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October 19, 2012 / HandsOnCorps

“An ever-changing VISTA”…by Kelley Locher

Kelley Locher_United Way of Palm Beach CountyEntering a new community and a new job with not one familiar face was extremely difficult for someone who lived within a 1 hour radius of her childhood home for the past 24 years. The move to PBC for the AmeriCorps VISTA position was definitely a huge step – but it was nothing compared to the trials endured and achievements gained in just the first 2 months of service. Research on the county, Google-mapping locations within the county, speaking to individuals who currently lived here – these were mere attempts to get to know the community, the youth, and their way of life. Being a stranger in the community has been both my greatest strength and challenge as a student academic success VISTA at United Way of Palm Beach County. It has been a strength because when I entered the workplace, entered the targeted HandsOn schools and introduced myself to volunteers, those who have been here for many years or decades are proud of where they live and love to speak about the character and compassion of palm beach county residents. It was a challenge, however, when people would speak of significant past events or locations and I was unable to connect with the residents on those difficult times or events. I look forward to creating new experiences and positive lasting memories with the community members and students of Palm Beach County.

One event or recent happening that positively and directly impacted the HS mentor program occurred at a college success training event. At this event a woman introduced herself and stated she was from my targeted school, Atlantic HS. I thought WOW – I need a volunteer staff member to stay after school at Atlantic – seeing as though we had no funds to pay for a staff member to work overtime. Meeting this woman, Nickoletta, was not a coincidence, it was meant to be!  After the seminar, I proceeded to tell her a little about the start-up mentoring program and asked her if she knew of any way I could get a teacher to stay after school (for free) 1 day/week. She exclaimed, “I am already staying after-school unpaid… and if that needs to continue through the school year to get my high school kids the help they need, then that is what I am going to do!” It was a moment that will be remembered from my year of service… witnessing such dedication and realizing that one individual really can positively change and impact many lives. This type of “giving-back” and selflessness for a greater cause of children’s educational future is an idea that I hope can be instilled in other teachers, students, and community members throughout the duration of my service and beyond.

Kelley Locher

Academic Success VISTA

United Way of Palm Beach County

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