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August 24, 2012 / HandsOnCorps

Welcome to HandsOn Schools, 2012-13 VISTAs!…by Morgan Owen

photo MOwen

Most of you are probably a little shell-shocked from all of the powerful information you’ve just learned at PSO, and may be wandering around on-site today in a post-PSO haze… well, don’t worry; we’ve all been there. That’s what makes working for HandsOn so unique- lots of us have first-hand experience in the trenches and have done the very things you’re about to set out to do. It may seem overwhelming today, and it may still be overwhelming next Monday, but over the course of the year, you will discover that you have incredible power to effect real social change, and you’ll do it with little more than good sense and a smile.

Being a VISTA is a high calling, and working in the HandsOn Schools program is no different. Together we will work on creating, sustaining, or bolstering programs that directly enhance education for children who face life in places where resources are scarce, and the one-on-one attention from a caring adult may be just as hard to come by. We will learn about programs that have proven results and how to apply them, how to get your community to come together in support of your school, and how those who have been stripped of power through various systems in our government and culture can once again be empowered to change their world.

And, of course, we’ll have some fun, too.

Everyone comes to VISTA for different reasons, and I- maybe like a few of you- got into it by becoming friends with a VISTA serving in my neighborhood. My life before VISTA was not exactly normal… I went to UNC-Greensboro to get my degree in Music Education, and then moved to Nashville, TN, where I taught for a few years before they started laying off orchestra teachers. Then I got into business for a religious music company. Before I knew it, I was getting involved in mission work that led me to the Gulf Coast after Hurricane Katrina, and ultimately Costa Rica, where I taught music in Spanish and Miskito. When I came back to North Carolina, I found myself moving into a community that was built around the idea of doing grassroots community work… and that’s where I met Michelle.

Michelle Bennett was our HandsOn VISTA at HandsOn Northwest North Carolina, and she was really good at making connections between organizations and neighbors we wanted to impact. With her help, I became involved as a resident leader, helping lead summer programs and joining her Advisory Council. When HandsOn NWNC got the word that they could get another VISTA, it only made sense that I’d do it. One year later, and I’ve had the most incredible year of my life! I went from being absolutely terrified that nothing I did was going to be right, to becoming an expert in my field. In June, I actually had the pleasure of presenting what I had learned to hundreds of people at the National Conference on Volunteer Service!

There is nothing magical about what I did during the past year; all of you are capable of having the same level of success, if not more. That’s what I’m here to help you with. Marcia, the other VISTA leader, and I are here to be your sounding boards, to help you find the information you need, and to help you have a joyful and exciting year of service.

As you come to know us, you’ll see that we are happy, fun-loving, and joyful people who want you to enjoy your time with us as much as we enjoyed OUR time as VISTAs. We look forward to getting to know each of you, and hope that this year will be one of great successes for all.


In service,


Morgan Owen

HandsOn Schools: VISTA Leader


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