LA PLUME — Keystone College hosted the AmeriCorps VISTA Orientation and Training Program July 30 through Aug. 1. This is the first time the AmeriCorps VISTA members from New York and Pennsylvania came together for their orientation and training program under the New York and Pennsylvania Campus Compact.
There were more than 40 young adults, 18 to 24 years of age, who participated in this orientation and training program.
I conducted an interview with program consultant Lucio Perez of State College, along with some other participants, in the student restaurant on Wednesday, Aug. 1. Here are the questions and answers from that conversation:
How long have you been working with AmeriCorps VISTA and the PA Campus Compact?
Perez: I served as an AmeriCorps VISTA member for two years at Lock Haven University with the Trio Upward Bound Program and with the veterans on campus. Now I am working as a consultant for retreats, training programs and webinars to support the Year 2 and Year 3 AmeriCorps VISTA members.
An AmeriCorps VISTA member signs up for one year of service. That same AmeriCorps VISTA member may sign up for a second year and a third year of service. Each year the AmeriCorps VISTA would have to re-apply for that second year or that third year of service.
What are some of your goals for the upcoming year?
Perez: I would like to see the positive outcomes of our AmeriCorps VISTA members’ service come to fruition. I will provide the best of my knowledge and skills to help these AmeriCorps VISTA members to succeed.
What are some of your accomplishments from the past year?
Perez: I got to see fifty of my high school students enter post-secondary education. Some just graduated recently.
Can you tell us a bit about the AmeriCorps VISTA Orientation and Training Program?
Perez: AmeriCorps VISTA members had the opportunity to get acquainted with each other. They learned more about the work of the New York and the Pennsylvania Campus Compact. Through role plays, they were learning and understanding more about the needs of the communities they will be serving. They also learned ways that they can provide their community partners with programs that will become self-sustaining, even after the year of service ends.
What are some of the skills that you are hoping the AmeriCorps VISTA members will develop and utilize?
Sarah Urbanic of Pittsburgh said she gained “communication skills with new people” through the training program.
Kevin Collado of Kent, New York focused on “leadership development.”
“The kind of work that we are doing will empower people and uplift the community,” he said.
Collado believes this work is very important.
Bree Scalzo of Pittsburgh believes “connecting with the other VISTA members was very helpful.”
Perez found “there is always an opportunity to learn something new.”
Will this group of AmeriCorps VISTA members meet for additional training throughout the coming year?
Perez: There will be quarterly meetings in different locations, as well as a fall and spring retreat for professional development. There will also be some opportunities for training online.
Where are some of the service sites for these forty AmeriCorps VISTA members who will be dedicating a whole year of service to a particular service site? Perez: Some service sites will be elementary schools, high schools, colleges, upward bound programs, veteran centers and agricultural programs throughout New York and Pennsylvania.
MARIA FANNING IS THE COORDINATOR OF CIVIC ENGAGEMENT AND SERVICE LEARNING AT KEYSTONE COLLEGE.