somewhere on the spectrum
in-between. My palate has taken a permanent liking to working with youth and volunteers, organizing a mentoring program, and collaborating with like-minded organizations in the community. Requesting in-kind donations and recruiting youth was an acquired taste, but now I am proud of all that I accomplished in those areas. I struggle to think of things that I have tried during my service that I would not want to try again. If anything, they would be minor footnotes in the overall story of my year so far. Cumulatively, the bites I’ve taken have resulted in the learning experiences that have made me wiser. From my experience, I have learned that I thrive in an environment where structure and flexibility coexist. I have learned that there are a million different ways to weed a bed of carrots or lead a meeting to achieve the overarching plan. I have learned the necessity of effective communication with my supervisor, co-workers, volunteers, collaborators, and youth. I have learned that I am capable of more than I ever knew six months ago. It was during my VISTA service I was taught to say “I am still learning,” rather than “I am not very good at.” As I seriously consider a career as a formal or informal educator, I would like to continuously aspire (Continued on next page)
to challenge myself and the assumptions I have about my likes and dislikes. Adopting the “no-thank-you” bite concept into my service seems to have benefited both my own professional development, and, more importantly, the site that I am serving. Ashley Pelletier VYT A*VISTA Member Finishing service at enVision Montpelier In Montpelier, VT Reflection on Service The mission of enVision Montpelier is to lay the ground work for strategies and activities that will contribute to Montpelier's progress in becoming the Nation's first sustainable state capital. Being a VISTA on such an ambitious project has made seeing the results of my work difficult. Throughout the year, I've often found it challenging to think of my committee work, community outreach, and event planning as making a difference in the community. With any planning project, results are seen in the long-term, usually over a 5 year period. EnVision's results will effect development over the next 30 -100 years. In the coming weeks, my fellow VISTA Jackie and I will present our final report to the Planning Commission and City Council. With their approval, the work from my year of service will finally begin to take effect. In 30 to 100 years, when I come back to Montpelier, my beloved spread sheets, blog, and meeting minutes will have long been deleted, but hopefully the ideas that they developed will have become a reality.
Jackie LeBlanc VYT A* VISTA Member Finishing service at enVision Monteplier In Montpelier, VT
What should I buy first!? I am so sick of poverty. All I want to do right now is buy a dog, a motorcycle, and get laser eye surgery to finally be free of my nuisance contacts and glasses. Right now those three desires seem so far on the horizon, yet close enough that they are beginning to torture me as I near the end of my service. My friends are traveling or buying houses and new cars, while I’m calculating my budget for August, hoping that I can manage to pay for my car repairs and insurance, rent, plus security deposit and first month’s rent for my new apartment, not to mention gas. And my situation is just another example of all that I have learned about poverty this year. I see now, how hard it is for people to get ahead once they have experienced poverty. Change costs money. It’s hard to make changes without any capital to start with. Living on $760 per month actually seemed barely survivable for a (Continued on next page)
REFLECTING ON SERVICE
while – the food stamps, loans in forbearance, and my good fortune to find an apartment within walking distance of my site certainly helped. But now that I am faced with a looming car repair bill (on my budget an added bill of $300 is ominous), I see just how lucky I’ve been this year to not have many emergency expenses. Now, as I plan to move to Burlington, and have accepted a position at the University of Vermont, I am realizing just how much change costs. Although my salary will nearly triple, I still have to make it through the period of transition. I can see how for many people, it is often their only choice to just stay where they are, even when better opportunities present themselves. I am lucky that I have my middle class upbringing to fall back on. I learned about budgeting and investing and saving from my parents, which enabled me to get through this year without digging myself into too big of a financial hole.
It was hard to not become cynical and apathetic this year. I have my qualms about certain AmeriCorps* VISTA stipulations, but I do appreciate all that I have experienced this year. But this yearlong taste of poverty is enough for me and I plan to do all that I can to secure my financial future. And now that the end of my AmeriCorps year is nearing, I am happy to think that with that comes a new, well-paying job, and finally a sigh of relief that yes, I did it – I survived a year on $760 per month – and look at all that I accomplished and learned! And soon enough, once I plump up my savings account (again, thank you middle class upbringing), I can let myself think: which should I buy first? A motorcycle could save me gas money…but I hate my contacts so much… I never thought I’d say this, but I can’t wait to be free to be a consumer again!
mom’s in Mai Mai. How did this all hapVYT A* VISTA Member pen? A year ago toFinishing service with King St Youth Center day I knew none of these things, so In Burlington, VT there must have been a series of specific inWhy King St.? stances between then and now that allowed me to acquire this You know, after a year of service here at the King Street Youth knowledge. Let us examine… Center, I really do feel like a There was the time that, more active member of my comafter a board meeting, one of munity. I know Burlington city the members came over to inselectmen, know how to contact troduce himself and I discovthe theatre coordinator at the ered that not only is he a city Flynn to set up a workshop, and selectman, but he also has conknow how to greet the Somali nections to a non-profit aikido Orion Lazo
organization who would love to teach a class for my mentoring program. After telling the kids, who all requested a karate class, I received angry calls from moms who heard I promised to teach the kids how to “beat kids up.” (Continued on next page)
Then there was the time that no one could watch the kids of the mothers who were taking English classes and so I volunteered. No problem, right?
(“look Orion, when you press this button the belt goes faster!”). Another classic was the best mentoring session ever, when I got 12 guys (6 kids, 6 big kids) to bake cookies. After they were done cooking they returned back to wrestling.
