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VISTA Reflections

Reflections on a Year of National Service

~May 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




Being a VISTA and serving consistently pushes me to grow and learn in new ways.  There are several instances where I have felt that I am going in blind to situations.  I have never experienced this before and I cannot see what is coming.  I just have to jump in and do it with as much grace and skill as I can muster and trust those around me for guidance.    

One such situation occurred when I began to brainstorm different team builders my fellow AmeriCorps member and I could do with our AVID class.  We chose one that required some participants to be blindfolded and to utilize a system of ropes to move a toy truck to various regions of the classroom.  The students in this class are very cooperative and supportive with one another and I thought for sure this activity with them would go flawlessly.

However, as the activity progressed one student started to get frustrated and stopped participating and sat down at her desk and began to cry.  I quickly rushed over to find out what the problem was and she told me she did not want to do this because she felt no one was listening to her and that she just could not do this task.  I told her she could do it and that I would be her new partner.  I put a blindfold on and told her that I would do everything she told me to do in exactly the way she told me to do it.  I promised I would listen to her and follow her instructions.

I cannot stand being blindfolded.  I have an intense need to see what is going on around me.  I am a grown woman and I am a bit embarrassed to admit I am still a little afraid of the dark as well.  Nevertheless, I told myself that my fellow AmeriCorps member and the AVID teacher would have their eyes on the class.  I had to do this.  I can write all the encouraging words and notes I want to on this student’s summary forms, but this was my chance to actually show her that I truly meant all of those things. 

So I listened intently to every word she uttered to me and followed every direction she gave.  I smiled although I was uncomfortable and acted as if this was the most fun I had ever had.  I moved slowly and cautiously and she gently guided me to help the rest of the class complete the activity.

I came to realize that although I could not literally see, the culmination of my service and life experiences and trainings has ensured that I will never truly go blind into any situation.  I already have a lot in my toolkit from experiences in the AmeriCorps program.   Those experiences have shown me the light and that there is plenty of light to see if I really look for it.

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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