Since becoming a VISTA member…Claudia Marmol
Parental and Community Support
Youth Policy Institute
Allow me to offer reflections of a year in service at Sylmar Biotech Health Academy in Sylmar, California. Sylmar Biotech Health Academy is a new high school that is made up of a 9th grade class with an enrollment of about 110 students. For those unfamiliar with California, Sylmar is unlike any other city in Southern California, it is composed of a small community surrounded by mountains.
Just to give you a visual of our community, the other day I was leaving our high school and I saw someone riding his horse on the sidewalk and it surprised me because I had no idea the house across from our high school had a farm! You see, I have lived in Los Angeles for a couple years, so working in Sylmar is a great, new and different experience.
As a Parental and Community Support VISTA, my role is to identify the priorities of the parents and community members and to design, develop and implement educational programs along with recruiting volunteers. So far, I have developed a series of classes/workshops that are geared toward educating our parents and community members about the steps they need to take in order to help their child apply for college.
These workshops also bring awareness of the importance to attend college. Next I will be coordinating financial literacy workshops, in which we will address how families can save and plan for the future by teaching budgeting strategies, understanding credit and debt reduction and how to save for college. There are more workshops on the way for the upcoming months, and so far I believe I am fulfilling my VISTA role in the community because I am bringing resources to help lift families out of poverty.
Since becoming a VISTA member, my perspective on life has changed. I believe I am more sensible and conscious about the struggles that some families are facing and all I want to do is help everyone! In addition, I now realize how important volunteers are for the completion of any event or project. One of the most memorable moments I have was when I went to the local clinic during their food donation days and I had the chance to interact with all these community members. I was able to hear their stories and learn about the unfortunate difficulties they have to deal with.
Although saddened by their stories it afforded me an opportunity to refer them to other resources where viable information about job training locations, local shelters, and other free food pantry supports were located. It was then that i became more confident and assured that upon completion of my year of service building a career in the non-profit sector is where I can make both meaningful and positive impacts in my community. Since becoming a VISTA and having the opportunity to be exposed on the ground level my career path has been realized!