In retrospect I really Two hours later, after wiphad no idea what I was getting ing Yusef’s snotty nose 12 into with this gig. It seemed times, nearly allowing Isha like the most productive thing to drink from the waterto do to gain work world excolor cup, and putting on an “Looking at my VISTA Assignment acoustic danceDescription (VAD), it’s hard to believe I party, I got all of those things done” knew all of the mothers names and how to perience right out of college. say “Welcome, how are The project happened to be a you” in Mai Mai. Hare kum good fit and blossomed into a salam anyone? serious aspect of my life; my co-workers can I can’t tell I’m serious forget about the because I’m altime I went ways joking through three around. Looking weeks of service at my VAD, it’s setting up a hard to believe I rock-climbing got all of those event with the things done, kids, passing it and yet the acby my executive complishments go farther than director, covering all my “Task 8, step 3”. I have office bases with Petra Cliffs, jokes with people in the suronly to have Ali focus all rounding cubicles. I have his energy on the treadmill
made grown men and women take time off of work to come to a meeting that I organized. But the most salient thing when glancing back at my experience is the fact that I’m actually proud of what I have done, which I have never been able to say about previous employments.
Participants in Orion’s On-Site Mentoring Program enjoy some of the activities he organized
REFLECTING ON SERVICE
Megan Johnston VYT A* VISTA Member Finishing Service with Linking Learning to Life In Burlington, VT
helped to make my year of service so memorable. All of the staff members and VISTAs at my site who provided me with guidance, encouragement, and humor. The students in my programs, each of whom continuously amazed and inspired me. Project partners and community members who generously volunteered their time to make the programs I worked with succeed. My fellow VYT team members and leaders who supported me. All of these individuals played an important role in my year, and I am happy to have had the opportunity to serve with them.
It’s hard for me to believe that my year of Through the triumphs and challenges that I’ve experienced this past year, I feel that AmeriCorps* VISTA service has already come to I’ve learned a great deal about myself and my an end. When I look back on the past year, I community. I’m grateful for this experience, and feel a flood of different emotions that I experias I look toward my future, I will take the lessons enced at different times during my service. I’ve learned as a VISTA with me. Some of these emotions include- excitement to begin new projects, apprehen“Through the triumphs and challenges sion and uncertainty when I faced different challenges, frusthat I’ve experienced this past year, I feel tration when plans went awry, that I’ve learned a great deal about myself and satisfaction when I reached and my community.” my goals. In the end, one of the strongest emotions I feel is a sense of acKaty Perry complishment. Over the past year at Linking VYT A*VISTA Member Learning to Life, I played an important role in Finishing Service at Mobius developing and implementing two programs that In Burlington, VT helped prepare and empower the youth involved to reach their future goals and dreams. Plans A Reflection of Service did not always work out and goals weren’t alThis year I have grown a significant amount ways attained, but all things considered, I feel in many different areas of my life. In all truth, I had no clue what I was getting myself into signing up to very proud of what I was able to accomplish at become an AmeriCorps* VISTA member. I gradumy site during my year of service. ated from Champlain College in Burlington and When reflecting on the past year, what stands out most to me are all of the people who
knew that I could not leave this amazing town yet(Continued on next Page)
but what was I to do for work? Enter my roommate, and former Americorps* VISTA who suggested that I look for AmeriCorps opportunities in Burlington. I found Mobius applied and was offered the position that day, which actually happened to fall on my birthday, which was great! A year of service, I thought, that sounds wonderful. Iâ€™ll learn more about my community and how to better and more effectively serve/help others who are not as fortunate as me. Well, I have
Katy Perry and Hannah McIntyre performed a puppet show for their end-ofservice presentation
learned so much about this community and also how to utilize resources that can be found in many different cities across the country. I would say one of the best things I have gained from this experience was creating new connections with people throughout my community. Being an AmeriCorps member I was clued into many free activities and groups that I probably would never have known about otherwise. Besides the connections and tons of information I have gathered from the community this year my actual service site has left me with a lot to ponder. Overall, my service was a really good learning experience for me. As mentioned earlier, I had no clue what was in store for me when I accepted the position with Mobius, and it has been an inter-
esting year to say the least. I have learned that I donâ€™t want to sit at a desk in a future career (which I have done basically every day this past year). Positively speaking though, I was able to work on my writing and have a clear idea of how a non-profit works and is run, which is good because I see myself doing a lot of non-profit work in the future. My AmeriCorps* VISTA service has been my first real experience in an office setting and that has enabled me to work on my interpersonal communication skills. Making cold calls and talking to potential mentors about the various programs we support was really something I was slightly hesitant about in the beginning but now I am completely comfortable asking people for things and perusing businesses to become partners. I believe that the most important thing I have learned this year is, without passion for your work things will not be accomplished to their best potential. I am strongly passionate about mentoring and the benefits gained by both the mentor and the mentee in each relationship and this is truly what kept me going this year. I look forward to continue serving populations of youth in the future and was glad to call Mobius my home for the past year.
