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VISTA Reflections

Reflections on a Year of National Service

~April 2010~


Editor's Note: Two VISTA members have graciously volunteered to share their experiences as they complete their year of service. VISTA (VISTA--Volunteers in Service to America)  is a stipened program where people share their talents to help build communities and the individuals in them (Think of it as a domestic Peace Corps program.) Each article is authored by a member of the Federal Way (WA) AmeriCorps and VISTA team. It is the individuals' personal story of service as up-close and personal as it comes.

Federal Way AmeriCorps and VISTA Team. Established in 1995, the Federal Way AmeriCorps program works to strengthen the Federal Way community through academic tutoring and modeling an ethic of service.

AmeriCorps members in Federal Way serve full time in the Federal Way Public Schools. In addition to tutoring students and developing before and after school programs, members manage two community tutoring programs, implement civic engagement community projects and serve in area service projects. AmeriCorps members also recruit and train community volunteers. For more information on their programs http://www.fwps.org/dept/volunteer/acfw.html




Volunteer Hours:  740
3900 lbs. of catch basin lids set as stair/platform treds
36 treds replaced or reset
100 tred stakes installed
25 railing posts installed
25.75 ton or 51,500 lbs. of A-base gravel hauled and spread
16.87 ton or 33,740 lbs. of Quarry Sand hauled and spread
16.07 ton or 32,140 lbs. of one person rock hauled and spread
Approximately 90 cubic yards of greens waste from pruning activities           
65 cubic yards of bark spread
4000 sq. ft. of pressure washing completed
?? window cleaning/various other activities

These were the numbers from our “day on” service project for MLK Day.  At the end of the day I certainly felt that I could feel every pound lifted and every hour served in muscle groups I had no idea existed in my arms and legs.  We performed various tasks and upkeep at Dumas Bay.  The biggest portion of the day was rebuilding the steps down to the water.

Before we began the project our director stressed the importance of the correlation between the project we were doing and the day we were doing it on.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. worked to provide access to people and we were doing the same thing by rebuilding those steps.

It was hard work and what was also hard for me was the fact that we had to report for service the next day.  I could barely lift my arms and walk and we had just completed this awesome project.  Couldn’t we just take that day after our project off and recuperate?  Would one day without us at our sites really matter?

I found the answer to this question out very quickly the next day.  My students in AVID had an intense conversation about how tough it is for them to study and to be a “good” kid.  They get teased for going to the library and foregoing parties, so that they can hit the books and stay out of trouble.  I praised them for staying on track and for being strong enough to avoid peer pressure.

At the after school program I help out with, my fellow members and I encountered a young lady who is hanging out with a negative crowd that puts her in uncomfortable and potentially dangerous situations.  We persuaded her to find some new friends that care about her and want her to succeed instead of dragging her down.

Yes, it matters.  It matters greatly that we are there every day that we can be for our students and that we are vigilant and enthusiastic about doing so.

Every day we are immensely needed by those that we serve and those we serve alongside.  Every day we need to remind those students that we are there for them and provide them with the access to education, optimism, accountability, and any other positive resource that we can to ensure that they get all that they can from us to succeed. 

Even the days we technically have off prove to be excellent opportunities to pour into the lives of our students.  I run into some of them at the movies or while shopping and they still look for those kind words and big smiles to come their way.  It may seem like a small thing, however, the seemingly small things have huge implications.  Just taking a minute to say hello and meet their friends makes their day and lets them know that we do care because every day truly is a day on.

Colleen Ann Willenbring graduated from Washington State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications in 2001.  She is currently serving her third consecutive year with the Federal Way Public Schools AmeriCorps Team.  She was the Logistics Team Lead for the FWPS AmeriCorps 2007/2008 civic engagement project.  She also Co-Led the Camelot Square After School Program in 2008/2009 where she used her talents to create enticing lesson plans to engage elementary aged students.

Corporation for National and Community Service

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