This post is by Veronica Scheildler, an AmeriCorps VISTA member at generationOn, Points of Light's youth service arm. Scheildler is serving through Corps18, a Points of Light program that supports VISTA members addressing chronic absenteeism across the country. Corps 18 VISTAs serving at generationOn help make volunteer service part of the culture at select New York City public schools by involving students, parents and teachers.
I’m a bit of a commitment-phobe, but I want to be doing something that rings of purpose. VISTA has been a perfect fit. Twice.
My Corps18 experience marks the second time I have taken the oath to build America’s communities and do my best to make its people smarter, safer and healthier. Both times I have been inspired by the objectives laid forth in my VISTA assignment description. Both times I’ve navigated the emotional ups and downs of community work. Both times I’ve very seriously contemplated quitting before the buzzer rang on 365 days. Both times I’ve had those shining moments that make me immensely glad I stuck with the work despite the days I struggled to feel like my efforts had any utility.
This year, the feeling of satisfaction hit hardest when I saw the rather difficult eighth grade class of a public middle school in New York – MS 57 – graduate. From the moment they marched into the auditorium clad in their shiny blue caps and gowns, unbidden tears sprang to my eyes. I was shocked at the intensity of my emotion, but also cognizant of how meaningful my interaction with those young people on the precipice of adulthood was to me.
For my own future, I want to climb mountains, travel, write, draw, eat, laugh, argue, cry, sing, dance and swim in rivers, oceans and lakes. However, I want all of that to be interspersed with developing meaningful relationships. I want to grow and see other people grow with me. I have been attracted now more than ever before to work with after-school programs, and have tossed my hat into the ring for some positions in that field.
At a training I attended last winter, the presenter spoke about the differences between school and after school. Her explanation was that school focuses on education – really instilling those basic skills of reading, writing and arithmetic – but that after-school programs are uniquely poised to focus on learning – really connecting the skills learned in the classroom to the wider world allowing for exploration and experiential learning. It could be cool to be a part of that.
I have been so grateful for the opportunity to be engaged in building communities. I truly believe that you often meet the very best people when you do this sort of work.