REFLECTING ON SERVICE
Cara Butterly VYT A* VISTA Member Finishing service with VT Youth Conservation Corps In Richmond, VT AmeriCorps Word Search Words and phrases that remind me of my service. T S I Y V T E M A I E V V P U I D G P I O V M S E
I R R S R R R E L R Y U U A R U S E R I P H A O T
I L I I E I A E S T P E V E K S T S R S N R A L M
V T T E A I G E R E S G O A E T S N D I R O E O S
N I R A M N R S N I R S P T T Y E T M H S A N E M
N T S L S R P A O A P V R P I D T N I U D T F R T
O V S T L C T A I M V S I T E A K R P E P V A T T
I O V T A S R T A A P M T C A V T E R E I V I Q T
T V R N V O R T E R I S S S E H R S L R E M U H A
A E S T P Q S T O C R T L E K V H I R R E A E R E
R T K T E D M C I S T R R E I I E S I S R S T C T
S D O O O I I N S H E V A S P R T V H T E M I T V
V T S O S R S I S R S V O P E L P E E N R A T P O
E G F M E U S Y G G S R T S O R E R S T S O S S A
R V T M A W T P N S R A O G G T L L S T E I P R I
E A A N R E E I I A N E A N S Y E A E R T R R N P
R S E R R E N S I P H E I T R R I R D E V E I P P
E P R P C I I I P Y V T R E V O E I V N T T R M T
R G I Y A L R E E A E A P R M P N I H T A C T N R
T S E R T E R I R E R O C S E V S N E E N M O D I
P M T V L R D E M I R W M I M I T L E L R M A E I
I L S S E A E M K T E T T O T V S Y P R R A L V V
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Peter Luby VYT A* VISTA Member Finishing service with In-Sight Photography In Brattleboro, VT A Year at the In-Sight Photography Project
living. For photographers, there is no such thing as the big picture. There is only the image. And after that, the next one. Though I obsessed about it all year long, no one at In-Sight seemed to mind that I was not a photographer. They found work for me to do, ways for me to affect the lives of the youth we work with. And the work that I have done at In-Sight, and the lives of the youth and volunteers I came in contact with, none of this is small, as I sometimes feared.
Given the "Everything-Is-Bigger" motto of my home state and the macro-focused academic path I pursued in college, perhaps it's no wonder I have come to one conclusion since arriving in VerAs idealists we mont and The In-Sight must believe that Photography Project: this our lives have is a small place. It was weight- that a year tempting, in the throes is enormous. We of my VISTA year, to decan see no separaspair at the enormity of tion between the the world outside my big picture and the own and surrender to a pictures of our kind of spiritual claustrolives. phobia; claustrophobia not at the scope of the world and its many problems, but at the nauseatingly slight position occupied in that world by Vermont, and by In-Sight Peter created a book about his year of service at Inand by myself. Sight Photography. Polaroids of the youth that participated in programs throughout the year illustrated his We each come to piece. Here he reads book to VYT Members during t the VISTA with some sense End-of-Service Reflection at Silver Lake of responsibility to the big picture. But serving “indirectly,” as our mission prescribes, can feel so disappointingly removed from the world outside. For me, that restlessness represents a lifelong “We each come to VISTA affliction. I lose sleep imagining all the different lives I could have, all of the good work I might do. with some sense of responsibility But serving at In-Sight has required a change in philosophy –it asks of me a more reductive and to the big picture.” present approach to my work and my life. At InSight, no has time to fret over all the things they aren’t doing. Everyone is too busy working and
REFLECTING ON SERVICE
Curtis Moeller VYT A* VISTA Member Finishing service with Lakes Region Youth Orchestra In Rutland, VT A Farm Story Recently, I was again taken in by the power and excitement that can be achieved through storytelling. So as small token of appreciation to everyone reading this (assuming you like it), and because it sounded more fun than entering database fieldsâ€Ś I wrote a fictional narrative mirroring my site. For those interested, my inspiration includes Gregory Maguireâ€™s Wicked and his sequel Son of a Witch, a recent NPR story on Vermont communes, and my own experience growing up on a South Dakota farm. As a final word: thank you all very much for your support and friendship during this year. I have appreciated it greatly. I wish you all the best in whatever comes next!
The barn stood a little apart from the wood, just enough for it to appear well-kept. Much closer and this story would be much different, all of the trouble it would have had with wolves and whatnot. But as it was, the building had been able to keep up its appearances, comfortably settling into its middle-age stride with little difficulty. Difficulty, however, was about to arise. Without any consultation on the part of the barn (for which it still holds a grudge), the management of its field and flock was transferred. Although perhaps that is not quite the correct word, since a transfer implies the entry of a new management. To put it more succinctly: the farmer, or Old One as he was affectionately called, had died. One need not grieve over the matter too much, however, for he was rather old at the time and lived contented up until his very last breath.
