VISTA Success Stories
The Families in Transition VISTA Program is one of the largest networks of AmeriCorps VISTAs (Volunteers in Service to America) living and serving throughout the State of New Hampshire. Families in Transition’s Coordinator of Volunteers and VISTA Program recruits dedicated volunteers and service sites to join the VISTA team, with the goal of improving the quality of life for the most disadvantaged members of our community.
Families in Transition VISTAs and service sites work together to create sustainable programs that better the New Hampshire community. In turn, both VISTAs and their service sites receive the invaluable benefit of personal and organizational growth.
Mary is serving as the Volunteer Coordinator VISTA at Portsmouth Housing Authority.
Where did you go to college and what did you major in?
I went to college at the University of New Hampshire, majoring in Recreation and Event Management, with an emphasis in Community Wellness.
How do you feel that the work you are doing has impacted the community you are serving in?
The work I’m doing is helping to alleviate any issues that residents may have, such as lack of transportation or help to move to a new residence. Small things can make a big difference in building a stronger sense of community.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming a VISTA?
Do it! It is an extremely put-together organization to be involved with. Being a VISTA provides you with a great amount of support from your VISTA Leaders and the online community of VISTAs that is available to you, as well as learning opportunities, such as free online courses during your year of service. You’ll feel good serving a community in need, will be proud of the work you have accomplished, and will have great professional and personal connections to walk away with.
Do you have any fun hobbies or hidden talents?
I can say the alphabet backwards in less than 10 seconds, taught myself to juggle in a day, and have a “Closet” app on my phone that I use to plan out my outfits!
Shannon is serving as the Business Development VISTA at Arts in Reach.
Why did you choose to become a VISTA? Why did you choose to serve in New Hampshire?
I chose to become a VISTA because it seemed like a great opportunity to do some good while gaining valuable work experience. I have lived in southern Maine, just north of the New Hampshire Seacoast, for the past year. I wanted to stay at least another year to take in all the beautiful nature and unique cultural events this region offers.
What is your role at your host site? What does a typical day or week look like for you?
My host site, Arts In Reach, is a nonprofit that provides free art programming to teen girls. I work more “behind-the-scenes” in community outreach and business development. Some of my responsibilities include: maintaining the website and social media platforms, meeting with donors, sending email newsletters, inputting donations, taking notes at board/committee meetings, and preparing materials for events. We have a big fundraising event coming up soon that involves a silent auction so I am currently busy setting up displays and bid sheets for that.
What drew you to your particular position and host site?
The mission of my host site really stood out to me because I care greatly about mental health and have personally found art to be a very positive/fun form of self-expression. The more I learned about Art In Reach, the more I felt like it was a community I wanted to belong and contribute to.
What has been your favorite part about being a VISTA?
There really is no other opportunity that can give you this level of independent, impactful work, with so little prior experience required. It’s a unique opportunity to grow your professional skills, while learning about the nonprofit field and poverty alleviation programs. Your work as a VISTA will last long after you complete your service, and the skills and experience you will gain can easily be transferred to any field.