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February 8, 2017

Why I serve: Reading Partners VISTA leader

Service has always been an important part of my life. I grew up in a non-secular household where many of my family’s interests exhibited doing or helping almost anyone in need. In 2006, when I graduated from high school as one of 19 rising stars at North Star Academy Charter School, I was very focused on finding a collegiate space that would allow me to serve the community.

In truth, when I went off to college, I really needed to find my ‘safe space’ of giving back to balance out my anxiety of being fresh meat’ at Rider University. Fortunately, I was lucky to find support and community that I was familiar with in the Bonner Scholar AmeriCorps program. It was an amazing and exciting experience! I served for three years at Trenton Family Preservation Center (TFPC)  and loved everything about it. TFPC provided temporary housing and resources (parenting classes/childcare) for single women and their children while helping them find permanent housing, acquire their GEDs, and find at least a part-time job.

During my time at TFPC, I saw the direct impact of my service, in action—it was an invigorating experience. Students who were struggling in school began to excel in the classroom because they could count on support during the after-school program. Infants and toddlers were introduced to a curriculum that was supplemented with the support of a speech therapist. Parents were empowered to be confident, equipped, and capable of being strong providers for themselves and their children.  

Like many young people these days, my impending college graduation brought on a sudden sense of urgency to “grow up” and find independence. So, I entered the corporate sector with hopes to continue serving in some capacity, even if it meant after business hours. To my disappointment, I never had the bandwidth to get involved in the community as I’d expected. Eventually, I decided to look at my work as an opportunity to learn for-profit skills which I’d be able to apply in a more service-oriented environment. This is what led me to Reading Partners.  

One day, ‘out of the blue’, I decided to transition back into the nonprofit world. I needed to do work that aligned with my values and personal purpose. And in 2016, I made the switch.

After connecting with Annaleah, director of national operations at Reading Partners, I felt that serving as a national operations VISTA was the most appropriate catalyst for me to both learn more about this organization’s impact but also offer recommendations that could help achieve Reading Partners’ goals.

Everyday I come to Reading Partners I am reminded that I made the right decision. I’ve found community and support that I never expected, but most importantly, I have been nurtured with positive appreciation for my contributions to Reading Partners’ initiatives.  

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