All too quickly, it became apparent what sort of trouble was to be had. The weeds grew up and choked out the summer wheat, most of the vegetable plants either dried up or went to seed, the goats became lazy and dizzy from thirst, and the poor cows were simply bursting at the seams. That afternoon a large thunderstorm came up quickly from the west, trembling with power and current. As the small pellets of ice came down and a cool wind shivered through the barn, it almost seemed to be the end. But this story, along with the barn and its constituents, were far from over. Just as the storm was passing on to its next target, a peculiar van pulled into the yard. A large number of men and women gradually emerged, although it was difficult to discern one from another since they all had such long hair. Finally, the grown-cold mantle of responsibility would be taken up. As they settled in, the farm gradually returned to some semblance of order, though not as well as one might hope. This community of wayfarers was clearly unused to their task, and oftentimes other interests took precedence over the milking and the weeding and the watering. Yet even as the hens watched their prized porcelain possessions being harvested, it was clear that the Hairy Ones, as they had come to be called around the yard, had their hearts in the right place. Years progressed. New batches of kittens were born, grew up, and made more kittens. The farm had not prospered, but also not wasted. The Hairy Ones grew tired of the work, but continued. Out of their toil and perspiration came hope and inspiration. They were ready for solutions, for progress. So when the day came for the traveling salesman to arrive, they were prepared. They knew what they wanted: the Manager T300. The T300 was by no means the newest model, but (Continued on next page)
came with rechargeable batteries and an overdrive button, which came in handy during harvest. Special functions included roping, branding, and painting; the last being especially favored by the old barn which now gleamed a vibrant red. The cows were certainly thrilled with its arrival, despite its having such cold pneumatics in the morning. The crops became more bountiful, the goats more numerous, and nearly everyone felt pleased with its existence. After a few merry years, however, a particularly strong blizzard short-circuited the industrious contraption. Of course, the warranty had just recently expired. Having recently gone through so many alterations and modifications, the barn population wondered what the most recent change in the weather would bring. Some of the Hairy Ones worried they would have to revert to their former jobs. Some decided it was time to leave. Yet others had a different hope. They believed that the recent harvest was big enough for them to afford another Manager, perhaps even a newer and better one like the T350 or T380. To bolster their still minimal savings, they would trade-in the T300 on the deal. The salesman could repair it, maybe even give it an upgrade, and sell it again. He knew there would always be barns in need of a good painting.
denly, you find yourself doing whatever it was that you were scared of in the first place and thinking “Wow, why did I work myself up over this?” This does not mean it’ll be easy, in fact, it might be harder than you thought. But no worries! You’ve made progress and you’ve learned something. Not to get all philosophical, but isn’t that what life is all about? These “firsts” I speak of, have come with mixed emotions: surprise, frustration, relief, you name it. But the point is, if I had never tried, I would never have known what could have happened, and who really wants to live with “what could have been?” Not me. So, for your reading pleasure and my own self-reflection, here are some of my “firsts” from my AmeriCorps year.
1. Joining something I had no idea about (aka AmeriCorps we all know and love). 2. Moving to Vermont on a whim with no job or plan and tons of school loans.
Lindsey Lathrop VYT A* VISTA Member Finishing service with Linking Learning to Life In Burlington, VT “A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.” - Mark Twain This year has been about a lot of “firsts” for me, some I’ve wanted to take on and others I sort of found myself in. What I’ve learned is that once you’ve taken that first step, you’re golden. Sud-
3. Working with high-schoolers. (Note: I thought I knew what was going on inside their heads, but I was so wrong.) 4. Teaching seniors job skills when I had no experience teaching at the high school level. 5. Actually being a part of a team rather than taking over ‘because that’s just what I do’ and finding it worked. 6. Learning to drive stick. (C’mon, I had to get to and from service somehow!) 7. Working with difficult people while remain(Continued on next page)
REFLECTING ON SERVICE
ing empathetic and learning as much as I could from them. 8. Discussing my weaknesses openly to do something about them. Crazy concept, I know.
Corps* VISTAs in Lexington, Kentucky and they had told me all about the program and what they had experienced as a VISTA. I thought that this would be the perfect thing to hold me over until I could get into Grad School. I would do some good
9. Asking for help. Period. 10. Buying a motorcycle and learning to ride it. 11. Opening my mind to a path that is entirely different than what I had envisioned and finding that it all worked out. 12. Finally submitting myself to this beautiful state we live in by buying a kayak.
Lindsey told an illustrated story about how she came to serve as a VISTA in VT and how her service has led her to what’s next. Lindsey is staying on in a staff position with Linking Learning to Life.
while working with a non-profit organization and have an opportunity to live and work somewhere outside of what I’d known my whole life. Everything happened so quickly after being offered the position. I had to find housing and move all of my things to Vermont. I never had the time to think about what I was actually expecting from my year of service. Looking back on it know, I can see not only what I’ve learned from Community Friends Mentoring and serving in the non-profit world, but also things that I’ve learned about myself. I’ve learned that the faces that you see in the forefront directly serving the community are not the only ones who make the non-profit world go round. The people behind the scenes really get a lot of important work done. The work that happens on the front lines can’t be done without those who risk paper cuts everyday. And though the work can seem tedious at times, it is that work that creates the backbone of the organization.
I’ve learned that you should, and can, find humor in just about any place or situation. Just when you think that you’re going to go crazy someHannah McIntyre one will come along and relieve the tension with a VYT A* VISTA Member good joke or a funny story, or even a note to the Finishing service with Community Friends Mentoring staff located strategically in the bathroom. I’ve learned that just when you think that you know In Burlington, VT everything there is to know, there is always something waiting around the corner to show you that you didn’t. I’ve learned that even though you have What I’ve learned to put your trust in people, you can’t trust everyone. Yet at the same time, when you fall and When I decided to join AmeriCorps almost a year ago, I thought that I knew exactly what I was need some help, you have to trust getting into. I had worked previously with Ameri(Continued on next page)
those around you to pick you back up again. I’ve learned that I can trust myself. That even if I mess up, I have the wherewithal to make something good come out of a bad situation. I’ve learned that I am capable of making decisions that will work out best for everyone involved. No matter where I go, or who I meet, there will always be people who care about me and who will be there for me when I need them. I’ve learned that people are the same everywhere no matter where you are.
about job skills and how the world works. I’ve learned the basic structure of grant-writing and how to do it well from one of the best grant writers in the state. I’ve worked with kids in need and seen some of the surroundings they come from and thought about how different it is from how I grew up. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed our monthly VYT training sessions, and am going to miss those members who are leaving in July and August. I’ve met some great new friends and some very irritating dogs.
