Spotlight on Jasmine, AmeriCorps VISTA
1. Tell us why you decided to join ETM-LA.
I initially signed-up for AmeriCorps not really knowing where I would end up or be doing. I wanted to work for a non-profit and do work that was fulfilling and similar to what I did at my job as an undergrad working at my schools Women’s Resource Center. I applied to a bunch of different locations and LA works was one of them. While doing my Skype interview, Asia (my LA Works supervisor) saw my ukulele on the wall and mentioned that ETM-LA was one of the locations that they had partnered with for the year and how I would be perfect for it. I always wanted to do something with music, since music was the main way that I connected with my peers while in secondary school. After hearing the mission I knew it was the place that I needed to be because I related to it so much. Music has always been the saving grace in my life. Even when I felt I had nothing else or no one to turn to, I always had music and I wanted to share that impact with others.
2. How would you describe the culture of ETM-LA?
Everyone here is so hard working and goes above and beyond to get the work done to help the lives of these kids. Everyone is so dedicated and passionate. It is definitely not a regular 9 to 5 job where you clock in and clock out and never think about it once you get home. Not only are we impacting the lives of these kids, but they are impacting ours. Just being around them or hearing their stories makes you feel more hopeful about the world. Also, I’ve never worked with such a nerdy group of people. We can always find a way to talk about Harry Potter or super heroes.
3. Describe your role to people who may not know what an AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Coordinator is.
Firstly, AmeriCorps is a federal government organization whose mission is to get rid of poverty. It does that by placing people at non-profits for the year to help better serve the community. My year of service is focused on helping ETM-LA sustain and grow its volunteer program. So I recruit for volunteers through online and in-person resources, as well as schedule volunteers to help in the office, in one of our partner schools, or at events. I am primarily the main source of contact for volunteers who want to help in any way with our mission.
4. What has been your greatest challenge as a Volunteer Coordinator?
I would say that the main challenge has been having to turn away some volunteers. We have so many people interested in helping us, but primarily because their schedules don’t work with ours, things don’t always work out. It can be tough because I want to help them as well, but we can’t always take in the help.
5. How has working with the volunteers impacted you?
Before becoming a volunteer coordinator, I would have categorized myself as an extreme introvert. I have come out of my shell a lot since working here and have had the chance to meet and work with a wide spectrum of people. I’ve learned that I actually enjoy meeting new people and learning about who they are and why they want to volunteer. Not only are the volunteers helping ETM-LA’s mission in bringing music education to disadvantaged youth, but they are helping me grow as a human being as well.
6. What are some words of wisdom you would give to an aspiring AmeriCorps VISTA Coordinator?
I would tell an aspiring VISTA Coordinator to move past the fear and use this opportunity as a growing experience. This position is about making connections and a lot of that begins with just starting the conversation. You’re here to try new things and not everything is going to work out, but that just makes the successes that much better. Instead of seeing something as scary or a potential failure, see it as a challenge and a new learning experience. Honestly, the worst that could happen is someone says no, and then you move on. You’ll enjoy yourself a lot more and be able to use this experience for years to come if you stick with that mindset.
Also, you’re going to want to help in any way you can, but don’t stretch yourself too thin. Time management is key and you’ll need to learn how to say yes to the word no. I’m definitely a people pleaser who wants to help everyone, but you have to learn how to say no sometimes. It’s not only for yourself, but it also helps you better serve your mission if you think of yourself and the organization first. AmeriCorps VISTA is a lot the time the first job for people out of school and it’s a great overall life learning experience.