Looking back on the past few months…by Everett Au
Looking back on the past few months, I still can’t believe that so much happened, and that the first semester of the school site I am serving at is coming to an end. I count myself as being incredibly fortunate to have had the kind of support and direction from my fellow VISTA members serving at my site and my supervisors. In one of those sink or swim scenarios, the transition into my VISTA position would not have been as “smooth” without their presence.
The school site of Sylmar Biotech Health Academy is a small public choice high school that is in its first year of operations with only its 9th grade. I am still learning the intricacies of the school, but to my understanding it was created as a partnership between the non-profit, Youth Policy Institute, sponsoring me as a VISTA and the Los Angeles Unified School System. As a new school that is also sharing the same campus as a pre-existing public high school, my initial weeks of service revolved around establishing my position as a VISTA at the school, as well as navigating the school politics. In retrospect, I believe the other VISTA members and I pulled off a minor miracle in surviving the hectic beginning of our service as well as we did. From this experience we amassed a wealth of knowledge on the functions of the school and local community, and how we could best serve them as VISTAs.
Working at a new school, we have the opportunity to conceptualize, develop, and initiate programs with a tremendous amount of flexibility. Since the beginning of our term as VISTAs, we were able to set the groundwork for numerous opportunities to cultivate the students as young adults. Instead of simply providing standard academic support services for the students, we are constantly working to provide opportunities for the students to explore themselves as individuals. In this way, we hope to not only improve their academics, but also to expand their future perspectives for themselves. In the short amount of time since the beginning of our programs, I have already seen the impacts of our programs. Students are showing positive changes in how they present themselves in school and the type of dialogue they engage in with fellow students, as well as staff and faculty. By thinking outside the box with many of our programs, I believe the programs the VISTAs at my site developed can and will make significant impacts on the school and local community.
I count myself as being incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to make real changes in a community, and to grow as an individual in an amazing space. I believe that what we do as VISTAs is crucial to the communities we serve in. We are catalysts of change that are essential to the growth and development of under served communities. In my short term of service, I have only grasped a small glimpse of the kinds of impacts VISTAs can have on communities. From this glimpse I gained an unforgettable experience and passion that will help me immensely in my future endeavors. As for the next semester looms in the near future, I am anxious to see the future development of the students and community as our programs further mature and take shape.
Byline: Everett is an Academic Success Coordinator at the Sylmar Biotech Health Academy in Los Angeles. Everett is passionate about working with youth and serving underserved communities. He hopes to apply to graduate school in the near future to receive his teaching credential in special education.