I want to thank everyone who has had a hand in this learning experience, but especially to my fellow VISTAS. You all have taught me so much about life and about living. And if I may go a bit sappy for a second… I will take you all with me wherever I go. Thanks!
Despite all my raving about how service hasn’t been perfect, I feel like I’ve already accomplished quite a bit and I’m ready to see where the rest of my service year takes me (figuratively speaking, because I’m pretty sure that I’ll still physically be in Montpelier). I’ve written two great grant proposals and feel really good about them. Even though the first grant proposal was rejected, it was a learning experience and I feel that my second proposal was much improved from the first.
Ben Fox VYT A* VISTA Member Serving with Cityscape In Barre, VT Life (Or Something Like It) Being a little more than half-way through my service now, I can honestly say that I’m getting more than I had bargained for. It’s been a great experience so far, where everything is a challenge but once you overcome, you end up being better for it. It’s definitely been a learning experience. My VISTA Leader Amanda recently gave me a piece of art she made for her End-of-Service Presentation. The quote she wrote on it summed it up perfectly and expressed what I’m trying to say here: “It’s a climb, but it’s worth it.” That was perfect, and described my service so far spot on. I am hoping for the day when things will start flowing more and I’ll be able to get through a week or a month with ease. It’s starting to happen more and more now. I’m coming through this past 7 months having gained a lot more knowledge
As for the rest of my ser vice, I am looking forward (and fretting at the same time) to giving presentations to community groups. Two of them are coming up in August, and I have the PowerPoint presentation ready to go. I always fret over doing public presentations! I will also be setting up a booth at the Barre Farmers’ Market for a couple weeks as a community relations development tool. I also hope to have a bigger role with new ideas for the Cityscape afterschool curriculum, among everything else that I will be doing. Overall, my service year has been pretty good so far. I’ve had some amazing experiences and some that I wish I could forget. But if that’s not the definition of life then I don’t know what is.
REFLECTING ON SERVICE
Priscilla Moore VYT A* VISTA Member
most important thing, though. Being a VISTA, working for with a non-profit, you just have to “keep trying.”
Serving with Kellogg- Hubbard Library In Montpelier, VT The contrast between my early expectations for my VISTA service and the reality reminds me of Dr. Seuss’ book, “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” “You’ll be on your way up! You’ll be seeing great sights! You’ll join the high fliers who soar to high heights…You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead. Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best. Wherever you go, you will top all the rest. Except when you don’t. Because, sometimes, you won’t. I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.” When I first started my service, I had it in mind that I was going to be the best VISTA the KelloggHubbard Library had ever seen. I’d recruit umpteen volunteers, plan and implement not just one fund-raiser (as required by my VISTA Assignment Description), but two! Of course, each of these fundraisers would net the library a minimum of $40,000 each. Oh, and let’s not forget, I was going to be ultra-organized; pretty amazing, since I didn’t consider myself the most organized of people going into this adventure. Reality happened, of course. I’ve recruited volunteers, but certainly not “umpteen.” My first two “amazing” fundraising ideas weren’t accepted, but I have two other ideas which I think will be popular. I was surprised by the enormous amount of activity in the library. I’m still not ultraorganized, but I keep trying. I think trying is the
My goals are to work on a training curriculum and database for both the outreach and other volunteers, and to plan one fundraiser for the library. I would also like to learn how to tape some of the library’s evening programs through ORCA (Onion River Community Access) Media. Will I succeed? Yes, I will! Besides, how can I argue with the wisdom of Dr. Seuss? “On and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far And face up to your problems whatever they are…And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed.) KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!”
Holley Schmidlapp VYT A* VISTA Member Serving with Willowell Foundation In Vergennes, VT In true Walden fashion, an analogy between my VISTA service and Henry David Thoreau’s cabin in the woods is about as good as it gets. But before I begin, let me share with you a little bit more about the Willowell Foundation and its overall mission. Willowell’s alternative, outdoor, place-based, yearround education program for high school students
grades 10-12 is called the Walden Project. It is just one of Willowell’s many schemes for local and global harmony. The official mission says, “The Willowell Foundation brings people together to foster a deeper understanding of self, community, and the greater ecological whole. By creating connections between artistic, educational, and environmental initiatives, we work to restore the intersection of natural and human communities.” Fostering a deeper sense of self is, no doubt, quite the journey! Once upon a time, I was a young high-schooler, rebellious and confused in my ways. I liked Thoreau for his oddball character and found particularly interesting the fact that he named his three chairs after solitude, friendship, and society.
old haunts, and take an afternoon to contrast their year of learning in the woods of Monkton, VT (a deliberately rural setting), to the urban culture that Boston has to provide. By this time, the dynamic group of students has become close-knit and for many of them this will be their final camp fire together as a community. The reflection, friendship, and solidarity amongst this group of teenagers is at its peak as the night turns to morning. During the past nine months, this remarkable group of students has learned from each other through discourse in almost every element. The bonds of friendship are likely to be timeless.
Solitude I’ve come to agree with H-dogg (Thoreau) when he said, “being is the great explainer,” and although it’s difficult, “if we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” I am so incredibly thankful for all the little funny things that have happened along the way. Upon reflection one truly only remembers the good things that have come out of the experience. I am still embarking on that journey each and every day. For example, on the sleeve of our AmeriCorps hoodies, printed underneath the A*Corps logo, are the words: “Freedom Corps.” As I like to relate things to politics and what I see happening in the global society, I turn to the companion of solitude and ask myself, not “what is knowledge,” as is the tradition around the hearth classroom, but instead, “What is freedom?” in relation to my VISTA experience thus far. There are so many good thoughts to mull over on this one, but I’ll sum things up with another quote, this time anonymous. “True freedom lies in the ongoing challenge to develop yourself, to achieve your chosen goal.” For me, that brings a completely new meaning to wearing your emotions on your sleeve! Friendship At the conclusion of each school year, the Walden Project students take their final trip together to visit Concord, MA. There they explore Thoreau’s
Society Society is analogous to community and for one reason or another, this is another concept my heart has been hammering at. It’s an important one, and thus, gets me every time. I have seen so many different sides of myself while being a part of the Vermont community. I fully know it’s necessary, but waking up to reality hasn’t always been fun (I affectionately now refer to my AmeriCorps experience as volunteer-aholics rehabilitation). The AmeriCorps* VISTA community is held together by a common thread. I believe it’s the absence of a sense of community that causes our souls to be faced with apathy and/or poverty, whether financial or intellectual (as in poverty of the mind or imagination). “Be true to your work, your word, and your friend.” Building community takes personal strength, investment, and one must reach down to the core of one’s being. When I know that I am a part of a larger picture, a movement for peace, that spark of hope and faith in the universe, it is enough to sustain the spirit and keeps me going. Dreaming, pondering the mysteries of the universe, and envisioning a world of jus(Continued on next page)
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tice has always played a large role in my life and has shaped who I am today. I’ve stumbled a bit here and there, but I believe I have my feet firmly planted in reality now. Upon further reflection, and oh how tricky that process can be, there’s only one thing left weighing on my conscious: what does a dream centered in the present look like? My hope for this great nation is that some day our country will be as sincere and kind as the people I’ve had the honor of working, learning, and serving with in Vermont.
erty much worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. I know now that I’m excited about the good things that are happening in our world, which becomes particularly apparent to me when I hear the stories from all of the other VYT A*VISTA Members. It’s true that we sometimes don’t feel like we are creating positive change in our organizations. But we are, even if it’s only through showing that VISTAs are not apathetic, but instead, ignited. What I Have Learned So Far Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
VYT A* VISTA Member
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Serving with FoodWorks In Montpelier, VT Be Ignited, or Be Gone
Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit to no labor in its cause? I don't think so.
All summations have a beginDictionary.com de“Can one be passionate about the just, ning, all effect has a fines apathy as an the ideal, the sublime, and the holy, “absence or supstory, all kindness begins with pression of passion, and yet commit to no labor in its cause? the sown seed. emotion, or exciteThought buds toward radiI don't think so.” - Mary Oliver ment.” Most days, ance. The gospel of I’m not totally overwhelmed by feelings of passion or emotion, and light is the crossroads of -- indolence, or action. my excitement ebbs and flows. Still, I know what I care about, and my time as a VISTA has helped Be ignited, or be gone. me to realize that even more. I know now that I’m passionate about Vermonters having access to fresh, local food, which not only benefits the ~ Mary Oliver ~ health of the individual but also the health of our communities. I know now that the hardships that come hand-in-hand with making poverty-level wages can incite many emotions in me— frustration, mostly, due to things like my dentist bills and car troubles, but also sadness and anger toward a system that keeps many people in pov-
Sarah Schummer VYT A* VISTA Member Serving with River Arts In Morrisville, VT Interesting. Does a reflection shine back as clear as the original image? I don’t think so, it’s always rippled. I suppose those ripples can then be the interpretations I apply to them, the impression I leave on my service. Time eludes me, will that be my downfall? I wonder, deadlines and dates- the hands of the clock move on and I will still be sitting here thinking. Already six months have gone by and in the wink of an eye, so soon a year will have passed. Is it what I thought it was? Well, I told myself I had “no expectations” when I was moving to Vermont to serve a year at a non-profit arts organization called River Arts. Is that true, probably not. I did have expectations, as far as “have I filled them,” well no, of course not. The reason why I intended to come into my service with no expectations was because I knew I could never fulfill that which I knew nothing about, and any expectations I held onto would be a weight I didn’t want to carry.
more ripples). I’ve found a nice little home for myself here in Morrisville. I work with some pretty amazing people. As Joyce, our bookkeeper just told me a moment ago, “I’ve never worked in a place like this; the people are so kind and caring. Whatever you need, they give you or help you with.” She also just commented on the unbelievable fact of how soon I will be done. Synchronicity. It’s so great to be working in such a positive and understanding place. I have learned so much in these past six months, and I am grateful at this chance I’ve had to contribute. I miss it outside sometimes. I’ve never before worked in an office all day before, but I do have the opportunity to travel here and there to pick up this or that or to meet with her or him. Overall these past few months have been pretty great and I feel I have grown a lot. Only time will tell (much sooner than I expect I’m sure) how much I have learned and grown. It’s always difficult to reflect upon growth and accomplishments when I’m in the midst of them. But I do have a pretty good feeling about when I’ll end up. I’ve developed lasting relationships with those that I work with as well as those in this community. That is a great feeling. Katherine Buell VYT A* VISTA Member Serving with VT Youth Conservation Corps In Richmond, VT For me, the rewards come after the fact. It’s hard to chart progress; it’s hard to see those immediate changes, because they are building so subtly each day that it’s impossible to actually see them. I leave work each day questioning whether I am
So reflection of service (the wind has picked up…
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actually doing something, actually making a difference. I don’t have an answer and I wake up everyday to do it all over again not knowing if the world is changing because of my service and of my actions. The roller coaster is always moving, going from a steady build, knowing what I have to do, and then simply doing it – keeping on top of my To Do list. And I’ll swing down, feeling unmotivated, unable to see a difference or a change based on my literal 24/7 efforts. Only rarely do I reach that high, that elatedness that stems from the fleeting vision of success. But it’s so sweet, and so powerful and concentrated, that all the time, tears, fatigue, tough conversations and multi-tasking melt away…and I am renewed, recharged, thriving in my sheer joy and pride for what the corps experience truly is.
meals for herself and others and because she could motivate herself to make it through the harder times. She epitomizes the lessons in personal responsibility we strive to teach. There are plenty of other moments – with work projects, or with community appreciations, or with the staff I work with – that also remind me of the pride I have in my work, but it’s the stories and the quotes and the lessons learned by the Corps Members that I hear every so often that keep me coming back for more.
These moments can be anything. A teenage girly-girl, with chipped painted nails because she has been residing in the woods for three weeks, who runs and jumps and hugs me when I bring her a brand new Socket Set. As if her entire life didn’t have meaning until I brought her the right tool for the job, and now that she can complete the timber staircase with the new 5/16” socket, all is right with the world. This girl who, weeks ago, didn’t know nor care what a ratchet was…and now it’s her life. A college-bound girl who proclaims that, after a month with us, she now feels ready to go to college. Before the VYCC, she was anxious and nervous, but now she says she knows she can do it – because she can do her laundry, because she can get herself out of bed in the morning, because she can cook
Scoot Courcelle VYT A* VISTA Member Serving with Montpelier Parks and Conservation In Montpelier, VT It is late in the afternoon on a hot fifteenth day of July as I sit down in front of my computer to write this newsletter article. I am hot, sweaty and incredibly dirty from a long day of working with several different groups of people who have come together to take on many of the busy tasks that the Montpelier Parks system is involved in. The volunteer groups that I worked with today included- a group of local youth involved in a new therapeutic work program, and an International Volunteers for Peace group, as well as the park staff. All together there were 21 people who were volunteering to accomplish parks projects all around the city of Montpelier. Their inspirations for working with us today are vastly differing from group to group and person to person. Considering
the fact that there are only five regular parks staff members of which two are full time, our 21 strong feels impressive. Through this labor-intensive process nearly 400 acres of beautiful natural parks that are used by tens of thousands of visitors from near and far each year are maintained. In the process of maintaining the parks we are teaching local youth and adults the value of good hard work. For the next three weeks we are also opening a window into life in our community for ten volunteers who have come here from six countries around the globe at a great personal expense and hopefully showing them that not all Ameri-
provide a place to enjoy the forest, wildlife, quiet and solitude, a place to picnic, bar-b-que, and relax with friends, a place to hike, cross-country ski, snowshoe and play frisbee and so many other things. Beyond all of that we are working with youth to provide a sense of self-worth and ownership through meaningful good hard work. Further still, reflecting on my service I realize how much I have learned that I will carry with me beyond to all of the work that lies ahead. Although it is easy to get discouraged about a tiny budget and lack of lots of extra time and money to do all of the things that I dream of, I know that my hard work serves a multitude of great ends to the community and to myself. I think that I will look back and be glad for serving for this year of my life.
Matthew Nicholson VYT A* VISTA Member Serving with VT Youth Conservation Corps In Richmond, VT
cans are ignorant, wasteful, MTV-Cribs-aspiring buffoons, as many of their fellow citizens believe we are. My service changes week to week, day to day and it can be easy to lose sight of how important a service we provide through long hours and tiring days. I’ve at times felt angry with some of the park users that act so ungrateful and even annoyed to see a parks crew coming with chainsaws, shovels, axes, rakes, picks and mowers. Some people seem to miss the connection between the park that they love and the work that needs to be done to maintain that space which they cherish. But then I remind myself that I am missing the point. Our work is vast and constant and many long and tiring projects might not be readily recognizable, but without our efforts a great resource to the people of Montpelier would
Round the roundabout, where the roundabouts run, where the LEAP Crew began, begins and begun. The meals here are quite cheap, and at a mere $25 dollars a week, a steal you will find that is quite hard to beat... if you don’t mind eating a meal without meat. From the beginning there were books, books and books galore, Books in the library and books on the floor. Before each meal in a circle they’d gather, Cautiously resting on Maurie, they’d dine, although they’d rather eat anywhere but there, on the floor, inside a store, They’d rather eat their food off the living room door! In order to play, they put in some time. So day after day as part of the grind,
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they head South on a bus to ReCycle North which challenges them to challenge their minds. Inputting data, outputting facts, denailing boards and placing on racks. Gutting out computers to pass the time. Getting lost in a store with lots of good finds. If volunteers are what you seek, look to the Food Shelf for a Crew of the meek. Completing paperwork and filling bags with beans, stocking the shelves and handing out sardines. Or find them at ECHO, a museum for learning, A place where children go with yearning. There were pelts to pet, buttons to press, and all in all, it was a great success. Before LEAP arrived at the scene, The back of Recycle North was more than obscene. Graffiti on the wall, trash scattered on the ground. Weeds were in charge, no people could be found. For nearly two weeks, they worked and toiled, They painted a mural, and leveled the soil. A fence, a bench, a table they primed, and now that itâ€™s done, it looks quite fine. For the LEAP Program, and my service, Every trial and challenge has been quite worth it.
Welcomeâ€Ś Vermont Youth Tomorrow is excited to welcome 15 new VISTA Members in August! Ptarmigan Abbott who will be serving with Community Friends Mentoring Christine Anderson who will be serving with The Collaborative Kristin Feierabend who will be serving with enVision Montpelier Mary Houghton who will be serving with The Collaborative Kathleen Kearney who will be serving with The Stern Center Monica Kimball who will be serving with The Onion River Exchange Abigail Krause who will be serving with The VT Affordable Housing Coalition Sophia LaCava-Bohanan who will be serving with In-Sight Photography Andrew Laine who will be serving with The VT Foodbank Katie McKinstry who will be serving with Montpelier Parks and Conservation Jennifer Pritchard who will be serving with Linking Learning to Life Jaclyn Remick who will be serving with Linking Learning to Life Meredith Rivlin who will be serving with Mobius, the Mentoring Movement Cynthia Wasser who will be serving with enVision Montpelier Anastasia Yarbrough who will be serving with Essex CHIPS Teen Center
Amanda White VYT A* VISTA Leader Finishing Service with the Vermont Youth Tomorrow A* VISTA Program In Montpelier, VT
I’ve been in denial that my service is ending. I am scheduling site visits for after my end-of-service date, arranging trainings for months after I am done, and I haven’t removed anything from my desk. It’s not just because I am hopeful that I will be able to stay on in a staff position to support Vermont Youth Tomorrow, but also because I am not finished. I have more ideas than ever for trainings, I am excited to meet all the new folks coming in this August, I finally got the report format down, and I still need to write down a ‘how-to’ manual for the next VISTA Leader.
This year has been an unbelievable learning experience. At first I doubted my ability and my motivation for doing this type of service. I struggled with the intangible measures of success that comes with VISTA service. I was looking for the bridges being built and I couldn’t see them in my days spent answering emails and manipulating an excel spreadsheet. But at some point along the way I started to see the subtle successes. I heard members express how a monthly training gave them confidence or taught them something new. I was able to adapt our team meetings to better serve member’s needs. And I managed to ease quarterly reporting for both the members and our program. I think the most significant realization
happened when I heard members reflect on their service during the End-of-Service Presentations at Silver Lake. Even though members struggled here and there during their year, everyone shared how they have gained something from their service. It was reinforced how invaluable dedicating a year of service is. I felt honored to have been part of their year.
AmeriCorps is a unique experience. Undoubtedly the service given to the individual sites is fantastic and enables those organizations to grow and serve more people and communities. But there’s a lot to be said for what members get out of their service. They get a crash course in bureaucracy and the non-profit business world, they stretch their comfort zones and learn what they’re good at and what they need to work on, they become involved in the community that they are serving, and I have not met anyone who hasn’t described some sort of personal growth that has come out of their service.
So as I take the time to reflect on my service I think about accomplishments and learning. I think about my own journey and the individual journeys each member has taken. I think about the big picture of what our service means to this state and our generation, and I think about closeup stories of how members have created opportunities and inspired youth. I am honored to be part of AmeriCorps, proud to be in the company of my VYT VISTA Members, and looking forward to my continued service.
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d o o G
. . . bye
and good luck!
Thank-you 07-08 Vermont Youth Tomorrow Members We wish you all the best
Megan Johnston served with
Peter Luby served with
Linking Learning to Life
Katy Perry served with
Lindsey Lathrop served with
Hannah McIntyre served with
Mobius, the Mentoring
Linking Learning to Life
Community Friends Mentoring
Orion Lazo served with
Curtis Moeller served with
Amanda White served as
King Street Youth Center
Lakes Region Youth Orchestra
VISTA Leader for
Jackie LeBlanc served with
Ashley Pelletier served with
Vermont Youth Tomorrow
Accomplishments During the last service year (1 July 2007- 30 June 2008), VYT members have -
Raised $138,397 in cash donations and grants
Procured $26,377 of in-kind donations Managed 817 community volunteers who gave 8,688 hours of their time to their communities Managed 61 mentor/youth matches
Planned and implemented 31 recognition events for volunteers Created or enhanced 186 different operational systems, (databases, evaluations, and toolkits)
Developed, and disseminated 359 public relations tools, (brochures, websites, flyers, public service announcements, press releases, articles, etc.)
Made 60 presentations to community groups or organizations (university internship programs, career fairs, schools, information booths, etc.) Collaborated with 260 community stakeholders (schools, businesses, artists, non-profit groups, faith-based groups, towns, etc.)
Served more than 3,646 youth Planned or implemented 53 youth programs service projects; and much, much more!
Vermont Youth Tomorrow A*VISTA Program
Director - M. Kadie Schaeffer Assistant Director - Nicholas Nicolet Team Leader - Amanda White
Vermont Youth Tomorrow A*VISTA Program Washington County Youth Service Bureau/Boys & Girls Club P.O. Box 627 / 38 Elm Street